by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Chickens

Sep 10 2019

Death by backyard chicken?

The CDC reports that more than 1000 people have been infected with a toxic form of Salmonella, almost certainly from contact with backyard poultry.

Among these cases of illness, 23% are among children under the age of 5 years.

The link to backyard poultry comes from epidemiologic and laboratory evidence.

The CDC warns owners of backyard poultry to take steps to avoid acquiring Salmonella from their poultry

This problem has become so serious that the CDC has a webpage devoted to the safety of backyard poultry.

Best to follow its advice.

Aug 28 2019

Eric Schlosser on the meat industry’s hypocrisy about immigrants

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, explains in The Atlantic Why It’s Immigrants Who Pack Your Meat.

You really should read the whole thing.  It’s a powerful indictment.  Here are a few excerpts. 

  • The immigration raid last week at seven poultry plants in rural Mississippi was a perfect symbol of the Trump administration’s racism, lies, hypocrisy, and contempt for the poor. It was also a case study in how an industry with a long history of defying the law has managed to shift the blame and punishment onto workers.
  • What Trump has described as an immigrant “invasion” was actually a corporate recruitment drive for poor, vulnerable, undocumented, often desperate workers.
  • The immigrant workers arrested in Mississippi the other day were earning about $12.50 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, during the late 1970s, the wages of meatpacking workers in Iowa and Colorado were about $50 an hour.
  • Over the years, I’ve spent time with countless farmworkers and meatpacking workers who entered the United States without proper documentation. Almost all of them were hardworking and deeply religious. They had taken enormous risks and suffered great hardships on behalf of their families. Today workers like them are the bedrock of our food system. And they are now being scapegoated, hunted down, and terrorized at the direction of a president who inherited about $400 million from his father, watches television all day, and employs undocumented immigrants at his golf resorts.
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Jul 3 2019

Have backyard chickens? Wash your hands!

As readers of this blog should know by now, I’m a big fan of food safety lawyer Bill Marler, whose blog keeps me up to date on food safety matters.

He posted recently on a Salmonella outbreak caused by contact with backyard chickens.

The CDC keeps track of such things.  By its count,

A total of 279 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 41 states.

  • 40 (26%) people have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.
  • 70 (30%) people are children younger than 5 years.

The CDC’s advice:

I was interested in Marler’s account because I knew that he had backyard chickens at his place near Seattle.

Here’s what he says about that:

We have had hens in our backyard since just after the DeCoster egg debacle in 2010.  I clean the chicken house about twice a month and the shoes and clothes I wear are removed before going inside.  I wear a mask and gloves when I clean and either wash my hands well or take a shower.  I do not pick up the chickens unless they are ill, and I wash my hands after I do.  I wash the eggs and refrigerate then.  They tend to get used within the week.

I do my best to think about the possibility of cross-contamination with Salmonella and/or Campylobacter.  So far, so good.

Good advice.

 

Dec 20 2018

Keeping up with what’s happening in the poultry industry: GlobalMeat News.com

I subscribe to GlobalMeatNews.com’s daily newsletter to find out what’s going on in the international meat market.  Here is a sample of the type of issues it covers.

Special Edition: Focus on Poultry

The global poultry market is heating up with some major consolidation taking place. This focus on poultry looks at MHP and Cargill’s expansion plans as well as Costco’s decision to move up the food chain and manage its own supply. We also look at which countries are becoming the big players in poultry.

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Nov 10 2017

Weekend reading: the Hamlet Fire

Bryant Simon The Hamlet Fire, A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives. The New Press.

Image result for the hamlet fire

This book, which deserves a much better cover, tells a compelling story.  Bryant Simon, a history professor at Temple University, has written an epic book about industrialized broiler production.  His starting point is the tragic fire that killed 25 people in a poultry processing plant in 1991, in Hamlet, North Carolina.

It’s inconceivable that this plant, which made cheap chicken fingers for fast food outlets, had locked exit doors—nearly a century after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (which is still commemorated every March 25 in front of the building, now owned by NYU).

To explain the meaning of the fire, Simon takes on globalization’s effect in promoting industrialized chicken production; the loss of well paying jobs in small rural communities led to surplus labor that made it possible to produce cheap chicken and even cheaper chicken products.

Simon links these events to the increasing prevalence of obesity among overworked and underpaid laborers in rural communities.   His stories of workers in chicken processing plants make it clear how they have to deal with the social, racial, and political issues that confront families in rural America.

The costs of cheap food, Simon says eloquently, are borne by the workers and communities that produce it.

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Oct 25 2017

Farewell to GIPSA and bad news for family farmers

Last week, the USDA withdrew its Farmer Fair Practices Interim Final Rule (a.k.a. the GIPSA—Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration—rule).

The USDA announced this rule at the end of 2016 with great fanfare but, as I explained last April, then delayed it under pressure from the meat and poultry industries.  Now those industries have succeeded in getting rid of it.

The official explanation?  “Serious legal and policy concerns related to its promulgation and implementation.”

Oh, please.

According to last year’s USDA, the new rules would have leveled “the playing field for farmers by proposing protections against the most egregious retaliatory practices harming chicken growers.”  Without this rule, family farmers have little defense against the mean and unfair practices of meat packers and poultry dealers.

Senator Chuck Grassley (Rep – Iowa) minces no words: The USDA is “just pandering to big corporations. They aren’t interested in the family farmer…The USDA is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the U.S. Department of Big Agribusiness.”

Told by Agri-Pulse of USDA’s decision to withdraw the rule, Sen. Grassley said he “violently opposed USDA’s decision to withdraw the rule:

If they would know how some of these people are treated that contract with these big multi-corporations, they wouldn’t be withdrawing that,…They’re just pandering to big corporations. They aren’t interested in the family farmer…Everybody thinks draining the swamp is firing a whole bunch of congressmen and a whole bunch of bureaucrats; it’s changing the culture of the bureaucracy…This is a perfect example of a swamp that’s being refilled by withdrawing these rules.

What happens now?  More than 200 agriculture groups signed a letter to key ag-state lawmakers asking for more market transparency and anti-trust protections.

Will such calls grow?  I certainly hope so.

For further reading

Sep 15 2017

Weekend reading: Big Chicken

Maryn McKenna.  Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.  National Geographic, 2017.

Image result for big chicken mckenna

I did a blurb for this terrific book, out on September 12:

If you think raising farm animals on antibiotics is nothing to worry about, Big Chicken will change your mind in a hurry.  McKenna, a compelling writer, tells a gripping story: how antibiotics helped transform chicken-raising from backyard to industrial.  Her account of the profit-driven politics that allowed widespread antibiotic resistance should be required reading for anyone who cares about food and health, and especially for congressional representatives who have consistently failed to take action on this critical issue.

 

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May 10 2017

Will we ever stop misusing animal antibiotics?

Politico ProAg reports that the International Poultry Council will soon issue a statement advising the poultry industry to:

  • Stop using antibiotics critical to human medicine to promote livestock growth and prevent disease,
  • Only use these drugs when prescribed by a veterinarian for treatment of disease,
  • Be transparent about the amount of antibiotics it uses and why.

The poultry industry routinely uses antibiotics in feed and water despite major efforts to stop this practice.

Government agencies concerned about increasing resistance to animal antibiotics have long wanted their use stopped or managed appropriately.

Trying to stop misuse of animal antibiotics has a long history.

The animal agriculture industry has fought all attempts to curtain antibiotic use.

The word has gotten through to the poultry industry.  Let’s hope this works.