Choose chicken over beef – cut your dietary carbon footprint in half!

❝ Replacing the carbon-heavy beef on your plate with carbon-light chicken will cut your dietary carbon footprint a shocking amount: in half. That’s according to a first-ever national study of U.S. eating habits and their carbon footprints.

❝ To find out what Americans are actually eating, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey asked more than 16,000 participants to recall all the foods they had consumed in the previous 24 hours…The study then calculated the carbon emissions of what people said they ate. If a meal involved beef, such as broiled beef steak, researchers estimated what the carbon footprint would be had they chosen to eat broiled chicken instead.

❝ The study shows that one simple substitution can result in a big reduction in a person’s dietary carbon footprint—the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that result from energy, fertilizer, and land use involved in growing food, Rose said. It also shows you don’t have to give up animal products to improve your carbon footprint. Food production accounts for about a quarter of total carbon emissions globally.

At a minimum – in our household – chicken provides well over half the animal protein in our diet. And, um, the rest is pork and fish. Which probably would come in with a lower carbon footprint than beef, as well.

20% of Americans don’t know hamburger is beef. Ask them about chocolate milk!

❝ Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey…

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania…does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

❝ But while the survey has attracted snorts and jeers from some corners…the most surprising thing about this figure may actually be that it isn’t higher.

❝ For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores — or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. Many more lacked familiarity with basic farming facts, like how big U.S. farms typically are and what food animals eat.

Experts in ag education aren’t convinced that much has changed in the intervening decades.

❝ …Studies have shown that people who live in agricultural communities tend to know a bit more about where their food comes from, as do people with higher education levels and household incomes.

But in some populations, confusion about basic food facts can skew pretty high. When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk…

❝ Today, many Americans only experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant: The USDA says orange juice is the most popular “fruit” in America, and processed potatoes — in the form of french fries and chips — rank among the top vegetables.

“Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed,” Vileisis wrote, of the 20th century. “Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.”

RTFA. Makes a few good points about understanding agriculture. Overall, it reinforces my perception of American education. We make ourselves look good – compared to the least educated 3rd World countries – on the basis of testing for what our children are taught. Both the testing and subject matter are lacking as far as I’m concerned. The tidy little curriculum that satisfies a Middle American education has little or nothing to do with a global economy, the needs and future of all of the humanity on this planet, citizens of Earth.

Antibiotics fed to animals threaten childrens’ health

Citing the potential threat to children’s health, as well as to the public at large, the American Academy of Pediatrics took a stand against the use of nontherapeutic antibiotic use in animals.

The AAP technical report, which was published simultaneously in Pediatrics, described how the use of antibiotics in livestock as growth stimulants, and not for treating illnesses, contributes to the threat of antimicrobial resistance and potential infection through the food supply — especially among young children who are most vulnerable to infection.

Jerome Paulson, MD…told MedPage Today that while this is the first report the AAP has issued on the subject, the organization has been engaged in discussions with government agencies and agriculture interests. But he added there has not been much progress on the issue…

Pediatricians play such an important role because children under 5 have the highest incidence of most food-related infections. Children can become infected through food, contact with animals, and environmental exposures such as when animal runoff contaminates surface waters used for drinking and recreation…

More alarmingly, growing proportions of Salmonella and Campylobacter infections are drug-resistant…Of the 100,000 Salmonella infections, 3% were resistant to ceftriaxone, the first-line pediatric therapy for these organisms. Some Salmonella strains have been found to be resistant to five or more classes of antibiotics.

Paulson says that clinicians should talk to patients and families about purchasing antibiotic-free meat and poultry, which can protect their patients, as well as being aware of their own purchasing choices.

“Clinicians bear some responsibility for this problem because we ourselves are not always prudent in our use of antibiotics,” he said. “Unfortunately, too many people still prescribe antibiotics for colds or sore throats without having an appropriate bacterial diagnosis. So, since clinicians are part of the problem, they can be part of the solution.”

