At first glance, writing an exposé on the pork industry might seem outside Ted Genoways’ wheelhouse. He’s the author of two books of poetry and has penned a biography of Walt Whitman—not necessarily what one expects from someone writing about modern meat production in the U.S.
But Genoways, who has written on factory farming for Mother Jones and is the grandson of a former packinghouse worker from Omaha, Nebraska, brings his interests together by focusing on working class Midwestern life. His newest book, The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, is a chilling indictment of today’s pork industry told through the story of one company, Hormel Foods. Essentially, it’s The Jungle for the modern era.
We recently spoke with Genoways about his new book, Hormel, and the fact that much of our food has become less safe over time. Read more
In June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new dietary guidelines for fish consumption. They’re very similar to the 2004 guidelines, with a few notable changes for pregnant women. The FDA kept its recommended limit of 12 ounces of fish per week for these women–but also established, for the first time, a minimum recommendation of eight ounces, saying pregnant and breastfeeding women should “eat more fish that is lower in mercury in order to gain important developmental and health benefits.” Read more
If you don’t recognize all the high-tech ingredients available in food and drinks these days, you’re not alone. Some of these new additions—such as glucosamine hydrochloride, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), or soy isoflavone extract—might show up in product marketing, while others, such as milk protein concentrate, will not. But whether new food additives are being promoted or not, a report released this week by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) says their novelty isn’t the only reason we should be paying attention. Read more
On February 8, Rancho Feed Corporation issued a recall on more than 8.7 million pounds of meat that had been processed in its facility over the last year. No illnesses have been reported, but the Petaluma, California-based slaughterhouse allegedly defied the law and circumvented U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections, slaughtering and selling meat from diseased cows. 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
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
As if we needed one, there’s yet another reason to avoid soda and soft drinks. Last week, Consumer Reports announced that it had found potentially carcinogenic levels of 4-methyllimidazole (4-MeI) in eight out of the 12 popular brands of soft drinks that it tested. Read more
As many of you know, in March, 2012 I launched on The Lunch Tray a Change.org petition seeking to remove lean, finely textured beef (“LFTB,” more widely known as “pink slime”) from the ground beef procured by the USDA for the National School Lunch Program. The petition garnered over a quarter of a million signatures in just a few days and ultimately led the USDA to change its policy, allowing school districts for the first time to opt out of receiving beef containing LFTB. Read more
Amidst the current furor over a government shutdown, the federal budget, debt ceiling, food stamps, immigration, and other programs that are either held up or being curtailed, another huge issue is quietly moving forward that could profoundly impact American agriculture and consumers.
If you go out of your way to enjoy fresh and locally grown food sold at grocery stores or served up at a favorite restaurant, if you care what your child is served to eat at school, or if you have ever considered starting your own food or farm business, you need to know about the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA. Read more