Archive for September, 2010

Salmonella Jack Testifies Another takes the 5th

September 27, 2010

Jack DeCoster’s companies now operating in Iowa and formerly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore supply about 10% of supermarket eggs in the US. He uses battery cage (8.2X8.2 inches) technology in facilities that are rodent and maggot infested and dominated by the animals manure. The animals are fed regular dosage of antibiotics but many die prematurely. Often the carcass rots for days before removal. His eggs cost about ten cents each and are still sold by Safeway, Costco, Ralph’s, Marc’s, Walmart, and Albertsons. Trader Joes and Fareway have decided to discontinue distribution. DeCoster sells eggs under many brand names including Wright’s Family Farm. California has banned both production and distribution of cage produced eggs. Other States are following. Recently I had a conversation with a backyard hen owner and compared my experience having owned hens at age 10 with her current experience. Contrary to popular belief these animals are not stupid and if you care for them they bond to you and you get to know them as individuals. We both agreed that DeCoster or anyone else who treats animals this way belongs in a cage himself. They should be prosecuted the same as the NFL Quarterback who just finished his time. I can understand why Hillandale’s owner took the 5th. These operations and many others providing cheap animal products are in violation of animal abuse laws. See the report of DeCoster testimony by clicking the highlighted text. We should not depend on Government oversight. Each of us must take the responsibility for knowing the grower of our food and determining that person’s integrity. It is becoming very clear that this due diligence cannot happen at most of today’s supermarkets with exception of some markets in California who put the name of the grower on many products and most animal products.

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CAFO-The Tragedy of Farm Animal Factories

September 23, 2010

This Post is a result of a critique of 5 recent books on the subject, visiting 2 meat-processing facilities, several chicken CAFOs, viewing the documentaries Food Inc, King Corn, Big River and reading the other references on our site. http://www.fixingourfood.com The recent books:

Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur (2008) the rescue of abandoned and abused farm animals and caring for them in sanctuaries in New York and California. Proving that food animals are just as capable of showing emotion and suffering pain as animal pets.

Animal Factory by David Kirby (2010) -Mass killing of water species in the Neuse River of North Carolina and nationwide caused by pathogen laced manure lagoons used to treat? the overwhelming amount of manure generated by hog and dairy CAFOs. Animal abuse issues are also addressed. The story of a group of farmers dedicated to elimination or making major changes in CAFO production, see their website Socially Responsible Agriculture

Eating Animals by Safron Foer (2010) -An inside look at CAFOs based on employee interviews and undercover work showing the same consistent abusive practices cited in all 5 books.

Why we LOVE DOGS, EAT PIGS, & WEAR COWS by Melanie Joy- A psychologist view of how we use physic numbing, a’natural thing to do belief system’ and secrecy to turn a blind eye to animal suffering in CAFOs. All violent ideologies, including the Nazis, and communist massacres of millions of human beings in the 20th century or slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries survive because of mass denial of truth. We believe the CAFO Industry when they tell us about abundant food and water and the safe peaceful non-violent conditions in CAFOs because at some level most of us, particularly cheap meat eaters, don’t want to know the way things really are.

The CAFO reader edited by Daniel Imhoff (2010)- A collection of 38 essays by a who’s who of sustainable farming advocates including many of our references, the Pew Commission and John Hopkins School of public health, Fred Kirchenmann and the Leopold Center at Iowa State, Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Eric Schlosser, Wendell Berry and many others who we have quoted. Included is a brief biography of each writer and a list of term definitions unique to the Industry. If you only have time to read one book this is the one. If time is further restricted at least read page 23 to see how sows are treated.

Matthew Scully, is a conservative editor at National Review, and a speechwriter for, George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin. His book Dominion changed the way many conservatives look at animal activists and the confinement industry. He writes- “Intensive confinement is a world where billions  (10 Billion per year) of birds, cows, pigs and other creatures are locked away, enduring miseries they do not deserve, for our convenience and pleasure. We belittle the activist with their radical agenda, scarcely noticing the radical cruelty they seek to redress. At the Smithfield mass confinement hog farms I toured in North Carolina, the visitor is greeted by a bedlam of squealing, chain rattling and horrible roaring. To maximize the use of space and minimize the need for care the creatures are encased in row after row. 400 to 500 pound mammals trapped without relief inside iron crates 7feet long by 22 inches wide. They chew maniacally on bars and chains, as foraging animals will do when denied straw, or engage in stereotyped nest building with straw that isn’t there, or else lie there like broken beings. They lie covered in their own urine and excrement with broken legs from trying to escape or just to turn, covered with festering sores, tumors, ulcers, lesions or what my guide shrugged off as routine pus pockets. Kept alive by antibiotics, hormones, laxatives mixed into their machine fed swill, the sows leave their crates only to be dragged into other crates just as small to bring forth their piglets. Then its back to the gestation crate for another four months and so back and forth until after seven or eight pregnancies they finally expire from the punishment of it or else are culled with a club or a bolt gun.”

