Natural. Organic. Free-Range. Maybe soon we'll have "Clean Cows," as opposed to the "dirty" variety you're raising now. An international task force of scientists are feverishly working on a multimillion-dollar project for Dutch life-sciences giant DSM some are calling the world’s best chance to avert climate disaster. Yep, they’re studying cow gas. Or, more specifically, how to prevent cows from producing so much methane as part of their normal digestive process. Karen Beauchemin and her colleagues at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) are developing a greenhouse gas-slashing compound that cows eat with their daily feed. Results sound promising for the flatulence-fixing formula – potentially reducing a cow’s methane production by 60 percent, hence the name "Clean Cow." Which begs the question, "Got Clean Cow Milk?"
GTN Readers Want to Know...
We try to keep Grazing the Net stories short, which sometimes leaves readers wondering just where we stand on a particular subject. We’ve been called cynical, smart-assed, sarcastic, liberal and conservative (both intended as insults) and a few other names that would make a mule skinner blush. But we don’t ignore reader questions. Recent reader inquiries suggest we provide more information, so today we’re starting a regular GTN feature with answers in a blog post.
Q. In response to last week’s story about Chipotle, Pat asked in an email, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you against COOL? What does it matter where in the world Chipotle sources its beef from? Or maybe you're upset that consumers actually know where their food comes from?"
A. Thanks for the question, Pat. You’re correct we oppose country-of-origin labeling (COOL) as a costly program to everyone in the production and marketing chain, while providing little information to consumers. In fact, consumer research indicates that few meat shoppers wanted COOL information. More importantly, when COOL went into effect in 2009, Canada and Mexico objected to the World Trade Organization, claiming the labels were a barrier to free trade that reduced the value of their beef and imposed burdensome regulations.
Not surprisingly, the WTO agreed. In response, the USDA implemented even stricter labeling requirements, which means the U.S. could face sanctions from the WTO.
That’s a foolish position we’ve put ourselves in, given the fact that U.S. beef exports currently account for more than $260 of the value of a fed steer.
Regardless of our views on COOL – and the debate is ongoing – they have nothing to do with our objection to Chipotle sourcing some of their beef from Australia, as CEO Steve Ells says he will do. It has everything to do with the image of American beef producers (and pork producers) Chipotle portrays to their customers.
Chipotle’s slogan is "Food With Integrity." Apparently that integrity doesn’t carryover to their marketing and promotion. Here’s why we feel so strongly about this issue. In his recent announcement first published on HuffingtonPost.com, Ells wrote:
"When it comes to beef, for one thing, there are many different ways to raise cattle -- from conventional (with antibiotics and hormones) to the higher standards we require for our Responsibly Raised brand beef (without antibiotics and hormones), and from grain-finished to entirely grass-fed cattle.
So, according to Ells, no hormones and no antibiotics are "higher standards," and consumers should consider beef at his restaurants "Responsibly Raised." Hogwash. What Ells is doing is selling burritos by implying that cattle raised using products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are unfit for human consumption. How does that make you feel? You should be mad as hell, especially if you know you’re doing everything in your power to raise safe, wholesome beef.
But Ells isn’t done. He says Chipotle can’t find enough "Responsibly Raised" beef in America so they’ve turned to Australian producers. Ells says, "Serving (Australian beef) is an important step in our never-ending journey to help build a food system based on what we call Food With Integrity."
How do you think a soccer mom in Virginia or an insurance agent in New York views that statement? Here’s the CEO of a $3 billion burrito barn who says he can’t find enough "Responsibly Raised" beef in America. Wow, just wow!
And that, Pat, is why it matters "where-in-the-world Chipotle sources its beef from."
Last week we asked you to call Ells and Chipotle out for their lies. Do so by telling Chris Arnold via Twitter @ChipotleMedia and use hashtag #ChipotleLies.
El Niño Expectations
Much of America's heartland has experienced at least moderate drought relief the past two weeks, and more rain may be on the way, according to forecasters.
The late-spring rain certainly helps crops, but in many cases it fell just-in-time for parched rangelands.
But weather extremes may become more prevalent in the coming months as the NOAA says there's a 70% chance an El Niño event will develop this summer. Some El Niño-like events have already occurred, such as record-breaking Hurricane Amanda in the northeastern Pacific basin. El Niño events famously bring abundant rain to some regions, while others suffer droughts. Climatologists also warn El Niño could drive up average global temperatures.
Complete Coverage of Today's Reports
Today was a big day for agriculture reports. The lineup includes USDA's Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). Total meat production forecasts for 2014 were lowered, despite increased pork and turkey production. AgWeb.com editors have it all covered.