by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Meat

Jun 1 2008

NY Times editorial: “the worst way of farming”

In case you missed it, the New York Times has an editorial on the Pew Commission report (I am a member of the Commission, as I explained on a previous post) and on a similar report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. As the editorial explains, farm policies have turned “animal husbandry…into animal abuse,” and policies about animal confinement need rethinking and revision. My question: how about enforcing existing laws while we are at it?

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Apr 29 2008

Pew report: industrial animal agriculture

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 press response has been interesting, and somewhat predictable. Here’s what the Washington Post has to say. The meat industry is not pleased, as is evident from the report in the Kansas City Star.

Mar 22 2008

The “Chickenization” of the Beef Industry

I’ve just learned a new word: “chickenization.” This comes from an article on meatpoultry.com explaining how consolidation in the beef industry has gotten so extreme that just three companies now control more than 70% of the market: JBS 31%, Tyson 21%, and Cargill 21%. Monopoly capitalism in action!

Mar 13 2008

Consolidation in the meat industry: a good thing?

A reader of the last post on the big meat recall asks for the second time (sorry I didn’t get to it earlier): “I recently read an article by Tim Phillpot about the consolidation of the meat industry and how this gives them leverage to control how beef is raised and sold. Apparently JBS (Brazil) is planning on buying National Beef Packing here in the US. The comments say that most analysts think the deals are positive. What do you think are the ramifications of such a concentration of power and influence?”

Indeed. We’ve just seen one result of industry consolidation: a recall of 143 million pounds of ground beef. I’m not sure that everyone views this deal favorably. I’m hearing a lot about anti-trust laws. In its March 5 account, the Wall Street Journal noted that the deals “will almost certainly prompt regulatory scrutiny because of their size and potential effect on the marketplace.”

What’s this about? The U.S. dollar is weak so American companies are a bargain for foreign investors; beef producers are cutting back on production because of the high price of grain (in part because its grown for fuel); and the industry is worried that the government will enforce safety regulations. If you control a big percent of the market–and the newly merged company will control 33% all by itself–you call the shots. I’m hoping that federal regulators will pay as much attention to this huge beef company merger as as it did to the tiny (by comparison) takeover of Wild Oats by Whole Foods last year.

Jan 27 2008

The environmental implications of eating meat

Mark Bittman, who usually writes about easy ways to cook great food, has a long piece in today’s New York Times about the energy and other environmental costs of eating meat. These are major. And just think what will happen if everyone in the world eats as much meat as we do!

Dec 1 2007

USDA proposes to define “Natural”

The Department of Agriculture, apparently concerned about consumer confusion over what “natural” meat might be, is proposing to define the term. Right now, “natural” means minimally processed plus whatever the marketer says it means, and nobody is checking (I devote a chapter of What to Eat to explaining all this). This proposal, as the USDA explains, would be a voluntary marketing claim (“no antibiotics, no hormones”). The proposal is open for comment until January 28. Want to comment? Do that at this site.

Sep 4 2007

Coming Soon to Your Local Grocery: Country-of-Origin Labeling for Meat

Thanks to Lisa Young, author of The Portion Teller, for passing along a neat article from the Detroit News about country-of-origin-labeling of meat. Check out the map showing the global nature of our meat supply. Unless Congress delays these labels yet again, we’ll be seeing them at meat counters starting next year. And won’t that be interesting? Stay tuned.

Aug 29 2007

Livestock and Climate Change?

Today’s New York Times business section is worth reading for an article about advertisements run by PETA and the Humane Society stating that eating meat has a worse effect on climate change than cars do. The ads are based on a report from FAO (the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations) arguing that the “livestock sector” is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases and water pollution.  This sector, says the report, accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions.  This seems like a lot but the report adds it up from three sources: deforestation, digestive gases, and manure. Livestock, the FAO report says, should be a leading focus for environmental policies.

Somehow, this report got by me and I’m glad to know about it.  It links diets that are good for people with those that are good for the planet and gives more good reasons for the value of eating a largely plant-based diet.