Friday, March 7


Fermenting takes the allergy out of soy, says a new study. Despite my moniker I've never been an advocate of eating soy the way most people eat meat, but this could make a difference to a lot of vegetarians who have had to completely do without.

"When we fermented soy seeds, flour, or meal by introducing certain microorganisms, inmmunoreactivity was significantly reduced - by as much as 99 per cent. This shows that we have the potential of developing nutritious, hypoallergenic soy products," said researcher Elvira de Mejia from the University of Illinois.


It's a pity the national media has the attention span of a 2-year-old, because there are some noteworthy - and entertaining - things going on in the aftermath of the downer recall.

Just a couple highlights for now: In the words of the Cattle Network site: USDA To Hallmark: We Want Our Plaque Back. Yes, the USDA has officially rescinded Hallmark/Westland's "Supplier of the Year" award from 2005 - and to show how serious this is, they want the meatpackers to return the plaque itself. No, seriously.

But to show there's no hard feelings between the agency and the industry it, *cough* "regulates," the USDA stonewalls before congress on lifesaving information that might upset Big Meat. As the WSJ succinctly put it, USDA Won't Disclose Who Sold Recalled Beef. "Agriculture Department officials, under fire on Capitol Hill over the largest meat recall in U.S. history, told legislators that they can't disclose a list of 10,000 establishments -- from food distributors and processors to grocery stores and restaurants -- that sold the recalled meat. But a rule change, in the works for the past two years, would allow the disclosure..." wait for it... "if it hadn't been held up by bureaucratic delays." Damn those bureaucratic delays! They're probably the same ones that stopped the USDA from being able to carry out the kind of undercover investigation the HSUS was able to that exposed this flagrant lapse in food safety!

Wednesday, March 5


Mark Fiore delivers another "helpful" explanation in animated form, with so many excellent screen grabs I couldn't settle on one.

The sad thing is, though, while his treatment of the issues is certainly cartoonish, most viewers will probably think he's exaggerating for humor, when everything he's saying is literally true - it's really kind of soft-pedaling the actual horror that's being referenced. Still, a worthy primer for those who won't look at the actual video.

Tuesday, March 4


I keep trying to get across the point that the immorality of exploiting animals for meat is inseparable from associated moral concerns: The abysmal treatment of slaughterhouse workers, the over-the-top torture of the animals, the threats to consumers' health both from direct illnesses and long-term liabilities. Add to that list the school-lunch administrators meat producers depend on to prop up their business: In the recent recall, they were screwed over royally by the USDA. Due to the whole everything-we-do-is-proprietary-shhhhh-trade-secrets routine the meat industry is allowed to purvey, schools couldn't get key life-saving information about whether or not the meat they had came from the downer-slaughtering plant, even as parents were demanding answers. Additionally, the mechanics of the recall mean huge capital expenditures for schools with no details on how they're going to be reimbursed for what they're spending to comply and dispose of all the bad meat.
UPDATE: I forgot to include, in that list, surrounding communities (not to mention far-flung communities) who have their health threatened in a very immediate way by the huge amount of fecal waste generated by meat producers.


OC Register: Steven Mendell of Corona del Mar will be summoned to Washington to testify about beef recall.

If, as planned, the committee authorizes the subpoena, Mendell will be compelled to testify on Wednesday, March 12, at a hearing titled "Regulatory failure: must Americans live with unsafe food?" Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who chairs the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said in the panel's announcement that it "will not tolerate stonewalling."

Monday, March 3


Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of cutthroats: The continued fallout from the Humane Society video, combined with the ongoing incompetence and corruption of meat processors and their supposed overseers, is adding up to significant turbulence for the industry that has for so long been untouchable.

One blow is this Wall Street Journal article, School Lunch at Risk for Years, which looks at USDA audits from the past 5 years showing problems with unsafe meat being delivered to schoolchildren, "suggesting more widespread problems than those that triggered the biggest food recall in U.S. history." Got that? More widespread problems than those in the Chino plant. Or, here, the WSJ will spell it out more clearly for you: "The reports appear to contradict USDA and meat-industry assertions that violations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. plant in Chino, Calif., which voluntarily recalled 143 million pounds of ground meat Feb. 17, were an 'isolated incident,' as officials said at the time." Read the whole thing for some idea of how pervasive and prevalent this problem has been, of meat producers all over figuring they can game the system and pass of anything they want as edible meat.

Additionally, there's a ripple effect on milk producers who had relied on the lax standards of Hallmark/Westland to pass off the most thoroughly exploited cows imaginable.

    With the slaughterhouse now closed and under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearby dairies are losing the income collected from selling the cows and instead must pay to have them euthanized.

    Diminished competition and long hauling distances have resulted in slaughterhouses paying about 18 percent less than Hallmark had been willing to pay, Bolcao said. That amounts to a loss of about $84 per head.

    Sybrand Vander Dussen, a dairyman and president of the Chino Basin Milk Producers Council, said the change came at a time when many dairies are struggling to stay profitable in the face of increasing feed costs.
So the dairy industry doesn't look like a good one to go into right now unless you're looking for a good way to lose some money. On the other hand, all careers in cattle are looking pretty bleak, according to one industry analyst on the Cattle Network site:

Barry Dunn, Texas A&M Kingsville, put it this way: "The industry is about to face a confluence of economic conditions and policies that, taken separately, would be sobering. The fact that they will happen simultaneously over a very short period of time is almost numbing."

In other words, hard times comin' to your town, cattlemen - more specifically, in the words of the title, The Winds of Change. The rest of the piece tries to turn the crisis into positive suggestions for blunting the impact, but these sound like things anyone who's in the business should already have thought of. Then again, one missing piece of advice is to keep screwing up and relying on your cronies in the USDA to cover for you, so I guess this represents progress.

UPDATE 3/4: USDA Long-Term Projections for Beef, Pork & Poultry Consumption: Per capita beef consumption declines through the projection period AND: Bovine tuberculosis outbreak in Minnesota has "everyone really nervous right now." AND: Livestock Risk Management Workshop scheduled for April 14 in Vernon, Texas

UPDATE 3/4: Dropping milk prices could spell disaster, farmer says

Sunday, March 2


Beet Juice Lowers Blood Pressure says a new study by British researchers reported in the journal Hypertension. So if you like beets, great, another win for fruits and vegetables. But keep 'em away from me. I don't like beets, daddy!


That's the sensationalist headline the Kansas City Star puts on this story from the Chicago Tribune, detailing how diary cattle that are in "rough shape" from being intensively milked for years, wind up in 17% of the beef our country produces - something implicit in the Humane Society video that they're just now reporting out.

Yes, Virginia, milk is a murderous industry. It's a fact of which vegans have long been well aware, but one that vegetarians try to avoid thinking about and about which the general public has so far been clueless. Granted, the Chino story is no longer front-page for most of the public, but the fact that major newspapers are devoting ink to this is welcome. And if the specter of depleted cows being treated like garbage isn't enough, the story also mentions the prevalance of Johne's disease in dairy cattle being slaughtered and its possible connection to Crohn's disease in meat-eating humans. Again, the unethical treatment of the animals and potential health liabilities for those eating them are two sides of the same coin.

Unfortunately, after a solid start, the piece backs off into standard mainstream claptrap, "balancing" the stark facts with blather from warm-&-fuzzy dairy farmers about how those facts simply don't, apparently, exist, with laugh-out-loud statements like this: "You don't get into a business like this unless you care about animals." Oh really? Can we get Steve Mendell to back that up? By the way, where is he these days?