Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fueling A Farm Crisis

Thirty billion dollars. That’s what a study issued late October says the Renewable Fuel Standard is likely to cost the meat and poultry industry next year.

Produced by FarmEcon LLC in Indianapolis, the study found that, if the RFS is not revamped, the loss in meat and poultry production next year “will balloon to about $30.6 billion,” while both ethanol production and corn exports will decline because of short corn supplies. Consumers, the study added, will see a 29 percent increase in meat and poultry prices, triggering a drop in consumption of 11 percent.

“It is time to step back and take a hard look at the realty of the 2007 RFS schedule versus corn production capacity and the welfare of the country,” the study concluded. “By diverting increasingly limited corn production into low value-added ethanol production and exports, we have dramatically reduced the actual and potential volume of high value-added, job producing food production.”

The RFS requires a set amount of corn-based ethanol to be blended into gasoline each year. The Environmental Protection Agency recently refused to grant requests from NPPC and many others to waive all or part of the RFS to ease pressure on soaring feed prices.

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Celebration Of Meaty Monday: More Reason To Eat Meat

Need more evidence that meat is “brain food”? A study from the Mayo Clinic found that elderly people who consume lots of protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to have their thinking impaired.

Researchers tracked the eating habits of 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 over four years. Those whose diets were highest in fat were 42 percent less likely to face cognitive impairment, and those who had the highest intake of protein had a reduced risk of 21 percent. When total fat and protein were considered, people with the highest carbohydrate intake were 3.6 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.

 “We think it’s important that you eat a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, because each of these nutrients has an important role in the body,” said lead study author Rosebud Roberts, a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist.

The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wisdom In Denmark, Ignorance In L.A.

Public officials in Denmark may be getting the message but not, apparently, Los Angeles.

In Denmark, lawmakers have repealed a tax on foods high in saturated fat while bureaucrats cancelled plans for a tax on sugar. Both levies were aimed at curbing obesity. “Now we have to try to improve public health by other means,” said Mette Gjerskov, the Danish minister of food and agriculture.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the City Council joined San Francisco and a few other U.S. cities in endorsing "Meatless Mondays." A resolution, adopted unanimously, urges city residents to pledge to forgo meat on the first day of each week. The move followed earlier city council steps to crack down on trans fats fast-food restaurants.

HOTH applauds the good sense of the Danes, at least on this issue, and suggests someone send the Los Angeles council some good pork barbeque. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Foodie Post Mortems On Prop 37

The left-wing foodie elites have weighed in on the demise of California’s GMO labeling initiative, and the results aren’t pretty.

The initiative, known as Prop 37, would have required foods sold in California that contain genetically modified ingredients to be labeled, although fresh meat would have been exempt. The initiative was defeated, 53 percent to 47 percent.

“The Food Movement Takes a Beating” screamed the headline on Mark Bittman’s Nov. 11 column in The New York Times. “Prop 37 Defeat Reveals a ‘Food Movement’ that Is Still Half Baked,” added Jason Mark in the online Earth Island Journal.

Tom Philpott’s analysis in the liberal magazine Mother Jones came complete with a line graph showing how support for the initiative plummeted—and opposition soared—in the weeks before Election Day. The initiative failed, Philpott concluded, thanks to a “slick, relentless, truth-challenged” opposition lobbying campaign that spent $5 for every one spent by supporters.

“Money, lies and mistakes crushed the forward-thinking votes in California,” added Bittman, “but these are battles lost in a war that will (still) be won. The notions that we need to know what’s in our food and that food should not be harmful have not been defeated.”

HOTH thinks the California electorate simply saw the light in the end. With no evidence that foods containing GMOs are, in fact, harmful, how could anyone vote for Prop 37? 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Biggest Loser

Still smarting because your candidate or cause didn’t win in the recent elections?

Perhaps this will make your feel better. You probably didn’t lose as big as the Humane Society of the United States.

HumaneWatch, which keeps tabs on the anti-animal agriculture group, said HSUS’s lobbying arm, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, lost on just about every race it worked on this fall. Included were efforts to unseat pro-farmer congressmen Steve King of Iowa and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee and a bid to defeat Arizona Senate candidate Jeff Flake.

