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L.A. schools allow chocolate milk back in

Los Angeles Times | Posted on October 20, 2016

After a five-year drought, chocolate and strawberry milk are making their way back into public school lunchrooms in Los Angeles.   With a vote of 6 to 1, the Los Angeles Unified School District loosened a district-wide ban on sugary, flavored milk that took effect in 2011. The board approved a pilot program to study the effects of reintroducing flavored milk in a small group of schools, all of which must volunteer to take part in the experiment. t is not that board members believe children aren’t consuming enough sugar. Rather, the decision to re-examine milk offerings stemmed from concern that the district is throwing out an obscene amount of food — 600 tons of organic waste each day, according to a 2015 district study. Much of what’s being taken to the landfill is the plain milk that schools are encouraged by federal law to offer, but that students aren’t enthusiastically drinking.

Ag Groups Question Dannon on Sustainability

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on October 20, 2016

A group of farm organizations has sent a letter to officials at Dannon questioning the company’s pledge to be more sustainable. In April, Dannon announced a pledge to use fewer genetically modified ingredients, a goal that includes the feed given to milk producing cows. The pledge also vowed to label GMOs in its products by December 2017 and the ambition to offer products coming from a more sustainable agriculture. But six groups representing ag producers don’t see this as a sustainable goal at all. In the letter to Dannon President and CEO Mariano Lozano, the groups say this pledge would force farmers to abandon safe and scientifically backed farming practices. Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation says concerns about the impacts of GMO feed in the dairy supply are unfounded. “There’s no such thing as genetically modified milk just because a cow may consume corn or soybeans,” he said. “That actually has been very clear in the science, and the recent legislation signed into law by the President clarifies you don’t have biotech milk just because you have GMO grains that go into the cattle.” Galen says that pledges like Dannon’s are misleading to consumers.

Does the ‘consumer’ really want cage-free eggs?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on October 20, 2016

Former McDonald’s executive, Robert Langert, said: “Quality is redefined as feeling good about the food we eat.” He said the fast food giant shifted a few years ago from an operational focus to being customer driven, and adopting the cage-free purchase pledge fits into this focus on the customer. “No one is closer to the consumer than McDonald’s,” he said. Egg producers who questioned Langert didn’t agree with his assessment of what consumers want. These egg producers cited the fact that the vast majority of U.S. consumers pass up cage-free eggs in the retail case and purchase less expensive eggs produced by cage-housed hens. Cage-free egg production and sales in the U.S., including organic eggs, still represent only about 10 percent of the U.S. total. Langert either wasn’t able or willing to explain the real methodology that a consumer brand company goes through in evaluating what consumers want, but it is obvious it involves a lot more than just looking at current point-of-purchase decisions. Langert cited three megatrends that he said are shaping purchase decisions by companies like McDonald’s. Consumers want to know where there food comes from, how it is processed, and what ingredients are in it. To meet these three consumer requirements, Langert said food producers and processors need to figure out how to be transparent. He said food and agriculture companies are generally bad at this now.

Culvers mourns death of CEO, speaker at MLC summer conference

Journel Sentinel | Posted on October 20, 2016

Keiser died on Saturday of natural causes, the firm said. With his death, co-founder Craig Culver will take over as interim CEO until a successor is named.  Keiser would have turned 61 on Monday. Keiser worked for Culver's for more than 20 years and was a driving force in the chain's expansion, the company said. Since 1996, Culver's has grown from 44 restaurants to 580 spread across 24 states.  Almost all of the restaurants — known for its "Butter Burgers" and frozen custard — are franchises.

