The USDA is moving forward with its efforts to revamp the animal identification policy after the public comment period for the National Animal Identification Service (NAIS) revealed that the majority of respondents were highly critical of the program. Only a fraction of the producers in the United States were willing to participate in NAIS. The USDA announced on February 5, 2010 it was going to revise efforts to track animal disease using input from producers, individual state agricultural policymakers, experts and Tribal Nations.
The USDA has now committed to forming a new animal disease traceability framework in partnership with the states and Tribal Nations. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has expressed hope that the new framework will allow producers, the states and the Tribal Nations to use their expertise to draft a traceability program that works best for them. The new framework will only apply to animals shipped interstate and will only focus on animal disease traceability.
The Gothberg family raise Animal Welfare Approved LaMancha goats and make chevre, feta, gouda, and cheddar cheese on Gothberg Farms in Bow, Washington. Gothberg Farms is now a 40-acre flat farmland, but when the Gothbergs were just starting out the farm was much smaller, only renting a small portion of land from their next door neighbor. In 2001, however, the Gothbergs became stewards of the property, and in 2002, they got their first goats, and have been making cheese ever since.
A couple of opinion pieces that appeared within days of each other have recently caught my eye. First was “Grass-fed beef packs a punch to environment” by Dr. Gidon Eshel on the Reuters Blog, swiftly followed by “The myth of green beef,” in the Atlantic Blog, by Helene York. Both pieces swim rather vigorously against the scientific tide on the issue of the environmental impact of beef and grassfed cattle systems in particular.
The issue of environmental impact and meat production is a complicated one and open to misinterpretation and confusion. With my obvious interest in grassfed and pasture-raised production I am always looking to see what new evidence is being presented. After reading both pieces, however, I was left feeling rather disappointed. These articles are interesting, but they are interesting for all the wrong reasons. While they appear to put forward a strong argument, with independent studies mentioned, if not always actually referenced, they actually expose the problems of scientific reductionism and a general lack of academic rigor.
Joe, Judy and Joey Sparks raise Animal Welfare Approved beef cattle on Sparks Family Farm in Stuart, VA. Having grown up on a farm, Joe could never imagine a better or more fulfilling occupation. In 1995, he was able to realize his dream of farming again when the family purchased 300 acres in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, now known as Triple J Ranch (named after Joe, Judy, and Joey) and Sparks Family Farm.
The Plant family raises Animal Welfare Approved cattle on Scott River Ranch in Etna, California. For owners Gareth and Millie, farming has been a life-long commitment. Millie, a daughter of fourth-generation California farmers, swore she would never get into the business, until she met Gareth, who persuaded her back into the farming lifestyle. “Family is one of the main reasons we chose to live on a ranch,” say the Plants. The Plants have five children, and live next door to Millie’s parents and across the street from Gareth’s mother; a true family operation indeed.
Susan and Chic Whiting raise Animal Welfare Approved beef cattle on Spotted Dog Family Farm in Brandon, VT. The farm is bordered by Otter Creek and situated in a hollow, surrounded by open pasture and rocky plateaus. When Susan and Chic purchased the farm in 2001, the land was quite fallow. They implemented a no-till policy and raised a medium sized herd of Irish Dexters to help repair and restore the health of their soils. The cows are rotated frequently throughout the fields and enjoy a varied diet of legumes, as well as typical Vermont grasses like fescue, blue grass and Timothy). Their diet is also supplemented by about 350 round bales of hay that the Whitings produce each year, to ensure their herd has a nutritious diet outside of the growing season. Recently, Susan and Chic have been working to ‘exceptionally socialize’ some of their cows, a process by which cows are exposed to an increased level of human interaction so that they may be purchased by a family for the family’s own personal use.
“The truth will out” – no matter how hard you try to discredit or disregard it. That’s certainly what the industrial meat lobby is finding when it comes to the human health implications of the overuse of antibiotics in intensive livestock farming. For while they desperately fight a rearguard action to counter growing public concerns over intensive livestock production, yet another independent scientific study has proved that resistance to antibiotics is on the increase in intestinal bacteria in animals as a direct result of antibiotic treatments.
In her doctoral research at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Anne-Mette R. Grønvold looked at the impact of antibiotic treatments on bacteria in the intestines of animals. Grønvold found that resistance to antibiotics is on the increase in intestinal bacteria in animals as a direct result of antibiotic treatments. She found that antibiotic resistance can spread between ordinary intestinal bacteria and disease-producing bacteria, and between bacteria from animals and bacteria from humans.
Joel & Carleen Weirauch raise their small flock of dairy sheep on 50+ acres of Certified Organic pastures in Petaluma, California for the farmstead production of a raw, aged sheep cheese and a sheep milk soap. Sustainable farming practices includes: rotational pasture management, green building, wash water re-use for irrigation, and solar.
The future of high-welfare, environmentally and financially sustainable livestock farming is brighter than industrialized agriculture would have us believe, says a panel of experts convening on May 4, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in Washington, DC for a public discussion, “Green Pastures, Bright Future: Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting it Back on the Farm.” The panel discussion is presented by Animal Welfare Approved in cooperation with the Pew Environment Group.
Participating on the panel are investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory David Kirby; author of the best-selling Righteous Porkchop Nicolette Hahn Niman; chicken farmer and whistle-blower in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” Carole Morison; and rancher, veterinarian and president of the American Grassfed Association, Dr. Patricia Whisnant. The discussion will be moderated by Andrew Gunther, program director for Animal Welfare Approved.
P.T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and if he were alive today, he would probably be cozily ensconced in the corner office of a large agricultural company–particularly one that makes its profits selling industrialized animal farming to the public. Award-winning journalist David Kirby’s gripping new book, Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment (St. Martin’s Press), exposes industrialized agriculture for the cruel, polluting, disease transmitting, manure-soaked con game that it is. Think that’s too harsh? By the end, one of the everyday heroes that makes the book such a compelling read, hardy ex-Marine Rick Dove, ends up with a severe case of antibiotic resistant E. coli after a tumble in a creek flooded with chicken manure from a nearby industrial chicken operation. The infection nearly kills him.
Rick Dove is just one of the ordinary citizens-turned-activists that Kirby follows in Animal Factory, and he wisely lets the power of their stories drive the narrative. For Rick Dove of New Bern, North Carolina, Helen Reddout of Yakima Valley, Washington and Karen Hudson of Elmwood, Illinois, farming originally meant what we’ve all been taught to believe—happy animals standing in lush grasses with a welcoming red barn in the background. It’s not until Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, known as CAFOs, move nearby, complete with stench and large manure spills, that they begin to realize what today’s industrialized agriculture really represents. Polluted fields and waterways, cruelly confined and mistreated animals, dreadful working conditions, fish kills, stink, illness.