What about ballot initiatives, where HSUS previously had scored several key victories? Not this time, said HumaneWatch. The radical animal rights group lost on a North Dakota referendum to make broadly defined acts of animal cruelty a felony, while two of its other ballot initiatives never got off the ground.

In one final affront, HSUS Pennsylvania state director Sarah Speed lost in a bid for the state House of Representatives from York County. “In all, HSUS and its legislative arm spent bundles of money and came up empty,” HumaneWatch concluded. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Yet Another Setback for Antibiotic Opponents

HOTH readers already know that numerous studies have shown the risk to human health from using antibiotics in livestock is negligible.

For others, a new study from North Carolina State University may be enlightening. It suggests that antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in pigs can thrive in the environment, regardless of antibiotic use by producers.

The study looked at Campylobacter coli—a cause of food poisoning—in both conventionally raised pigs and those raised without antibiotics over several years. It found identical strains of the bacteria in both groups.

Concluded study author Siddhartha Thakur: "If the environment itself, and not the pig, is serving as a reservoir for C. coli, then we will most probably continue to find resistant bacterial populations, regardless of a producer's antimicrobial use."

Thakur's findings appear online in PLoS One and are summarized on EurekAlert!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Finally, News That’s Fit To Print!

In case you missed it -- and HOTH knows you'll find it hard to believe -- a balanced story in The New York Times on sow housing!

Written by business reporter Stephanie Strom, the story featured Iowa pork producer Tom Dittmer and detailed the pros as well as the cons on individual sow housing. That Strom actually visited Iowa for the story is a victory in itself, since two other Times newsroom representatives declined invitations from NPPC to tour Midwest hog farms in recent years.  

The question now is whether the notoriously anti-agriculture Times editorial page will take notice of Strom’s story and moderate its views on pork production.

HOTH is not holding its breath. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Two Peas In A Pod 

In September Bloomberg Markets published a 4,400-word exposé on an Ohio telemarketing firm that routinely keeps at least half of what it raises for charity organizations then colludes with its clients to deceive contributors about where the money goes.
The clients are some of the biggest names in philanthropy, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. But is anyone surprised, given its own questionable fundraising practices, that the Humane Society of the United States is also on the list? 

The Bloomberg story doesn’t mention HSUS by name, but the folks at Humane Watch have provided a link to the radical animal right group’s contract with the firm, known as InfoCision. It includes the following statement to be used in telephone solicitations: “… We are not exactly sure what the total cost of the fundraising will be for this particular campaign but estimate at least 2 percent will go to HSUS.”

Yes, you read that correctly. As little as two cents out of each dollar raised may go to HSUS. The rest can go to InfoCision. Of course, considering what HSUS does with its money, perhaps it’s better that most of what it raises stays in the hands of the telemarketer! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Labeling Columnists

New York Times food blogger Mark Bittman recently called for a traffic light-type label for foods (My Dream Food Label, Oct. 13). In response, HOTH proposes a label for columnists.

Like Bittman’s, the label would use a color system. Red would be for conservative columnists, blue for liberal writers and yellow, of course, would be for columnists who use sensationalism and distortion.

This would allow readers “to make truly enlightened decisions” about the columns they read, letting them know how much stock to put in a column written, for example, by a “yellow” journalist who touts organic produce as somehow safer than conventionally grown produce or who believes the welfare of pigs raised outdoors and exposed to the elements and diseases is better than the ones raised in clean, climate-controlled barns.

HOTH realizes such a label system for columnists, like Bittman’s food labels, might destroy jobs and people’s lives, but let’s not quibble with details. Readers have a right to know.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fueling A Food Crisis

Want to lessen world hunger? Try waving the Renewable Fuels Standard

That’s the message in a report issued in October by the international anti-hunger organization ActionAid USA. The report said an RFS waiver is needed to ease pressure on soaring food prices, which are hitting the poor in under-developed countries especially hard.
ActionAid sent the report to the Environmental Protection Agency as part of its comments on a waiver. A cover letter with the report was cosigned by three domestic environmental organizations: Friends of the Earth, the Environmental Working Group and the Clean Air Task Force.

