Perhaps now more than ever, restaurant chains are having more of an influence on how U.S. farmers raise poultry and livestock. A recently released report revealed that for the first time ever, Americans are spending more money eating out than on groceries. With that in mind, it’s worth watching which restaurant chains are hot and which are not, as well as which ones are responding to pressures to adopt stricter policies on antibiotic use. Among the largest QSR chains in the U.S., Chick-fil-A ranked highest with an 87 percent satisfaction rate. It was followed by Papa John’s, 82 percent; Little Caesars and Panera Bread, 81 percent; and Arby’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway, each with 80 percent. Those rated below 80 percent were Chipotle Mexican Grill, Domino’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box and McDonald’s. Lumping the smaller chains into “All others,” those restaurants were given an 81 percent approval rating. Chick-fil-A announced that it would commit to a 100 percent “raised without antibiotics” standard for its chicken. No. 2 rated Papa John's revealed in December 2015 that the chicken used as pizza toppings and in its chicken poppers would come from birds never treated with antibiotics. It announced it would complete the transition this summer. In a tie for third on the list in terms of customer satisfaction are Panera Bread and Little Caesars. Panera Bread was one of the first restaurant chains to adopt a strict antibiotic policy. To date, Little Caesars has not revealed any policies on animal antibiotic use.
We live in an Instagram-ready, organic cold-pressed hemp milk age. To us, the word “farm” brings to mind a rustic (yet modern) retreat where a cornucopia of lusciously crisp fruit and vegetables are picked daily by weathered hands (body optional) and perfectly clean eggs are laid in perfectly clean straw in reclaimed wood barns with just enough dust in the air to create a flawless #nofilter “eggstra” special post. Obviously, some farming is growing fruits and vegetables. But consider your local grocery store. When we walk into the produce section (which is probably 1/5th or so of the store) 90% of what we can see was likely grown in either Florida, California, or abroad. California and Florida combined make up less than 1% of the total US Cropland. Thus, most farmers are not vegetable farmers. The vast majority of farmers are grain farmers- they grow corn, soybeans, wheat, or barley, which makes sense when we consider that grain is what makes up much of the other 4/5ths of the grocery store. It also makes sense because most of the US (and the world) simply isn’t fit for growing many of the fruits and vegetables we expect to be continuously available. Not only do fresh fruits and vegetables require warm weather, ample sunlight, and limited wind and pest exposure, they also require hand-picking which, in talking to farmers who couldn’t even find one hired man in their area to bring on part-time, is a laughable idea.
Beef may well be one of the most vilified foods on the planet today. A recent example, found on the Medical Daily website, lists seven reasons a person should avoid eating beef. Those include mentions of studies tying consumption of beef to Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Mad Cow Disease is reason No. 5 to never eat beef; and the fact that "cows are nice" is reason No. 7. Downplaying this type of article as internet fear-mongering risks underestimating its impact. Consider that 72% of adults in the U.S. go online for health information, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The vast majority use search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo to find answers to medical questions. Beth Kitchin, assistant professor in nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, said she's not surprised to find people are often confused by reports singling out this or that food as a cause of cancer.
"I think basically our whole profession is so crazy now. You can find somebody to tell you whatever you want to hear, whether it's that Paleo is great, or you need to go gluten-free, or that sugar is toxic. We are throwing out whole categories of food," she said. "Looking at beef, reports that came out where the World Health Organization [WHO] said red meat is a carcinogen were really exaggerated. There is no food that is toxic for people. Sugar is not toxic. Beef is not toxic. That doesn't mean we shouldn't limit ourselves, but this all gets very hyperbolic. The key to good health, as boring as it sounds, is moderation."
East of Athens, in Marathon County, Joseph Zaiger's herd of about 40 cows produces a type of milk that could shake up the dairy industry. It's like conventional milk but doesn't have a beta-casein protein that some studies have said makes milk less digestible, almost intolerable, for a large number of people. That is different from the condition known as lactose intolerance, which Zaiger's milk doesn't help. The technical term is "A1 beta-casein free," meaning the milk from Zaiger's Clover Meadows farm lacks that particular protein found in most milk. This isn't genetic modification; rather it's a process of breeding cows with the desired trait or finding them in a regular herd.
Northeast dairy farmers who have been strapped for months by low milk prices say a voluntary insurance program that was supposed to be a safety net isn’t helping. The margin protection program provides financial assistance to enrolled farmers when the gap between the price of milk and national average feed costs falls below the coverage levels picked by individual farmers. “It’s a complete failure,” said Les Pike, of Keewaydin Farm in Stowe, Vermont, which has been losing money for months. “If it doesn’t pay in a year like this, it’s completely useless.” Farmers say the margin protection program is not based on Northeast farmers’ feed costs but on the national average feed cost, which is less. The chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation testified in Washington last month that the program needs improvements. Randy Mooney, who is also a Missouri dairy farmer, said the formula for calculating feed costs was changed and no longer reflects the true cost of feeding a herd while the insurance premiums for farmers were not reduced.
Kentucky Mist Moonshine - an upscale distillery that sells fruit-infused moonshine in Whitesburg, KY, has spent 8 months in a trademark dispute with the University of Kentucky over who owns the rights to the name "Kentucky". UK trademaked the name Kentucky in 1997 for use on clothing. Judge Danny Reeves accepted that the university was immune to being sued and Kentucky Mist can not trademark his business name.
Four mothers whose children have food allergies raised $10 million to get the project started.
FDA director says the percentage of in-house environmental samples that are positive for SE has declined, but the rate of human illnesses attributed to eggs hasn’t improved. Out of 1,355 FDA inspections of U.S. registered egg farms, only 10 farms received warning letters from the agency. Unfortunately, just as the reduced percentage of Salmonella-positive broiler carcasses after chilling hasn’t seemed to reduce human cases of Salmonellosis, neither has the reduction in SE contamination on layer farms.
Oyster boat captains last year thought they were suffering through one of the worst years in decades for the Texas oyster industry as freshwater from heavy rains flooded Galveston Bay and killed oysters. This year is turning out to be much worse. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry on Tuesday issued a disaster declaration for the Galveston Bay oyster industry, but the problem is not restricted to Galveston Bay. Persistent downpours throughout eastern Texas are swamping oyster beds with deadly freshwater all along the Texas Gulf Coast. The surge of oyster-killing freshwater for the second straight year is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Texas oyster industry, which supplies about 30 percent of all oysters harvested in the Gulf of Mexico.
Philadelphia became the first major American city with a soda tax despite a multi-million dollar campaign by the beverage industry to block it. The City Council gave final approval to a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet beverages.