Tag Archives: Industrialized Food

Where Do Your Eggs Come From?

Warning: This is a graphic undercover video by the Humane Society of the United States showing the horrible conditions hens endure at Kreider Farms, an egg factory in Pennsylvania that supplies eggs to grocery stores. The company is also a distributor for Eggland’s Best.

If you don’t want to watch the video, at least read about the observations of the  investigator:

  • Birds were severely overcrowded in cages more cramped than the national average; each hen received only 54–58 square inches of space on which to spend her life.
  • Injured and dead hens, including mummified bird carcasses, were found inside cages with living hens laying eggs for human consumption.
  • Hens were left without water for days when a water source malfunctioned, causing many to die.
  • Hens’ legs, wings, and heads were found trapped in cage wires and automated feeding machinery.
  • A thick layer of dead flies on the barn floors caused a crunching sound when walking on it.

Not only is this a horrible way to treat animals, but the stress they endure ultimately affects their egg production. Do you want to eat those eggs?

In addition to keeping hens in deplorable conditions, Kreider Farms is one of the few egg producers in the U.S. which doesn’t support federal legislation aimed at improving conditions for America’s laying hens, and providing a stable and secure future for egg farmers.

The bill in the U.S. Congress, H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, would phase in new housing systems for hens over the next 15 to 18 years, providing them far more space and ensuring that cages contain environmental enrichments such as perches and nesting areas.

Is This What You Want Your Kids Eating for Lunch?

Photo via The Huffington Post

From the Huffington Post comes this article informing us that, while McDonald’s,  Taco Bell, and Burger King have rejected the “pink slime,” aka, ammonia-treated pinkish-tinted ground beef, to use in their products, the U.S. Government has moved forward to purchase it for the national school lunch program. One million pounds of ” a ground-up combination of beef scraps, cow connective tissues, and other beef trimmings that are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens like salmonella and E. coli” will be going into hamburger patties and taco meat for kids.

There are a few reasons why you should be concerned if your children are fed by this program:

  • Ammonium hydroxide, which can both be harmful to eat and has potential to turn into ammonium nitrate is also a common component in household cleaners, fertilizers, and homemade bombs.
  • In 2009, The New York Times reported that despite the added ammonia, tests of Lean Beef Trimmings of schools across the country revealed dozens of instances of E. coli and salmonella pathogens.
  • The announcement came just weeks after the government announced new standards for school meals to ensure students are given healthier options, including more whole grains and produce as well as less sodium and fat.

Personally, I won’t go near the stuff. That’s why Bill and I buy grassfed and pastured meat from our local farmers. And, when I eat at a restaurant, I choose vegetarian options over factory farmed meats.

“Back to the Start”: A Thoughtful Short Film on Our Food System

I’m not a big fan of fast food, but I’ve heard good things about Chipotle Mexican Grill, the fast food chain that seeks “food with integrity,” which they define as “their commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers.”

Check out this stop motion film the company did to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system. Film-maker Johnny Kelly, commissioned by Chipotle, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future.

The Meat-Eater’s Guide

A new Meat Eater’s Guide to eating meat has been published by the Environmental Working Group to provide information about the climate, environmental, and health impact of your protein choices.

It’s based on a study that calculates the full “cradle-to-grave” carbon footprint of each food item based on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated before and after the food leaves the farm – from the pesticides and fertilizer used to grow animal feed all the way through the grazing, animal raising, processing, transportation, cooking and, finally, disposal of unused food. The life cycles of 20 popular types of meat (including fish), dairy and vegetable proteins were assessed.

While the general message is that consuming meat is bad for the environment (and eating too much meat poses serious health issues) , the guide does discuss the benefits of grassfed/pastured meat.

And vegetarians who eat cheese are not off the hook, either. As the guide says, “pound for pound, cheese generates the third-highest emissions.”