The groups joined numerous livestock organizations, including NPPC, in supporting a waiver. The RFS requires a set amount of corn-based ethanol to be blended into gasoline each year. The summer drought re-ignited the debate over how much corn should be diverted to fuel cars in light of spiking food and fuel prices.

In its comments, NPPC said a waiver is “an urgent matter.” “EPA’s granting of a full or partial waiver … is necessary to avert the severe economic harm that has been experienced in 2012 by pork producers and the communities and states they live in …,” NPPC said. EPA is expected to announce a decision in mid-November. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Falling Star

Perhaps Proposition 37, California’s GMO labeling initiative, isn’t such a sure thing after all. On the heels of a major advertising blitz by opponents, a new poll shows support for the initiative plummeting.

The poll by the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the California Business Roundtable, puts support among likely voters at just 48 percent, with 11 percent undecided. (A September Los Angeles Times poll had California voters favoring Prop 37 by a 2-to-1 margin.)

Proposition 37 would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients, although many foods, including fresh meat, would be exempted. Citing overwhelming evidence that GMO products are safe, the food industry and other opponents say GMO labeling is unnecessary and will needlessly drive up consumer food costs. 

Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the No on 37 Campaign, credited the drop in support to a combination of television advertising, news stories and editorials opposed to the initiative. “The more people learn about Proposition 37, the less they like it,” she said, according to news reports.

Californians vote on Prop 37 on November 6.

Food Fight

While some members of Congress want the Obama administration’s controversial new school lunch regulations repealed, others simply want them investigated.

In a Halloween request, three Republican members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the regulations’ cost and their impact on food waste and participation rates in the school meals programs. 

“Many schools are concerned the requirements limit their flexibility and make it more difficult to adapt their menus to meet the preferences and needs of their students and school communities,” the congressmen said.

A rash of complaints and protests greeted the new school meal nutrition standards as students returned to class in September. That prompted Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to introduced legislation to repeal the regulations’ calorie caps, which offer a 200-pound high school senior the same size meal as a 100-pound freshman.

Those requesting the GAO investigation are Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline of Minnesota and Representatives David Roe of Tennessee and Kristi Noem of South Dakota. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has also asked USDA for an analysis of the effects of the new rules on students and on meal line participation.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A New Low

No longer content with graphic undercover videos of livestock production, the Humane Society of the United States has produced a Disney-style animated feature designed to turn kids against modern hog farming.

A Pig’s Tail, a five-minute film now available on the HSUS Website, comes complete with a four-page lesson plan for teachers and depictions of tail docking and electric prod use for the kids.

The film portrays a modern hog barn as dark, dank and smelly, with endless rows of squealing and grunting pigs trapped in gestation stalls. The preferred alternative, the mythical “old farm,” is bright, sunny, spacious and green, with picturesque barns and occasional wooden fences. The pigs rival Bambi for cuteness. 

Clearly proud of its ingenuity, the radical animal rights group boasts that it has “teamed up with Academy Award-winning Aardman Studios to create … a short but compelling animated film about a pig’s perspective of factory farming.” It adds: “The film gives a taste of how animals are treated on factory farms—and how we can help by choosing more humane alternatives.”

The film was pumped out just in time for Food Day October 24, the left’s nationwide propaganda vehicle for turning back the clock on modern agriculture. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Does Louise Know About This?

Hog farmers use government-approved antibiotics under the strict supervision of their veterinarians, much to the chagrin of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Meanwhile, popular antibiotics like amoxicillin are purchased routinely in pet stores or over the Internet without a prescription or any other controls on their use.

These are supposed to be used in fish tanks, but a pet health blog out of Canada notes they are also misused to treat dogs and even humans.

