Archive for March, 2010

Nutrient Imbalance-The Meat of the Problem

March 31, 2010

When the EPA distributed the attached EPA load map for the Chesapeake Bay last Fall, it was apparent that there were two distinct areas of excess nutrient both nitrogen and phosphorous. One was what I would call the chicken corridor which extends from Lancaster PA to the tip of Delmarva where both nitrogen and phosphorous are shown on the chart in deep red and the other is the large area of Pennsylvania which appeared to be centered in a remote area at the headwaters of Penn’s Creek and which extends SW and NE up into the State of NY.

USGS does regular monitoring of the Delmarva Peninsula. Their studies show that 94% of Delmarva nitrogen pollution comes from chicken production, 59% from grain feed production, and 35% from CAFO chicken house manure. While the chicken corridor extends down the Eastern edge of the watershed it does broaden out to the West and includes part of the urban areas of Washington and Baltimore. This corridor continues down the East coast and includes the chicken and hog CAFO’s in all Coastal plain areas down to the Gulf of Mexico. The Pamlico Sound in NC is as polluted as Chesapeake Bay. Georgia and Alabama each produce double the number of chickens as Delmarva. These sparsely populated areas get little attention compared to the Chesapeake.

While the writer understood East Coast pollution the area of rural Pennsylvania was unfamiliar so I asked a friend of mine who lives in the area and has done extensive study to explain. His report is as follows:

“The poultry and hog industries are structured very much the same way (as Delmarva) where:The integrators own the animals and farmers own the risk, and at least some of the benefit, or else they wouldn’t do it.  Another party involved, however, are the lenders who loan money to the farmer to build the facilities based on the confidence they have in the cash flow from the contract.  Oddly enough — no big surprise really — the integrators often deem the facilities to be out-of-date and in need of repair/replacement, just as the mortgage runs out and the farmer actually owns the building outright . . . then he takes out another mortgage as a condition of renewing a contract (but you also see a lot of these outdated facilities sitting empty around the countryside).  The major integrator in this area is the Clemens Family Corporation, DBA Hatfield Quality Meats and Country View Family Farms.

The dairy industry is very different.  The “integrators” don’t actually own the animals . . . they don’t need to, because we don’t actually eat the animals except as a final byproduct. They own the milk, however, in the sense that many farms have limited options as to where they can ship their milk, a highly perishable product (reduces farmers’ market power).  There are production contracts being used, but every farmer is more or less beholden to the co-op that picks up their milk, and prices are often set in very complicated ways that farmers don’t totally understand. It’s the dairy industry that creates the demand for corn/alfalfa stripfarming that occurs, and most of that corn is processed for silage while still green. In contrast, not all but much of the grain used for poultry and hogs is shipped to the area from the Midwest, creating the basic imbalance that has disturbed the Chesapeake Watershed so greatly.  To keep things in balance, we should be shipping the manure back to the geographical areas where the grain (including especially soybeans too) were produced.  Instead, we ruin our watersheds with the excess manure, and farmers in the Midwest ruin theirs with the excess synthetic fertilizer needed to keep that grain growing (because they don’t have enough manure to maintain fertility). One option the EPA has is to simply say that nutrients shipped into the area must not exceed nutrients shipped out,. It’s an elegant, but very controversial idea . . . would likely end conventional agriculture in the Mid-Atlantic as we now know it”.

The late Lester Lanyon a soils scientist at Penn State University extensively studied nutrient imbalance both between individual farms and on a regional basis. A summary of his research can be found by clicking the above link to the Bay Journal archives.

So the big picture is that we have major geographic areas of nutrient imbalance as between the Midwest and rural Pennsylvania and we also have local imbalance as between the nutrient hot spots of each CAFO and close-by corn fields where too much manure is used and the majority of corn fields that use only chemical fertilizer. When animals were produced close to feed production the individual farmer tended to this important balance. Now there is no attention being given to the key issue of nutrient balance. Just another victim of the industrial revolution in food production. Based on this analysis it is fair to say that the Chesapeake Bay is polluted by meat and dairy production. Other posts and our references suggest that while these products are cheap  the quality and humane treatment has also been compromised by the  industrial CAFO production process.

