By Andrew Gunther
| March 30, 2012
In the U.S., we pride ourselves on being the best of the best. And in this Olympic year we’re all hoping that we’ll come home with the Gold. However, there is one area where the U.S. leads which should deeply concern us all.
Figures initially presented by Dr. Danilo Lo Fo Wong of the World Health Organization reveal that the U.S. is leading the world in the overuse of antibiotics in livestock farming – and by a long way. We use more antibiotics per kilogram of meat produced than any other nation in the world – and we use 12 times as much as the country using the least, Norway. In doing so we are jeopardizing our future ability to treat killer diseases, all for the sake of so-called “cheap” animal protein and short-term industry profit. In this case, by coming in first, we may actually be in danger of losing it all.
Just last week Professor Lance Price from the TGen Centre for Microbiomics and Human Health in Arizona spoke in London, the site of this years’ Olympic Games, to highlight not American excellence, but American failings, saying that U.S. lawmakers were “significantly further behind Europe” after the European Union banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in 2006.
Greg Sazonov raises Animal Welfare Approved laying hens at The Happy Rooster Farm, LLC in Pilot, Virginia. He rotates his chickens across the 20 rolling acres of pasture and hay fields as a part of his sustainable pasture management plan.
Greg began farming in order to provide food for his family, but his farm gradually grew in size and he now sells AWA-certified eggs to the local community. “We move the birds regularly across our fields using electric netting, which also helps keep them safe from predators” explains Greg, as he discusses the important role his pasture-raised flock plays on the farm. “The birds help to keep bugs at bay and help to control weeds, as well as leaving behind manure for following crops. This keeps our fertilizer costs down to around $0.00, which is a good number we think!”
Eliza Lake and Bart Niswonger along with their two young children, Augustus and Charlotte, raise Animal Welfare Approved Highland beef cattle and Buff Orpington, Silver-Laced and Columbian Wyandotte, Partridge and Barred Rock laying hens at Kinne Brook Farm in Worthington, MA.
Jack and Betsy McCann of True Cost Farm in Montrose, MN raise AWA laying hens as a result of their quest for the tastiest food possible. Having grown up in the suburbs, the McCanns were fairly unfamiliar with farming in the beginning. After learning more about sustainable, pasture-based farming and the nutritious, delicious food it produces, they were determined to not only raise their food the right way, but also to provide it to others. Jack transitioned out of his previous career as an entrepreneur and management consultant to build and lead True Cost Farm and Betsy now leads a dual life as farmer and musician – she loves her career as a high school band director.
Hans Osthaus immigrated to Canada with his wife and children in 1985 from Germany where they had raised dairy cattle. The couple again established a dairy and raised their four children in Markdale, Ontario, between Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. The region isn’t suited to growing produce, but the steep, hilly and rocky landscape of Grey County lends itself well to pasture-grazing livestock.
By Andrew Gunther
| March 26, 2012
Whether it’s the regular tweets of the big-name food pundits or the countless anonymous contributors to online food discussions, an astonishing amount of advice is now dished out on what food we should buy and where we should buy it. While much of this guidance is sound and reasonable, some of it is wildly inaccurate or just downright unrealistic.
Take the latest mantra that cropped up in an online discussion that I was following: ‘Before you buy any food you should go and visit the farm, because that will answer all your questions.’ Buying direct from the farm or at the farmers’ market is something I wholeheartedly enjoy supporting. In doing so, my family hasn’t bought into the appalling practices of industrial agriculture; we’ve used our dollars to support local farms – and the food usually tastes great, too. But is it realistic to expect every conscientious consumer to have the time and ability to actually visit the farm first – let alone the expertise to assess what they see when they get there?
By Andrew Gunther
| March 14, 2012
Last week, The Daily broke the news that the USDA planned to buy 7 million pounds of Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT) – otherwise known as “pink slime” – for school lunches. Some reports state that 70% of prepackaged grind on retailers’ shelves contain it. The resulting backlash has had more effect than anyone expected. Following a public outcry and hundreds of thousands of signatories to petitions to try to get the product out of schools, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), the world’s leading producer of BLBT, has launched a new counteroffensive website “pink slime is a myth.” So where does the truth lie?
Obviously, Boneless Lean Meat Trimmings sounds a lot more appetizing than “pink slime.” But whatever you call it, what is it? And how is it produced? The “pink slime is a myth” website says that BLBT is the meat and fat that is trimmed away when beef is cut. This is true as far as it goes. But BLBT isn’t quite the same as the bits of meat that you or your butcher might cut off the edge of a steak or other piece of meat. BLBT is the fatty trimmings that even BPI agrees couldn’t be separated with the knife. In the past, these trimmings were used for pet food or converted into oil rather than being served as hamburgers to people.
Tonya and Edward Zitvogel, II and their children Casey, Allie and Jacob raise Animal Welfare Approved laying hens at Zitvogel Farms in Bridgeville, DE. Before becoming a full time farmer Edward was a nutrient management specialist for the University of Maryland and has been a field scout for row crops and vegetables as well. Zitvogel Farms, the farm where Edward was born and raised, is a 200 acre farm that specializes in vegetables and hay. They grow tomatoes in a 24′x96′ high tunnel and grow almost 2000′ row feet of Dr. Martin Pole Limas as well as an acre of sweet potatoes. The Zitvogels raise several breeds of AWA laying hens including Barred Rocks, Partridge Rocks, Speckled Sussex, Buff Orpington, Delaware, and Welsummers.
Hugh Miller Sr. and Jr. are third and fourth generation farmers in Pink Hill, North Carolina. Hugh Sr. began raising pigs at the age of nine and Hugh Jr. began raising livestock when he was 12. Now father and son work together on the family farm, where they grow row crops and raise Animal Welfare Approved pastured pork.
By Andrew Gunther
| March 12, 2012
On the heels of a previous report highlighting lack of enforcement and oversight in our food system, the U.S. Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) new report on whether milk marketed as organic actually meets the National Organic Program’s standards is a real wake-up call to the organic community.
And so it should be. Consumers pay a significant premium for organic products and rightly expect transparency and oversight. However, the OIG’s new report, “Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program – Organic Milk,” exposes major failings of the National Organic Program’s (NOP) certification and auditing systems. At a time when consumers are turning their backs on industrialized farming systems – and genetically modified (GM) farming in particular – the new report raises real questions about exactly what people are paying for when they buy organic milk.