The blog, called Worms and Germs, is written by two veterinarians. It highlighted the problem with fish antibiotics in a post on easy-to-correct loopholes in antibiotic laws and regulations. “Various antibiotics can be purchased over the counter in pet stores that are marketed for treatment of fish,” it said, “but are the same as antibiotics used in other pets (and people). Unfortunately the internet also abounds with descriptions of how to treat your dog (or you) with fish drugs.”

Sure enough, a quick check of the Internet uncovered multiple sites selling “Fish Mox,” including, and at least one explaining that there is basically no difference between amoxicillin marketed for fish and that for humans.
All of which brings to mind the livestock industry’s frequent admonishment that antibiotic resistance results from many factors and that policy decisions on antibiotics use in food animals should be made on the basis of science and not myths.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And the Loser Is … Us

We already knew that last spring’s hysteria over perfectly safe lean finely textured beef (LFTB) —called “pink slime” by some reporters—hurt fed-cattle prices and cost at least 650 meat processing jobs.

Now comes word from the Agriculture Department that consumers, too, are suffering from the media circus over a product that until March was widely used in lower-fat ground beef found in supermarkets and schools.

The price of lean ground beef has soared since a long list of retailers announced they would no longer offer ground beef that contained LFTB. In response, consumers have switched to cheaper, fattier and less healthy alternatives—an ironic outcome considering these same consumers were scared into objecting to LFTB because they thought it was unsafe.
Various affects of the LFTB debacle are discussed in USDA’s August Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report. HOTH thinks this is another lesson in how a scandal-obsessed media can irreparably harm the image of a perfectly good food product.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2 Out Of 5

For The New York Times, this could be progress. In response to the recent Stanford University study finding no appreciable nutritional or food safety benefit to organic foods, The Times posted five short essays on its Website debating the question “Is Organic Food Worth the Expense?”

Offerings from New York University professor Marian Nestle, Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott and activist Raj Patel are what you’d expect: The cost of organic food is coming down, yields are coming up and, oh yes, “industrial” agriculture is destroying the globe.

But the remaining two essays are refreshingly realistic. Science blogger Christie Wilcox calls organic farming “an idyllic fallacy,” noting its costs in deforestation and carbon emissions. And Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg offers some startling health statistics, concluding that avoiding pesticides might save 20 cancer deaths a year while a price-related decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption could trigger 26,000 additional cancer deaths annually.
To which HOTH says, “Touché!” 

Perhaps Justice—Literally—Will Prevail

The Justice Department recently asked a federal judge in Boston to dismiss a legal challenge to the 6-year-old Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which protects livestock producers against raids by animal rights activists and eco-terrorists.

According to the Associated Press, DOJ attorney Deanna Durrett defended the law before District Court Judge Joseph Tauro, arguing that it is not aimed at peaceful protests or other protected activities but at “violent, destructive conduct.”
The rarely used law was designed to protect livestock farms against intentional damage by increasingly aggressive animal rights activists. Activists challenged the law last year, saying it is vague and left them afraid to participate in legal public protests.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Laying An Egg On Egg Bill

Wayne Pacelle, the press-hungry head of the Humane Society of the United States, recently laid a rare media egg when he tried to garner support for the federal hen housing bill at the Indiana State Fair.

According to a report on the anti-HSUS Website Humane Watch, Pacelle attracted a paltry crowd to the press event then had to compete with noise from a nearby collection of antique tractors. “When Pacelle took to the microphone,” the account said, “the TV camera started panning the audience (or lack thereof) and picked up and left in the middle of his presentation. Must have been tough since all of the old tractors … simultaneously were cranked up just as Pacelle took the microphone. If ever there was a non-event, this was it.”

The hen housing bill writes into federal law an agreement between HSUS and egg producers, increasing the size of laying hen cages. NPPC has led opposition to the bill, saying it sets a dangerous precedent for allowing federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm production practices.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Non-Benefits Of Organics

How much more will it take before consumers wise up?

Yet another study—this one a four-year meta analysis of 237 previous studies—has found no appreciable nutritional or food-safety benefit to organic foods, including organically produced meat. And yet, the organic market continues to grow, up nearly 8 percent in 2010, despite the sluggish economy, according to the Organic Trade Association

The latest report to look at the safety and nutritional value of organic foods confirms what USDA has been saying for years.