Mathew Scully’s summary of CAFO animal treatment in his book Dominion- “Factory farming isn’t just killing: It is negation. A complete denial of the animal as a living being with his or her own needs and nature. It is not the worst evil we can do but it is the worst evil we can do to them. It confronts us with the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln’s condemnation of human slavery: If slavery is not wrong. Nothing is wrong.”

The agribusiness lobby has a strangle hold on both parties in Congress and in our State of Maryland. At this time I see no way to help these animals, save our topsoil, and restore our streams, rivers and estuaries through the legislative process because the majority of people simply do not care enough. In addition today’s industrial meat is up to 7 times higher in saturated fat than it was when we became addicted in the 1940s. Our personal solution is to eat only pastured animals and we will try to transition to a vegetation diet. Albert Einstein said before he died in 1955: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as evolution to a vegetarian diet”. Every Einstein theory has proved to be correct and decades ahead of contemporary scientific thinking. I have seen enough to know he was right about this also

WRTDS-Why farming pollution is increasing

September 21, 2010

Please click on the Journal of American Water Resources Association to see the technical article, which describes the new sampling regime adopted by USGS for measuring water quality in watersheds. The Weighted Regression on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) method has already had a major impact on the way scientist are or should be looking at Chesapeake Bay cleanup. It becomes quite apparent for example that urban cleanup in watersheds on the Western Shore is working while cleanup efforts on the heavily farm dominated Eastern Shore are not working. Not only is the cleanup of Eastern Shore pollution not working but also the rate of pollution has substantially increased since 2000. It is hard not to believe farmers when they claim they have cut back on fertilizer applications particularly so called insurance applications, which were common in the 80’s and 90’s. We cannot be sure of this because MDA the responsible State agency refuses to verify compliance with nutrient management plans. In reading this report I am reminded of a study that I did 10 years ago showing the cumulative effect of unused nitrogen in aquifers. This study confirms that our surface water is feeling the effect of deep aquifer fertilizer applied up to 50 years ago in addition to shallow aquifer nitrogen applied 10 years ago. The importance of the WRTDS method can be seen by looking at the Greensboro graph our reference #43. The line drawn for long-term nitrate is shown at a constant slope of 1.1%. It is very difficult to pick up an 8-year trend using old sampling methods but looking at it with the benefit of WRTDS it is easy to see that indeed a major increase occurred starting in 2000 and the slope changed to 1.8%, a significant increase in the rate of N pollution. More later.

Don K

USGS Report-new criteria necessary?

September 20, 2010

The US Coast and Geological Survey (USGS) published a new report which analyzed nine rivers, Susquehanna, Potomac, James, Rappahannock, Appomattox, Pamunkey, Mattapony, Patuxent, and the Choptank using a new method which takes into consideration seasonality, variations in river flow, and the long term trends that are driven by the wide range of human activities in the watersheds. Actually the headline is misleading because  agriculture controls are all voluntary and there is no verification by either MDA or MDE of nutrient management plans nor the effectiveness of cover crops.

The study shows that nitrogen pollution levels have increased modestly or even declined in Virginia as indicated by the Patuxent and Potomac nitrogen levels showing declines driven by improvement in wastewater treatment plant nutrient treatment. Pennsylvania represented by the Susquehanna showed overall improvement but some recent deterioration. On the other hand Choptank pollution levels which increased by 36% between 1978 and 2000 increased by 53% between 2000 and 2008. This increase which was 1.6% per year from 1978 to 2000 has increased to a rate of 2.1% per year between 2000 and 2008 an alarming 30% increase in the rate of nitrogen pollution. This is probably a nationwide trend as shown by the record Gulf dead zone an indicator of fertilizer and manure pollution in 41% of the nation where corn and CAFO meat and corn based processed food production are dominant. If one counts the CAFO dominated Eastern Coastal plain estuaries as reported in David Kirby’s book Animal Factory it is likely that more than 50% of the land area of the US is suffering from corn and CAFO nutrient pollution at an unprecedented rate.

