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Big Ag Poisons in the News

Big Ag Poisons in the News

There’s been a lot of noise on the foodie twitter/blogosphere about the EPA’s reluctance to ban Atrazine. As someone who grew up in the midwest, and who has relatives who grow corn and soybeans, let me tell you, that stuff is everywhere. I’ve also long wondered whether the sharp increase in agricultural chemicals was in some way responsible for the cancer cluster in which I grew up (the Zion Nuclear Power Plant didn’t help either). But we all got our water out of Lake Michigan, and all those chemicals were running into the lake. Here’s a piece from the Atlantic about the issue: Birth Defects With Your Corn? – The Atlantic Food Channel

Maryn McKenna actually went to our family farm and interviewed my grandmother, who was put in isolation for months after surgery because she was an asymptomatic carrier of the MRSA infection. Maryn’s book, Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSAcomes out in March, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it (and not just because she wrote a nice portrait of my beloved grandmother and my favorite aunt). CBS has been doing a series on the same issue this week, including the encouraging news that when the Danes stopped feeding prophylactic antiobiotics to pigs, they saw antibiotic resistance in humans go down, and their pork industry saw an increase in business. Civil Eats has the roundup.

Again, all signs keep pointing to the long-term unsustainablity of industrial farming. Or as farmer Carole Sayle asks in the Atlantic: Can Small Farms Feed the World?

Farming news …

Farming news …

In farming news, I was heartened by this editorial by Tom Vlisak, Secretary of Agriculture about his plans for revitalizing rural America. There’s still more in there for Big Ag than I really like, especially the biofuels stuff (we still haven’t figured out a way to make a biofuel that doesn’t require more fuel to grow, harvest, ship and process than it generates), but this point cheered me up:

Third, link local farm production to local consumption. Investments in local processing and storage facilities will allow for large scale consumers (e.g. schools, hospitals, small colleges) in rural communities to buy locally produced goods from smaller scale operations. These new and niche markets will leverage the wealth generated from the land, create jobs and repopulate rural communities.

Michael Pollan’s twitter feed (I’m still trying to get a handle on twitter — it’s a great time-waster, and I’ve found links to interesting things, but I think there’s something I’m still not getting). Anyhow, via Michael Pollan’s twitter feed, I found this link to an interview with Joel Salatin in the Guardian UK. Although he talks about a lot of really interesting topics in the profile, including the incursion of superbugs into our food supply, the problem of antibiotic overuse, land use models (which I wonder how well they’d translate to someplace like this where it doesn’t rain much), as well as speaking with real self-awareness about how he and his wife have handled his public career, I thought I’d pull this quote for those few people who have occasionally taken issue with my stance on eating meat:

The first thing I ask Salatin when we sit down in his living room is whether he’s ever considered becoming a vegetarian. It’s not what I had planned to say, but we’ve been in the hoop houses with the nicely treated hens, all happily pecking and glossy-feathered, and I’ve held one in my arms. Suddenly it makes little sense that this animal, whose welfare has been of such great concern, will be killed in a matter of days. Naive, I know, and Salatin seems surprised. “Never crossed my mind,” he says. The problem that’s leading the “animals-are-people movement”, as he refers to it, is two-fold, in his view. First: “The industrial food system is so cruel and so horrific in its treatment of animals. It never asks the question: ‘Should a pig be allowed to express its pig-ness?’ And the second thing of course is the urbanisation of the world, to the point where people are not now connected to their ecological umbilical, so that the only connection anyone has to an animal is a pet cat or a pet dog. And that really gives you a very jaundiced view of cycles of life – death, regeneration.”

Half a cow and ten chickens

Half a cow and ten chickens

Here’s an interesting article about buying meat in bulk, including practical tips for those of you who might be interested but don’t know where to start.

The Seminal » Food Sunday: I’ll take half a cow and ten chickens please.

We’re lucky here in Montana — not only is it pretty easy to find a rancher who will sell you part of an animal, we’re one of the few states that still has small local slaughterhouses. Big Ag has managed to kill them in most other states — I have a friend in Colorado who would raise cattle for her family, except that she has to send them to Kansas to be slaughtered, and they have to go to a big feedlot. Here we’ve got some great local slaughter and butcher operations, in part because of out-of-state big game hunters who need their meat cut and packed. We bought a pig in August, and have half a lamb coming sometime this week. We’ve also got elk from one of Chucks’ friends, and another friend of his gave us several big roasts cut from their own cattle. You need a freezer, but if there’s one foodie thing I can absolutely recommend, it’s buying meat from a source you know. You keep an animal out of the industrial food system, you get nice clean delicious meat and generally save some money over what buying organic meat costs you in the grocery store.