Here’s what caught our eye in food news this week:
1. Food Safety Advocates Welcome, Criticize Foster Farms’ First-Ever Recall of Salmonella Chicken (The Oregonian)
Last week, just before the holiday weekend, Foster Farms recalled over a million pounds of chicken. But some food safety advocates feel it’s too little too late after a 16-month-long salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 625 people. The company insists that that it has begun to enact new food safety procedures but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has raised questions about how effective they are. Read more
1. Walmart’s New Line of Organic Food will Undercut Big Brands (New York Times)
The big news this week was the new partnership between Walmart and Wild Oats, the former natural grocery store chain, which is rolling out a line of inexpensive organic products. Walmart only plans to carry the company’s shelf-stable pantry items for now, but the move could make a splash with both consumers and farmers. Read more
Could the U.S. dairy processors’ new slogan, “milk life,” make it big in Asia? If dairy multinationals like Nestlé and Danone have their way, the answer might be yes.
As the market for dairy products in industrialized countries nears saturation, the U.S. dairy industry, along with its counterparts in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, have begun to look for new consumers in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other Asian countries. Read more
Remember that Stanford study last year that claimed organic foods were no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts? It made national headlines seeming to vindicate critics of organic farming practices and confirming to skeptics that organics are nothing more than a marketing scheme. I criticized that study when it appeared as did many others but it damaged the reputation of organic farming in the minds of many Americans. Read more
Perhaps no one represented the American work ethic more than the dairy farmer. Early morning hours and hard physical labor, often conducted in solitude while ankle deep in muck. Families working together to get the job done. They have long proudly supplied a demand for their community, and like most farmers, are clearly not in it for the money.
Today however, the American dairy farmer also represents the frustration and economic hardship evident across our nation. Increasing volatility in the price of milk paid to farmers, higher feed costs, corporate consolidation in the supply chain, organic milk farms scaling up, and questionable government policies all have farmers shedding a few tears. The life is so unappealing that the number of American families remaining in milk farming has plummeted from roughly 165,000 20 years ago, to less than 50,000 today. Read more
Flavored milk has come under scrutiny as more people, including school food activist and chef Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, have implicated it in the childhood obesity debate. (UPDATE: In fact, thanks to Oliver’s work, flavored milk is no longer a choice as of July 1 in LA schools.) Yet many in the mainstream health and nutrition media maintain that it is a weight loss and muscle building “super food.” Read more
The assault on rural America continues unabated. For the past six months dairy farmers across the country have suffered a historic drop in milk prices while operating costs remain high. Since December 2008, the price that farmers are paid for the milk they produce has plunged over 50 percent, the largest single drop since the Great Depression.
While organic dairy farmers have faced a decrease in overall sales due to the recent world financial meltdown and tight budgets on the home front as a result, the current drop in milk prices is impacting mainly conventional and small to mid-size family dairy farmers — the worst crisis most dairy farmers have faced in their entire careers.
Without immediate action from President Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of Congress, this current crisis could be the launching point for the final liquidation of the independent family farmer. Read more
Today a broad array of 29 farmers, consumer groups, businesses and other organizations sent a letter to Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, urging her to veto HR 2121, a bill passed by the Kansas State Legislature last week which would require an additional disclaimer on labels for dairy products produced from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST), a genetically engineered, artificial hormone that induces cows to produce more milk. (To read more about the problem with rbGH, check out this earlier Civil Eats post.) The bill was sent yesterday to Governor Sebelius, who has ten days to veto it. Read more
With the Child Nutrition Act (CNA) set for renewal this year, Food & Water Watch (F&WW) last month launched a School Milk Campaign asking Congress to give schools nationwide the opportunity to buy milk that is free of artificial growth hormones. Their online petition has already generated 8,000 signatures. Read more