Bravo! Voting with your grocery dollars is as important as every other political act you might endorse to build a healthier population in this land, in this era.

New e.coli test shows results in under 24 hours


Click to enlarge

The standard methods of detecting the presence of E. coli O157 in meat products use cultures and microbiological assays and can take 48 hours or more to get a result. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on a given product’s shelf life…

Researcher Yadira Tejeda, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, has reportedly developed a method of more quickly detecting E. coli O157 contamination in meat products.

The process is similar to a pregnancy test, where one line indicates a negative result and two lines indicates a positive one. She is now working with a small business to validate the method and test its feasibility.

“I work with E. coli O157 because it has caused many epidemics, and has contaminated both raw and ready-to-cook meats; for example, burgers, sausages, beef and pork. In these circumstances, the products had to be removed from the market,” Tejeda says.

In related news – “humane brand” Niman Ranch brands has been purchased by Perdue Farms.

How the Army designed the world’s weirdest meat

Can the United States Army claim credit for the McRib?

That bizarre fast-food creation has long been the subject of cultish adoration and surprisingly credible conspiracy theories (like the one that speculates its mysterious appearances are timed to low pork prices).

But the best speculation about the McRib may be a new theory about its origins: that it’s part of our lives thanks to the United States Army’s quietly revolutionary food lab, located in Natick, Massachusetts…

“What the Army develops is the backbone,” Anastacia Marx de Salcedo says. “The private companies make it more palatable for the consumer.”

She’s the author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, a new book that tracks Army food research’s wide influence on the culture at large. It’s a rollicking, yet encyclopedic, look at the Army’s role in everything from industrialized meats to energy bars. And that includes the restructured-meat masterpiece known as the McRib.

So, who gets credited for developing restructured meat?

…Marx de Salcedo identifies Dr. Roger Mandigo as one contender, who told Marx de Salcedo that in 1970, “the project was funded by the National Pork Council with the pork producers check-off fund … our original restructured pork was shaped like chops; McDonald’s adapted them for their McRibs.” Marx de Salcedo also notes the work of Dr. Dale Huffman, a professor who developed a restructured pork chop in 1969 that he originally tried to sell to Burger King.

But the most interesting contender might be…John Secrist, a food scientist at the Natick Soldier Center for Research and Development. That’s the place where the US Army develops its groundbreaking food for the troops as part of its Combat Feeding Program…Secrist told Marx de Salcedo that in the ’60s, Natick asked him and his team to develop a cheaper version of steaks and chops.

The Army then partnered with a meat flaking company in Ohio in order to break down meat and reassemble it into the meatlike blobs that are familiar today in the form of the McRib. Natick enlisted many meatpackers to do trial runs to see if the technology was viable, and as a result, it made its way to the private sector. “Denny’s used our restructured beefsteak in their restaurant,” Secrist said, “and McDonald’s McRib is as close to our product as you can get.”

The Army didn’t sit in McDonald’s kitchen and tell the chefs how to season their gloriously weird ribs. But Marx de Salcedo argues that they did provide the driving force to make restructured meat a commercial reality. Even Mandigo, the food scientist often credited with the McRib’s technology, told Salcedo that “the military allowed us to use the processes they developed.”

At least we can forget any stories about the McRib being developed at Area 51 from extraterrestrial technology, alien animals.

Or is that what we’re supposed to do?

Where’s the beef? Unsound, unwholesome and unfit for human consumption…


It all ends up looking like this

A California meat company has issued a recall of some 8.7 million pounds of meat as it was processed from “diseased and unsound” animals.

The Department of Agriculture”s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) revealed that the said meat was processed and sold without federal inspection.

