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Food News

Activists pressure McDonald's on supplier chicken breeding, housing practices

Meat + Poultry | Posted on March 28, 2018

 A full-page ad in the New York Times, purchased by six animal activist groups, is calling for McDonald’s Corp. to source its chicken from suppliers who follow specific breeding practices. The coalition of activists includes Mercy for Animals, Animal Equality, Compassion in World Farming, Compassion Over Killing, The Humane League and World Animal Protection. The ad reads: “Nearly 90 other food companies, including Burger King, Subway, Jack in the Box Inc., Dunkin’ Donuts, and SONIC have established specific and meaningful reforms for their suppliers – reforms that address these concerns. It’s time for McDonald’s to do the right thing.”

Food stamps cuts will hit rural America the hardest

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 28, 2018

n Owsley County, a 200-square-mile patch of eastern Kentucky, Trump’s victory was propelled by a full 80 percent of the vote—an unsurprising outcome, perhaps, for a county seated in a congressional district that has elected and re-elected Republican representative Hal Rogers by similar margins since 1980. And it might have been equally unsurprising that, when President Trump unveiled his proposed budget for 2019, Rogers was silent on its 10-year $213 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), if not for one thing: nearly half of Owsley County households, and well over a quarter of those in Rogers’ district at large, rely on SNAP to make ends meet. But we still don’t understand some basic facts about the people and the places that make up rural America. This is partially attributable to the destructive cultural and political narratives that tell us programs like SNAP are not a rural issue. The roots of the racist Reagan-era rhetoric on inner city “welfare queens” run deep, and despite being long debunked, one needs to look no further than President Trump’s welfare reform proposals or Speaker Paul Ryan’s comment about the tailspin of “inner-city culture” to know that its legacy lives on. This explains how someone like Hal Rogers can so casually and routinely dismiss the basic needs of such a large segment of his constituency without fear of political blowback or consequence: prevailing perceptions of who relies on America’s social safety net and why have rendered these needs largely invisible. Sixteen percent of households in small towns and rural areas are using SNAP, compared to only thirteen percent of households in urban areas. Though striking, these averages don’t fully convey the critical role that SNAP plays in many rural communities across the country. Our analysis shows that of the 50 counties with the highest household SNAP usage, all but two of them are rural. When we looked at the 150 counties with the highest household SNAP usage, we found that a full 136 are rural.

Grass-fed and organic beef packer closes in Oregon

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 22, 2018

Bartels Packing, a processor of grass-fed and organic beef in Eugene, Ore., has closed its doors, putting more than 130 employees out of work. he result of this abrupt decision is that 139 employees and their families are without jobs and benefits and this reality is very heartbreaking for us, as we owe our success to these hardworking employees whose work ethic, skill set and commitment brought us the growth and success we’ve experienced the past 18 years. We will be forever grateful for their contribution. Over the past 3 years, we have had 3 unsolicited buyers interested in purchasing our business. With health issues to deal with and neither of us getting any younger; succession planning was an important goal for us that would allow the business to carry on. Just this past week; the most recent buyer withdrew and we could no longer financially sustain the working capital necessary to keep operating. With the current economic volatility of the meat industry and many retailers competing with ‘front door delivery’ in a world of convenience, as our customers began to struggle, we too began to lose our footing.

Foster Farms responsible in Salmonella case

Meat + Poultry | Posted on March 22, 2018

An Arizona federal court jury returned a verdict in the amount of $6.5 million in favor of a 5-and-a-half-year-old child who suffered a brain injury because of a Salmonella Heidelberg infection from chicken produced by Foster Poultry Farms. The jury concluded that Foster Farms was negligent in producing Salmonella Heidelberg-contaminated chicken and that, based on epidemiological and microbiological evidence alone, it caused the boy’s illness. The jury attributed 30 percent of the fault to Foster Farms and 70 percent to family members for their preparation of the chicken. The net verdict for the family was $1.95 million.

Cargill says certified sustainable beef model works

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 22, 2018

Cargill said the first three months of its Canadian beef sustainability pilot project produced encouraging results, proving the model works and showing significant potential to scale the program to bring a greater volume of certified sustainable beef to Canadian consumers.

