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Making a Racket: Christopher Leonard Goes Behind the Scenes in the American Meat Industry

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

The Woman Behind the New GMO-Free Meat Label

In June, Claire Herminjard, a purveyor of organic grassfed beef, received some great news. After nearly a year of making her way through red tape and government paperwork, and collaborating with several other food companies, the news broke that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had approved a new label for GMO-free meat. As a result, the owner of Northern California-based Mindful Meats could finally use the Non-GMO Project Verified label on her beef. Read more

Meat on Drugs, Stop the Superbugs

Antibiotics use is widespread in the production of livestock, helping to create “superbugs,” and aggravating the public health problem of antibiotic resistance.  To address these issues, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, in a new report released today, “Meat on Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It,” calls on supermarkets to stock only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics, and urges consumers to buy these products.  Consumers Union is asking Trader Joe’s to lead the transition by selling only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics. Read more

Eating Less, Better Meat: Yes We Can

I’m a vegetarian. But my husband’s not. And, go figure, my kids aren’t either. Which is exactly why I care about the meat I buy. Yes, I buy meat. I’d rather not, but if it’s coming into the house–and into my kids’ bodies–then I need to know exactly what I’m buying. And I not only want to know how it’s affecting my family’s health, I also care deeply about how it’s affecting our family’s environmental footprint (including climate change).

Enter Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health. In it, EWG took a close look at how a variety of protein foods rank when their total, “cradle-to-grave” greenhouse gas emissions are calculated. Then we factored in the non-climate environmental impacts (like water pollution) and health effects of meat and confirmed that, indeed, not all meat is created equal. Read more

Eating Liberally & Kitchen Table Talks NYC Present: What’s the Matter with Mass-Produced Meat?

More Americans are demanding higher quality meat–animals fed appropriate, antibiotic-free diets on small farms and slaughtered humanely–and they are choosing to eat less of it, too. Whether turned off by endless recalls, or turned on by the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat, growth in campaigns like Meatless Monday show a powerful shift in the Zeitgeist.

Meanwhile Big Meat is taking on the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain its right to let manure run into our waterways, as it defends the excess antibiotic use (80 percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to livestock), inhumane practices, and consolidation of the industry as the only way to feed the world. The beef industry has even invested in a communications degree that aims to revitalize the consumer image of industrial beef.

The conversation around how we bring meat to the table is multifaceted and is the subject of a lively discussion on April 14 at New York University entitled “What’s the Matter With Mass-Produced Meat?” Read more

Straight Talk About the Risks of Feeding Antibiotics to Food Animals

It is time for some straight talk about the risks of using massive amounts of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. I don’t know one infectious disease expert who would disagree that there are direct links between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in people. Period. If you don’t believe me just ask Rear Admiral Ali Kahn, Assistant Surgeon General and Acting Deputy Director for the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease. Just this summer, during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dr. Kahn testified that, “there is unequivocal evidence and relationship between [the] use of antibiotics in animals and [the] transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing adverse effects in humans.”

Knowing this, I continue to be frustrated with the fact that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack does not publicly recognize that the industrial food animal production system is a leading contributor to the increase of antibiotic resistance in pathogens that infect people and animals. Earlier this month at a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meeting, Vilsack responded to a question about the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) by saying the, “USDA’s public position is, and always has been, that antibiotics need to be used judiciously, and we believe they already are.” Read more