McDonald’s announced today that it’s making a greater effort at offering transparency and engagement to the public, in a new campaign it’s calling “Our Food, Your Questions.” McDonald’s has a serious image problem and a sagging bottom line, which might explain its sudden willingness to fling the barn door open as a way to shed its reputation for serving mass-produced, unhealthy food. Showing the public how the sausage is made may win favor with some consumers, but a better strategy for the fast food giant would be to make truly meaningful commitments to sustainability. Read more
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It’s summer, but that doesn’t mean food news stops. Below, we share some of the top news stories of the week.
1. USDA Overhauls Poultry Inspection Rules (The Hill)
After more than two years of proposals and push-back by advocates, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) moved to put new poultry inspection rules in place yesterday. The voluntary rules would result in companies providing their own inspectors (while keeping one from the USDA in every plant), making it essentially a move to privatize the inspections. It will also mean fewer inspectors per plants, with each inspector looking at 140 birds per minute. Read more
The new documentary, Resistance opens with the story of Jessie Beam, who contracted an antibiotic-resistant strain of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in his early teens. The infection presented as run-of-the-mill soreness and fever at first, but his condition soon deteriorated until ultimately he fell into a coma. Beam survived the infection but has lasting mobility and health limitations. And he’s not alone.
The film presents other stories similar to his: An active older man loses the use of his legs after contracting a staph infection while surfing. A young family loses their 18-month old son to an antibiotic-resistant infection within 24 hours. Rather than seeming trite or emotionally manipulative, these stories underline the real danger of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: Infection can happen to anyone no matter how old or how healthy. Read more
As comedian John Oliver said last week in his much-watched primer on net neutrality, “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” Big Ag has known this strategy for years and perhaps no one does it better than the meatpackers and poultry companies—companies like Tyson, Smithfield, and trade organizations like the American Meat Institute and the National Chicken Council. Read more
A new national grassroots campaign is aiming to boost awareness of the public health threat of antibiotic overuse in livestock production.
It’s been over a year since Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), a bill that would ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock. And it’s been almost 10 months since Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both bills remain stalled in their respective committees, however. Read more
Factory farmed chickens have it bad, but in Christopher Leonard’s new meat industry exposé The Meat Racket, it’s the farmers who get plucked. Leonard, a former agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press and now a fellow at the New America Foundation, subtitled his book The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business, and he’s not kidding about the “secret” part. When Leonard set out to investigate how four huge companies came to more or less dictate the state of our meat supply, he ran into balky bureaucrats and fearful farmers. Read more
Before I even stepped from my truck onto the gravel outside the New Fashion Pork hog confinement facility, Emily Erickson, the company’s animal well-being and quality assurance manager, handed me a pair of stretchy white plastic footies to put over my shoes. It was a blustery day in September, the sky threatening snow—the first hint of winter, when cold, dry air stabilizes viruses and biosecurity becomes a topmost concern. Read more
1. Rancho Recall: The End of Sonoma County Beef? (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
Millions of pounds of beef have been recalled after-the-fact, many small local Bay Area producers are left without a processing facility, and some big questions remain unanswered. The Pt. Reyes Light, a hyper-local newspaper, also investigates. Read more
What do football fields and industrial farms have in common? In both places, a microscopic threat to human health is spreading. But on farms, a lack of veterinary involvement may be making the problem worse. Read more