Here’s what caught our eyes in food news in the past week:
1. Group Pressures Foster Farms to Address Antibiotics (Los Angeles Times)
Between March 2013 and July 2014, people all over the nation became ill after eating salmonella-tainted Foster Farms chicken. Meanwhile, the company made several claims, including in this NBC news report, that it was committed to stepping up its food safety protocol. Yesterday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) made public information it had gathered via a Freedom of Information Act request that suggests otherwise. Write-ups by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors include unappetizing details about fecal contamination and other questionable practices. According to the documents, the company was cited an average of once every two days in a six month period. NRDC’s goal is to draw attention to the connection between crowded, dirty conditions in livestock and meatpacking facilities and the overuse of unnecessary antibiotics. “When you take good care of animals and improve sanitation, you reduce the pressure from disease dramatically,” NRDC’s Jonathan Kaplan told the Los Angeles Times. “You don’t have to rely on a steady course of antibiotics to keep animals alive.” The organization is urging Foster Farms to make the same pledge Perdue just made to reduce antibiotics. (Perdue announced last week that 95 percent of its birds never receive any antibiotics that are also used in human medicine.)
The seed and agrichemical company Syngenta has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the legal tolerance for a neonicotinoid pesticide residue in alfalfa, barley, corn, and wheat. “Neonics,” which have been linked to the decline of honeybees and other pollinators in recent years, are the active chemical in the pesticide thiamethoxam.
Parents everywhere gasped this week when they learned that the Berkeley-based company had been sold. And although the company–whose organic mac and cheese products have earned it a loyal following–has often been seen as an alternative to “Big Organic,” the change shouldn’t be a surprise. Annie’s already had over 145 products across 35,000 retail locations. The company’s CEO John Foraker said in a statement: “Partnering with a company of General Mills’ scale and resources will strengthen our position at the forefront of this trend, enabling us to more rapidly and efficiently expand into new channels and product lines in a rapidly evolving industry environment.”
Sport fishermen and fish farmers are butting heads over aquaculture in the Great Lakes. While fish farming is new to the area, its expanded. Some believe aquaculture would be a smart use of the fresh water and could lead to cleaner, more well-regulated lakes. But sport fishermen, who stocked the lakes with Pacific salmon 50 years ago, worry about the concentrated waste. “The reality is that the native Great Lakes wild fishery is in a state of general collapse,” trout farmer Dan Vogler told NPR. “If we’re going to have locally available fish, it has to come from fish farms.”
5. Grandma’s Meat Loaf? Hardly. Her Retirement Home Now Has a 3-Star Chef. (The New York Times)
“In a nation where food has become a cultural currency and the baby-boom generation is turning 65 at a rate of 8,000 people a day, it was only a matter of time before expensive ingredients, elevated cooking techniques and old-fashioned food snobbery hit the nursing home,” write the Times‘ Kim Severson. As a generation of well-known chefs reach retirement age, she adds, the assumption that older Americans don’t deserve–or enjoy–healthy creative food is on the way out.
6. How Millenials Spend (The Atlantic)
Gen Y is said to “reward socially responsible companies that they can connect with and that they deem authentic,” and that pattern is especially visible when it comes to their food purchases. According to the Atlantic, this generation is responsible for the rise of brands such as Chipotle or Panera and they have a stronger connection to organic foods, as well.
7. Farmers and Ranchers Help Bring Birds Back From the Brink (The Prairie Star)
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released its 2014 State of the Birds report and with it a strong call for help from farmers and ranchers. Birds, especially those in the increasingly dry western states, face intense pressure from development and drought, and many species are struggling to survive. EDF is working with agriculture groups around the nation to provide a mechanism for farmers and ranchers to get paid for creating and caring for habitat for the birds that are at the most risk.
8. Heirlooms Passed Down by Seed Savers Exchange (Harvest Public Media)
Seed Savers, one of the world’s largest seed lending libraries specializing in historic, non-hybrid plants, or heirlooms, is nearing its 40th anniversary. The Iowa-based group has 13,000 members, reaching all 50 states and about two dozen countries. And the group was also an inspiration for modern heirloom dealers like Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company.
Let us know what we missed in the comments below.