Global pork titan Smithfield has ranked second among food production companies on Fortune magazine’s 2013 list of “Most Admired Companies.” Before we untangle how terribly strange and ironic this is, just what does “Most Admired” mean and how was this list generated?
“You’d have to have rocks in your head to build a new sow barn with gestating sow stalls.” That’s how the Western Producer, an agribusiness trade publication, began a recent editorial.
Yet it seems that some in the world of pork production, and their hired PR frontmen, may indeed have rocks in their heads. How else can you explain the behavior of companies like Tyson Foods that continue to defend locking pigs in two-foot-wide metal gestation crates where the 500-pound animals can’t even turn around for essentially their entire lives?
Environmental advocate/writer Kerry Trueman checks in with food politics pioneer and NYU nutrition professor Dr. Marion Nestle, whose most recent book is Why Calories Count, with Malden Nesheim. Read more of Nestle’s insights at food politics.com and follow her on Twitter @marionnestle. Nestle is currently working on her next book, Eat, Drink, Vote: The Illustrated Guide to Food Politics, due out from Rodale in September 2013.
Amidst growing demands from college students for university leadership in sustainable, local food systems, last week Sodexo, a leader in Quality of Life Services, and the Real Food Challenge, the largest student food justice organization in the nation, jointly announced an agreement that advances supply chain transparency on Sodexo-contracted campuses.
No place has more serious food systems challenges than Detroit; more than half of Detroit residents lack access to healthy, fresh food and consequently many suffer from food-related health issues.
Yet, Detroit is also an epicenter of the good food movement with hundreds of neighborhood and school gardens, farmers’ markets and farm stands, and energetic urban farmers sprouting up around the city.
Quick, what comes to mind when you hear the word “spring?”
Let us count the ways we know spring has arrived… the sight of bright green buds, sturdy seedlings, a profusion of blossoms, song birds chirping away, and young farm animals frolicking in the mild weather. Around the world, spring is seen as a time of rebirth and renewal.
Of course, to experience all the many sights and sounds of spring, we count on a stable climate. And at the latest California Climate & Agriculture Summit, (hosted by the California Climate and Agriculture Network, CalCAN), we were reminded that climate change is making it so that the weather you expect is not necessarily the weather that you get. This increasing unpredictability makes farming a whole lot more challenging.
In the livestock industry, heroes don’t always get their due. Perhaps that’s because the story of our modern animal agriculture system is so often so bleak—for farmers, animals, our health and the health of our environment.
In the U.S. pork sector, two-thirds of hog production comes from producers working under contract with mega-processors like Smithfield and Cargill. Processing is increasingly automated and farmers feel the pressures of high volume, low cost meat production. In confined animal feeding operations or “CAFOs”, pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in superbug-breeding warehouses, crowded with pens and gestation crates as far as the eye can see. Hogs are raised for maximum weight gain and routinely given antibiotics to speed up growth and prevent the very kinds of diseases that spread when so many animals live in such close, unsanitary and stressful quarters.
We each own a secret weapon that weighs only a few ounces. If this was strategically deployed for one day, we could transform our world into a better place. We could end obesity and chronic disease, revitalize our children’s health, achieve academic excellence, topple corrupt governments, restore our depleted soils, replenish our vanishing aquifers and reverse climate change. What is this weapon? It’s your fork.
Small-scale farming isn’t easy. The prices farmers receive for their goods are often low, the margins are tight, the days are long, and the chores never-ending. For farmers who don’t own their own property, land insecurity compounds financial instability. It’s tough to really dig in if you don’t know how long you can stay on the piece you’re farming.
In the Pacific, eight island nations have recently come together to protect the world’s last healthy tuna populations from the perils of the lawless sea, the first agreement of its kind, reports Shannon Service in the Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN)’s latest story, “The Saudi Arabia of Sashimi,” for Slate.