March 14, 2014

CLF Week in Links: The Meat Monopoly, the Right to Food, the DGAC and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Lucky pigs - Canada will phase out sow gestation crates

Lucky pigs – Canada will phase out sow gestation crates

A chicken in every pot. “When President Herbert Hoover dreamed of putting “a chicken in every pot,” chicken was a luxury dish more expensive than beef. In 1930, whole dressed chicken retailed for $6.48 a pound in today’s currency.” This excerpt is from yesterday’s column by Nicholas Kristof, which gives us some insight into “the meat oligopoly’s dominance of rural America.” Our own Bob Martin is quoted, speaking eloquently about hog manure.

How can we protect the right to food? Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, delivered his final report this week to the UN Human Rights Council, and in it he said that the world has to do a radical 180-degree turn in how it produces food. From the report: ““The eradication of hunger and malnutrition is an achievable goal. However, it will not be enough to refine the logic of our food systems – it must instead be reversed.” He urges food democracy reforms that begin in villages and benefit smallholders—a bottom-up approach.

Sustainable diets. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which formally recommends the types and amounts of nutrients Americans should consume each day, is set to meet next week to craft its guidelines for the next five years—and it’s making some people very uncomfortable. The DGAC (a collaboration by USDA and HHS) will be paying attention to the impact of food—what we grow, consume, and waste—on climate change, sustainability, and even immigration. Naysayers dislike this direction because, they say, it goes beyond the scope of “healthy eating,” straying into ideology. Here are two rather short-sighted opinion pieces about the issue; the bone of contention seems to be the high price of “sustainable” diets. Our colleague Kate Clancy is quoted in both.

Speaking of sustainable diets… In this New York Times op-ed, we see just how “thirsty” our taste for meat makes the planet. Read the story for sobering information about the water footprint of vegetables in comparison to meat. This is all particularly relevant considering California’s terrible drought.

Relief for sows. This week the Canadian Pork Council announced a 10-year plan to phase out the use of sow gestation crates, which severely limit sow movement. The decision apparently came on the heels of restaurant chains saying that they would only buy pork produced under more humane conditions. This Reuters story has more information about the new guidelines for industry handling of pigs.

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