September 23, 2008

Where's the Beef, Updated!

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was kind enough to run an op-ed I penned on the safety of beef sold in the United States entitled “Where’s the Beef?

Figured I’d share some of the sources I used in developing it. First, though, is a correction to the next to last paragraph in the op-ed.

"I'm not holding my breath, though. In the past few months alone, federal regulators have proposed a rule that would effectively bar small family farms from providing their pastured or grass-fed beef to the school lunch program, as well as a second rule seemingly intent on pushing out of business the state-licensed, small-scale meat processors who service small, family farms."

Actually, the first proposed rule should have read “introduced legislation,” because it refers to a provision in appropriations legislation that covers the USDA introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), which I believe is, at the moment, going nowhere. The provision is this:

Beginning with the 2010 school year (that starts in July 2009), the bill includes language that requires USDA to purchase for the School Lunch Program meat products that are derived from livestock premises registered with National Animal Identification System.

Because AMS is a major purchaser of meat products through the School Lunch Program, this proposal would generate significant market-based incentives to strengthen the department’s voluntary animal ID system and support livestock producers and other premises that signup for USDA’s system.

I wrote about this potential travesty in July.

As for the second proposed rule, Elanor at the Ethicurean recently reported the lurid details.

Other sources that came in handy in developing the article:

Whole Foods recall - the Marler Blog.

Factory farms - in addition to books like Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, PBS’s Frontline did an excellent series called “Industrial Meat.”

More on factory farms (including the burden they place on tax payers) - a recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, CAFOs Uncovered.

As for the related news...

First, a new study out of Johns Hopkins that demonstrates how the media has effectively ignored the global warming impact of our global food system, including all of that methane from the cows on those factory farms.

Ironically, for space purposes, I cut this line from an early draft of my op-ed:

Funny, though, that even the most ardent proponents of taking actions to limit the emission of greenhouse gases choose to ignore this inconvenient truth.

And finally, and not surprising in the least, is that a new law that was supposed to let consumers know the country of origin of the beef they are buying has a massive loophole in it that benefits the, you guessed it, big-a#% meat packers.

Shocking, I know.

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