Archive for March, 2011

Chicken CAFO Integrator mislabeling suit

March 31, 2011

This link will take you to an article in Sustainable Food News which describes a suit by the Humane Society of the US for violation of the Consumer fraud act generated by labeling of confinement (CAFO) chicken as “Humanely Raised.” The suit alleges that no reasonable consumer would consider the treatment of  CAFO chicken as humane.

These poor creatures live in a feces dust/ ammonia  atmosphere which I could not tolerate for 5 minutes on my one visit. The facilities are described by Johns Hopkins University as “perfect pathogen incubators”. These chickens are fed arsenic appetite enhancer, and growth hormones and are kept sedentary so that they grow fat fast and as Temple Grandin states in the article they become so heavy that their legs won’t support their weight. When the Company sends in the catchers the real torture begins as these minimal wage workers take two or even three in each hand and thrust them into crates. Legs and wings are broken and some do not survive. The crates are stacked high on flat bed trucks and taken to the processing plant sometimes in extreme weather conditions. I often wondered if enough air gets to the inside crates to allow these creatures to breathe. There is no food or water. At the plant they are again picked up by their feet painfully shackled and hung on a conveyor. Remember these animals have empathy (see previous post) for each other. communicate with each other, and hear the painful screams of their terrorized brothers as they are conveyed to the throat cutting machine. Finally after 8 weeks of torture and terror the animal mercifully dies. CAFO producers should be required to put “Inhumane Treatment” labels on their products, which would more appropriately describes the total process.

The writer has not witnessed the catching or processing at a major producer but has seen the process first hand at several smaller slaughter houses and has heard the process described by other reliable sources. I can only hope the jury at this trial is given the opportunity to witness the whole decadent process.

Now also consider that each one of these CAFO facilities, based on the only two ever tested by MDE, is a hot spot of nitrogen contamination. Aquifers under these facilities were found to have nitrate readings as high as 200 times the normal background level of Delmarva aquifers. USGS assessment in circular 1228 is that 35% of Delmarva nitrogen pollution comes from the manure generated by these facilities.

What is the true cost of cheap chicken?


Your Thoughts on CAFO Animal Abuse?

March 30, 2011

Do all animals show empathy toward other animals and respond to human kindness. Please read this article in the London Telegraph by clicking on to the attached link to the farming section:

Now scroll down to “chickens are capable of love and lust”.Read the short article and the comments one from a farmer who said “what a bunch of bullcrap”

My direct experience:

I raised laying hens when I was a kid. My brood included white leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and New Hampshire Reds. About 10 survived the transition from the hatchery at Easter time to the warmth of our kitchen thence to our former privy and tool shed.  As a kid of 10 they became delightful companions responding to me when I came to feed them with obvious affection and of course their eggs endeared them to the whole family.

Over the years I have had 6 dogs that all became great friends.

Last year our gatehouse tenant’s son took on the project of caring for a Goose who was winged by a hunter’s spread shot and could not fly. The goose now comes up to every human wanting a head rub obviously believing that all humans are his friend.

I have come to believe along with the author of this article that all animals even though there are obvious levels of intelligence communicate and empathize with their fellows and given the right circumstances will do the same with humans.I have come to believe that all animals have the basic right to humane treatment even in the face of public demand for cheap meat and dairy products.

Please review the CAFO Animal Abuse Archive on our blog.

I am curious to know what you think. Please comment to the post or by e-mail.


Agreement W/Fisher some with the Farm Bureau

March 28, 2011

Monday’s 3/28/11 local Star Democrat front page reported on two very different points of view about the EPA mandated Chesapeake Bay TMDL program. Tom Fisher, a scientist at Horn Point Lab, who along with his students have monitored the sub watersheds of the Choptank River for several decades, have recorded a steady decline in water quality due to nutrient pollution mainly from over fertilization of farm fields but also from urban sources. He is quoted as saying that while we are finally on the right path after 26 years of futile effort he does not think that some of these (voluntary BMPs) are strong enough. The second article is a report on a presentation by The American Farm Bureau Federation describing the reasons for the organization’s lawsuit against EPA filed in PA District Court trying to stop the TMDL program. He is quoted as saying that farmers were doing enough and further they were concerned about passing their resources onto their kids. He also said that EPA was throwing someone under a bus and that we need to make decisions as a Nation.

