Concerns about food safety, the environment and farm animal welfare are prompting increasing numbers of consumers to seek out ethically produced food, including meat, dairy and eggs from humanely raised animals, even if it means paying more. A new survey from San Francisco-based Context Marketing shows that almost 70 percent of American food shoppers are willing to pay more for food that is safe, humane and environmentally sound.
Education, consumer advocacy and lifting the veil from the practices of industrialized agriculture are transforming shopping habits. Despite industry efforts, concern for farm animal welfare is gaining significant strength. The study finds that the importance of animals being humanely raised is exceeded only by food safety concerns, and animal welfare scores well above “natural” and “organically produced.” Consumers who have grown up more aware of how food is produced are intensifying the demand for meat, dairy and eggs from humanely raised animals: Forty-four percent of shoppers aged 20 to 34 always look for cage-free eggs.
An article in the Washington Post on March 1 caught my attention. Entitled, “Manure becomes pollutant as its volume grows unmanageable,” it focused on a topic that really gets up my nose.
The article is one of an increasing number of investigative pieces which have highlighted the massive pollution problems caused by intensive livestock farming systems – and the fact that we, as taxpayers, are the ones who are currently picking up the bill.
After Monsanto did an end run around the law by convincing regulators to approve its genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa without the mandatory environmental review, consumer groups hauled them to court and won a ban on the GE seed until the review was completed. Now the USDA has ruled that the GE alfalfa seed meets standards and can be put on the market—despite acknowledging that the seed is almost certain to contaminate normal, non-GE (you know, natural) seed.
This is especially dangerous for organic farmers, who have no defenses against their organic alfalfa becoming contaminated with Monsanto’s GE seed. It could cost them their organic certification. It could cost you control over what you eat if contamination decimates organic supplies.
Feral hogs are becoming a real problem in many states, causing millions of dollars of damage to crops and pasture across the US each year. They can also transmit serious diseases to farm animals – and potentially humans. In North Carolina, Animal Welfare Approved staff members are working closely with other local groups to tackle the growing problem of feral hogs in the state.
While there are some true “wild boars’ in” the US, most feral hogs are descendents of escaped domestic pigs that have reverted to a wild state. Feral hogs are therefore not a true native wild animal and many states regard them as an invasive species. Feral hogs breed rapidly and are capable of thriving in a wide range of environments – their numbers and the area they cover in the US are both increasing. This is not helped by the widespread practice of hunters who are smuggling live trapped feral hogs from state to state and releasing them on hunting ranches.
It was two years ago today that the U.S. saw its largest meat recall in history. The USDA recalled 143 million pounds of beef distributed by Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company and said that the meat had been used in school lunches and food assistance programs.
On January 18 of this year, Huntington Meat Packing Inc. of Montebello, CA recalled 864,000 lbs of beef because it may have been contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This past weekend the recall was expanded to more than 5 million lbs of meat. Some of the products made from this meat appear to have been distributed through the USDA National School Lunch Program.
Happy anniversary of the Hallmark recall, America! You were expecting flowers?