Archive for the ‘Pathogens’ Category

Pyrolysis- A Chance for Current Ag Survival?

October 16, 2010

Francis Thicke in his book A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture has a chapter on Pyrolysis, which he defines as a process of heating biomass without oxygen to produce combustible fuel and a product called Blochar, a soil amendment, which increases soil fertilitory while sequestering soil carbon. You will recall our reference #52, a study by the University of Illinois, which found that every Midwestern State except one was losing soil carbon. If you look at the photos from Rodale Institute our reference #53 you will see visually that our widely used two crop agricultural system using chemical fertilizer causes depletion of carbon ie. organic matter/fertility and becomes highly erodible over time. In addition the only two studies ever done on manure spillage around chicken CAFOs in Maryland showed that spillage of manure after 20 years of operation caused aquifer nitrogen levels 200 times the normal background level of 0.3 mg/l which USGS has found to be 35% of nitrogen contamination in Delmarva aquifers. Pyrolysis of CAFO manure helps solve many of these problems and is the minimum that must be done if the CAFO concept for animal protein production is to survive. If the industry will not support this essential minimal first step it will accelerate its demise into the dustbin of history as predicted recently by a leading scientist. Note that the highlighted post provides a way to contribute to the Francis Thicke campaign in Iowa. A vote for Iowa is a vote for Delmarva which has a similar land use profile.


Francis Thicke- Grass Farmer Runs for AG Sec.

October 15, 2010

Francis Thicke is a grass based dairy farmer and also certified organic farmer. He has written an excellent book on sustainable agriculture which includes a detailed technical explanation of the pyrolysis of animal manure and many other sustainable practices that must be adopted if industrial agriculture is ever to be compatible with air quality, water quality and human health. This in itself is not unusual because many farmers have reached the same conclusions as Francis Thicke. What is unusual is that Mr. Thicke is running for Agricultural Secretary in the State of Iowa, which many of us look at as the flagship of unsustainable agriculture. There are many interesting tapes on this post including a debate between Mr. Thicke and his opponent the current Secretary of Agriculture and a corn and soybean farmer. Sustainable agricultural advocates Michael Pollan, and farmer Joel Salatin are also taped. Iowans are just beginning to become aware of the destruction caused by industrial agriculture despite the fact that their water treatment plant in DesMoines was forced to install the worlds largest nitrate treatment plant years ago. Many other wells and water supplies are severely affected not only by nitrate but also by pathogens, antibiotics, arsenic, growth hormones and etc. The nitrate level at this plant is 5 times that of our Choptank River in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. However we are on our way to catching Iowa with nitrogen pollution up 63% in the last 8 years. I did have the opportunity to speak to Mrs. Vilsack at a recent Red Cross fund raiser and expressed my admiration for Mr. Thicke a fellow Democrat. Her husband Tom is US. Secretary of Agriculture and former Governor of Iowa. You will recall that he opposed the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force fertilizer reduction recommendation in 2000. She said that Mr. Thicke would not win. I sent him another donation when I heard that. Nothing could be more positive for the future of food and agriculture than a Thicke win or even a close election in Iowa.

CHINA STUDY-Cancer Cell Promotion Plus

October 8, 2010

This book takes a three-pronged look at the cause of major US. diseases. The first part starts in 1967 and describes Colin Campbell PhD’s 27 years of work in laboratory studies at MIT, Cornell and VA Tech working with laboratory rats where he demonstrated that he could promote or retard the growth of induced cancerous liver tumors in rats by increasing or decreasing the amount of ingested animal protein including the casein found in milk. He also found that high levels of plant protein did not stimulate the growth of liver tumors. He then expanded his lab studies to other cancers and other diseases including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, alzheimers and eye diseases. He reached the same conclusion that high animal protein diets practiced by most Americans were the likely major cause of the high incidence of all major diseases.

