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One big reason some foods cost so much more than others

The Washington Post | Posted on June 21, 2017

Why are some foods cheap and other foods expensive? Hint: It’s (mostly) not subsidies. Although they’ve certainly played a role in shaping our food supply such that we have huge quantities of just a few crops — a recipe for low prices — the discrepancy that seems to be at issue is the one between commodity crops such as corn and soy, and the fruits and vegetables that everyone’s trying to get us to eat more of. There’s a factor there that plays a much larger role than subsidies, and it doesn’t get much airtime. It’s machines.In general, if you can use machines instead of people, you can produce a crop for less. But let’s not talk in general. Let’s talk about tomatoes.The beautiful, ripe, in-season tomato will set you back up to $5 a pound, but you can buy a 28-ounce can of perfectly tasty tomatoes for as little as a dollar. The latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have beefsteak tomatoes at $3.16 per pound and canned tomatoes at 92 cents per pound.A big part of that difference is machines.


China's pork demand hits a peak, shocking producers, as diets get healthier

Reuters | Posted on June 20, 2017

China's frozen dumpling makers are finding there's a quick route to winning new sales - increase the vegetable content, and cut down on the meat. This departure from traditional pork-rich dumplings is a hit with busy, young urbanites, trying to reduce the fat in diets often heavy on fast food. For pig farmers in China and abroad, it is a difficult trend to stomach. The producers and other market experts had expected the growth to continue until at least 2026.Chinese hog farmers are on a building spree, constructing huge modern farms to capture a bigger share of the world's biggest pork market, while leading producers overseas have been changing the way they raise their pigs to meet Chinese standards for imports. Some have, for example, stopped using growth hormones banned in China.China still consumes a lot more meat than any other country. People here will eat about 74 million tonnes of pork, beef and poultry this year, around twice as much as the United States, according to U.S. agriculture department estimates. More than half of that is pork and for foreign producers it has been a big growth market, especially for Western-style packaged meats.But pork demand has hit a ceiling, well ahead of most official forecasts. Sales of pork have now fallen for the past three years, according to data from research firm Euromonitor. Last year they hit three-year lows of 40.85 million tonnes from 42.49 million tonnes in 2014, and Euromonitor predicts they will also fall slightly in 2017.


KY Food banks may get boost from new law protecting donors from lawsuits

Louisville Courier Journal | Posted on June 20, 2017

As thousands of Kentuckians struggle to feed their families, nonprofits hope a new law will encourage supermarkets to donate food they typically throw away by shielding them from being sued if someone gets sick after eating their donations.  There have been virtually no lawsuits filed over someone getting sick from consuming donated food, but fear of legal action has still stifled donations, said Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who launched an initiative last year that led to the "Food Immunity Bill." The law, which goes into effect June 29, protects groceries, farmers and other entities that donate food to nonprofit organizations from civil or criminal liability as long as there was no intentional misconduct.


FSIS to Publish Proposed Rule Regarding Equivalence of China’s Poultry Slaughter System

National Chicken Council | Posted on June 19, 2017

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published in the Federal Register its proposed rule regarding China’s  poultry slaughter system and its equivalence to the U.S. system.In March this year, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finalized an audit showing that China’s poultry slaughter system met the criteria for an equivalence determination.  However, FSIS still needed to take additional steps before it could make a determination as to whether China’s system for poultry slaughter is equivalent and therefore that China’s is eligible to export poultry that was slaughtered in China to the United States. FSIS still must take a number of steps, the first of which will be the publishing of the proposed rule, followed by a comment period, before it can make a final determination as to whether China is equivalent and thus eligible to export poultry to the United States that was slaughtered and cooked in Chinese establishments.Once the comment period closes, FSIS will assess the comments and then make a final determination on China’s equivalence and publish a final decision in the Federal Register.  If FSIS ultimately finds that China’s system is equivalent, China will be elible to export processed poultry sourced from China to the United States.U.S. chicken has been blocked by China since January 2015, when the country issued a blanket ban on all U.S. poultry over issues related to avian influenza.  Poultry exports to China peaked in 2008, with an export value of $722 million.


Amazon to buy Whole Foods Market

Meat + Poultry | Posted on June 19, 2017

Amazon has agreed to acquire Whole Foods Market, Inc. for $42 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $13.7 billion, including Whole Foods Market’s net debt. Whole Foods Market will retain its headquarters in Austin, Texas, and John Mackey will remain CEO. The retailer will continue to operate stores under the Whole Foods Market brand and source from established vendors and partners around the world, the company said.