This writer agrees with much of what was reportedly said. The TMDL is weak in that it is not addressing the issues directly but indirectly through questionable voluntary Best Management Practices (BMPs). Example: we should be reducing fertilizer application rates rather than hoping that cover crops possibly planted too late in various weather conditions will soak up excess nitrogen. We should use developed treatment systems to treat all CAFO manure rather than build housekeeping pads and manure storage sheds. We should follow the USDA’s minimal published standards for soil management. We should stop wasteful irrigation methods. Industrial Agriculture is a system created to produce only meat and sugar. The system is using up our topsoil and our fresh water and contaminating our air, ground water, and surface water. The products produced are the primary cause of major health problems for the Nation (see Cancer and Heart Disease archives). I agree with the Farm Bureau in that solutions should be mandated on a National basis. Farming practices in most areas of the Country are far worse than the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Is the Gulf of Mexico less important than Chesapeake Bay? How can grain farmers in the Bay watershed compete on a nonlevel playing field? Yes effective solutions will drive up the cost of meat and sugar but higher prices and less consumption will reduce health care cost and improve health, a National crisis.


The Fascinating Story of Osprey

March 26, 2011

We have been watching an Osprey Couple with a 20-power scope near the bank of LaTrappe Creek for 8 years. But until we read naturalist Judy Wink’s comments made at the Chesapeake Environmental Center on Osprey Day we did not fully understand what we were watching. One bird appeared this year on March 13 and sat in their favorite tree overlooking the Creek and the nest. One bird was sitting on the nest on the 17th. Then a total of 5 birds seem to be vying for the nest. Ms. Wink explained that ospreys are monogamous but often go their separate ways when they winter, which for Maryland birds is in Costa Rica. Pennsylvania and New York birds winter in Mexico. Florida birds never leave Florida, which answered another of our questions. Young ospreys have an 80% mortality rate. When the lucky birds reach 3 years they come north often earlier than older birds, which can live to about 18 years. When the older birds return they push the younger bird out of their nest, which answers another of our questions. Have we been watching the same couple over the last 8 years? Probably yes. A few years ago one bird appeared and was alone for about 2 weeks, I saw a dead bird in our field and assumed the worst. Soon another bird showed up. Was this the same couple or one replacement? The female is one third larger than the male another new piece of information.

I captured the magnificent free fall talons first decent of an osprey into our Lake on film. The struggle to rise up after total emersion with a small fish obviously required a great amount of wing strength. Ospreys sometimes die when they hook into a fish that is too large. Once their talons close they cannot open again until they sit on the nest or a tree and fold back their wings. Ms Wink did not say this but I understand it takes 4-6 pounds of fish a day to feed a nest typically of 2 or 3 young birds. Osprey were almost extinct about 30 years ago when their egg shells did not develop because of DDT ingestion. After DDT was banned they came back. We have no idea what agricultural chemicals are doing to our wildlife and to humans. Stay tuned to hear the story of Bob White Quail at TLF&NS.


