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October 2013 Archive for Grazing the Net

RSS By: Greg Henderson and Friends, Beef Today

Our editors spend some time roaming the web looking for stuff cattle people and others in agriculture might find useful or entertaining. 

The “Fat Police” of Fargo

Oct 31, 2013

 

If you live in Fargo don’t go trick-or-treating at Cheryl’s house. She plans to hand out notes to parents instead of candy, and we expect the kids and the parents to take offense. Cheryl’s note says, in part, "Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats." And Cheryl is, in our opinion, more than moderately wacko.
 
 
The Houston Press apparently agrees with us. They’re calling Cheryl the self-appointed "fat police of Fargo," and they’ve developed 5 reasons handing out anti-obesity letters on Halloween is a bad idea.
 

 

Money for GMO fight

Politics is expensive. Money is pouring in to Washington state in an attempt to influence Tuesday’s ballot initiative about labeling GMOs. Of the $33 million raised to fight the labeling effort, only an estimated $10,000 came from instate donors. Those supporting the labeling of GMO foods have raised $8.4 million, and about 25 percent of that from instate donors. Officials believe I-522, as it is called, is officially the most expensive initiative battle in the state’s history.
 
While we often complain about the amount of money spent on politics, there’s at least some evidence that it has helped people better understand GMOs. For instance, Nathanael Johnson, who writes about food and the environment for Grist.org, says that "there are good arguments against labeling," though he still favors the idea.
 
 
Gene Hall of the Texas Farm Bureau makes a good point when he says, "When food shoppers see the label on nearly everything in the store, they will understand that safety for people or the environment is not really an issue."
 

Feeding "JerryWorld"

Here’s a story we didn’t expect to see from Texas. Not far from "JerryWorld," also known as the billion-dollar home of the Dallas Cowboys, Michael Sorrell cancelled the football program and turned the field into a farm. That’s somewhat sacrilegious in Texas, but as president of Paul Quinn College, Sorrell couldn’t justify the expense of a football program for a school that had just 250 students. Without football, the field was turned into a farm and in 2009 they struck a deal with Legends Hospitality to buy the produce. Don’t know Legends Hospitality? They run the concessions at "JerryWorld."
 

Eerie beauty of drought

Ok, we know drought and beauty are an oxymoron. But there is an exhibit in Austin, Texas, that contains some excellent photography, even if it shows the heavy toll the drought has had on the state. We think you’ll agree - the drought is ugly, the photos great.
 

 

No Crying Over Raw Milk for Air India

Oct 30, 2013

It's no secret we like eating high on the "cow" around here, particularly beef, and we don't mind a side of dairy, too. However, Air India has us questioning if we want to take the risk of drinking milk on any flights to the land that Christopher Columbus couldn't find. We're sure Columbus drank his fair share of unpasteurized milk; it's just not something most current world travelers want to mess with. From the outside it looks like Air India is trying save a few bucks by serving raw milk in used plastic bottles, but they better not cry when an unsuspecting customer gets sick and sues 'em.


The American Serengeti

Good intentions won't win the trust of an American rancher. The latest example can be found in Montana, where a group of conservationists and a few millionaire donors are hoping to create a privately-funded grassland reserve where 10,000 bison roam. That's the vision of the American Prairie Reserve, whose chairman, George E. Matelich, is a managing director of a New York private equity firm. The group has control of about 274,000 acres now, but ranchers are beginning to dig in their heels against the concept. They've seen development in the West before that created ski resorts and ranch retreats for wealthy businessmen and Hollywood celebrities.


Global Wine Shortage Looms

Market tip of the day—buy wine futures. Morgan Stanley Research said in a report issued Monday a global wine shortage is fast approaching. Last year, the supply barely exceeded demand. Wine production peaked in 2004, the report says, while global wine consumption has increased. Americans and the Chinese are to blame for much of the increase in consumption. The U.S. uncorks 12 percent of the world's wine, and per capita consumption doubled since 2000. China is now the world's fifth largest import market and has doubled its consumption twice in the past five years.


