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Iowa farmer hopes to make it big with edible crickets

Des Moines Register | Posted on July 20, 2016

While farmers are no rarity in this eastern Iowa town of 600, Herman's operation stands alone. Her farm, the Iowa Cricket Farmer, is the state's first insect farm growing critters for the purposes of human consumption. It's believed to be among a handful of cricket farms across the country capitalizing on a trend of health-conscious foodies munching on insects. The farm's 50,000 to 60,000 crickets have been raised so far to be breeders. Herman expects to deliver the first batch bound for human stomachs this summer.

They'll be sent to Salt Lake City and ground into cricket flour for Chapul, the maker of cricket protein bars and protein powder made famous on the television show "Shark Tank."  While there is inherent novelty to the operation, the Iowa Cricket Farmer looks more like a science lab than a playground.

Silly Marketing | Posted on July 19, 2016

If you have been reading my blogs this year, you know that I am distressed over the switch to marketing issues that simply pander to public perception.  Before I write another word, I want to clearly state that I completely understand the need to supply what your customers want.  I am a big fan of choice in the market place and believe that there is room for virtually all niche or specialty products along with the more commonly produced products.

Nevertheless, I have been having fun with some recent marketing ideas that I first thought of as “silly.”  The first was a Facebook post, “buying chicken labeled no hormones added was like buying water labeled wet.”  Is that just silly or a clever way to get the message out that could open the door to a factual discussion?  Then, last week, I saw another post that read, “I cannot decide whether to inform my friends about the safety of GMOs or label water as GMO free and get rich.”  That one made me laugh so loud I startled my dog.  Maybe humor is the mechanism that will work.

Scientists injected cows with “happy hormones” and got healthier milk

Quartz | Posted on July 19, 2016

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered a way to boost calcium levels in milk by giving cows regular injections of the hormone serotonin, a chemical messenger that, among other things, is linked to feelings of happiness.

Unhealthy Fixation

Slate | Posted on July 19, 2016

Is genetically engineered food dangerous? Many people seem to think it is. In the past five years, companies have submitted more than 27,000 products to the Non-GMO Project, which certifies goods that are free of genetically modified organisms. Last year, sales of such products nearly tripled. I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

What if antibiotics in animal feed make a comeback?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on July 18, 2016

Europe is resting after a long period of trying to remove growth promoting antibiotics from animal feeds.  The U.S. is just starting, but it looks determined to take it one step further — that is, remove even antibiotics used for therapeutic purposes. To this end, we must keep in mind several Northern states of the European Union are already working to reduce the use of therapeutic antibiotics. So, one might be excused to believe the world is working against the notion of usinf antibiotics in animal production.

But what if the ubderlying reason of going aways from antibiotics no longer existed? How would that be possible? Very simple: the medical industry could come up with a new generation of antibiotics specific for animals. That is, antibiotics that would not promote resistance to those used in human medicine. If that was possible, and my instinct says it is coming up sooner than we might want to believe, then why not allow antibiotics back into animal feeds?

Post Holding’s Sued for False “Natural” Claims

Whole Foods magazine | Posted on July 14, 2016

Post Holdings, Inc., and its subsidiary, Post Foods, LLC, are being sued by three separate plaintiffs for labeling, marketing and selling Shredded Wheat as “natural” despite testing positive for the herbicide glyphosate.

The lawsuits were filed on June 22 by the Organic Consumers Association. “On the back of its cereal box, Post says Shredded Wheat is made of ‘100% Whole Grain Wheat’ and that the product is ‘made with nothing but goodness,’” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director in a press release. “But tests prove Shredded Wheat contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Glyphosate is not only very unnatural, it is a known toxin, linked to a long list of potential and serious health problems.”  Though testing by an independent lab in California found Shredded Wheat to contain 0.18 parts per million of glyphosate, which is a level below what is allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kim Richman, of The Richman Law Group, which represents OCA in the suit notes that “even at low levels, including levels below those approved by regulatory agencies, studies show that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor.”

US consumers still prefer cheaper cage-produced eggs

Watt Ag Net | Posted on July 14, 2016

With the tsunami of cage free egg purchase pledge announcements thus year, you might think U.S. egg producers would be struggling to meet the surging demand for cage-free eggs, but that isn’t the case. The current glut of cage-produced eggs has resulted in very low retail egg prices and that many consumers just aren’t willing to pay as much as $2 more per dozen eggs to get cage-free eggs.

The net result is that some of the increased production of cage-free eggs are being packed and sold as cage-produced eggs, because the market just isn’t absorbing the increased supply of cage-free eggs. Free markets have a very efficient, if sometimes painful, way of matching supply with demand. The story has Terry Pollard from Big Dutchman mentioning egg producers canceling or delaying orders for cage-free systems because of the current supply glut of cage-free eggs. Delaying increases in cage-free hen housing as a result of the current supply-and-demand situation is a logical response by producers, but there is another option. At some point, won’t a retailer just decide to offer lower prices on cage-free eggs? If they do, we can learn how much of a premium consumers are willing to pay, and the market will sort out how much of a premium egg producers need to maintain cage-free flocks and to expand.

A Closer Look at Declining Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Using Linked Data Sources

USDA | Posted on July 14, 2016

Researchers linked ERS's food availability data with food intake survey data to break down national food and vegetable consumption trends by age, gender, education level, income, and race/ethnic background. They found that declines in fruit and vegetable consumption—driven by falling consumption of orange juice, potatoes and head lettuce—have been steeper for some demographic groups than for others.

Danone buying WhiteWave in $12.5 B deal

Agri-Pulse | Posted on July 14, 2016

France-based Danone has agreed to buy WhiteWave Foods and its health-based brands like Silk and Horizon Organic in a deal valued at about $12.5 billion.   The two companies said Danone will pay $56.25 a share, a 24 percent premium over WhiteWave's 30-day average closing price of $45.43. That would value WhiteWave at $10.1 billion based on 180.2 million shares outstanding at the end of last year. The transaction, which also includes debt and certain other WhiteWave liabilities, is expected to close by the end of the year, subject to the approval of WhiteWave's shareholders and regulatory approvals.

Illnesses from meat and poultry – up or down? | Posted on July 14, 2016

The proportion of all illnesses from E. coli O157:H7 attributable to meat likely have been reduced as demonstrated by a correlation between reductions in those organisms in FSIS product testing and illnesses reported by FoodNet.  L. monocytogenes and Campylobacter are more difficult to characterize.  The most recent data show no improvement for L. monocytogenesillnesses or findings of this pathogen in FSIS testing.  FSIS testing for Campylobacter is too recent to be useful for correlation with illnesses, butCampylobacter sicknesses seem to be on the rise.  Salmonella is a mess.  FSIS desperately wants to claim the fraction of human salmonellosis from poultry is declining.  But, I must respectfully disagree. 

First, FSIS sampling of poultry for Salmonella has been called into question by USDA researchers.  We discussed that problem in a blog last month.  It’ll take a while to sort it out.  Until then, we don’t know if we can correlate product testing with human illnesses.  Second, if illnesses from poultry were really on the decrease that should show up in the FoodNet numbers.  It doesn’t.  The overall level of human salmonellosis hasn’t changed.