Understanding nutrient imbalance is important but to understand the complete picture the cause of massive erosion must also be understood. We will be issuing several posts on that subject in the near future. Shipping the manure to the areas of grain production presents other issues because much of the manure has a phosphorus imbalance  and is laced with feed additives, antibiotics, arsenic and growth hormones which can contaminate drinking water. There may be other solutions but mandatory treatment of CAFO manure to produce clean organic fertilizer and energy, shipping that fertilizer to  fields that are organic deficient, plus most important, stop grain subsidies. These actions will undoubtedly increase the price of these products thus reducing consumption and increasing National Health (see reference #16). My opinion! Other considered opinions are invited.     Don Kerstetter

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES-PART 2

March 24, 2010

The Pew Commission Ref #1 stated that CAFO food products were not cheap except to the consumer because of government subsidies, and the cost to our natural resources such as our soil and estuaries like Chesapeake Bay. So it is interesting to compare the cost to the consumer. Yesterday I went to Walmarts to compare C&J prices.

Walmarts price for chuck roast was 4.78/lb versus 4.25 for C&J

Walmarts price for Delmonico steak was 9.54/lb versus 8.00 for C&J

Walmarts price for Angus beef patties was 3.50/lb versus 4.50 for C&J

Walmarts price for bulk lean ground beef was 3.78/lb versus 4.25 for C&J

Walmarts price for Egglands best organic eggs was 4.08 versus C&J 4.00/doz. note Walmart had large eggs for 1.50/doz.. These eggs are produced by hens who  live? in a small cage and are fed antibiotics, arsenic growth enhancer, and who knows what else. This system of egg production was condemned by the Pew Commission as being one of the worst examples of mans inhumanity to animals. This system of egg production is now banned in California and other States. Anyone who eats these eggs with knowledge of how they are grown should be jailed as an animal abuser.

Considering that the beef has 7 times less saturated fat, is high in CLA and omega 3 and is grown in a way that builds topsoil, and is nutrient neutral, what a value! The only downside is finding these farmers. The eat wild website can be helpful in this regard. Just go to the related links on our website.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES

March 24, 2010

Three years ago when I first met Carlton Jones (of Carlton&Jody), a 100% grass fed Angus Cattle Farmer near Seaford Delaware, he told me several interesting things. He said that he changed from a corn and chicken CAFO farmer to a grass fed cattle and pastured chicken farmer because he was now producing healthy food and more importantly a much improved legacy to leave his son and young grandson. He also said, with that Carlton twinkle in his eye, that he had a formal education in these matters having graduated from BYU. He quickly added “Barn Yard University”. Carlton then in his early seventies also said there were contributing factors: he was having a difficult time going into the ammonia feces atmosphere of his CAFO chicken house causing him respiratory illness. He also had a concern about feed additives including antibiotics. But his major concern:

Was it possible for his 100 head of Angus cattle plus pastured chicken and eggs to generate sufficient return for his son and grandson to continue his legacy? Over the last few years we have visited the Carlton’s to pick up eggs, hamburger, beef cuts and chickens if available. I believe we have become friends.

This winter I thought not so much of Carlton but of the cattle. You see Carlton has this theory I am sure learned at his University, that cattle, particularly those with roots in Eastern Colorado, belong outside and are healthier outside with the winter protection of wind breaking hay bales only. He claims that this concept produces less snotty noses an indicator of poor health in cattle. And so I said to myself while freezing in sunny Florida what has happen to Carlton and his cattle under Al Gore’s global warming when blizzard conditions dominated Delmarva.

Not to worry. Both Carlton and the cattle survived but not after some weight loss, the cattle not Carlton, and the extensive use of diesel fuel used to plough the roads but more importantly to create snow wind breaks and to assure that the cattle had plenty of grass feed and access to water.

