As if eggs aren’t confusing enough, with their many labels, many of which (natural) mean nothing. Organic chickens apparently aren’t everything you’d hoped they’d be either. You may have already heard how large Organic-certified broiler operations fudge on the sunlight and movement requirements for their poultry, providing teeny doors that one chicken among hundreds may never find, and outdoor ledges that seem equally inadequate to the task.
Watch these chickens, rescued from a battery cage operation, smell the country air and walk in the grass — for the first time in their lives. (We promise this is even better than the week’s best cat video.)
In an effort to salvage the effectiveness of a certain antibiotic for use in treating human illnesses, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an order today prohibiting certain off-label uses of cephalosporin in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys.
The new rules, set to take effect, April 5, 2012, will still allow the livestock industry to use the drug, but only as prescribed.
The FDA’s action comes after collecting extensive public comment on this issue in 2008.
McDonald’s has cut ties with one of its egg suppliers after an outside investigation showed numerous incidents of cruelty against laying hens and chicks.
The investigation by Mercy for Animals and ABC showed chickens jammed into tiny cages and mistreated by workers at Sparboe Farms, which has facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado.
Undercover video of the facility and the mistreatment aired on ABC programs yesterday, after which a McDonald’s spokesman said “based upon recent information” it would no longer be accepting eggs from Cargill-owned Sparboe Farms.
Like many of you, I am shocked by the recent recall of over half a billion eggs. However, what is so stunning to me is not the sheer magnitude of the recall. Rather, I’m shocked that this is the first offense perpetrated by the egg industry large enough to trigger America’s outrage regarding food safety. Our egg industry is an emblem of industrialized animal agribusiness — a system that jeopardizes the health of American consumers each and every day, institutionally abuses animals, and pollutes our seas and waterways.
The Food and Drug Administration estimates that each year, 142,000 Americans are sickened by egg-borne Salmonella. Tragically, Salmonella is the top cause of food-poisoning related deaths in the United States. The conditions that created this widespread contamination are hardly an aberration — they are typical of an industry in dire need of reform. The facilities where the eggs originated are both factories (I won’t call them farms) that confine millions of hens in cages smaller than a sheet of paper. Every one of the recalled eggs comes from a caged hen. Nearly 280 million hens are confined in cages across the country.
I have seen industrialized egg factories firsthand as part of my work with the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. These operations are literally nauseating: Airborne fecal dust chokes the air, facilitating the spread of Salmonella among birds packed beak-to-beak. Massive stacks of tiny cages line the dim walls, and thousands of thin white birds shudder in the darkness. They strain to turn around and spread unused wings in impossibly small cages, scratching haplessly at the thin wires under their feet.
If you’re looking for the small, family farm, you can find it in history books. Or in Iowa. Amid the oceans of corn and hogs being raised by giant industrial concerns is a small but tenacious under-current of small farmers determined to make it on 60 acres, give or take, on their own terms.
These small business owners (they’re not just in Iowa of course) are gambling that America’s taste for organic and naturally grown vegetables, grains and meats will sustain them as they revive trusted old methods, (like enriching the soil with natural compost), and incorporate technology that fits with their humane, sustainable model.
There’s hope on the horizon for these mavericks: Consumer demand for natural products is soaring. Organic agricultural production, despite more than doubling in the last decade, can barely keep up. Groceries and schools are increasingly looking for local food sources.
Phil and Marjorie Forbes, with part-time help from both their parents, are one farm family trying restore the land to feed this growing market. We talked with Phil during a visit to central Iowa, where he’s been farming outside of Kolona since the 1998.