We could all do the earth–and ourselves–better by eating more plants, as Michael Pollan says. And if you choose meat, go for grassfed and pastured. It may be more expensive initially, but in the long run our collective cost from environmental and healthcare issues will be lower.

The Burden of Industrialized Meat

Chart via the Emerging Pathogens Institute

Bill and I have been eating grassfed or pastured meat for about the last four years. We totally believe it’s the right thing to do for our health, for the sake of the animals, and for our planet. But many people think it’s too expensive and find it hard to justify spending that kind of money. One way to counter the cost would be by balancing meat dishes with vegetarian ones. Or, you could justify the cost by thinking proactively: Instead of putting the money into healthcare later on, you’re putting it into your health right now.

Recently, there was an article in the The Washington Post about the cost of pathogens found in this country’s food supply. “Of the food pathogens that cost society the most money — in terms of medical care, lost days of work, long-term chronic health problems or deaths — half are found in poultry, pork, beef and other meat products.” This data comes from research conducted by the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI). Together, the 10 most expensive pathogens associated with specific foods cost the U.S. economy $8.1 billion a year, the study found.

The top-ranked pathogen-food combinations include:

  • Poultry tainted with Campylobacter, which causes more than 600,000 estimated cases of illness annually and puts nearly 7,000 people in the hospital
  • Pork contaminated with Toxoplasma, which sickens more than 35,000 and puts nearly 2,000 Americans in the hospital annually
  • Deli meats tainted with Listeria, which causes nearly 600 hospitalizations and more than 100 deaths each year.

If you subscribe to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recalls, this information wouldn’t be a surprise. Just about every week I read about a tainted meat issue that they’ve announced. “What this [research] shows,” says J. Glenn Morris, the director of the EPI and one of the authors of the study, “is that there are diseases that have significant other manifestations, that result in complications, even death. And as a result, the public health burden is so much greater.”

Can you get these diseases from your local farmer’s products? Sure, it happens, but not to the degree that it does with feedlot meat. If you know your farmer you have a better chance of making a good decision about what you eat. In the end, it could save you–and the rest of us–thousands of dollars in healthcare costs.

The Odds Are One in Four: Gambling with Supermarket Meat is Risky

The results are in: One in four supermarket meat samples is tainted with drug-resistant bacteria.

According to NPR, nearly a quarter of the meat and poultry sold in U.S. supermarkets is infected with bacteria. The news organization cites research from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), which sampled meat around the country and found that “47 percent had evidence of Staphylococcus aureus contamination. More than half of the bacteria they found were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study, published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.”

Researchers collected and analyzed 136 samples — covering 80 brands — of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey from 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff, and Washington, D.C.

In a TGen press release, Lance B. Price, senior author of the study and director of the center’s Food Microbiology and Environmental Health, said, “For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial.”

If the headline doesn’t scare you, here are some reasons for concern:

  • DNA testing suggests that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination. (That’s another reason to avoid feedlot meat!)
  • Although Staph should be killed with proper cooking, it may still pose a risk to consumers through improper food handling and cross-contamination in the kitchen.
  • S. aureus can cause a range of illnesses from minor skin infections to life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia, endocarditis, and sepsis.
  • The drug-resistant strains found in the meat and poultry samples are especially difficult to treat because they’ve evolved beyond the regular arsenal of drugs that kill them.
  • S. aureus isn’t among the four types of drug-resistant bacteria the U.S. government looks for when it surveys retail meatThe researchers suggest that we need a better inspection program to help track the presence of the bug.

“The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today,” Dr. Price said.

Densely-stocked industrial farms, where food animals are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics, are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to humans, the report says.

Antibiotics use among livestock has been generating concern lately, as  80 percent of the antibiotics sold in 2009 were reserved for livestock and poultry, according to the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “there is strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.”

No wonder everyone is sick all the time.

Exposing Factory Farms May Get Tougher

A growing movement among Big Ag’s industrial farmers is the attempt to prohibit exposure of livestock facilities by undercover videographers such as the U.S. Humane Society investigator who posed as an employee to film conditions in an egg factory in Iowa.

