factory farms | Food & Water Watch - Part 3
Victory! Farm Bureau case challenging EPA’s right to share factory farm data dismissed. more wins »
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Blog Posts: Factory farms

February 7th, 2014

Factory Farmed Chicken: Not Fit to Eat

By Darcey Rakestraw

Low in cholesterol and saturated fat, chicken has been touted as a healthy alternative to red meat. You may think you’re making a good choice by choosing chicken when you go out to eat or shopping at the supermarket, but one thing’s for sure: the way we produce chicken today is something our grandparents would never recognize—and it’s even making us sick.

That’s why we’ve created this new video in partnership with Appeal To Reason Productions featuring Environmental Media Association board members Constance Zimmer, Raphael Sbarge and Samantha Ressler.

How often do you sit down at a restaurant and order the chicken? If you asked questions about how the chicken was raised and processed, you probably wouldn’t get very clear answers. Inspired by this hilarious Portlandia skit, these are the answers you’d get if your server knew the real story behind most of the chicken served in the U.S.

But unlike the diners in the video, you’d probably not be amused if your waiter told you that your chicken was raised on a factory farm controlled by one of four giant corporations. Or that it was dunked in bleach to remove visible signs of fecal matter. Or that the animals were raised in crowded conditions raised on antibiotics (which is contributing to a public health disaster—antibiotic resistance in humans.)

Now, we have a handful of days or weeks to put pressure on the USDA not to allow the privatization of poultry inspections. Given the unhealthy way that chicken is raised and processed, proper food inspections are vital. But could you inspect 175 birds a minute? We couldn’t either. That’s why the USDA’s plan to cut USDA inspectors and to put the job of inspections in the hands of the poultry companies is a bad idea. What’s worse, is it’s the first step towards deregulating our meat inspection system entirely—with beef inspections next on the list.

Share the video and take action today to pressure the USDA to stop the plan before it’s too late.

December 23rd, 2013

A Year of Victories

 

Earlier this month, the entire Food & Water Watch staff gathered to map out our work for 2014. We planned to briefly celebrate our victories from 2013, too… but from local fracking bans to protecting our food from arsenic, it took us over an hour just to list them all! 

These victories are all thanks to you, and we made this infographic to show you all you’ve done in 2013.

 Read the full article…

December 20th, 2013

Top Five Movies to Watch this Winter Break

By Briana Kerensky, Katherine Cirullo and Miranda Carter

‘Tis the season for peppermint hot chocolate, warm fuzzy socks and of course, movie marathons. This year, forget driving to the movie theater and overspending on a two-hour flick and what is, most likely, genetically engineered popcorn. 

Below is a list of thought-provoking, socially, politically and environmentally conscious films that our staff at Food & Water Watch enjoys and thinks you will, too! Got a movie to add to our list? Share your picks in the comments below.

  1. Gasland and Gasland 2: In this Oscar-nominated documentary, Director Josh Fox takes viewers on a cross-country journey to discover the hard, shocking truths behind the fracking boom that has swept across the United States. Interested in hosting your own Gasland or Gasland 2 screening in the new year? Food & Water Watch can help!
    Read the full article…

Clones, the Commission and Ethical Contortionism

By Eve Mitchell

The European Commission’s proposed Directives on clones in the food chain fall woefully short of what citizens want and the Parliament demands.

The draft laws are not all they appear to be at first glance. One draft Directive “provisionally prohibits” cloning farm animals and the sale of farm clones or clone embryos. The other “provisionally prohibits” the sale and import of food from clones. Once enshrined in law the Directives would be reviewed to enable any “improvements” in cloning techniques that reduce animal suffering to be taken into account in future regulation.

Any prohibition of cloning is welcome, based as it is on the acknowledgement that cloning for food is unwanted and unconscionably cruel, but it‘s not enough.

The draft laws do not prohibit the sale of food from the offspring of clones, which renders them next to useless in the real world. The Commission emphasises, “[C]loning is so expensive that its use for food production is not lucrative.” This is a tacit admission that the proposed measures don’t actually tackle the real problem – food from cloned offspring. Read the full article…

December 17th, 2013

Fighting, and Winning, Against the Status Quo

By Miranda Carter

A few months ago, the FDA announce it would no longer allow most arsenic-based drugs to be used in raising chickens. For years, arsenic was used as a growth-promoting agent that supposedly made the flesh of chickens and turkeys look pinker. But that pink poultry came at a serious cost: arsenic increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological deficits and other health problems through chronic exposure, either in meat and poultry, or in the animal waste that is left behind in the environment. 

Now that there’s a ban, parents across the country no longer have to worry about serving arsenic to their children in their chicken dinners. I can tell you first-hand that it wouldn’t have happened without grassroots organizing.

