The editors of Scientific American recently encouraged U.S. hog farmers to “follow Denmark and stop giving farm animals low-dose antibiotics.” Sixteen years ago, in order to reduce the threat of increased development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their food system and the environment, Denmark phased in an antibiotic growth promotant ban in food animal production. Guess what? According to Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries the ban is working and the industry has continued to thrive. The government agency found that Danish livestock and poultry farmers used 37 percent less antibiotics in 2009 than in 1994, leading to overall reductions of antimicrobial resistance countrywide. Read more

With news of Wal-Mart shifting their purchasing priorities to attract proponents of local food and the mainstream agriculture industry launching a $30 million PR campaign to fight against their rapidly corroding image, it seems like we should be glowing in triumph… the people have spoken and the corporations are responding in fear! But it isn’t that simple.

The risk of green-washing will certainly cloud the judgment of most citizens (and Wal-Mart shoppers) rather than inspire understanding of the complex layers of contradictions “sustainable food” issues present.  Even those of us who have pledged most of our lives, and finances, to supporting and promoting the small food businesses that actually do adhere to ethical, fair, small scale practices have a hard time sorting through it all.  But what hurts the most is, even in a time when terms like “sustainable” or “artisan” or “local & organic” seem old hat and cliché, the hard facts remain that the real people working so hard to produce these foods for us still can’t always succeed. Read more

The USDA has a law on the books that levels the playing field between family farmers who raise cattle, hogs and poultry and the large meat packers who purchase their livestock and bring it to market. It’s called the Packers and Stockyard Act, and its overseen by the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration or GIPSA. But don’t tussle with that mouthful because it doesn’t explain what you need to know about the complex livestock market system. Just keep reading. GIPSA makes sure small producers have equal access to market that larger producers do. It’s fair competition, which is, of course, the American way.

Sounds great, right? And just in time for the good food revolution. But instead, this law has been gathering dust because the USDA hasn’t enforced it. New proposed rules (previously covered here on Civil Eats) amending the act would prevent large meat packers from artificially lowering the price of cattle, hogs and lamb. But four companies control over 80 percent of the U.S. meat market, and these “Big Four” are fighting an effort to strengthen the rule. Read more