Petaluma-based Rancho Feeding Corp. has recalled the meat that was sold in the form of beef carcasses and boxes of beef oxtail, liver, cheeks and tongue in four U.S. states; California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

The recalled products were produced from in the first week of January and had pack sizes ranging between 30 pounds and 60 pounds. The Beef carcasses and boxes carried the establishment number “EST. 527″ inside the USDA mark of inspection…

“The products are adulterated, because they are unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food and must be removed from commerce,” the FSIS said.

The recall has been categorized as ‘Class 1 level’ which is considered to be the most serious and indicates that the product in question has the potency to cause “serious, adverse health consequences or death.”

We keep being told we have the safest, healthiest food in the world. That is – unless you apparently shop at Walmart, Kroger, Brookshire’s, and on and on. Sometimes, I think those low price value meats make it to store shelves because some chain store executive figures the profits are larger than the lawsuits from survivors!

Of course, if state and federal officials performed the tasks we entrust them with – we might stand a better chance of a long and healthy life.

New DNA test can beef up dairy and meat quality

A genomics technique developed at Cornell to improve corn can now be used to improve the quality of milk and meat…

A team led by Ikhide Imumorin, Cornell assistant professor of animal science, is the first to apply a new, inexpensive yet powerful genomics technique to cattle called genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS). The protocol contains only four basic steps from DNA to data, and Imumorin’s work demonstrated it generates enough markers to put cattle genomics on the fast track.

“Breeders are interested in cattle with traits such as high meat or milk quality, disease resistance and heat tolerance, but identifying the best animals means sorting through thousands of unique gene variants in the genome,” said Imumorin. “Until recently, the cost of genomics techniques has set too high a bar for breeders, and many cattle species, particularly those outside the United States and Europe found in Africa and Asia, were excluded from the genomics revolution.”

Using samples from 47 cattle from six breeds from the United States and Nigeria, Imumorin’s team used GBS to identify more than 50,000 genetic markers for genetic profiling…The team’s analysis showed the markers were preferentially located in or near the gene-rich regions in the arms of the chromosome, making them well sited for tagging genes in genetic studies. The researchers also demonstrated that the markers accurately detect the relationships among the breeds.

“GBS democratizes genetic profiling, and our work shows its usefulness in livestock,” said Imumorin. “While a genetic profile could run $70 to $150 per individual using commercially available methods, GBS brings the cost down to around $40 a sample or less. It’s a very exciting time.”

Imumorin predicts that GBS will be deployed by breeders and geneticists scanning herds for superior breeding stock. He cited the example of how selection of bulls for use in breeding programs will be streamlined through GBS-driven genome analysis around the world without the steep cost of commercial SNP chips, the standard tool based on gene variants discovered in European cattle breeds and made into off-the-shelf genotyping chips.

“For example, a bull can have genes for superior milk production, but the only way to test that is to evaluate milk production in his daughters,” said Imumorin. “A bull will be at least five years old before two generations of his offspring can be evaluated, and that’s a long time for breeders to take care of a bull that may not make the final cut. These techniques hasten the day when a bull’s value can be assessed using genetics on its day of birth more cheaply than we can do now.”

Bravo. Cost-savings and accelerated genetic development are always welcome in cattle-breeding.

This week’s horsemeat scandal centers on the Netherlands

Some 50,000 tonnes of meat supplied by two Dutch trading companies and sold as beef across Europe since January 2011 may have contained horsemeat.

The meat is being recalled where possible, the Dutch authorities say.

There was no evidence that the meat was a threat to human health, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority said.

In total, 132 companies in the Netherlands and some 370 more around Europe are affected by the discovery.

The suspect meat was supplied by Wiljo Import en Export BV and Vleesgroothandel Willy Selten.

The two companies are owned by one man who has already previously been investigated by food safety officials, the BBC’s Matthew Price reports.

The latest find was made as part of EU-wide tests to trace horse DNA in processed beef foods and to detect a veterinary drug used on horses…

The recall covers meat dating back to 1 January 2011 up until 15 February this year, the Dutch food authority said…Due to the lapse of time, a lot of the meat “may already have been consumed”, it added…

All EU member states have been informed of the Dutch discovery, EU spokesman Frederic Vincent told the BBC…”The Dutch announcement is a consequence of the investigations which were launched by EU member states a few weeks ago,” the EU spokesman said.

