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Why cows get a bad rap in lab-grown meat debate

The Daily Yonder | Posted on November 1, 2018

Proponents of cultured meat - or whatever we wind up calling it --aren't painting an accurate picture of the impact the new food could have on the environment. For that matter, they aren't painting an accurate picture of the impact of real beef, either. A scientist says when it comes to weighing the effect of ruminants, there's a lot to chew over. A battle royal is brewing over what to call animal cells grown in cell culture for food. Should it be in-vitro meat, cellular meat, cultured meat or fermented meat? What about animal-free meat, slaughter-free meat, artificial meat, synthetic meat, zombie meat, lab-grown meat, non-meat or artificial muscle proteins?Then there is the polarizing “fake” versus “clean” meat framing that boils this complex topic down to a simple good versus bad dichotomy. The opposite of fake is of course the ambiguous but desirous “natural.” And modeled after “clean” energy, “clean” meat is by inference superior to its alternative, which must logically be “dirty” meat.The narrative posited by, for now let us call it cultured meat, proponents is that animal agriculture requires large amounts of land and water, and produces high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). The environmental impacts of a product, such as a beef hamburger, is then compared to the anticipatory ones for producing a cultured hamburger patty through tissue engineering-based cellular agriculture.However, framing cultured meat as “clean,” thereby unavoidably invoking dirty as the alternative, belittles the important role that ruminants play in global ecosystems and food security. Furthermore, I believe that overplaying the role that dietary choices actually play on GHG emissions in the United States distracts focus from reducing the much larger source of GHG from human activities – the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation.

EU approves limits on antibiotics use in farm animals

Meat & Poultry | Posted on November 1, 2018

The European Parliament approved limits on the use of antibiotics in farm animals produced for food. The limits are aimed at keeping drug-resistant bacteria out of food. The legislation was adopted with 583 votes to 16 and 20 abstentions.The new regulations, which go into force in 2022, limit the use of antimicrobials as a preventive measure — in the absence of clinical signs of infection — to single animals. A veterinarian must approve and justify the use of antibiotics in cases where there is a high risk of infection. Additionally, treating a group of animals when one shows signs of infection should be a last resort. Antibiotics should be administered only after a veterinarian has diagnosed infection and prescribed antimicrobials.The new law also gives the European Commission power to reserve select antimicrobials for treating only humans, and not animals.Finally, the law also requires that imported foods meet EU standards and that antibiotics cannot be used to promote growth of animals.

Burger restaurant study misleads consumers about antibiotic use in beef production

The Fence Post | Posted on November 1, 2018

In a report titled "Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition," only two hamburger restaurants, California-based Shake Shack and Florida-based BurgerFi, earned A grades based on their public policy of sourcing meat raised without antibiotics.The report was co-authored by Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumer Reports, Center for Food Safety, FACT: Food Animal Concerns Trust, and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, all of which were called public interest organizations working to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.The restaurants earning A grades both currently serve only beef raised without antibiotics and claims that because the chains are expanding from the small number of current locations, that "their responsible sourcing practices — including serving beef raised without antibiotics — are paying off."The Wendy's chain received a D- grade on the report because in 2018, the chain began to purchase 15 percent of its beef supply from producers that have "reduced the use of one medically important antibiotic, tylosin, by 20 percent."Tylosin, approved and most commonly used for the treatment of shipping fever, falls under the Veterinary Feed Directive though the report gives no details about the stage of production in which the drug is being reduced.Food Safety Inspection Service Acting Deputy Under Secretary Carmen Rottenberg commented on an earlier article published in Consumer Reports, one of the publications behind this report, reminding producers to continue talking about the safety of the U.S. beef supply. Conversation about the carcass by carcass inspection and the robust food safety program, she said, should fill the space rather than allowing the space to be filled with the scare tactic narrative.

Regulatory regime for cell-cultured food is on agenda for 2019

Food Safety News | Posted on October 26, 2018

After two -days of public meetings this week in Washington D.C., the government can claim it is getting ahead of the day when meat grown from cells grown in the lab becomes available in the marketplace alongside meat grown on the hoof.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the federal government’s top two food safety regulatory agencies, co-sponsored this week’s meetings. FDA and USDA plan to continue to cooperate and develop the regulatory structure during 2019.Food safety and jurisdictional issues took up the first day of the public meeting with day two focused on labeling. Acting FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker told the gathering that cell-cultured meat and poultry products should be “identified according to customer expectations.”The tradition versus technology debate went pretty much like this. The traditional meat and poultry industries don’t want the cell-based products using their “standards of identity,” meaning words like “beef’ and “meat.”The food technologists, however, say the cell-based products they are developing are not just going to taste like pork or beef, but are going to be pork and beef. They say it would be “simply dishonest” to label their products as anything other than meat.