The findings even surprised the Stanford University researchers who conducted the study. “When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” said senior study author Dr. Dena Bravata, according to The New York Times. “I think we were definitely surprised.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Aggies 2, PETA 0

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals either needs a better legal team or stronger arguments.

In the space of a few days PETA had a Sacramento judge throw out its challenge to the California dairy industry’s “happy cows” advertising campaign and was told by a Kansas judge that the state fair can force the group to shield some fair attendees from a gruesome video depicting animal slaughter.

The Sacramento ruling was particularly stinging. Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly said California dairy farmers and the state agriculture department had offered enough evidence to support their claim that California’s dairy cows are comfortable, safe and happy. PETA had argued the “happy cow” ads misrepresented the well-being of the state’s dairy cows.

In the Kansas case, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten rejected PETA’s attempt to block restrictions on showing a 13-minute undercover video from its booth at the state fair. The video depicts animals being slaughter and alleged instances of abuse on livestock farms. Marten said fair officials were not preventing PETA from showing the video, just saying that passersby should not be forced to view it against their will.

PETA said it is considering appeals in both cases.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He Must Have Failed Constitutional Law

Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States is furious over a last-minute amendment to the farm bill passed last week by the House Agriculture Committee. The amendment, sponsored by Iowa Republican Steve King, limits the effects of state animal welfare laws like California’s ban on selling eggs from chickens kept in battery cages.

In a long and vitriolic blog post Tuesday, Pacelle lashed out at both the amendment and its author: “(King’s) proposal, which tramples states’ rights and the 10th amendment, is designed to nullify all of the voter-approved ballot measures to protect farm animals, including Prop 2 in California, which was approved by 64 percent of voters in November 2008. … Americans need to rise up and make sure that not one comma in King’s amendment makes it into the final farm bill. It is utterly unworthy of a nation built upon republican principles of government.”

In fact, King's amendment only would prevent states that regulate their own agricultural products from imposing those regulations on products imported from other states, which, last week checked, is a restraint of trade and, thus, a violation of the Constitution's Commerce Clause. 

Pacelle is also upset that another poultry-related amendment—this one codifies an agreement on hen housing between HSUS and an egg industry trade association—was not included in the bill. NPPC has led the opposition to that measure, saying it would set a “dangerous precedent” for allowing federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm production practices, including animal housing.

The committee farm bill faces an uncertain future on the House floor. If passed by the House, it would need to be reconciled with a substantially different Senate bill.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GIPSA-Lite Axed -- Again!

GIPSA-Lite Axed—Again! 

Remember the GIPSA rule, the Obama administration’s ill-starred attempt to rewrite how livestock are bought and sold?

The draft regulation triggered such an avalanche of criticism the administration ended up adopting a much-scaled-back version dubbed GIPSA-Lite. Then Congress, acting on its annual Agriculture Department appropriations bill, blocked the department from spending money to implement much of what was left.

And now the House Agriculture Committee has voted to scrap implementation of the regulation completely. 

Working on the 2012 farm bill Wednesday night, the committee adopted an amendment offered by Reps. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.) that prevents GIPSA—the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration—from further work implementing the much-disliked regulation.

The committee also adopted an amendment requiring USDA to report how it will comply with a World Trade Organization ruling that country-of-origin labeling of meat products in this country discriminates against Canada and Mexico.

Whether either amendment survives the legislative process remains to be seen. With both Republicans and Democrats dissatisfied with parts of the House committee’s farm bill, it’s doubtful the measure will even reach the House floor before the November elections. If passed, it would need to be matched with a Senate bill that includes neither the GIPSA amendment nor the country-of-origin labeling language.

A Side Of Food Poisoning With That Free-Range Chicken?

Meat from free-range and organically raised animals may be trendy, but a recent journal article reminds us of one big downside of raising food animals outside of confinement: increased chances of food-borne illness.

The article was published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases and summarized in several other publications. It said growing demand for free-range or organically produced meat—especially pork and chicken—will probably increase the prevalence of the parasite toxoplasma gondii, or T. gondii, in humans.