Video Misleads Consumers

Steve Nelson is not happy with Chipotle Mexican Grill. As president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nelson says the restaurant's advertising video, "The Scarecrow," perpetuates two of the "greatest fallacies of modern food production." One, Nelson said, is "the myth of the American 'factory farm.'" The other is that "people involved in raising food care only about profit and do so at the expense of their animals and our natural resources." Chipotle's motto is "Food with Integrity," but we're questioning whether that also applies to their advertising campaigns.

Yankees Tell Banksy to Go Home

Oct 29, 2013

Banksy, the secretive British street artist, has worn out his welcome in New York. On location in The Big Apple during the month of October, Banksy has unveiled new street art each day this month, though Mayor Bloomberg calls much of the work graffiti. We think some of Banksy’s art is kinda clever, and some of it is just weird.
 

Many New Yorkers seemed to like Banksy’s daring creativity, but the artist stepped over a line Sunday with a rant published in The New York Times about the construction of One World Trade Center, which he calls the biggest eyesore in New York. Further, he says the skyscraper "so clearly proclaims the terrorists have won." As one might guess, intelligent and respected New Yorkers are lining up to argue the contrary—and suggest that Banksy pack his spray paint and go home. This is one time we tend to agree with the Yankees.


Keystone Pipeline "Recreational Corridor"

We give Kinder Baumgardner an "A" for effort and creativity, but even he must know his plan to turn the Keystone Pipeline into a "recreational corridor" is unlikely to become reality. As the creative director for the SWA Group, a Houston-based architectural firm, Baumgardner has sent a proposal to the State Department and TransCanada Corp, suggesting the pipeline also include a bike trail. What’s not to like about a bike trail? Except this one’s 1,300 miles long and would cost $400 million to construct.


McMonstrosity Unveiled

You know you’re big when you make news by taking items off the menu. McDonald’s is that big, of course, and they’re scrapping their Dollar Menu in favor of the Dollar & More Menu. Translation: the company can’t continue to sell items on the Dollar Menu for a dollar anymore. However, the menu transition at Micky Ds gave some creative types at Thrillist the idea to build a sandwich with all the things you’ll no longer be able to buy for a dollar. They called it the McMonstrosity. They made fun of it. Then they ate it. They called this giant sandwich "one of the grossest combinations of grease and sugar since the Jersey Shore crew worked at an ice cream shop."


Women Taking Control of Agriculture

Capital Press reports that women are changing the face of Oregon agriculture as they assume control of family farms. The article profiles several women who have shunned careers off the farm to return to their roots. One woman interviewed for the story said the trend of daughters returning to the farm "will help keep agriculture viable." We have no doubt about that. 

“Kid Cages” are a Reasonable Precaution

Oct 28, 2013

We always thought "kid cages" were a good idea, but folks in New Mexico are actually using them—though their reasons are a little different than ours. Fearful parents in New Mexico have built cages for their children to use as protection from wolves as they wait for the school bus. Defenders of the wolves say there have been no documented wolf attacks in the state and parents’ fears are overblown. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says there are only an estimated 75 Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona, still the agency’s efforts to extend Endangered Species Act protection to the wolves has stirred controversy in the Southwest. By the end of the year federal officials are expected to finalize their plan for managing the Mexican wolves. Well, that’s reassuring. What could go wrong?


Nutrition Nonsense Unmasked

Halloween week is an appropriate time to rip the mask off nutrition lies that have been scaring consumers for decades. Kris Gunnars from Authority Nutrition does just that with "13 Nutrition Lies That Made The World Sick And Fat." He says, "nutrition is full of all kinds of nonsense," and number 7 on the list of nutrition lies that Gunnars summarily debunks is "meat is bad for you." Blaming new health problems on old foods "doesn’t make much sense at all and the studies don’t support it." Let’s have steak tonight!


A Scientific Study Without Scientists?

The Omaha World Herald reports, "Nebraska may be poised to conduct a climate study that its own scientists don’t want to be associated with." That’s because the state’s legislature has appropriated funds for the Climate Assessment and Response Committee to study the impact of climate change, only now the Legislature has voted to limit the study to "cyclical" climate change, which presumably excludes the role of humans in changing the climate. Scientists from the University of Nebraska and the National Drought Mitigation Center say they won’t circulate the study proposal to their peers if it excludes the role of humans.