But these conclusions were based on animal studies in laboratories. While studies in rats are generally recognized to be highly predictable of results in humans, Campbell realized that his work would generate a lot of skeptics and would not be accepted without extensive human research leading to the second phase of his study, the China phase. In 1970 Chou EnLai was dying of cancer and ordered a study of 12 different kinds of cancer in 2400 Chinese counties. A Chinese scientist came to the US in the early 80s to work in Campbell’s lab. This led to collaboration with the Chinese, which led to the largest human study ever conducted which confirmed Campbell’s laboratory conclusions.

The third phase of the book is devoted to other scientific work, which supports the China Study conclusions. Americans on average eat 70 grams of animal protein per day, twice as much as other developed countries and 3 times more than their health need. In order to produce this level of animal protein we are over applying fertilizer and other chemicals many carcinogenic that are being ingested in the food we eat and are in the air we breathe. We are the most obese country in the World with the highest health care cost. We are polluting every river and estuary East of the Rockies with the excess nutrient and the sediment from farm fields mostly to produce animal feed. We are taking unacceptable short cuts in tilled soil management and have lost half our topsoil nationally. Ten billion animals are being abused yearly in CAFOs. To add insult to injury our tax dollars are being used to support the whole mess rather than having addicted consumer’s pay the real cost, as we now do with addicted cigarette smokers. Does this make any sense at all?

Posted by Donald R. Kerstetter

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. 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

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


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.

Salmonella-One Bad Person or a Failed Industry

August 26, 2010

As reported extensively, three hundred million contaminated eggs have sickened more than 2000 people. Most of the eggs were sold under 12 brand names at Safeway, Trader Joes, Walmart, Albertsons, Costco, Ralph’s and others. Potentially thousands of restaurants could be serving contaminated eggs. The source was Jack DeCoster’s facility in Galt Iowa. The eggs were produced by hens that live? in battery cages, which have been called out as inhumane by the Pew Commission and banned in California. California also recently banned importation of caged eggs from out of State producers. It should be pointed out that a battery cage is 8.2”X 8.2” and confinement house density is about the same 67 square inches. But does elimination of caged egg production really solve the bacteria contamination problem? I don’t think so. Severe overcrowding in CAFOs adjacent to manure lagoons, both cited as perfect pathogen incubators by John Hopkins School of Public Health is problematic. High velocity fans pumping pathogens into the surrounding atmosphere is infecting flies, workers, and neighbors.  Infected people are contaminating hospitals and clinics (see our reference #21). But bad as repeat violator Jack Decoster is this is just the tip of a very large iceberg when considering the loss of our topsoil, our national water resources caused by corn feed production and our epidemics of obesity and diabetes caused by eating corn fed high saturated fat animal products and corn based fat and sugar laced processed food which dominates the nations supermarkets. The attached article written by Tom Philpott food editor of Grist magazine is the best of those that I have read. I would add to Tom Philpott’s conclusion. The Food Industry is violating many of nature’s laws in addition to the indiscriminant use of chemicals and the laws of basic soil science. It’s an industry desperately in need of controls.

Salmonella by Grist food editor- Tom Philpott

ANIMAL FACTORY- A very important book

August 19, 2010

Swine flu, bird flu, unusual concentrations of cancer. Asthma, and MRSA. Antibiotic contamination resulting in ineffectiveness for human use. Turning streams into sewers. Loss of underwater grass habitat, Massive fish kills from flesh eating parasites. Memory loss and lesions suffered by fisherman, Recalls of meats, vegetables, and fruits because of e-coli contamination. Animals living in sewage and caked with their own feces, The all night wail of abused pigs living in tortuous conditions. Arsenic, antibiotics and growth hormones contaminating our soil and groundwater. Feeding chicken feces and cattle parts to CAFO cattle resulting in mad cow disease even in walking cattle with only a question of time until the disease affects humans. Leaking lakes of sewage and sewage sprayed into the air for broad transmission everywhere. Blowing ammonia gas, MRSA and other pathogens, antibiotic and growth hormones into the air for long distance transmission. Over application of nutrients to farm fields and contamination of aquifers. Dividing the citizens and destroying the economies of rural communities.

David Kirby in this well researched book not only describes the terrible, anti- nature, conditions in America’s CAFOs, and surrounding communities, but he gives us an insight into the background of anti- CAFO activists, most of whom are farmers, who have banned together for change. Their website is Socially Responsible Agriculture. You can access from our website reference page.