According to Grist, “industrial farmers have convinced Iowa state lawmakers to move an anti-whistle-blower bill through the state legislature.” Although Grist believes “the likelihood of the bill’s passage is uncertain thanks to Democratic control of the Iowa Senate,” anything can happen. Other states may follow suit.

When is Big Ag going to stop treating animals inhumanely?

Tips for Avoiding BPA Consumption

Recently, USA Today published an article citing research about BPA, (bisphenol-A) that claims “adults and children can reduce their exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals, including bisphenol-A (BPA), by eating more fruits and vegetables and less food from plastic containers and metal cans.”

According to the article, “a team of nine scientists…studied five families in San Francisco, each with two children and two adults, in January 2010. They tested the participants’ urine before, during and after a three-day diet that consisted of organic, fruits, vegetables, grains and meat and banned plastic utensils as well as storage and heating containers. Their research appears [today] in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.”

The study found that BPA levels went back up once families returned to their regular diets. Its authors recommend these five tips to reduce exposure to BPA and other hormone-disrupting chemicals:

  1. Fresh is best. BPA and phthalates can migrate from the linings of cans and plastic packaging into food and drinks. While it’s not practical to avoid food packaging altogether, opt for fresh or frozen instead of canned food as much as possible.
  2. Eat in. Studies have shown that people who eat more meals prepared outside the home have higher levels of BPA. To reduce your exposure, consider cooking more meals at home with fresh ingredients. When you do eat out, choose restaurants that use fresh ingredients.
  3. Store it safe. Food and drinks stored in plastic can collect chemicals from the containers, especially if the foods are fatty or acidic. Next time, try storing your leftovers in glass or stainless steel instead of plastic.
  4. Don’t microwave in plastic. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of chemicals leaching into food and drinks. So use heat-resistant glass or ceramic containers when you microwave, or heat your food on the stove. The label “microwave safe” means safety for the container, not your health.
  5. Brew the old-fashioned way. Automatic coffee makers may have BPA and phthalates in their plastic containers and tubing. When you brew your coffee, consider using a French press to get your buzz without the BPA.

The last tip was news to me! Bill and I enjoy our pressed coffee on the weekends, but I think it’s time to spoil ourselves everyday to reduce BPA consumption.

Deserve to Know It’s GMO: March Against Monsanto on World Food Day

Sure, it may be six months away but it’s time to plant the seed (no pun intended) so you can organize or attend an event in your area.

MillionsAgainstMonsanto.org is organizing a march against Monsanto on World Food Day this year, October 16, 2011. Their goal is to reach 2,300 supporters in 435 local chapters for a nationwide day of action, turning out 1,000,000 people against Monsanto in support of our right to know, and choose, what’s in our food.

Monsanto produces genetically modified (GMO) seeds, which many people believe are harmful to our health, and possibly the source of numerous diseases and food allergies. (Read about their stance on the topic on their website.)

The Organic Consumers Association has provided a list of local chapters so you can find out how to get involved where you live. To find out more about the march, check out this YouTube video produced by the Organic Consumers Association.

And if you can’t make the march, how about signing a petition requesting that “all food packaging should clearly identify all non-organic ingredients containing soy, corn, cottonseed oil, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa or GM growth hormones with a label or shelf sign that says ‘May Contain GMOs’ and identify all meat, dairy, and eggs that come from CAFOs [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] with a label or shelf sign that says ‘CAFO.’”

Demanding mandatory GMO labeling worked in the European Union. Let’s make it happen in the United States!

Need a Book to Read?

From Take Part, a website and social action network, comes a very comprehensive list of books about food compiled by Take Part’s Food, Inc. community. Thanks to my friend Julie for sharing it with me, and for loaning me a number of books that are mentioned in the blog post.

All I can say is that I’m way behind on my reading!

Here are just a few of the books cited on the list: