Danielle Nierenberg's blog
One of the top quotes of the day at Tuesday's livestock and the environment workshop at the World Bank was "intensify, but don't concentrate." Cees de Haan, an agriculture expert with more than 40 years of experience working on livestock science and development issues at the Bank, the International Livestock Research Institute, and other agencies, repeated this statement twice to those of us assembled to hear him speak.
How can livestock producers eliminate and/or pay for the air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land degradation, and other externalities related to meat production? That was the question of the day at a workshop at the World Bank on Tuesday, where participants gathered to discuss the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report Livestock’s Long Shadow, released late last year.
An article in Wednesday’s New York Times
food section laments the jump in U.S. beef prices (just as grilling season begins) and warns consumers that beef marbled with fat—the soft texture that consumers have come to expect—will be in short supply this summer.
A very strange thing is happening right now in livestock operations in the United States. As corn becomes a hot commodity for ethanol production, livestock producers are replacing some of their animal feed with products that would look more at home in the candy aisles of supermarkets.
Phew! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared that some 80,000 chickens in Indiana that ate melamine-tainted feed are safe to eat. Pigs that were fed melamine in a number of states, including North Carolina, have also been cleared as safe for human consumption. What a relief. Or is it?
There’s a battle taking place on U.S. grocery store shelves that most consumers don’t know about: Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agribusiness company, is again petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent sellers of organic and sustainable milk from listing their products as rBGH or rBST free. Monsanto claims that these labels letting consumers know what’s NOT in their milk are misleading. But who is misleading whom?
For years, the pig industry has said that gestation crates—concrete stalls that don’t allow pigs to move much, turn around, or perform other natural behaviors—are the most economical way of meeting demand for pork products. But recent Iowa State University research that compares the economic costs of raising sows (female pigs) in gestation crates versus alternative structures says otherwise.
With gasoline topping $3 a gallon in the U.S., biofuels seem to be on everyone’s mind. If you listen to the industry’s most ardent proponents, you might think they’re a silver bullet, giving us a clean, cheap, environmentally friendly source of energy. But not everything about biofuels is so rosy. In addition to making fuel out of plant sources, such as corn, sugar cane, and rapeseed, the industry is trying to “make a silk purse out of a sow's ear” by using the waste of factory farms and slaughterhouses and the methane generated by livestock to produce fuel.
The European Union passed new rules this week it says will ease the suffering of the billions of chickens raised in Europe each year. Broilers, or meat birds, have been reared for decades in tightly packed sheds, a.k.a. factory farms, that can hold up to 50,000 chickens. These crowded, filthy conditions can lead to a range of diseases affecting humans and chickens alike, including avian respiratory problems and salmonella.
In March, Menu Foods, Nestle Purina Pet Care, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition recalled more than 60 million cans of U.S. dog and cat food because they were contaminated with melamine—a nitrogen-based industrial chemical that is used as a binding agent, as a flame retardant, and, most surprisingly, as a fertilizer in the developing world.