Hardly a household name, T. gondii is nonetheless the second-leading cause of food-borne illness deaths in the United States. It is spread through the feces of infected animals. Most at risk are pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
Pigs or chickens raised in “animal friendly” environments have greater access to grass, soil, feed and water that may be contaminated with T. gondii. The journal article concluded the parasite is anywhere from 17 percent to 100 percent more likely to be found in free-range chickens, compared with chickens raised indoors. Other research has found that organically raised pigs test positive for T. gondii more often than conventionally raised pigs.

HSUS Exposed!

Score another one for the helpful folks at the Center for Consumer Freedom.

The anti-activist nonprofit has followed up a blistering report on deceptive fundraising by the Humane Society of the United States with outreach to attorney general offices in 12 states that protect their citizens against misleading charitable solicitations. At least one AG—in Pennsylvania—has promised a response.

The Consumer Freedom report on HSUS highlighted the disconnect between the organization’s fundraising and the way it actually spends its money. While most HSUS television ads are dominated by images of shelter pets, only 1 percent of HSUS’s budget supports shelters, the report found. And, while HSUS touts a disclaimer saying it is independent of local shelters, the report found that disclaimer appears in less than 1 percent of HSUS commercials.

What HSUS really is about, of course, is attacking modern livestock production. In recent weeks it has both threatened bogus lawsuits against hog farmers for supposedly  violating government air emissions paperwork rules and threatened NPPC with a meritless Federal Trade Commission complaint claiming “deceptive advertising related to animal well-being.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Nanny State: Alive and Well

The electorate may be shuffling to the right, but the Nanny State is alive and well, at least when it comes to food.

Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines by suggesting a ban on large sodas as a way to curb obesity. The idea won praise from the nutrition community but prompted ridicule from many others, including comedian John Stewart.

Less visible was an April proposal from a meat processing association to outlaw rare hamburgers as a food safety measure. Jay Wenther, executive director of the American Association of Meat Processors, pitched the rare hamburger ban to the Conference for Food Protection, a nonprofit group that promotes food safety.

Wenther’s plan would require restaurants and food service establishments to cook all ground beef to at least 160 degrees (ground beef on a kids’ menu is already required to meet this standard). Home cooks would be exempt but the hope was the requirement would rub off on them as well.

Wenther’s suggestion was endorsed by former Bush Administration Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety Richard Raymond. But the Conference for Food Protection declined to send it to the Food and Drug Administration for action.

HOTH thinks adults are smart enough to decide for themselves whether to order their burgers rare.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rejecting PETA

It’s been a rough couple of months for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
First reality TV star Kloe Kardashian called the group bullies for pelting sister Kim with flour. Then Jennifer Lawrence, star of the hit movie The Hunger Games, dissed the group in a Rolling Stone cover story. 

And now one of PETA’s outlandish billboard ads has been rejected on the grounds that it wasn’t truthful. According to a story in the Fresno Bee, the ad, stating that “Real Milk Comes from Really Sick Cows,” was to appear in Hanford, California, near where a dairy cow with Mad Cow disease was found last month.

Hal Kilshaw, vice president of government relations for Lamar Advertising, was quoted saying the PETA billboard was misleading. “Millions of people drink milk every day and don’t get sick,” Kilshaw said.

As a fallback, PETA put an ad promoting vegetarianism on a local television station.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Needed: Better Staff Work!

The folks advising the advocacy group Moms for Antibiotic Awareness need a refresher course in, well, antibiotic awareness.

The Website for the group, which lists a Pew foundation staffer as a contact, repeats the urban myth that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in this country are given to food animals often to promote growth and to compensate for “unsanitary and overcrowded conditions” on livestock farms.

Then it quotes the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies saying there is a “definitive link” between antibiotic use on livestock farms and antibiotic resistance in humans.

