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In Denmark, lawmakers have repealed a tax on foods high in saturated fat while bureaucrats cancelled plans for a tax on sugar.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.