A look at PETA’s tips for going vegan

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on October 19, 2016

The publication makes the usual three-part argument about why we should all stop eating meat – animal welfare (“why not stop killing animals for the fleeting taste of their flesh?”), nutrition (“why not stop clogging our arteries with saturated fat and cholesterol?”), and the environment (“why not stop supporting water and air pollution and the waste of resources caused by factory farms?”).  The kit also gives tips for going to parties, suggesting that if other guests seem annoyed by conversation about being vegan, it is just “a reflection of an otherwise kind person’s conflicted feelings about eating animals.”  How presumptuous to assume that the person has “conflicted feelings” – and not that they just aren’t really interested in discussing your new diet. It’s of course PETA’s goal to produce those “conflicted feelings”

Two-thirds of U.S. flock must be cage free to meet demand

Watt Ag Net | Posted on October 18, 2016

Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. layer flock will need to be housed in cage-free system by 2025 to meet anticipated demand, according to figures published by United Egg Producers. On October 7, the egg farmer cooperative published an updated report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Analytics Division estimating 213.8 million cage-free hens, about 74 percent of the 276 million layers in the U.S., will need to be cage free by 2026.  Currently, there are 16.6 million non-organic, cage-free layers in the U.S. The flock must increase by more than 1,000 percent in a decade to serve the retailers, restaurants and foodservice companies committed to serve only cage-free eggs by or around 2025. “USDA’s figures … indicate a shortage of nearly 200 million hens to meet the growing demand over the next 10 years,” the newsletter said.

First Brazilian beef shipment to U.S. arrives in Philly

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on October 17, 2016

The first shipment of beef from Brazil to the U.S. in nearly two decades arrived Thursday in the Port of Philadelphia, according to a notice posted by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.  Sao Paulo-based JBS S.A.’s shipment of fresh beef is the first since the U.S.officially opened to Brazilian beef in August after 17 years of negotiations between the two countries. That decision followed USDA’s recent finding that the Brazil’s food safety system is equivalent to that of the U.S.

Government Food Programs Can Actually Help Poor Families Eat Healthier

Huffington Post | Posted on October 17, 2016

The government’s nutrition assistance programs don’t tend to get a good rap. The programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits typically referred to as “food stamps,” are often criticized by lawmakers and some nutritionists for allowing its low-income recipients to purchase unhealthy foods through the program.  Conservative leaders like Newt Gingrich and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have pejoratively dubbed President Barack Obama the “food stamp president.” At the same time, some lawmakers have called for SNAP benefits to be cut dramatically.  But these criticisms often fail to acknowledge the growing evidence showing how SNAP and similar programs are already succeeding, or could be tweaked to address many of their critics’ concerns.  A paper published this month in the Preventive Medicine journal found that such a tweak to make the food packages offered to participants in the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, resulted in participants making healthier food and beverage purchases with their own money overall.

Fake Trials, Brought to You by the Anti-GMO Movement

National Review | Posted on October 14, 2016

 The eco-warriors are getting increasingly desperate in their histrionic attacks on science. A group of environmental activists will host a faux tribunal in The Hague to pretend to prosecute Monsanto for crimes against humanity. The Missouri-based company sells both genetically engineered seeds and pesticides, which makes them Enemy No. 1 of the socialist Luddites who lead the global environmental movement.


GMOs and beer calories? When labeling backfires

Chicago Tribune | Posted on October 14, 2016

The lesson so far is lost on most lawmakers and regulators. In July, President Barack Obama signed a bill requiring foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such. It's an outwardly innocuous requirement that is supposed to leave consumers better informed but will actually cause many to be misled. The implication of the mandate is that there is some important difference between foods that contain GMOs and foods that don't. But there isn't. A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that genetically engineered food is safe for humans, animals and the environment.This scientific reality is at odds with public opinion. A June poll by ABC News showed that only one-third of Americans think genetically modified foods are safe to eat. Federally required labels will encourage them to persist in that delusion. The government says tomato sauce may contain trace amounts of maggots. But it would not make sense to make companies publicize that ingredient because the disclosure would raise false fears.There are other ways in which labeling requirements can be harmful. Starting next year, the Food and Drug Administration will require chain restaurants to publish the calorie count of each beer on their menus.But there's scant evidence this sort of information makes much difference. Julie Downs, a scholar at Carnegie Mellon University, says that "putting calorie labels on menus really has little or no effect on people's ordering behaviors at all."