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Price, demand driving Illinois' hog farm expansion

State Journal Register | Posted on May 16, 2016

    Illinois hog producers who filed more than 120 expansion notices with state regulators in 2015 already have filed half as many this year.  Consumer demand and the best pork prices in years are driving the expansion.

One Thing Consumers Get Right

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on May 16, 2016

Nearly 90 percent of Americans have a favorable view of farmers, and 92 percent said it was important to provide them with federal funding, according to a new national poll. This is an important finding since the public’s view of farmers and support for crop insurance are critical policy issues. Budget-cutting bureaucrats and anti-agriculture activists have long mounted attacks on crop insurance in an effort to derail the program.  When crop insurance replaced direct payments in the 2014 Farm Bill as the backbone of the farm safety net program, liberals and urban lawmakers started trying to chip away at its funding to get more federal dollars for federal food assistance and social programs.

The survey shows that the concept of farmers and the federal government both contributing to an insurance policy makes sense.

Maine-based poultry firm seeks help with expansion funding | Posted on May 16, 2016

A poultry processing firm that also happens to be the only USDA-inspected poultry operation in Maine hopes to expand the operation to handle 6,000 birds per week using grant funds. Wilson hopes to boost production to 6,000 birds per week during the busy summer season, but said he is hampered by a lack of enough trained workers, according to the report. Common Wealth Poultry is seeking $100,000 from the state program for employee training.

GMA urges FDA to define “natural” in food labels | Posted on May 15, 2016

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to more clearly define the term “natural” in food labeling.

“The criteria used to determine if a food qualifies for a ‘natural’ claim should focus primarily on whether the product’s ingredients are synthetic/artificial or natural and on the degree of processing the ingredients have undergone,” GMA general counsel Karin Moore said in a statement.  Farming and agricultural methods used in the production of a crop, including pesticide or herbicide use, the use of biotech seeds, or animal husbandry practices  such as “free range” or “grass fed” should not have a bearing on the “natural” status of a food or ingredient, GMA said. 

Local is good and mass produced is bad—or is it? | Posted on May 15, 2016

What the heck is going on?  Since when did producing safer food in more plentiful supply at highly efficient plants located strategically close to raw materials and/or markets at lower costs become bad?  I am trying to understand the “produce and buy it locally” movement and why it is so good for us and should be supported as the food production system of the future.  Yes, I support farmer’s markets, but I realize that all those fruits and vegetables not to mention the locally raised and slaughtered (ask to go see these local abattoirs some time) meat and poultry are usually at substantially higher prices than available at your “local” supermarket or even natural foods store.  Are they any safer than that mass-produced variety?  In a word, no.

What don’t consumers like about buying meat and poultry from the large plants that dot our U.S. landscape?  I guess that size matters but in this case, big is not good.  Small local production is the “feel good” dopamine of the human mind and that may be the underlying motivation of the “locavore” movement. 

6th freedom is the real problem with cage-free hens

Watt Ag Net | Posted on May 15, 2016

Cage-free hens have the freedom to defecate wherever they want, and that will lead to more contaminated eggs.  Animal welfare advocates espouse the five freedoms, but it is the sixth freedom that cage-free hens exercise that causes food safety concerns. One of the problem behaviors that cage-free hens have the freedom to exhibit is to defecate wherever and whenever they want. This “sixth” freedom can create food safety issues, bird health issues, and increase ammonia emissions from the layer house.

On the subject of cage-free housing and food safety, John Sheehan, director, division of dairy, egg and meat safety, CFSAN, FDA, said that, as the industry increases cage-free production in response to customer purchase pledges, “We (FDA) expect to find more contaminated eggs.” Sheehan said FDA was not consulted on the proposed rule for organic eggs and the requirement that outdoor access for the organic hens be on the dirt without a roof overhead. So the U.S. egg industry appears headed down two paths: more cage-free non-organic hens and organic hens on the dirt outdoors. Both have the potential to jeopardize progress on reducing human illnesses due to egg-borne pathogens.

Recent Evidence on the Effects of Food Store Access on Food Choice and Diet Quality

USDA - Amber Waves | Posted on May 15, 2016

Recent studies show that the effect of food store access on dietary quality may be limited. Most consumers—both low-income and higher income—consider store characteristics other than proximity in deciding where to shop, as they seek the products, prices, and other features they value.

Tyson’s Amazon deal aims to boost e-commerce options | Posted on May 13, 2016

A program that offers Tyson Foods the opportunity to provide fresh proteins to an expanding online grocery program is part of a strategy to grow Tyson’s “non-store retail” presence, President and CEO Donnie Smith told analysts this week.

Smith reaffirmed Tyson’s plan to provide fresh proteins to the Amazon Fresh program, which already delivers grocery store items like meat and prepared foods in four markets: Seattle, New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Tyson is expected to launch a line of “chef-inspired meal kits and premium proteins” called for home delivery by Amazon Fresh starting this fall, Smith confirmed. He did not provide additional details on the types of proteins that will be featured. 

Hormones Revisited | Posted on May 11, 2016

First question out of the mouth of one of the Docs during Q and A was, “So I am now OK with the use of most antibiotics used in animals and can better answer my patients’ questions about that practice. But what about hormones used in animals and their effect on earlier ages of puberty?”

I asked him if he ate ground beef. He answered yes. I suggested to him that the hormone levels in the meat from a spent dairy cow were certainly much higher than that in a steer with an implant.

I asked him if he preferred the chicken with the label “Raised Without Hormones or Steroids” over conventional and he replied “yes”. I then explained it is against the law to use hormones in poultry or pork.

I doubt few in the room knew that, and these are educated men and women. But labels like the one above only tend to spread misinformation and to confuse consumers.

I also advised him that the age of puberty in young girls has been dropping very steadily for the last century due to improvements in health brought about by diet, antibiotics, vaccines etc.

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Consumer Reports: Toaster reviews or anti-animal ag? | Posted on May 11, 2016

Chances are you’ve picked up an issue of Consumer Reports at some point, or navigated their website. The publication is typically viewed as a trusted source of product reviews of cars, appliances and electronics. What you may not realize is that Consumer Reports affiliated with Consumers Union – a nonprofit group that has decided to give modern agricultural practices a bad review.

One area of focus for Consumers Union is antibiotic use in animal agriculture. In addition to being part of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition (along with HSUS, Food and Water Watch, the Environmental Working Group), CU has produced or collaborated on several reports on the issue. These reports tend to focus more on spreading misinformation and stirring up fear than facts, and one clear objective is to pressure restaurant and retail brands to adopt stricter antibiotic-use policies for their supply chains – regardless of potential impacts on animal health and welfare. The North American Meat Institute has done great work in debunking many of CU's claims.

CU has also taken on the GMO issue (does the fact that “” directs to the “Food” section of CU’s website tell you where it stands?), urging site visitors to “demand your right to know about GMOs” and “don’t let Monsanto limit your choices.”

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