Comments in the article by interviewed scientists:

Robert Hirsch the USGS hydrologist who developed the new tool based on actual field measurement commenting about the Eastern Shore: The lack of any easing of the increase in nitrogen levels up through 2008 suggest that whatever has been done to limit

the loss of fertilizer from farm fields hasn’t been particularly effective. “At least in this one watershed (Choptank) We would expect, if things were really improving at the land surface, to see it begin to come out, and it is not,”

Russell B. Brinsfield director of the agriculture experiment station at Wye.“ If we hadn’t done what we have done, the trends may have been higher”It has only been in the past few years, that there has been widespread use of cover crops, one of the most effective methods to keep nutrients out of the water to soak up leftover fertilizer.

William Dennison- Vice president at the U. of Maryland Horn Point Laboratory“This is very troubling for the restoration effort on the Eastern Shore” The Septic systems plus agriculture, we’re just not getting a handle on that. We’re not getting the progress we should.  ( USGS bulletin 1228 pg. 6 shows septic systems at 1% of Delmarva N source)

Post editor (DRK) comments- The level of increase suggests that there may be multiple causes. Those possible are (1) the increase in chicken CAFOs although this would show up even more in watersheds South of the Choptank particularly the Pocomoke,  (2) the decrease in the CRP program which was opposed nationally by The American Farm Bureau Federation and dropped by USDA. (3) corn production the major pollution source increases due to the high price of corn caused by ethanol subsidies. This  has been reported by Gulf scientist resulting in this years larger than ever oxygen dead zone (see our reference #31 for a taped interview). (4) The current accepted criteria for N fertilizer application to corn at 1 pound per bu. per acre is too high for water quality as is the NRCS criteria for soil loss at 5 tons per acre per year.

Solutions- The Industrial Agriculture meat production system is not so much based on innovation as promoted by the industry but more on short cuts in soil management, excessive use of chemicals including chemical fertilizer and high density CAFO production resulting in  animal abuse. The system produces cheap meat which is high in saturated fat. Corn based processed food is also high in sugar. As a result the US has the highest rate of obesity and diabetes in the history of the world and the highest health care costs. As the comments of scientists to this report demonstrate the intimidation of scientists and politicians by agribusiness reported by the Pew Commission is a big factor in preventing needed change. A new National Commission of independent scientists similar to the 2000 Gulf Hypoxia commission with a mandate to examine the basic criteria for fertilizer application, soil management and CAFO animal management is necessary. The level of soil loss, water contamination and animal abuse nationwide would suggest that current criteria are grossly inadequate. Immediate emergency action should be taken on the obvious problems as follows. All actions must be at the Federal level in order to create a level playing field for all farmers.

1. Stop Federal government subsidies of grain production particularly corn

2. Mandate cover crops for all tilled farm fields nationwide paid for as a cost of doing business not subsidized. The major benefit is the retention of our topsoil.

3. Mandate a minimum 3 crop rotation not counting the cover crop as recommended by USDA scientists. See USDA handbook #10

4. A mandated reduction of chemical fertilizer application Nationwide as recommended by the Gulf Hypoxia Commission.

5. Pyrolysis of CAFO manure and use of the produced clean organic fertilizer byproduct on farm fields.

6. A reduction of animal density and elimination of all caged techniques in CAFOs

7. A full time humane officer stationed on the kill floor of every animal processing facility with power to stop the production line if an animal is being mistreated. (see our CAFO Post)

8. Start a healthy food educational program in all schools. Set an example by serving only healthy, environmentally compatable food in the schools. The focus should be on pasture raised meat, a reduction of meat consumption and on the many health and environmental advantages of a vegetarian diet as proposed by Albert Einstein many years before Industrial Agricultural started and all its negative health and environmental issues became obvious

Minnesota farmer fights Gulf ‘dead zone’

