While many conscientious eaters go out of their way to purchase pasture-raised eggs laid by happy chickens, it’s a little-known fact that almost all eggs have a hidden cost: millions of baby male chicks are killed each year at the hatcheries that raise egg-laying hens. Even humane, organic egg producers are reliant on these large hatcheries.
Even in the dog days of summer, the food news keeps coming. Here’s what caught our eye this week.
1. Missouri Approves “Right to Farm” Amendment By Narrow Margin, Recount Possible (New York Times)
The amendment, which provides large farms with protection against regulation of practices such as the use of genetically engineered seeds and animal confinement, passed with 50.1 percent of the vote or 2,528 votes (less than one-half of one percent).
On a hazy, humid July morning, 17-year-old Celeste McMullan crouches in a bed of Romano bean plants. It’s her first time picking beans, but she already seems to have mastered proper picking technique, carefully moving her fingers from the roots upward, removing only the greenbeans that are fully grown.
In recent years, there has been a local meat renaissance going on in Wisconsin. At the center of the movement was a business called Black Earth Meats. The operation, owned by Bartlett Durand, or the Zen Butcher, included a retail space, a buyers club and a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription service, as well as a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughterhouse.
As you may have heard, about half a million people in the Toledo, Ohio area lost their municipal drinking water supply on Saturday because of possible microbial toxin contamination from Lake Erie. A combination of heavier spring rains, exacerbated by climate change, and runoff of phosphorus from fertilizer applied to crops is the likely cause. The good news is that farmers can adopt better practices to eliminate this problem. The bad news is that the agriculture industry, and the public policies that it lobbies for, work against these solutions.
With their rainbow colors and odd shapes and sizes, the appeal of heirloom tomatoes is undeniable. But more than just a pretty face, these darlings of the summer farmers market also represent diversity and freedom in our food supply.
“People ask me, ‘Is this heirloom or hybrid?’” says farmer Bill Crepps of the Winters, California farm Everything Under the Sun. “You can tell that there’s something they don’t like about the word ‘hybrid.’”
In wrapping up a recent conversation with Kiva Zip’s Justin Renfro, I asked him whether there was anything else he wanted to say about the crowdlending platform he helps to run. “Please let more farmers know about us,” he said.
It was an offhand request, but a remarkable one. In his mission to connect small farmers and food makers with sources of interest-free capital, his plea wasn’t for more people to write more checks–it was for more people to give checks to.
Bren Smith, owner of Connecticut-based Thimble Island Oyster Company, and director of the organization Greenwave started growing kelp and shellfish as a reaction to several crises he faced in his own life: overfishing, climate change, and rampant unemployment in the fishing industry. He was working on the Bering Sea when the cod stocks crashed, and he lost oyster crops to both ocean acidification and two hurricanes.
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.
It’s rare that a university system commits to solving a social issue on a global scale. That’s why the University of California’s recently announced U.C. Global Food Initiative could mark a critical moment in the history of world food production. If the initiative unfolds as promised over the next few years, it “will align the university’s research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions—throughout California, the U.S., and the world—for food security, health, and sustainability.”