In the changing agricultural landscape of the 21st century, Americans are rediscovering their connection to food and how it’s produced. In the process, they are also discovering a desire to hear the stories of the visionaries, farmers and ordinary people guiding how food is produced so that it better reflects our values and ideals.
The stories are out there—books and films that chronicle the people and events vital to ensuring safe, humane, nutritious food reaches every table. Animal Welfare Approved is pleased to be launching a new section of its website dedicated to finding and reviewing the books and films that inform, educate and inspire.
We’re kicking off our reviews with a look at Nicolette Hahn Niman’s Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. Published last year, it’s already a classic in the field.
Jill Johnson and Mary Wills raise Certified AWA hogs and laying hens and Certified Grassfed by AGW beef cattle outdoors on pasture at Crane Dance Farm in Middleville, Michigan.
Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband raise Certified AWA Nubian and La Mancha dairy goats at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, Illinois.
| March 26, 2010
The demand for locally produced meats is well-documented, and there are farmers eager to produce it. Too often the bottleneck in this scenario is simply an absence of independent processing facilities. A new report by Food and Water Watch explores the reasons behind this absence and the changes that would be needed to rectify it.
Entitled, “Where’s the Local Beef?,” the report describes an monopolistic industry that favors large operations at the expense of smaller ones. Despite a large number of small start-ups, the authors note that most of these will go out of business. The current regulatory and industrial climate is just not designed for independent slaughter plants – existing or planned.
Among the obstacles faced by smaller plants (defined as having fewer than 500 employees) are: scale-inappropriate regulations, lack of skilled personnel, and a near absence of competition in the industry. For instance in 2005, the top four beef-packing companies controlled over 80% of the market…
All the heat wasn’t in the kitchen on March 17, when a group of chefs, led by AWA supporter Chef Bill Telepan, wore their traditional white jackets to Capitol Hill to push for increased funding for school lunches. Chef’s Day of Action, coordinated by the NYC Alliance for CNR (Child Nutrition Reauthorization), brought together celebrity chefs and school lunch reform advocates to urge Congress to provide an additional $4 billion in funding per year for school food programs.
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act comes up every five years and this year President Obama has asked for an additional $1 billion per year. The Senate, however, is considering only authorizing $500 million per year—half of what the President has requested. Even $1 billion wouldn’t make much of a difference to the 30 million school children who depend on the National School Lunch Program for meals. And when you consider the size of the budget—$3.7 trillion—it’s pocket change. $1 billion only equals 17 ½ cents per day per child. The government reimburses schools $2.68 for fully subsidized lunches.
The chefs say much more is needed to really make a difference. An increase in funding to $4 billion will provide an additional $0.70 per child. “We need school lunches to be about the best food, not the cheapest food,” says Chef Bill Telepan, who is also a board member of NYC’s Wellness in the Schools. “This is what we practice as chefs and we have a responsibility to bring the best food there is into schools.”
Kathryn Spann and Dave Krabbe raise Certified AWA meat and dairy goats outdoors on pasture at Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, NC. Kathryn is somewhat native to Rougemont—her mother’s family farmed tobacco in the area for generations. She and Dave met in New York City, while Kathryn was practicing law, and soon after decided to return to Kathryn’s roots and realized Dave’s long-time dream of owning a farm. Prodigal Farm spans 97 acres and is complete with a 120 year old farmhouse, original log tobacco barns, mule barn, corn crib, smokehouse, and outbuildings. These beautiful historic buildings are daily reminders to Kathryn and Dave of the area’s rich farming history. They are in the process of placing a conservation easement on their farm, which will then be preserved as farmland forever.
Natalie Chartier and Justin Audet purchased Le Biscornu farm in October 2004. The 350-acre farm is situated about five miles south of Rimouski, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, and provides pasture and hay for their flock of purebred Icelandic sheep. “The land is very hilly, making it ideally suited for grazing livestock,” says Natalie.
Concerns about food safety, the environment and farm animal welfare are prompting increasing numbers of consumers to seek out ethically produced food, including meat, dairy and eggs from humanely raised animals, even if it means paying more. A new survey from San Francisco-based Context Marketing shows that almost 70 percent of American food shoppers are willing to pay more for food that is safe, humane and environmentally sound.
Education, consumer advocacy and lifting the veil from the practices of industrialized agriculture are transforming shopping habits. Despite industry efforts, concern for farm animal welfare is gaining significant strength. The study finds that the importance of animals being humanely raised is exceeded only by food safety concerns, and animal welfare scores well above “natural” and “organically produced.” Consumers who have grown up more aware of how food is produced are intensifying the demand for meat, dairy and eggs from humanely raised animals: Forty-four percent of shoppers aged 20 to 34 always look for cage-free eggs.
By Andrew Gunther
| March 5, 2010
An article in the Washington Post on March 1 caught my attention. Entitled, “Manure becomes pollutant as its volume grows unmanageable,” it focused on a topic that really gets up my nose.
The article is one of an increasing number of investigative pieces which have highlighted the massive pollution problems caused by intensive livestock farming systems – and the fact that we, as taxpayers, are the ones who are currently picking up the bill.
By Andrew Gunther
| March 2, 2010
After Monsanto did an end run around the law by convincing regulators to approve its genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa without the mandatory environmental review, consumer groups hauled them to court and won a ban on the GE seed until the review was completed. Now the USDA has ruled that the GE alfalfa seed meets standards and can be put on the market—despite acknowledging that the seed is almost certain to contaminate normal, non-GE (you know, natural) seed.
This is especially dangerous for organic farmers, who have no defenses against their organic alfalfa becoming contaminated with Monsanto’s GE seed. It could cost them their organic certification. It could cost you control over what you eat if contamination decimates organic supplies.