I was the field organizer for the three-year campaign to end the use of arsenic in chicken feed in Maryland that helped pave the way for this national ban. It really shows how organizing locally is critical to creating national change. For two years, our opponents — companies like Perdue chicken and Pfizer — defeated us. They fought fiercely to maintain the status quo and keep profits as high as possible, even at the expense of public health. So we fought back by organizing. 


Organizing is hard work, but Marylanders were with us. When I told people about our campaign, they were appalled that companies were allowed to use a known poison in our food. In the end, we beat Big Ag and Big Pharma with thousands of phone calls and emails to lawmakers, and hundreds of doors knocked in a key district in Baltimore. Then the FDA issued a national ban on arsenic use. It’s a real testament to the power of grassroots organizing — it couldn’t have happened without concerned citizens taking action.
 

But our work is far from over. Big industry lobbyists are fighting in state capitols and in Washington, D.C. to keep the status quo and evade regulations that protect consumers. They may have money, but we have something they don’t: people. It’ll be a long fight against fierce opponents like Monsanto, Perdue and Cargill, but we know we can win with your support.


In 2014, we will continue working in communities across the country to take on Big Ag. We are fighting to pass more laws to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, and we will ramp up our work to end the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms, which threatens to render antibiotics ineffective for us when we need them most.

As you know, Food & Water Watch doesn’t take any corporate or government donations — this independence is what allows us to take principled positions. It is one of the reasons I’m so proud to work for this organization. We rely on concerned citizens like you in order to do the work we do — please donate to Food & Water Watch today.

Donate to help build a movement of people fighting for a just and sustainable food system.

December 11th, 2013

New Antibiotic Guidelines, but the Devil’s in the Details

By Sarah Borron


Today the FDA released voluntary guidelines for drug companies and livestock producers, in a long overdue update to the policy antibiotic use in livestock. But as always, the devil is in the details.

For background, livestock producers routinely give livestock low doses of antibiotics in feed in order to promote growth and prevent disease, a practice known as subtherapeutic use. Unfortunately, this practice promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing public health crisis.

FDA’s new guidance requests that pharmaceutical companies change the labels on medications used in feed. The medication label states how the medicine is legally allowed to be used, and the change FDA is requesting is that antibiotics important in human medicine no longer be labeled for growth promotion purposes. 

FDA assured stakeholders in a call today that two major pharmaceutical companies have already agreed to this label change for the drugs they produce. Once the label has been changed, the drug can only be used in feed to “treat, prevent, or control disease” and requires a veterinary prescription for those uses. Currently, most antibiotics sold in livestock feed are available over the counter without veterinary oversight. 

But FDA’s new strategy still isn’t enough. There are two main problems: Read the full article…

December 5th, 2013

ALEC’s Attack on Country of Origin Labels

By Tyler Shannon

The right wing, Koch brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-big business organization that works to gut environmental protection, attack labor rights and pass discriminatory voter identification laws, is now lining up with meatpackers and factory farms to try to prevent consumers from knowing where their food comes from.

ALEC is a reactionary, pro-business group disguised as a nonprofit that writes and lobbies for state legislation and “model bills” that put business interests ahead of the public interest. Its members include numerous large corporations and Republican legislators. Some companies, such as Amazon and Coca Cola, have actually chosen to pull out of ALEC after learning of the sweeping range of its radical legislative agenda. ALEC has been the subject of IRS complaints for lobbying while hiding behind its nonprofit status.

This week at ALEC’s annual policy summit, it is jumping into food and farm policy on the side of giant agribusiness interests, not American farmers and consumers. ALEC will vote on a resolution supporting the elimination of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat and poultry products. U.S. farmers and consumers overwhelmingly support COOL. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and farmers are proud to sell livestock born and raised in America. Read the full article…

November 26th, 2013

Since When Is the EPA Beholden to Big Ag?

The EPA Has the Authority to Track and Regulate Factory Farms. So Why Do We Have to Remind Them?

By Sarah Borron

Earlier this year, F&WW released a report detailing how poorly the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tracks and regulates concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). In fact, the situation is so bad that Food & Water Watch is suing EPA to force them to count CAFOs accurately and share that list with the public, just as it does for other polluting industries. In our review of hundreds of internal EPA documents, we found another story to tell.

Why is EPA explaining itself to the livestock industry…

When EPA backed down from an attempt to track CAFOs in the summer of 2012 (by abandoning the “CAFO Reporting Rule” it was writing), environmental advocates wanted to get to the bottom of it. Three environmental organizations filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests asking for all the documents relating to the proposed and withdrawn regulation. The hundreds of documents EPA gave in reply included lists of CAFO names, locations, and other basic information provided to the agency by state governments in lieu of a comprehensive CAFO Reporting Rule. Such information was largely already public and represented a portion of what needed to be collected had EPA finalized the rule.