But what about the real issue here? Will Carlton’s son and grandson be able to carry on?

The jury is still out. You can help by demanding only 100% grass fed meat products for your meals and more importantly for the many reasons cited here avoid CAFO produced products. You will not only help Carlton and Jody but you will rescue our soil, our water and our air assets.

As we were about to leave with Anne worried that we were taking up too much of Carlton’s time, he said come on down here I want to show you something. I followed Carlton down the Lane to a mud hole created by equipment wheels. He said proudly look at the worms in our soil. More on the significance of worms in soil and the cost of grassfed products in upcoming posts.

Antibiotics in Food Animals-Update

March 23, 2010

The Pew Commission, FDA, CDC, the AMA, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Concerned Scientists and more than 300 other organizations consider this ban as extremely important to National Health. The Delmarva Poultry Association, The American Farm Bureau, pharmaceutical companies, and the rest of the powerful Agribusiness Lobby do not. The first skirmish, not even reaching battle status, was at a hearing of the House Appropriations Agricultural  Subcommittee meeting on March 10. with FDA Secretary Hamburgs testimony.

Rep. Tom Latham (R, IA) pressed Hamburg about the FDA’s position on use of antibiotics in animals.  Hogs outnumber humans six to one in Latham’s district, which is also home to one of the nation’s largest animal antibiotic manufacturers, Fort Dodge Laboratories.  Latham referred to a July 24, 2009 New York Times editorial and asked:

“Is it the FDA’s intention to entirely ban antibiotics in livestock?”

Hamburg responded that the FDA had no intention of an outright ban on antibiotic use for treatment or prevention of disease in animals, but she questioned the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter in animal feed.  Hamburg noted that antibiotic resistance was a “one of the foremost health concerns in the nation,” and that action was needed to preserve the effectiveness of major antibiotics for humans and animals. Although antibiotics have been shown to enhance growth the primary reason for their usage is to keep the animals alive in the perfect pathogen atmosphere described  by  Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. These facilities are also polluting the atmosphere, contaminating aquifers with nitrate and creating phosphorous runoff see our reference # 44. The Industry should focus its time redesigning these facilities to produce clean food. We the public should stop eating this food until they do.

Thanks to The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for this update.

WATERKEEPERS STEP UP

March 18, 2010

Recent actions by the Waterkeepers Alliance gives hope to some of us who have come to believe that we the people do not have the political will to face up to the Bay’s large polluters. The EPA’s recently published nutrient load charts for Chesapeake Bay not only shows the location of polluters but who they are. We will have more on this in a future post. The Choptank River Eastern Bay Conservancy (waterkeepers) Spring news letter makes some important points.

Drew Koslow, the Choptank waterkeeper, said “sometimes gentle urging and courteous dialog is not enough. When more is required ,as here, we want our rivers to have a voice that will not shrink from controversy”.

Tim Junkin’s article on politicians and watermelons is right on. I am a registered Republican and I am embarrassed by recent statements by all of our Eastern Shore Delegation. Both major parties have been essentially absent from meaningful actions that would help the Bay. The most recent is the O’Malley administrations cave in to chicken CAFO polluters after starting a permitting process. Perhaps Industrial chicken production is  the largest pollution source overall in the Bay Watershed particularly if one considers the Chicken CAFO’s demand for corn. Is there a compromise that can be negotiated with Big chicken? Certainly not with bumper stickers, rhetoric, righteous  speeches, off target lawsuits all of which have failed.

Keep up the good work Waterkeepers. Lets all support them by giving our environmental donations to a potential winner not a decades long demonstrated loser in the fight to save the Bay.

I challenge the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Republican Eastern Shore Delegation to respond I would send them an e-mail but they have conveniently changed their addresses.

