March 7, 2014

CLF Week in Links: Waste, Protein, Poultry and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Increasing inspection line speeds? Help Food & Water Watch say No.

Increase inspection line speeds? Help FWW say No.

Praise for TEDx. We congratulate our colleagues Peggy Neu of the Meatless Monday campaign and Andrew Gunther of Animal Welfare Approved for their stand-out talks at TEDx Manhattan. Well done!

Bye-bye, bivalves. In aquaculture news, increasing acidification in oceans has begun to wreak havoc with a sustainable seafood option. According to this story in the Vancouver Sun, “human-caused carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere are being absorbed by the ocean and may have pushed local waters through a ‘tipping point’ of acidity beyond which shellfish cannot survive.” CLF’s Jillian Fry says that “farmed bivalves, like clams, oysters, and scallops, are a very sustainable seafood option, but ocean acidification is affecting this food production method.” One company in British Columbia has lost 10 million scallops in three years and laid off a significant portion of their staff.

Food waste, globally. Recently the World Bank estimated that up to one third of all food produced is wasted. Worldwide that amounts to 11 billion metric tons every year. Naturally, the developed world wastes more, and the ways in which we waste food differ across the globe; for example, according to this story in the International Business Times, “In South and Southeast Asia … almost 90 percent is lost in production, storage and transport. But in North America and Oceania, almost 61 percent of food is wasted by consumers.” Waste is never a good thing, but some waste is worse: wasting food at the consumer level, as we do here in the U.S. puts a much heavier drain on natural resources than wasting at the production level, because of all the resources that are invested in food between the production and consumer stages. @ibtimes

Food waste in Massachusetts. According to this story in The Guardian, “Massachusetts recently announced plans aimed at solving the food waste challenge. Beginning in October 2014, any business or institution that produces more than one ton of food waste per week will be barred from sending its food waste to landfills.” This presents an opportunity for food recycling companies, and could point the way toward profitable food recycling and composting. The danger, however, is that consumers will feel less responsible for food waste, believing it to be a problem handled at a corporate level.

The perils of protein. Are middle-aged Americans consuming too much protein? According to the author of a new study linking animal protein-rich diets to increased mortality in middle age, the answer is yes. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Cell Metabolism, was based on an analysis of data from NHANES, an ongoing federally funded study that surveys Americans about their eating habits and behaviors. Interpreting data from NHANES is tricky, but I think there is enough evidence out there to support a mostly plant-based diet for best health.

Poultry line speeds. According to this Food Safety News story, organizations representing consumers and farm workers convened in Washington, D.C., to speak with members of Congress and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials about the threat they feel new poultry plant regulations pose to both plant worker safety and food safety as a whole. The regulations are known as HIMP, and as part of the HIMP program, chicken plants have been permitted to increase the speed of their evisceration lines from 140 to 175 birds per minute. We agree with Food and Water Watch’s position as stated on their website:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is pushing the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” rule, but we think a more apt name would be the “Filthy Chicken Rule.” The rule, if implemented, would privatize poultry inspections, decreasing the number of USDA inspectors in plants and replacing them with untrained company employees.”

Speeding up the disassembly line while substituting company inspectors for USDA inspectors is a frightening variation on the theme of having the fox guard the chicken coop. For more on this issue, see our comment to USDA (May 2012).

A world diet? A comprehensive new study, relying on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has found that more of the world’s nations are heading towards a universal diet, where traditional crops such as cassava, sorghum or millet are giving way to staples like corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and sunflower. As explained in Science Daily, this reliance on fewer crops sets the world up for a food security disaster, and climate change could affect the crops in unforeseen ways, with disease or weather events. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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