1. BSE News: New Case Found in Canada, Japan Renews Ban on US "Beef"
CANADA: Brain sample testing from a six-year-old cow born and raised in Alberta has confirmed Canada's fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The source of infection remains unknown, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) speculates that "it is probable that the source is contaminated feed." The CFIA is investigating the farm's feed handling practices and will identify and test cows born within one year of the infected cow's time at the farm. The only way to test for BSE is to sample brain tissue, so any cows identified as such will be slaughtered. The CFIA and industry groups stated that the infected animal's body did not enter the food supply, and that the discovery resulted from Canada's BSE surveillance program. The program focuses on cows most likely to be infected with BSE, including "dead, dying, down and diseased" animals. A CFIA press release says the new BSE discovery was "not unexpected."
JAPAN: After finding a vertebral bone fragment upon inspection of a veal shipment (infant cows' flesh), Japan reinstated a previously held ban on US "beef" products. The ban had been in place for two years and was partially lifted in December 2005 to allow only flesh from cows younger than 21 months. The agreement also stipulated that so-called Specific Risk Materials (SRMs), including brain tissues and spinal cords, would be banned outright from all US imports. The recent violation prompted the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue a 12-point plan to prevent future violations of the agreement with Japan and allow the resumption of trade. The plan includes fully investigating the recent violation, unannounced future inspections at US farms, and greater support for the Beef Export Verification program.
1. "BSE Detected In Alberta," Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 1/23/06
2. "Canada Finds Fourth Case of BSE," MeatNews.com, 1/24/06
3. "Remarks by Mike Johanns Concerning U.S. Beef Exports to Japan," Cattle Network, 1/24/06
4. "Bone Bans US Beef," MeatNews.com, 1/23/06
2. Tyson Foods and Others Restrict Chicken Antibiotics, Add "Natural" Products
Tyson Foods, the world's largest animal slaughterer, and three other US-based chicken companies have agreed to eliminate the use of growth-promoting and preventive antibiotics. The agreement is the result of a long-term reduction in the use of such antibiotics for "broiler" chickens; in 2004, only 1% of Tyson Foods' chickens received antibiotics. The four companies, which also include Gold Kist, Perdue Farms, and Foster Farms, also said they will dramatically curb the use of antibiotics for targeted disease prevention. These companies combined account for an estimated 38% of chickens slaughtered for their flesh in the US. The voluntary measures follow similar changes announced by McDonalds in December 2005 (as a directive to its suppliers), and mandated by the European Union last year. Separately, Tyson Foods recently announced two new lines of "natural beef" products from cows raised without hormones or antibiotics. The animals will also be fed a "100% grass and grain" diet and kept in "natural designated feed yards," suggesting that Tyson Foods seeks to broaden the accepted definition of a "natural" environment.
1. "'Natural' Chickens Take Flight," USA Today, 1/23/06
2. "Antibiotics Use in Broiler Chickens is Cut," UPI, 1/24/06
3. "Tyson Adds Two Natural Beef Product Lines," Meatingplace.com, 1/18/06
3. Concentrated US Dairy and Pig Farms Blamed as Source of Water Pollution
DAIRY FARMS: One of the largest US dairy companies with operations in five states is facing opposition from environmentalists and regulators in Michigan. A recent state-funded study notes that one farm houses up to 5,000 cows and produces as much as 4.3 million gallons of liquid waste every year. The study failed to link water pollution to the company's dairy farms, but officials are publicly examining the impact of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) on the environment. Michigan has 197 CAFOs according to government records, and the state's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has cited several of them for pollution violations.
PIG FARMS: The world's largest pig slaughterer, Smithfield Foods, settled two lawsuits with the nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance and other groups regarding environmental protections. Under the settlement, Smithfield agreed to implement tighter environmental controls at all of its 275 North Carolina facilities operating under the name Murphy-Brown. The stricter controls are focused on spraying of lagoon manure during poor weather conditions, which increases the risk of environmental pollution. However, the settlement also requires Smithfield to monitor water and waste runoff, and to hire independent consultants for long-term reporting on its environmental programs. Separately, the US Department of Agriculture awarded a half-million dollar grant to the Global Resource Recovery Organization to develop an industrial dryer for pig waste remediation. The waste water is vented into the air, but the remains are said to be relatively odorless and easier to store without needing lagoons.