Never mind that the best science suggests the risk of human antibiotic resistance problems developing from farm use of antibiotics is negligible. Or that antibiotics are needed to keep animals healthy and food safe. Or that, before it approves animal drugs, the FDA must determine that they won’t harm human health. Or that confinement systems keep livestock comfortable and protect them from disease and predators. And, of course, there is no reference to the recent Kansas State study finding that opponents of animal antibiotics wildly overestimate the drugs given to livestock.  

HOTH appreciates the concern of the moms, who spent two days in Washington this week advocating for stricter guidelines for antibiotic use on farms. But maybe someone needs to tell them the new guidance the FDA already has issued will harm animal health and increase food costs while not improving public health.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'Rural Romanticism'

HOTH doesn’t always agree with Doug Powell, the Kansas State food scientist who churns out a variety of food safety information daily through blogs and listservs. But an essay Powell highlighted from Canadian food-safety lawyer Ronald L. Doering is too good to pass up. Titled “Rural Romanticism and ‘Natural’ Foods,” it appeared originally in Food in Canada magazine. A few samples:

With the growing recognition that organic food is not any safer, tastier, more nutritious or more sustainable, in spite of the higher price, consumers now want foods that are produced the old fashioned way on the small family farm … Not surprisingly, food companies are turning themselves inside out to try to meet this demand. So we see ads with handsome farm families beside their green fields, no doubt providing natural, no-additive, chemical-free, home-style, no-preservative, artisanal ‘real’ food.

“I grew up on a farm and it bears little relationship to the bucolic scenes I see in these ads. Farming has always been, and still is, messy, bloody, dirty and very hard work. Why should farmers eschew modern methods to lessen their physical labour and be more efficient just so they meet some urbanite’s notion of what farming should be like? In what other sector of our economy do we encourage the greater use of yesterday’s technology?

“There is much talk these days that consumers are now more knowledgeable and care more about where their food comes from. In my experience, urban Canadians know almost nothing about where their food comes from … That’s because there is so much misinformation provided by alternative medicine and natural health websites, and by ‘wellness’ magazines that flood into this country every day, all unregulated. They read books written by urban foodies that have never set foot on a farm and who are shocked to learn when they do that most organic food now comes from large ‘industrial’ farms owned by multinationals, the very entities they despise.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

California Dreamin’

Look for a major battle in California this fall over a requirement to label foods containing genetically engineered products.

State backers of a GMO labeling initiative say they have turned in nearly double the number of signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

But major food companies and seed manufacturers are likely to fight hard in opposition to the initiative, which would not cover animals injected with growth hormones or fed genetically engineered feed.

The California Right to Know Campaign held rallies in major cities across the state Wednesday to mark the submission of 970,000 signatures to state election officials. They say only 555,000 signatures were needed to qualify for the ballot.

The idea of GMO labeling has picked up steam recently and, understandably, supporters see California as a favorable environment for a ballot initiative.

HOTH notes that Americans have been eating GMO foods for two decades with no apparent ill effects.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


First the Humane Society of the United States earned another D grade from Charity Watch for spending too little of its money on programs and too much on things such as fundraising and executive salaries. And now the anti-HSUS Center for Consumer Freedom is out with a scathing parody of an animal cruelty video, playing off that D grade.

The two-minute YouTube video depicts sad-eyed, out-of-work lawyers and lobbyists behind a chain link fence as doleful music plays in the background. A moderator sorrowfully says you can help put these unfortunate victims back to work for just $19 a month by joining HSUS “in our fight to hire more lawyers.”

The female moderator adds that it’s a misconception that HSUS operates pet shelters: “We don’t run a single one,” she tells the audience. “Our real goal is to get the government to eliminate farms with animals. We’re basically PETA with suits and deodorant.”

All HOTH can say is … ouch!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Simply Wrong

Ezra Klein, the increasingly visible Washington Post policy blogger, should stick to what he thinks he knows, which is economics. When he wanders off into agriculture policy, as he did Thursday in commenting on antibiotic use in livestock, he is worse than uninformed. He’s simply wrong.

For starters Klein cites as fact the urban myth that 70 percent of the country’s antibiotics are used in livestock production. He calls it one of his “favorite scary statistics.” The livestock industry has always recognized this as a wild overestimate, and a recent study out of Kansas State University confirms that. In fact, it blows Klein’s “scary statistic” out of the water.

