The debate around policing food and controlling the diets of others has been largely captive to the elite and monetized by special interest groups like the $125 million DC-based “non-profit” sponsoring the $2 million Question 3 campaign. I’ve been through homelessness and poverty, and as a potential victim of Question 3, I am crashing their exclusive party. The deceptive ballot statement makes no mention of consumer impacts or animal welfare trade-offs. Question 3 will significantly raise the cost of our most affordable and accessible protein choices, not to mention leaving these farm animals unprotected among their own aggressive natural behaviors, which will harm, injure, and kill more chickens and hogs.
A consumer “vote” with every purchase may become easier to tally. Food activist groups will reunite to seek full transparency next. Faber says consumers want access to complete lists of ingredients—including potential allergens—in all the foods they buy, as well as seed-to-table tracking of ingredients and disclosures about fair wage practices. This data can be organized with the “internet of things” technology that has revolutionized other industries. Recent food poisoning incidents have added urgency to tracking efforts. But the food industry isn’t clueless, says Charlie Arnot, CEO of The Center for Food Integrity, an industry group whose members include Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont. Full transparency is necessary if big food companies want to regain consumer trust, he says. Arnot founded The Center for Food Integrity in 2007, in partnership with the Indiana Department of Agriculture, to bolster the image of large food companies under fire from consumer advocates. Big food companies felt “the public moving away from us,” he says. The anti-GMO movement was just the most visible evidence. The research from those early years was sobering. “The public believes food companies put profit ahead of consumer health and safety,” he says.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of two types of potatoes that are genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine. The approval announced Friday covers Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.’s Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the company’s second generation of Innate potatoes. The company says the potatoes will also have reduced bruising and black spots, enhanced storage capacity, and a reduced amount of a chemical created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures that’s a potential carcinogen.
The call for food transparency continues to build, and with it, the use of terms like “natural,” “hyper-local” and “antibiotic-free” in conversations around our food. When it comes to meat, discussions include the added dimensions of livestock care and processing, complicating the labeling of meat products well beyond what’s needed for an organic banana or a package of fiber cereal. So what exactly do these meat labels mean, and what are the nuances? But perhaps more importantly, do consumers really want “cleaner” meat? From a total U.S. consumption perspective, the short answer is yes. Sales growth for some of the meat label claims with the highest shares (natural, antibiotic-free and hormone free) is rapidly outpacing that of conventional meat. From 2011 to 2015, conventional meat posted compound annual sales growth of 4.6%. Comparatively, products with a natural label posted growth of 14.6%, products labeled antibiotic-free posted growth of 28.7%, products labeled hormone-free posted growth of 28.6% and products labeled organic posted growth of 44%. Meanwhile, sales growth of products labeled “minimally processed,” another top claim, declined 1.6% from 2011 to 2015.
There may be more improbable culinary trails than the one that leads from a red clay road here in the country’s most prolific peanut-growing state to Beyoncé’s plate at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. But as zero-to-hero food tales go, this is a good one. The star of the story is cold-pressed green peanut oil, which some of the best cooks in the South have come to think of as their local answer to extra-virgin olive oil. Buttery, slightly vegetal and hard to find, Southern green peanut oil is a new entry into the growing regional oil game. This is not the peanut oil that slicks countless woks and fills Chick-fil-A fryers, though it is made from the same runner peanuts. The nuts are pressed at low temperatures in a machine smaller than a golf bag in the back of a building that isn’t much more than a shack, on Clay Oliver’s farm. He lives about 150 miles south of Atlanta, and makes some 400 gallons a year. Chefs turn poetic when they describe it.
Spinach is no longer just a superfood: By embedding leaves with carbon nanotubes, engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone.
Alaska’s Board of Agriculture and Conservation has issued another request for proposals to lease or purchase the long struggling Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage plant in Palmer after several failed efforts and a looming closure in summer 2017. The meat plant is the only USDA-approved slaughter and processing facility in Southcentral Alaska, which the state has operated since 1986 as an asset of its Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund. State officials said preference will be given to bidders who plan to continue slaughter and processing operations at the property. The new deadline to submit proposals is 4 p.m. on Nov. 28.
As more jurisdictions legalize marijuana, veterinarians across the country say they are seeing a sharp increase in cases of pets accidentally getting high. Tasty “edibles” such as muffins and cookies that people consume for a buzz are also appealing to animals, who can’t read warning labels, and, in the case of dogs, rarely stop at just one pot brownie.
As part of its Healthy People 2020 initiative, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is setting up goals to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter infections. By 2020, it is targeting 11.4 cases per 100,000 people for Salmonella and 8.5 cases per 100,000 people forCampylobacter. According to the most recently available statistics, Campylobacter infections dropped to 14.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2011 from 24.6 cases per 100,000 people in 1997.Salmonella infections increased by 17 percent over the same time period. The FSIS is shifting its focus, Peterson said, from whole birds to prepackaged parts because of shifting consumer preference. Regulatory agencies like the Centers for Disease Control, FSIS and FDA are all adopting full genome sequencing to track where exactly the bacteria is coming from and possibly pinpoint problem plants and processing locations.
The European Union’s attempt to “confiscate” common cheese names would cost the U.S. dairy industry billions of dollars if trade negotiators don’t hold the line, according to a new study. Many cheese names such as Feta, which originated in Greece, are identified with a specific location but have been commonly used to identify that type of cheese, no matter where it is made. The EU now wants to “confiscate” those generic names for the benefit of its farmers and processors, said Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president of trade policy for the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation. “The problem is not with the well-defined (geographic identity),” she said. “The problem is with attempting to extend GI protection to many food names that have on one hand little to no geographic identity or on the other hand have become generic names, in some cases for centuries.”