September 13, 2010

As with all unions the most militant and loudest members often using intimidating tactics become the leaders. Farmers including grain farmers are defying the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Corn Growers Association and The Fertilizer Institute and standing up for farming practices that will help stop the destruction of soil and water nationwide. Recently 65 Maryland Farmers petitioned the Governor to continue his aborted effort to clean up CAFO manure. The book Animal Factory by David Kirby describes efforts of farmers throughout the Country who are actively opposed to the CAFO animal production system. Three of our oldest agronomy and soil societies representing 11,000 scientists and teachers sponsored the book ‘Grasslands, the future of sustainable agriculture’. But the attached story, which is heartening to those of us who understand the primary cause of the terrible destruction of our soil and water resources, was reported by CNN. A grain farmer from Minnesota, whose family had worked the land since 1878, realizing that his tilled farming methods were destroying species in the Gulf of Mexico 1200 miles away decided to quit farming. He later changed his mind after consulting with scientists and making changes in the way he farmed. The article Minnesota farmer battles Gulf ‘dead zone’ also points out that the cause of the annual dead zone is mostly fertilizer from the Mississippi Watershed which drains 40% of the US land area. This year’s deadly oxygen starved area is among the largest in history larger than the State of New Jersey. Unused fertilizer along with CAFO manure causes the annual dead zone in the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay. The nutrients and sediment are conveyed from the Pennsylvania hog and dairy corridor down the Susquehanna Ricer. The rivers of the Eastern Shore convey most of the nutrient and sediment from the Corn and chicken CAFO corridor that extends from Lancaster Pennsylvania down the Delmarva Peninsula. These major pollution sources clearly show on the EPA nutrient load maps for Chesapeake Bay, which can be found archived on the right hand margin of our website blog.

Food Alliance and PASA-a taped interview

September 9, 2010

The Food Alliance is a National sustainable food production and distribution certification program that is being promoted by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. PASA now has 6000 members and 3000 are farmers who employ sustainable practices. Please press the Food Alliance Label below to view a taped interviews with Brian Snyder, PASA executive director, and farmers who are both PASA members and Food Alliance certified.

CAFO Torture- Review of Two Books

September 3, 2010

Why we love Dogs, Eat Pigs, Wear Cows—— Eating Animals

Following our review of the book Animal Factory we decided to look further into the subject of humane treatment in CAFOs by reviewing the above two books. There have been an amazing number of books on the subject recently which is an indicator of publishers interest in the subject but perhaps not Carnists. Identical details of the torturous, unsanitary conditions in America’s CAFOs are described in both books mostly by employees many who participate in the torture. Why do they torture and why do Americans turn a blind eye to the following?

Using rods thrust into orifices to prod pigs into Cages, Why cages?

Using electric prods and loaders to push large animals to the head- knocker

Large animals semiconscious while skinning and cutting off body parts

The hydraulic head-knocker is problematic. Why not find another method?

Extensive breaking of chicken’s legs during the catching process

Terrorizing chickens by extended hanging upside down

Putting live chickens into the scalder

Chilling chickens in an ice water fecal broth thus adding e-coli and weight

Freezing starving pigs to death killing many during transport to slaughter

Answer:

Most employees are not sadistic but some are. Employees who kill as many as 2000 animals a day can become killers or they must similar to battlefield soldiers employ psychic numbing a process by which we disconnect, mentally and emotionally from our experiences. Moving animals who weigh as much as 1000 pounds into a cage or to the head knocker or hanging live chickens on a conveyor is cruel and unusual and violates the law. Many animals seem to know when they hear the terrified screams of those ahead that the worse is yet to come. Pigs are particularly smart and aware. Melonie Joy the author of Eating Pigs tells about the lovable playfull nature of pigs who are smart enough to play computer games and hit their target 80% of the time. The author cites evidence that supports that chickens and cows are not stupid and are gental animals who want to be the friends of humans. Ms. Joy believes that consumers also employ psychic numbing in order to eat meat which they love. They are also unaware and don’t want to know or understand that the CAFO system is the most inhumane concept the world has ever known abusing 10 billion animals per year. Mahatma Gandhi said: “The Greatness of a Nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated.”

In Eating Animals by Foer the author also spends time with a pasture turkey farmer who really cares about his animals and spends extra money to make sure they are never hung upside down and are killed humanely. Also Rancher Bill Niman whose network of family farmers are grossing 100 million dollars while allowing animals to be animals while they are alive.

We call for  Congressional hearings. Employees quoted in these two books should be given immunity from prosecution and testify which will hopefully lead to desperately needed changes.