Next, Klein cites “mounting evidence” that farm use of antibiotics “is contributing to the startling rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria” in humans. In fact, numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments, including at least one by the Food and Drug Administration, show “negligible” risk to human health from antibiotic use in livestock. Totally missing from Klein’s missive is any recognition that antibiotic resistance develops from many factors and that a major contributor is over-prescription of antibiotics in humans.

Finally, Klein repeats the canard that vast amounts of antibiotics are needed to keep livestock healthy because they are raised in unhealthy conditions. In fact, modern livestock confinement systems are designed to keep animals healthy. Animals are kept in scientifically designed, biosecure barns to protect them from predators, disease, and bad weather.

Most livestock antibiotics are used when animals are sick or susceptible to illness. That’s as it should be. Healthy animals produce safe food, and we need every available tool to avoid putting the food supply at risk.

Perhaps even Klein could agree with that last point.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seeing The Light On PETA

The celebrity-friendly image of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is getting a little tarnished. 

First reality TV star Kloe Kardashian, who had previously done ads for the animal rights group, called PETA “bullies” for pelting fur-wearing sister Kim with flour at a Hollywood event. And now Jennifer Lawrence, star of the hit movie The Hunger Games, has dissed PETA in a Rolling Stone cover story. 

In an interview in the magazine’s latest issue, Lawrence reveals that a graphic scene from an earlier movie, in which she gutted a squirrel and ripped off its fur, was not an illusion. “I should say it wasn’t real, for PETA,” Lawrence reportedly said. “But screw PETA.”

The anti-PETA Center for Consumer Freedom reacted by saying it would welcome any celebrities who “see the light on this noxious activist group.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hot Shots

Sure, pork producers are unhappy with the Environmental Protection Agency and its efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But when it comes to frustration over those emissions rules, it’s hard to match United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts.

Discussing proposed emissions limits on new coal-fired power plants on a West Virginia radio network, Roberts said the planned limits will kill the U.S. coal industry outright because the technology to meet the standards isn’t widely available.

“The Navy SEALS shot Obama bin Laden in Pakistan, and (EPA Chief) Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington,” he said.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

High Praise From An Unusual Source

First it was chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Now Runner’s World is talking up the health attributes of meat for runners.

“If you’ve stared down one too many chicken breasts at dinner lately, you’re probably a runner ...” an article in the April issue starts. “But you may be surprised to find that other meats, from steak to pork, can boost your health and rebuild and strengthen muscles.” 

The article, by Jessica Girdwain, highlights the benefits of beef, dark meat chicken, lamb, pork, and turkey pastrami. A serving of pork tenderloin, it notes, packs the same fat and saturated fat as chicken with 13 percent fewer calories. “It’s an excellent source of vitamin B6, which helps your body metabolize protein and carbs and produce energy during exercise,” Girdwain says. 

HOTH, of course, knows that the healthiest diets consist of a balance of fruits, vegetables and nutrient-dense red meat. Indeed, red meat provides many under-consumed nutriets such as potassium, phosphorous and vitamin B-12.   

Friday, March 30, 2012

'EPA Overreach Protection Act'

Nearly one-third of the Senate Wednesday introduced legislation to head off what many see as a attempt by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency to greatly expand waters under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The CWA bars discharging pollutants into “navigable” U.S. waters without a permit.

“President Obama’s EPA continues to act as if it is above the law,” said Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a bill sponsor and frequent EPA critic. “It is using this overreaching guidance to pre-empt state and local governments, farmers and ranchers, small business owners and homeowners from making local land and water use decisions.

“Our bill will stop this unprecedented Washington power grab and restore Americans’ property rights,” Barrasso added. “It’s time to get EPA lawyers out of Americans’ backyards.”

EPA maintains that the about-to-be-issued guidance does not expand protection to any waters not already covered under the CWA and that traditional exemptions for agriculture will remain in effect.

HOTH -- and 30 U.S. senators -- is skeptical.