Given the size of the fraud, the Dutch decided to go public with their discovery…”

The EU is going to adopt Animal and Plant Health legislation, real soon now. Including food fraud. Timely, eh?

Sanctions promised as horse meat scandal spreads across Europe

The French and British governments have promised to punish those found responsible for selling horse meat in beef products at the heart of a growing scandal that started in Britain but is quickly spreading to France.

Benoit Hamon, French consumer affairs minister, said on Saturday that an investigation had found that the horse meat had originated in Romania, although there were links with French, Dutch and Cypriot firms and a factory in Luxembourg.

Owen Paterson, UK environment minister, said more cases of contaminated food could emerge as British retailers conducted tests for horse meat on processed beef products.

The scandal threatens to affect consumer confidence in Europe’s giant food industry, with pressure rising for greater checks.

The British unit of frozen foods group Findus began a recall this week of its beef lasagne from retailers on advice from its French supplier, Comigel, over concerns that some packs contained high levels of horse meat.

Findus France said it too had recalled lasagne and two other products after discovering that they included horse meat from Romania rather than beef from France as it had thought…

In Britain Findus said it believed the contamination was deliberate.

“The early results from Findus UK’s internal investigation strongly suggests that the horsemeat contamination in beef lasagne was not accidental,” it said.

Paterson summoned Britain’s leading food retailers and representatives of food processors to an emergency meeting at his office in London on Saturday to discuss the crisis.

He said participants were determined to get to the bottom of a scandal which he said was either caused by “gross incompetence or what I suspect is an international criminal conspiracy“.

Britain’s government is under pressure to appear on top of the scandal, which comes less than a month after supermarket chain Tesco and fast food outlet Burger King found horse meat in beef burgers from an Irish supplier.

The original discovery was accidental – essentially a result of retailers worrying about offending religious folks by traces of pork in beef products. The shock has turned to dismay as they learned the classic capitalist ethic of stealing as much profit as possible by diluting the cost structure of beef with much cheaper horse meat.

No one is going to drop dead – or even worse go directly to Limbo – because of the presence of horse protein. Still, being screwed on price is not what you’re supposed to expect from a regulated trade like meat. Obviously, oversight has been limited to neighborhood horizons.

How do you sell people horse meat? Lie! Call it “beef”.

In Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers, horse meat accounted for approximately 29 per cent of the meat. The supermarket announced last night that it was removing all frozen burgers from sale immediately regardless if they had been found to contain horse meat.

Tim Smith, the group technical director of Tesco, said: “The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious. Our customers have the right to expect that food they buy is produced to the highest standards.”

An investigation was carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The Food Standards Agency, working with the Irish authorities, established that mainland Britain was part of the area affected.

More than a third (37 per cent) of the products tested in Ireland contained horse DNA, while the vast majority (85 per cent) also contained pig DNA…Horse meat and pig DNA was found in 27 beef burger products. Another 31 foods, including cottage pies, beef curry pies and lasagnes, were analysed, with 21 testing positive for pig DNA.

Traces of horse DNA were also detected in batches of raw ingredients…

The beef burgers containing horse DNA were produced by two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, and one plant in the UK, Dalepak Hambleton in North Yorkshire. They were on sale in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.

Prof Alan Reilly, the chief executive of the FSAI, said: “While there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products, due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same plants, there is no clear explanation for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat…”

“We are aware that investigations are ongoing to ascertain how or why horse meat was used in the products.”

Har. We know all the rationales, excuses. They will be trotted out at various press conferences. Press releases by corporate hacks will be widely quoted by TV talking heads.

They will be sufficient and acceptable. After all, this didn’t originate anywhere East of London. It must be accidental.

Thanks, Martyn