March 24, 2011

The World Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute for Cancer Research report published in 2010 involved over 250 scientists from more than 70 Universities and more than 30 Cancer Research Organizations. Many were involved in systematic literature review since the task was to evaluate all the worlds’ cancer research reports.  Some of the organizations are well known in the cancer field such as Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Harvard’s School of Public Health, and our National Cancer Institute. Many Countries have Cancer Research Institutions, which were involved, and many well know Universities including Oxford in England are heavily involved. Johns Hopkins and Penn State University’s in the Chesapeake Bay watershed each have more than 10 MDs and PhDs involved. Knowing the reports major conclusions to avoid red meat and dairy products and increase plant food consumption and exercise, it was interesting to look at the Factory Farm Map and see how many institutions are involved from heavy US. hog, cattle, dairy and corn feed producing States. Involved are Iowa State University, The University of Nebraska, The University of Minnesota, The University of North Carolina, Ohio State University, University of Colorado, University of California, Penn State University, University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University. Notably absent are the University of Kansas, the University of Maryland, and my own alma mater. It is not too late to become involved since this study continues. Some have asked me why an environmental website is so interested in health reports. Again look at the Factory Farm Map and see that the red areas are also the major sources of the nations nutrient and sediment pollution, the major cause of the decline of the nations Rivers and Estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. CONCLUSION: EAT LESS CAFO PRODUCED MEAT AND DAIRY AND RESTORE THE NATIONS NATURAL RESOURCES WHILE REDUCING YOUR RISK, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY YOUR CHILDREN’S RISK, OF CANCER AND HEART DISEASE.

(Full  reports are archived under cancer and heart disease)

Ogallala Aquifer-The return of the Dust Bowl?

March 21, 2011

Most US. Aquifers are being seriously damaged by overuse of water including our own Delmarva shallow and deep aquifers but perhaps the most serious is the Ogallala Aquifer that underlies the great plains an area extending from South Dakota down to well South of the Texas panhandle including portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. The Ogallala was the largest underground body of fresh water in the world and it does not replenish itself. Twenty percent of US corn comes from this former 1930’s and 40’s dust bowl. The dust bowl ended when pumping equipment was developed to reach the Ogallala Aquifer. Most of the irrigation is done using flood or rotary systems which waste exponentially more water than plant’s use. Its even less efficient than the use of oil based chemical fertilizer to grow corn. On the bright side there are 15,000 acres of corn produced in SW Kansas, which use precision irrigation developed by Kansas State University (see reference #76 under solutions). The Ogallala has gone from an average depth of 240 feet to an average depth of 80 feet in 50 years. In Happy Texas, at the southern end of the Ogallala water has run out. The grain elevators have gone out of business, the land has been put into the Government subsidized CRP program and the town is in depression. Happy is the canary in the coalmine, predicting the fate of much of the great Midwest and perhaps the return of the Dust Bowl. This loss of water could trigger a World food disaster since many areas of the World are now dependant on American corn exports. Officials of the Ogallala Research Service, a division of USDA, see no way to stop this inevitable disaster and are hoping that changes in water use practices and development of draught resistant seed will provide another 60 years of water and a soft landing. All of us can help the Ogallala and improve our exposure to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke by eating no CAFO produced beef and pork, no High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) the primary uses of corn and more pastured raised meat and organically produced vegetables. Federal and State governments could help by stopping all subsidies of the industrial system including cover crops and ethanol subsidies, which are throwing good money after bad to prolong a basically flawed concept. Further Government could help by mandating nationwide precision management of water, mandating enforcement of their soil management guidelines, requiring CAFO manure processing, and banning CAFO antibiotic and growth hormone usage. Perhaps Government’s most effective help can come from consumer education. Benjamin Franklin said “we have given you a Constitutional Republic if you can handle it”. The jury is still out will people react in their long term self interest or will their own addictions and the influence of special interest groups prevail (US farmers fear the return of the Dust Bowl –  London Telegraph)

Which of our finite natural resources will deplete first our topsoil or our water?

As I learn more about our Industrial meat, dairy and processed food system, I appreciate the foresight of one of greatest minds that ever lived.

Nothing will benefit human health or survival of life on earth more than evolution to a vegetarian diet–Albert Einstein 1879- 1955

Healthy Fast Food-A new chain is trying

March 16, 2011

An article about LYFE KITCHEN by Emily Bryson York of the Chicago Tribune cites evidence such as the success of Panera Bread, Chipotle, and Subway as examples of a healthy eating trend. Panera’s focus is only on whole grains versus refined grains an important but of limited scope while Subway has a lot more bad red meat and processed meat than good bread and greens. They also cite the interest in healthy food books, T.V. programs, and hi-end restaurants. This chain has heavy management including MacDonald’s ex-CEO Mike Roberts as its CEO. They have included pasture-raised beef from Niman’s Ranch. They have also brought in a world famous Vegan Chef Tal Ronan to design meatless food. They have the support of Oprah Winfrey who is an important advocate. Their plan is to start in Palo Alto California in August 2011 and quickly become a National chain. We wish them luck. This article does not mention the environmental issues which healthy food begins to address and which along with reduced animal abuse would enhance their message.