1. "Dairy 'Factory Farms' Focus of Manure Probe," Muskegan Chronicle, 1/22/06
2. "Machine that Removes Hog-Manure Odor Receives Federal Grant," Meatingplace.com, 1/19/06
3. "Smithfield Settles Lawsuits," The Daily News, 1/20/06
4. Agency has Ignored Unfair Business Practices in US Farming Industries
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has investigated and found inadequate an agency set up to prevent anti-competitive ownership of both meatpacking and "stockyards." The Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) was found by the OIG to have intentionally inflated the number of investigations, while holding up other legitimate inquiries for months or even years. The OIG report also notes that GIPSA has not filed any anti-competitive complaints against meat or poultry companies since 1999, despite that function being its primary purpose. The report notes three major weaknesses at GIPSA: 1) defining and tracking investigations; 2) planning and conducting investigations; and 3) making policy. GIPSA management reportedly agrees with the OIG findings and will implement its recommendations.
1. "Report: USDA Only Pretended to Do Probes," NewsMax.com Wires, 1/19/06
2. "Audit Report: Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's Management and Oversight of the Packers and Stockyards Programs," USDA / OIG, Jan-2006
PDF file (827kb): http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/30601-01-HY.pdf
Other Items of Interest
"The Animal Self," NY Times
The field of study regarding animal "personalities" is growing dramatically and includes the formation of the Animal Personality Institute in Austin, Texas. One author writes that by observing animals, researchers have "met" human-like personalities in "everything from farm animals and birds to fish and insects and spiders." The recognition of "personalities" and other qualities in farmed animals may lead some to more deeply question their treatment.
Also see: http://www.animalpersonality.org/
"Delegates Attending the 2006 Banff Pork Seminar
Zero in on Animal Welfare," Farmscape, 1/22/06
More than 800 Canadian pig farmers attended a symposium to discuss farmed animal welfare and other topics, with pig welfare expert Dr. Harold Gonyou commenting. According to Gonyou, Canadian pig farmers are now embracing animal welfare audits and reforms to produce higher quality animal flesh and to assuage consumer concerns about animal treatment. Gonyou hopes that eventually 100% of Canada's pig farms will be audited under the Canadian Quality Assurance Program, which he and others developed with emphasis on animal welfare.
OP-ED: "Tearing Down the 'Factory Farm' Fallacy,"
Meat industry commentator Dan Murphy remarks on use of the term "factory farm" and how consumers perceive such operations. Murphy notes use of the term by groups like PETA, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Farm Sanctuary, and others and suggests that the industry move to something more innocuous like "managed production." Surprisingly, Murphy claims the primary goal of factory farms is not efficiency, but rather the ability to market the end product to consumers. He goes on to liken the raising of farmed animals in confinement to keeping one's children indoors.
OP-ED: "A Farm-Raised Fish Tale," San Jose
Mercury News / Pew Trusts, 12/5/05
A Pew Trusts researcher editorializes about the Bush administration's plans to allow fish farming in the "economic zone" extending from 3-200 offshore from US coasts. According to the author, "Perhaps the biggest problem is that, on average, between two and three pounds of wild fish are needed to produce one pound of farmed fish such as salmon." The farming of carnivorous fish most frequently consumed by humans could lead to dramatic ecological problems for wild fish and other animals living in the open ocean.
OP-ED: "Fight Avian Flu by Boycotting Chicken,"
New Providence Journal, 1/22/06
Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) suggests that a 6-month moratorium on chicken farming would be the most effective way to control avian influenza. According to Barnard, "The threat of bird flu will remain high as long as chickens, ducks and turkeys are raised in dirty, overcrowded conditions… bird flu is the result of profoundly irresponsible agricultural practices." He suggests consumers take action themselves by not consuming chickens, which in turn reduces the number of birds raised and slaughtered in potentially diseased environments.