We at Animal Welfare Approved applaud the USDA and HHS for creating an important and useful new website, www.foodsafety.gov. The site's purpose is to help consumers find consolidated up to date information on food safety and food recalls.
We want to remind our readers that food safety begins at the farm and is directly related to the farming system utilized. Between January 1, 1994 and November 31, 2007, over 800 separate meat product recalls took place across the United States – equivalent to over 300 million pounds of meat and poultry products. Nearly all of the recalls were the result of the potential contamination of factory-farmed meats with two types of food-poisoning bacteria: Listeria and E. coli.
We know that a safer, welfare-friendly alternative to feedlot beef already exists. Scientists have shown that meat from grassfed cattle – such as those raised by Animal Welfare Approved farmers – is less likely to harbor dangerous food-poisoning bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria.
Will Sainsbury's be the top vote-getter? Is Marks & Spencer poised for a win? Or will The Co-operative come out victorious? It's up to the consumer in this year's RSPCA Good Business Awards, designed to encourage UK supermarkets to do more for farm animal welfare. The 2009 awards mark the first time voting has been open to the public and three finalists are vying for the title of People's Choice Supermarket--Marks & Spencer, The Co-operative and Sainsbury's.
A recent study by Kansas State University concluded that in terms of presence of E. coli O157:H7, there was no difference between "organic," "naturally-raised" and conventionally raised beef. Feedlots provide all of the conventionally raised beef and the vast majority of organic and naturally-raised beef. Only a small percentage of organic beef is grassfed and finished on pasture.
The study reported that feces from 14% of the organic and naturally-raised cattle contained the pathogenic strain of E. coli, and that this number was comparable to conventional systems. What the study did NOT include were samples from cattle that were pasture-finished or grassfed, surprisingly, not a requirement of either organic or naturally-raised systems. I imagine that there are many consumers who will be surprised to learn this.
In 1994 the USDA counted 1,755 farmers markets in the United States. At last count, there were 4,685. Across the nation, direct marketing is increasing twice as fast as total agricultural sales (USDA Agricultural Marketing Service). President Obama just announced that he wants to start a farmers' market at the White House.
So, what's all the fuss about farmers' markets? One of the main reasons is that farmers and consumers actually get to meet each other. Food usually travels hundreds, even thousands of miles to get from farm to table, making face-to-face contact between eaters and growers an all-too-rare event. However, the recent wave of farmers' markets opening across the nation is changing that.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Our State Magazine recently announced the winners of the 2009 "Best Dish in North Carolina" competition. The winning dish, chosen from over 60 other entries from the mountains to the coast, was lamb carpaccio prepared by Chef Shane Ingram of Four Square Restaurant in Durham. Ingram served grassfed, Animal Welfare Approved lamb from Captain John S. Pope Farm in Cedar Grove. Farmer Bob Pope said of the achievement, "We're beside ourselves we're so elated. It's very exciting." Cousins and farming partners Bob and Tommy Pope had pretty good odds during the final selection process - three out of the ten finalists featured their lamb!