Ethanol Scam-Kudos to Cardin & Coburn

March 12, 2011

The Washington Times 6:54 p.m., Thursday, March 10, 2011

As a new slate of presidential candidates prepare to pander to Iowa voters by forcing the rest of the country to pump corn into their gas tanks, a bipartisan backlash is building. Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, and Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat, teamed up Wednesday to introduce legislation to eliminate the 45-cents- per-gallon ethanol tax credit doled out to blenders of this unnecessary and inefficient gasoline additive that costs taxpayers $5.7 billion a year.

With only 68 percent of the energy content of gasoline, ethanol does nothing to improve fuel efficiency or make cars run better. A 2008 study by researchers with Princeton University and the Woods Hole Research Center found it didn’t even help the environment. Those who believe in the global-warming myth won’t be pleased to learn that ethanol programs encourage farmers to convert forests and grassland into space to grow highly lucrative, subsidized crops. The same market distortion pushes up prices throughout the food chain, provoking shortages in poorer nations.

It’s bad for cars, it’s bad for the environment and it’s bad for the poor. That’s why groups as diverse as Americans for Limited Government and the American Meat Institute have joined the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth in opposing ethanol.

In addition to ending the subsidy, Congress must overturn an Environmental Protection Agency decision

3/12/11 9:20 AMEDITORIAL: End ethanol subsidies – Washington Times

Boosting the allowable ethanol level in gasoline from 10 to 15 percent. Most vehicles on the road today are not designed to run on an overdose of corn. Such blends can be fatal to the engines in small equipment like lawn mowers. The EPA decision is the equivalent of a mandate because the George W. Bush administration and Congress guaranteed that Americans would be forced to buy 14 billion gallons of ethanol from Big Corn.

It’s time to end the corporate welfare and pull the plug on shameless politicians attempting to buy Midwestern votes with other people’s money


Letter to Maryland Governor

March 7, 2011

Dear Governor O’Malley

The documentary King Corn focused on only a few of the unintended consequences known at that time several years ago, caused by hi-starch content corn including hi-fat content hamburger and corn based high fructose corn syrup. It also showed the attitude of The American Farm Bureau toward time-consuming obstructions to operating their large equipment. Most of these obstructions have been removed including the homesteads of many small farmers forced out of business, most of the trees, hedgerows and wetlands creating an ecological desert devoid of wildlife. At the conclusion of the documentary the farmer Rich Johnson, who seemed like a nice guy, explained, “ we only focus on yield”.

You have made several proposals during your tenure as Governor which could be helpful in saving our natural resources and our health including septic system treatment, permitting chicken CAFO’s, and planting 20,000 acres of trees. After pushback by representatives of the American Farm Bureau Federation you seem to be backing off these proposals. Also the State’s response to the EPA-TMDL mandated reductions in nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment was a missed opportunity to make real pollution causing reductions and seems to me to be further pandering to the American Farm Bureau. In 2000 the American Farm Bureau was the leader against President Clinton’s effort to reduce fertilizer pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, thus reducing the State of New Jersey size oxygen dead-zone and massive water species destruction. The dead-zone continues to grow in size most years.

The Farm Bureau spokesman did make a good recommendation, which was to look at the full picture of land use before you decide that planting trees is a bad idea. This study should look at the full picture including farm field land use efficiency, soil, water, and air pollution and the health impact of pathogens, atrazine, ammonia, growth hormones antibiotics, arsenic and the food itself. There is more to this picture than just yield. The overall health of people and our natural resources in America should not be the sole purview of the American Farm Bureau Federation.