USDA, FDA tackle labeling challenges at cell-based meat meeting

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on October 25, 2018

USDA and FDA officials said truthfulness and transparency in labeling were top of mind as the agencies gather comments on how to best label cell-based meat and poultry products. "Today's focus is … on labeling of cell-cultured meat and poultry products and making sure these products are identified according to customer expectations," said Paul Kiecker, Acting FSIS Administrator, "and that the label doesn't [present] any type of advantage or disadvantage with other products that might be in competition with them."Throughout the final day of the meeting, FDA and USDA labeling experts presented overviews detailing how each agency currently approaches labeling requirements for regulated food products, including statement of identity, net quantity of contents, and ingredient list content and order.

The truth about organic food and cancer

Popular Science | Posted on October 25, 2018

There’s a lot we don’t know about organic food. But one thing we do know? That being a person who both can afford to buy organic and chooses to do so generally means you’re a healthier person. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean organic food makes you a healthier person. That’s the central issue at the heart of a recent study published in JAMA that’s making headlines for purportedly showing that eating organic reduces your risk of cancer. Like so many studies claiming that any specific lifestyle choice will prevent cancer, there’s a lot more to this story.This is a classic case of association: French researchers asked 68,946 adults, also all French, to report how frequently they consumed organic food. They also asked everyone to report whether they had cancer, and at a five-year follow-up, asked again about any cancer diagnoses. On top of that data, the researchers collected information like whether the participant smoked, how much money they earned, how heavily they drank, and how much they exercised. Based on all that, they found a correlation between a lowered overall cancer risk and eating more organic food.What’s getting slightly less attention in the media is what happened when the researchers broke down cancer risk into specific kinds of cancer. Eating organic food had no impact on participants’ risk for premenopausal breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, or skin cancer. It was only associated with a reduced risk for postmenopausal breast cancer, lymphomas, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.otential confounding factors—like high income or physical activity level—are especially important when studying the health benefits of organic food, because eating organic is associated with lots of things that also help you live a longer, healthier life. In other words, people who regularly eat organic food tend to have other lifestyle factors and habits that could easily lower cancer risk as well. 

The more money you make, the more fast food you eat

Vox | Posted on October 25, 2018

The stereotype is that poor people eat more fast food than rich people, who virtuously eat only organic salads and cows with names. One problem with this assumption: It isn’t true. According to a new report about American fast food consumption from the Centers for Disease Control, people actually eat more fast food as their income levels go up.The brief is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which uses a combination of interviews and physical examinations to assess the state of American health. Of the roughly 10,000 adults surveyed, just over a third eat some kind of fast food — meaning something they classified as “restaurant fast food/pizza” — on any given day.

Herbicide found in Cheerios reignites debate on food safety

Star Tribune | Posted on October 25, 2018

A national environmental research and advocacy group issued a second report documenting traces of herbicides like Roundup in popular oat cereals such as Cheerios, saying that its presence in food creates an unnecessary cancer risk to children. It is the latest development in a raging controversy over glyphosate, the most widely used pesticide in the world, which most government regulators and food industry leaders say poses no health risk in the amounts that people get in their food. "No question, our foods are safe," said Michael Siemienas, spokesman for General Mills, the maker of Cheerios.Scientists at EWG say the amounts it found are higher than the level they believe is safe for children — 160 parts per billion per serving. But that level is much lower than other recommendations in the United States, including the one set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Why General Mills Is Turning to 'Throwback' Farming to Fight Climate Change

Fortune | Posted on October 25, 2018

To fight climate change, General Mills is looking to its past. The 152-year-old food company is turning to “a throwback of classic, old farming practices” combined with new methods to contribute to a more sustainable future for the food industry, according to Carla Vernón, president of its natural and organic operating unit. That means expanding its organic acreage and implementing regenerative farming practices with perennial grains, cover crops, and pollinator habitats.

Why cows are getting a bad rap in lab-grown meat debate

The Conversation | Posted on October 25, 2018

A battle royal is brewing over what to call animal cells grown in cell culture for food. Should it be in-vitro meat, cellular meat, cultured meat or fermented meat? What about animal-free meat, slaughter-free meat, artificial meat, synthetic meat, zombie meat, lab-grown meat, non-meat or artificial muscle proteins? Then there is the polarizing “fake” versus “clean” meat framing that boils this complex topic down to a simple good versus bad dichotomy. The opposite of fake is of course the ambiguous but desirous “natural.” And modeled after “clean” energy, “clean” meat is by inference superior to its alternative, which must logically be “dirty” meat. I research how biotechnology can improve livestock production, and while it is true that conventional meat production has a large environmental footprint, the problem with this dichotomous framing is that it overlooks the rest of the story.Cattle produce more than just hamburgers for well-off consumers, and they typically do so by utilizing rain-fed forage growing on non-arable land. Additionally, cellular hamburger patties are themselves not an environmental impact-free lunch, especially from the perspective of energy use.Cultured meat requires the initial collection of stem cells from living animals and then greatly expanding their numbers in a bioreactor, a device for carrying out chemical processes. These living cells must be provided with nutrients in a suitable growth medium containing food-grade components that must be effective and efficient in supporting and promoting muscle cell growth. A typical growth medium contains an energy source such as glucose, synthetic amino acids, antibiotics, fetal bovine serum, horse serum and chicken embryo extract.