As the organic movement fractures, farmers and food companies are redefining the standard they built

The New Food Economy | Posted on March 22, 2018

Frustrated by what they see as a continued watering down of the standards that define what foods may be labeled “organic,” Patagonia Provisions—the food business offshoot of the outdoor apparel company, organic body care and food products company Dr. Bronner’s, and the research-based Rodale Institute will begin offering a new organic certification program. Companies seeking the new certification, called Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), will first have to secure the federal organic seal through the National Organic Program, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agency that controls organic regulation. Then they’ll have to meet additional requirements to protect workers and guarantee a higher standard of animal welfare, among other things. At the same time, several founders of the organic movement in the United States have started the Real Organic Project, which will offer a seal of approval to organic farmers who meet higher standards that it is setting for organic farming. These new certification programs have brought to light a schism that has been growing for more than a decade in the organic business, creating a quietly expanding divide between companies and farms that do just enough to win the federal organic seal and those with practices that go far beyond the requirements set by the Department of Agriculture.

Wendy's faces farm workers strike over sexual abuse

Newsweek | Posted on March 19, 2018

A coalition of farmworkers is locked in a battle with Wendy’s, claiming the fast food chain cut its long-term ties to Florida farms in favor of Mexican labor to avoid strict worker protections against sexual misconduct. Dozens of workers are staging a five-day hunger strike this week to call on the company to meet what they say are new industry standards at a time when the #MeToo movement is drawing new attention to sexual harassment and abuse. The fast food company has turned down multiple requests to join the Fair Food Program, a partnership between workers, growers and retail food companies that seeks to ensure safe working conditions for farm laborers, some of whom report making well below the federal minimum wage. The program was created in 2011 by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker-focused human rights organization. Other fast food chains, including McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, KFC, and Chipotle, and supermarkets, like Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, have signed on to the program.

Cattle industry fighting to bar "meat" and "beef" from plant-based protein packaging

CBS | Posted on March 16, 2018

The nation's largest cattle industry lobby group is fighting to defend the traditional meaning of the word "meat." The U.S. Cattlemen's Association filed a petition last month with the Department of Agriculture arguing that "lab-grown and plant-based products should not use the terms 'meat' or 'beef'" on their labels. Kelly Fogarty, whose family has raised Black Angus cattle for five generations, represents hundreds of ranchers as the executive vice president of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association. For them, defining meat is easy. "We don't want them to think of a laboratory. We don't want them to think of something that's created under a microscope," Fogarty told CBS News' Jamie Yuccas.The association is concerned about the increase of animal-free products that have names like beef-less ground beef. The Cattlemen's federal petition argues "the labels of 'beef' or 'meat' should inform consumers that the product is derived naturally from animals as opposed to alternative proteins such as plants…artificially grown in a laboratory."But Ethan Brown, the CEO of Beyond Meat says it's time to rethink that definition. This isn't the first fight over food labeling. Dairy farmers have, so far, been unsuccessful in their battle to make the word "milk" exclusive to products from cows. In some stores, these animal-free alternatives are currently sold alongside their competitors. 

Most of America’s fruit is now imported.

The New York Times | Posted on March 14, 2018

It’s obvious to anyone who visits an American supermarket in winter — past displays brimming with Chilean grapes, Mexican berries and Vietnamese dragon fruit — that foreign farms supply much of our produce. Imports have increased steadily for decades, but the extent of the change may be surprising: More than half of the fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy now come from other countries.Although local, seasonal and farm-to-table are watchwords for many consumers, globalization has triumphed in the produce aisle.The surge in imports, mostly from Latin America and Canada, flows from many other changes during the last 40 years, starting with improvements in roads, containerized shipping and storage technology. Horticulturists developed varieties and growing practices adapted to warmer climates — enabling, say, blueberries and blackberries to be grown in central Mexico.Growth in American incomes spurred greater demand for fresh produce year-round. Immigrants brought tastes for the foods of their homelands, and in some cases (like avocados and mangoes) these tastes have became mainstream. Foreign growers took advantage of lower labor costs. International trade agreements reduced tariffs and other obstacles to imports, while many American farmers, facing regulatory hurdles at home, have responded by shifting production abroad, mainly to Mexico. One crucial part of the story is little known: Over the past two decades, the United States Department of Agriculture has issued roughly 100 new rules allowing specific crops to be imported from certain countries — like peppers from Peru. Crops that previously would have not been approved because they might introduce invasive pests and diseases were allowed in through new “systems approaches” that manage those risks by combining methods like orchard inspections, sprays and bagging of fruits.

AtlantaFresh closes its doors after Whole Foods terminates 7-year contract, 14 months in: 'we were naive.."

Food Navigator | Posted on March 13, 2018

Georgia-based grass-fed dairy brand AtlantaFresh hasclosed its doors after nine years in business following the abrupt termination of a contract withWhole Foods that accounted for the vast majority of its revenues.