How Cheese Saved an Oregon Town

NBCnews.com | Posted on June 15, 2017

For over 100 years, the Bandon Cheese Factory in Bandon, Oregon, was the pride of the town. The cheese brought in the tourists, the factory employed the locals, and the business kept the town afloat. Then 17 years ago disaster struck. A national competitor, Tillamook Cheese, bought the name, closed the factory, sent the workers home, and most of the surrounding dairy farms went bust.For nearly 10 years the town’s economy tumbled, the old building lay vacant until it was eventually torn down, and the land was turned into a parking lot. The pride of the town was stripped away.But eight years ago, three brash young entrepreneurs joined forces to try and reopen the factory.  The dairy farmers, the unemployed workers, and the market for Bandon-made cheese were all still in place. When the original master cheese maker, Brad Sinko, agreed to return, Drobot decided all the elements were there for success.All the elements except for the banks. They weren’t convinced.By now, however, Drobot was determined and he eventually cobbled together two million dollars from investors. At that point, the business was set to go. They couldn't name it Bandon, since the name had been sold, so they called it Face Rock Creamery, after a local landmark off the coast in the Pacific Ocean.


Why ag producers should approach consumers differently

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 15, 2017

A recent study shows that data backed by professional opinions should push producers to change their ways of dealing with consumers, and let emotion and passion tell the ag story.

 


Forget GMOs. The next big battle is over genetically ‘edited’ foods

The Washington Post | Posted on June 15, 2017

The goal is to avoid the sort of public backlash that rocked Monsanto in the late 1990s and still plagues agriculture two decades later. In the United States,  consumer skepticism of genetically modified crops has forced biotech companies into long, costly battles over issues such as whether these foods should be labeled; elsewhere in the world, the public outcry has prevented seeds from winning government approval. “It’s more about social science than science,” said Neal Gutterson, the vice president of research and development at DuPont Pioneer. “[It’s] ultimately about getting social license for this technology.”Odes to plant technology are ubiquitous in DuPont Pioneer’s Iowa offices, where even the conference space boasts glossy, museum-like exhibits devoted to genetically modified foods. Plus-sized photos show farmers standing idly in golden corn fields, and mystery hands reaching into overflowing bowls.But the problem for DuPont Pioneer, and agribusiness generally, is that large swaths of the public do not share this sunny vision of biotech. Since the late '90s, when Monsanto botched the introduction of genetically modified crops in Europe, consumers have treated the term “GMO” as if it were a dirty word. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe GMOs are bad for their health. This assertion is not supported by science, which has concluded that the genetically modified crops on the market are safe for consumption.


Backyard chickens are boosting salmonella needlessly

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 15, 2017

I saw recently that the CDC reported that nearly 400 people in 47 states have been sick from salmonella from backyard birds. Although these are mostly egg laying birds involved as most backyard chicken fanciers want the birds for eggs not meat, it reminds me of the quote by Edmund Burke, “Those that don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”Now we are seeing this push to raise birds outside, in some cases, with no concern for their welfare, because people do not have a good understanding of what is best for the birds but project their own needs and comfort somehow to food animals.  No wonder there is an upturn in salmonella cases. We need young people to have experiences raising farm animals as they are our next generation of farmers and we will need them to produce food for the rapidly expanding population.  However, we need to make sure that they have a solid understanding of how food animals should be raised.It is a tragedy when children get a life threatening disease because people do not understand consequences of treating food animals like pets.  The poultry industry has made improvements that have significantly reduced the incidence of food borne illness and will continue to make improvements so that we can enjoy safe food. People can enjoy producing their own food but it should not come with a risk of disease.


Senate committee passes "cookie bill" with $25,000 income limit for home bakers

WKOW | Posted on June 15, 2017

One week after a state judge ruled Wisconsin's law banning the sale of home-baked goods unconstitutional, a State Senate committee passed legislation allowing people to sell up to $25,000 worth of home-baked goods per year without obtaining a food processing plant license. The original version of SB 271 would have set the income limit at $7,500, but an amendment passed by the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Regulations supported boosting the limit to be more in line with neighboring states.The $25,000 limit would put Wisconsin on the same level as Illinois, and above both Michigan and Minnesota. Iowa has no limit on the amount of home-baked goods that can be sold in a calendar year.All of those states already allow the sale of home-baked goods without a license.
The bill does subject home bakers to some state oversight."Home bakers would need to adhere to labeling, signage and training requirements, as well as register with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. And they would have to document their sales," said Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), who authored the SB 271.The bill would also require all sales to take place on a face-to-face basis, while prohibiting door-to-door sales.A separate bill being circulated by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) would eliminate food processing plant license requirements for bakers of all sizes.


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