President Obama! Other amazing things happened too. I’m not sure which is more amazing: the approval of Proposition #2 by an astonishing 63% of California votors, or today’s up-to-the-second Wikipedia entry on the election results. If you read Prop #2, you can see that it abolishes veal crates, battery cages, and sow crates and requires veal, chickens, and pregnant pigs to be given enough space to turn around, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. They can’t do these things now? Nope. So now what happens: will meat producers reform their confinement practices? Or will they simply move their production operations to other states or countries? We can only wait until 2015 – which is when all this is supposed to come into effect – and see.
Currently browsing posts about: Animals
Under the current rules, meat sold as organic must come from animals with access to pasture. Loophole alert! The animals did not have to be raised on pasture. The USDA now proposes to close the loophole as it applies to ruminant animals. This proposal is open for comment. If you want to see how such things are done, this one is an excellent example (it includes a detailed history of the regulations, among other useful things). USDA wrote this in response to more than 80,000 comments on the “announcement of proposed rulemaking.” Virtually all of these wanted organically raised ruminants to be grazing on pasture. The Federal Register notice is 24 pages of tiny type but my immediate take is that the USDA proposals are really good. Take a look and see what you think. I’m withholding final judgment until somebody does a decent summary so I don’t get bogged down in “We propose to remove the word “or” at the end of paragraph X and replacing the period at the end of paragraph Y with a semicolon.”
So much for “just” pet food. Now the Shanghai zoo has baby lions and orangutans with melamine-induced kidney stones. Tainted products have made their way into Japan and Taiwan, and the Europeans are worried that melamine-tainted milk products could be in candies, toffees, and chocolate. They will be testing Chinese products containing at least 15% milk. But what about soy products, I wonder? Those too are supposed to be high in protein and might be good candidates for adulteration.
And just to reiterate: last year’s pet food scandal showed that while it takes lots of melamine to cause kidney crystals, it takes hardly any to form crystals when cyanuric acid (a by-product of melamine) is present. The amount of melamine in food for humans, pets, and zoo animals should be nothing but zero. Food safety officials should test like mad and tighten up policies, and right now! As for China: it had best get its food safety act together and fast.
The FDA says meat from cloned animals is safe and has produced a bunch of web documents to reassure you that you can eat these things. Will the meat be labeled as cloned? Of course not. The FDA guidelines will be up for comment for the next 60 days so if you have an opinion on this development, now is your chance. I particularly recommend the Q’s and A’s on the FDA site. Here’s one example: “Q: Will food from GE animals be in the food supply? A: FDA has so far not approved or authorized any GE animals for use in food. However, we are reviewing applications…We can not predict when we will complete those reviews, but we will not approve any GE animal for food use unless we find that the food from those GE animals is safe.”
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, of which I was a member, released its report today: Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. This was a two-year investigation of the effects of our current system of intensive animal production on the environment, communities, human health, and the animals themselves. For me, this was an opportunity to visit huge dairy farms, feedlots, pig farms, and facilities housing 1.2 million chickens. The big issues? Antibiotics and waste. The big surprise? Laws exist; they just aren’t being enforced. This was quite an education.
The USDA says it has no intention of ending its recommended voluntary moratorium on introduction of meat and milk from cloned animals into the food supply. This continues to be an example of bizarre regulation. The government says it’s OK to eat such foods; it just thinks companies should not try to sell them. “Clone-free” labels, anyone?
The USDA has just come out with a proposal for voluntary rules to govern use of the term “grass-fed” in marketing food animals. Reading Federal Register notices is always a lot of fun but if you don’t feel like wading through the fine print responses to comments on this issue, skip right to page 58637 and read the section titled “claim and standard.” As of November 15, if meat is labeled grass-fed, the animals have to have been fed grass, hay, and vitamin supplements. That’s all. No grain. As I read it, the animals don’t have to be outside grazing, but maybe I misunderstand? Check it out!
And here’s what the New York Times has to say about this rule.