- the BBC last week reported on a major beef recall in California:
US orders massive recall of beef
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has ordered the recall of 143m lb (64.9m kg) of beef - the largest meat recall in the country's history.
the coverage describes ongoing inhumane treatment of sick cattle at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co, who couldn't stand on their feet at slaughter. the recall was primarily due to the risk posed by eating sick animals (e. coli, salmonella, BSE), but i'm not sure which is more disturbing -- the animal practices that have become normative under factory farming conditions, or the fact that the meat was largely intended for school lunch and other federal nutrition programs. this suggests something about both how we take care of children (particularly poor ones), and how we take care of animals.
- this second headline from the AP is a couple of weeks old now, but describes Monsanto's efforts to restrict labeling dairy that's hormone-free:
Ben & Jerry's in fight over labeling
Monsanto is apparently backing a new farmers' group, American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology, which is trying to ban companies like Ben & Jerry's from labeling their products "rBGH-free." notably, rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is produced by Monsanto and sold to dairy farmers in increase milk production. such hormones are not permitted in organic dairy, but are another means used in conventional factory farming to boost yield. the safety of such hormones remains indeterminate, but this statement gives me pause for thought from from a physician and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health. certainly neither the USDA nor the FDA are known for protecting consumer and environmental health over the demands of big business.
Monsanto, interestingly, is trying to frame this as a question of protecting farmers' "technology," nicely sidestepping issues of health or humane animal practices. Regardless, this debate is another reminder of the advantages of small-scale organic dairy farming over industrialized agribusiness. You can keep up with the pro-organic side of things over at OrganicConsumers.org, including the latest statement from Oregan Physicians for Social Responsibility.