Healthy Recipes That Save our Natural Resources

March 18, 2010

The following recipes were selected to maximize health while considering the Nations water quality and topsoil loss disasters. The emphasis is on the Mediterranean diet, which minimizes meat, uses olive oil, avoids corn-based products and maximizes fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Another resource is Anne Whites well Illustrated Book.

Note: These recipe sites contain interesting comments from people who have tried the recipe. In most cases we have not yet tried the recipe and depend on the opinion of others who have. Ultimately we will depend on you the readers for your taste assessment and comments.

Chicken recipe using tomatoes and olive oil

Industrial chicken production is destroying topsoil and water quality in all East Coast estuaries. Please use pasture raised. The site may be helpful in identifying farmers.

Black Bean Soup

Legumes get most of their nitrogen from the atmosphere and are efficient in nitrogen use.

A change in Thinking About Shellfish

Shellfish have no adverse environmental effect. They are increasingly victims of our corn based food production system.

Fiery Beef and Noodle Salad

Pasture raised beef is high in omega 3 and CLA. Their production method builds topsoil and can be nutrient neutral on water quality. CAFO raised beef is the opposite in all these criteria plus the negative effects of feed additives and E.coli.

Petite Shanghai Cabbage w/hoisin sauce

Cabbage is particularly vulnerable to pesticide in chemical sprays. Ask site for names of organic farmers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Healthy French Fries & Seared Brussels Sprouts

Beet green Tangerine Salad

Greens are particular vulnerable to pesticide in chemical sprays. Use organic if possible.

Grilled Salmon

note: Wild Alaskan salmon is excellent food but most Atlantic Salmon found in supermarkets is raised in unsanitary conditions in pens in Maine, fed corn. and thought to be the cause of diseases in wild fish.

Large Chesapeake Bay Polluter Sued. Finally!

March 10, 2010

Tom Hall who writes for the Daily Press and other Sun affiliated papers writes:

Is this correct? No other environmental group, like the long standing Chesapeake Bay Foundation, or state agencies, Maryland Department of Natural Resources or the attorney general have ever taken on these giant polluters like Tyson or Perdue? See the full article on the Waterkeepers suit against Perdue by clicking this link.

http://www.dailypress.com/topic/bal-bayletter0304,0,6661453.story?track=rss-topicgallery

THE ULTIMATE HYPOCRISY

March 6, 2010

If you had to name one person who is most responsible for corn and ethanol subsidies which fuel our obesity and E.coli epidemics it would be Senator Harkin of Iowa as former chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee. To hear the Senator, who now chairs the Senate Health and Education Committee, conduct a hearing on childhood obesity on March 5th has to be the ultimate hypocrisy. A quote from the Wall Street Journal our reference #17. “ Call the 19% of kids who are obese the children of corn”.

#17http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203609204574316022329001200.html

But the damage caused by corn and corn production doesn’t end with processed food the focus of the above opinion.

Denuding vast areas of the US surface area to plant corn is the cause of the Nations topsoil loss disaster. See our reference # 52.

#52 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/opinion/05berry.html

Feeding cattle, ruminant animals designed to eat grass; corn causes their meat to be 7 times higher in saturated fat than the meat of 40 years ago when cattle were raised on pasture. See our references #8 and #2.

Ethanol fuel additive is destroying our gasoline engines with little energy advantage. But also a byproduct, distiller’s grain, used in cattle feed has doubled the incidence of E.coli particularly in hamburger since ethanol subsidies began. See our references #3, #71, and #23.

#71 http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/may2009/bw20090514_058678.htm

#23  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?_r=1

Corn production is the principle cause of the decline in water quality in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Delmarva Peninsula. See our references #31 and #33

#31 http://www.pbs.org/nbr/site/research/learnmore/misippi_part-3/

lIf readers study these references with objectivity they will reach the same opinion as the Wall Street Journal but on a much broader scale. Government agricultural policy continues to have a major impact on the destruction of our health and our two most important natural resources. Please ask your representatives including Senator Harkin to explain their many votes for flawed government agricultural policy.