David Kirby- I am not a vegetarian and you will occasionally find me in a fast food line. However everywhere I went during the three years that I wrote this book the story was the same. CAFO’s had fouled the air, spoiled the water, threatened property values, changed the face of local agriculture and made lives miserable for thousands of people and millions of animals, except for those who profited.

Post author Don Kerstetter- I am a conservative like many of the farmer activists cited in this book. I most often vote Republican. The US food production system is a prime example of the strength of the free enterprise system, the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known. The food system is innovative and brilliant in many ways and of course it is providing plenty of cheap animal food. However, without proper controls this strength can trample the rights of others. George W. Bush did not understand this and my vote for him in 2004 was in hindsight a mistake. Modern Industrial food production, including corn feed production the nations largest nitrogen pollution source and destroyer of our topsoil nationwide is not covered in this book. The system is trampling our right to clean air, clean water, national topsoil retention, and most importantly the rights of our animal friends who sustain us. In addition food animals fattened on yellow dent high sugar content corn in sedentary conditions are up to 7 times higher in saturated fat than pasture raised animals and are a major contributor to our now decreasing longevity and increasing health care cost. Clearly major controls and changes are necessary.  (See our site for the source of local Delmarva pasture farmers).

TMDL- Hope for Chesapeake Bay?

June 29, 2010

When the EPA rolled out the TMDL (total maximum daily load) program, the mandatory limit on nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment pollution, last Fall I had high hopes that Bay restoration efforts were finally on the right track after 30 years of frustrating failure. I now realize it will not succeed for two reasons.
1. Most researchers including President Clinton’s blue ribbon commission on Gulf Hypoxia, USGS national monitoring, the Farm Animal Industries Pew Commission, UM. Horn Point Lab’s Choptank monitoring, the EPA’s nutrient load charts for the Bay agree (see references on the website) that between 80% -94% of nutrient and sediment pollution is caused by current industrial agricultural practices. These studies represent rivers and estuaries in more than 50% of the US land area. It will not stand to penalize Grain/CAFO farmers in one section of the Country thus forcing them to be non competitive in a national and international market. Nutrient and sediment pollution is a national problem and must be solved with national mandates.
2. After the EPA sets the TMDL for proposed 54 Bay Watershed segments the administration of solutions in Maryland falls to State agencies that outlined their plan at a meeting in Denton Maryland on 6/23/10. The plan proposes the same voluntary compliance program, which has failed for 30 years. Extensive water sample monitoring was not proposed but seemed to be embraced only after questioning. Five Maryland Governors including the current Governor have backed away from meaningful action when faced with the opposition of agribusiness. The latest is Governor O’Malley’s backpedal on proposed CAFO permitting. When Governors ask Land Grant Universities for an opinion they receive an opinion based on the influence of the American Farm Bureau, the Corn Growers Association and the Fertilizer Institute their large contributors, while in fact a majority of agronomists and soil scientist understand the damage being done by current industrial agricultural practices. (see our 6/19 post)

Iowa State University Agronomist Fred Kirchenmann states in our 6/19 post that industrial agriculture needs basic system changes. But Gulf study scientists including USGS, the Pew Commission, and USDA soil scientists believe that there are 3 actions that could help reduce pollution substantially 1. Reduce application of chemical fertilizer (at least 25%) from current levels. 2. Increase number of crops in yearly rotation including winter cover crops i.e.: ban the current single and two crop rotations 3. Pyrolysis of CAFO manure. These actions on a national scale would increase price and decrease consumption of corn-based red meat and corn based processed food and improve national health. (See health references on our website). Public apathy and agribusiness success at shifting responsibility is a major impediment to needed action. Every person should answer the question. Does our generation really want to leave our children with the legacy of massive pollution, topsoil loss, unhealthy food, and poor health, which is the current status and direction?

View of a USDA Scientist

May 18, 2010

I personally support a 25% reduction in fertilizer usage and a general reduction in chemical usage. I support the end of corn subsidies and the pyrolysolis of farm animal manure.


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.