Yet, EPA made a point to give the livestock industry a special heads up about releasing this basic information under FOIA.

An e-mail EPA sent to several livestock industry organizations notifying them about something that should have been routine: that information that was already largely in the public domain was released as part of a FOIA request as required by law. The Senior Policy Advisor explained, “I have been reaching out to you and your colleagues as soon as I became aware of this situation…” She offered to (and later did) set up special meetings and conference calls and provided copies of the FOIA records to the livestock groups, and EPA staff even provided hand-delivered CDs when links to records didn’t work. Read the full article…

November 18th, 2013

O’Malley’s Broken Promises for a Dying Bay

 

Photo CC-BY © Office of the Maryland Governor/Flickr.com

By Wenonah Hauter

Three years ago Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley drafted an email to Jim Perdue, head of the giant Eastern Shore chicken integrator, assuring him that he would never hold the chicken industry liable for its pollution of the Bay, despite the fact that agriculture – and the chicken industry – continues to be the most significant source of pollution in this dying waterway. Then, just last month, the O’Malley administration struck a deal with the environmental community on a critical chicken manure application tool, known as the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) in which he promised that, in lieu of an emergency enactment of the PMT in time for the 2014 planting season, the new tool would be phased in over time, with full implementation achieved by January 2015.

Then, late last Friday, the Maryland state department of agriculture announced it was withdrawing the PMT regulations.

In the face of ag industry fist pounding, O’Malley once again showed his true colors, he’s got Perdue’s back, not ours.  Read the full article…

November 14th, 2013

This Year, Have a Big-Poultry-Free Holiday Season

By Wenonah Hauter

This post originally appeared at Otherwords.org.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch

Chicken and turkey are among the most popular and versatile foods Americans eat, but they also bring health risks to your plate.

Most factory-farmed poultry is raised with antibiotics — which leads to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Now, the USDA wants to cut the budget for poultry inspections and allow big chicken companies to police themselves. The agency also moved recently to approve imports of processed chicken from China — a country that has had major food safety debacles.

This holiday season, will the poultry you sit down to enjoy be industrially produced, processed half a world away, and full of chemicals, antibiotics, and worse?

Since there are no guarantees, you may want to avoid buying poultry produced by the companies that dominate the industry. There are big reasons to avoid their chicken and turkey.

JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson Foods, Perdue, and Sanderson slaughter and process more than half of the chicken consumed in the United States, while Butterball, Jennie-O Turkey Store, and Cargill dominate the turkey business. Their outsized operations give them significant market and lobbying power. These companies act as middlemen between farmers and consumers, and they eat up most of the profit in the supply chain.

Before you purchase the holiday turkey you’ll share with your loved ones in a few weeks, consider these four facts:

  1. Because there are just a handful of players in the poultry market, a handful of companies call the shots — and reap large profits. For every $19 twelve-piece chicken bucket from KFC, only 25 cents goes to the farmer that raised the poultry, while less than $5 goes to the chicken processor. (KFC gets the rest.)
  2. These large companies use unfair contracts, require expensive equipment and building upgrades, and employ other aggressive tactics to squeeze poultry farmers to produce more and more chickens and turkeys for less and less money.
  3. The big chicken and turkey companies own everything from the chicks and poults to the feed, the trucks, the slaughter facilities, and the brand. The grower assumes all the debt associated with the operation, including the mortgages on the special buildings they have to construct to get a contract. The farmer also shoulders the expenses of utilities and of removing waste and dead birds.
  4. Concentrating poultry production means concentrating the amount of waste seeping off of factory farms into nearby waterways (like the Chesapeake Bay). Perdue and other big companies leave the farmers to shoulder all the responsibility for dealing with the waste.

Do you need more reasons to avoid poultry produced by these giant companies? Consider that their market power begets enormous political power — and these companies throw their weight around to make sure they can continue producing the most birds for the most profit. Plus, factory farming hurts poultry producers, consumers, and the environment.

Nothing showcases the power Big Ag holds over our political leaders more than emails we at Food & Water Watch revealed last year between Martin O’Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland and poultry giant Perdue.

These exchanges illustrated how Perdue’s profits from chicken sold in California and Michigan are being used to exert inappropriate power over Maryland’s governor through intense lobbying efforts on everything from poultry litter incineration to the environmental cases that a university law clinic engages in.

If you buy your chicken or turkey from the grocery store, chances are that you are buying a brand owned by one of the largest companies. Consider seeking out independent poultry farmers who sell direct to consumers instead.

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