"Power Shoppers" Propel Organic Market

Natural and organic retail sales surpassed $81 billion last year, an increase of 13.5 percent from 2011. But the bulk of those sales come from two groups of "power shoppers," those described as "true believers" in the organic/natural niche, and others described as "enlightened environmentalists." Together, they represent 18 percent of consumers, but account for 80 percent of organic and natural sales.

Cows Gone Wild, Hikers Terrified

Oct 25, 2013

Cattle are trespassing at the 18,000-acre Chino Hills State Park in the foot hills of the Santa Ana Mountains east of Los Angeles. Many are calling the cows feral, and there have been several incidents of the cows scaring hikers and campers. Park rangers are concerned about the potential for a dangerous interaction between the cattle and humans, so they’ve hired cowboys to come in and roundup the strays, but that strategy has had limited success.


Bad Science, Good Politics

We think Elaine Watson makes some astute observations about the ongoing debate over whether food produced with GMOs should contain labels. Writing for Foodnavigator-USA.com, Watson says the food industry "does not appear to be winning hearts and minds when it comes to persuading the public of the merits of GM crops, or why mandatory labeling of ingredients derived from them would be a bad idea." Some pro-GM spokesmen believe the PR strategy of fighting labeling of GM foods has "backfired."


Canadian Cattle No Longer Welcome at Tyson

Here’s the reality of COOL (country-of-origin labeling): Tyson Foods Inc. has stopped buying Canadian cattle for slaughter and processing in the U.S. Supporters of COOL suggest that’s a good thing, though opponents heartily disagree. Tyson says COOL forces additional costs on the company "without providing any incremental value to our customers." Less beef on the U.S. market might be a good thing, except that supplies are already at historic lows, which has driven retail beef prices to historic highs. Will U.S. consumers pay even more to know the complete origin of their steaks? We’re skeptical.


Does this Milk Taste Bad?

The national Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention kicks off next week in Louisville, KY, and high school students from across America will compete in various activities. One interesting competition is the Milk Quality and Products Career Development event where teens taste samples of milk to assess its taste, quality and freshness. Students must learn to identify off-flavors in milk, and samples in the competition are spiked with trace amounts of garlic powder, vinegar and other substances to create those off-flavors.

Work in Washington

Oct 24, 2013

Now that the government is up and running again, lawmakers are turning their heads to other matters, like immigration. The two sides are not singing in harmony quite yet. There’s still plenty of bad blood between the parties after the "refuse to negotiate" plan of action didn’t work for either side. Washington Times says the GOP has a dirty taste in its mouth as they look at a broad immigration bill.  And it looks like the farm bill conferees will meet up next week, just before Halloween. We sure hope the conferees don’t mistake the get-together for a costume party.

Politico says the farm bill gets no respect. Perhaps that headline is actually a perfect caption for the photo that accompanied the story. Take a look and make your own opinion. We think Obama and another "suit" who both are looking at the ground with their hands in their pockets while a farmer appears to be talking to them is the perfect image of no R-E-S-P-E-C-T.


Salty Report

A headline on NPR’s The Salt caught our attention today: Meat Producers Ignore Pleas for Health, Environmental Reform. The story is based on a "landmark report" that says the industry has regressed in the last five years. Really? Have they not seen all the news on sustainability in agriculture? How much better the industry is doing now compared to 10 years ago?

But then we did a little more digging. Their story was based on a report from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s the "scientific advisor" for the meatless Mondays campaign.  Ah, now the headline makes more sense. The Animal Agriculture Alliance offered its own counter report, and The Salt said the pork industry also seemed a bit "peeved." What’s truly unfortunate is that a name much of the country thinks of as a leader in the medical community – Johns Hopkins – is attached to this "salty" report.


Free Food?

Ever heard of a Freegan? Neither had we, but apparently it’s a brotherhood of home-owning, job-holding individuals who prefer to get their groceries from the dumpster rather than the grocery store. These are not hobos. They have money to purchase food. They simply choose to "reduce their environmental impact" by eating discarded food. They claim there’s so much discarded food that they use what they can and give the rest away! Might make you think twice when the neighbor-you-don’t-know-so-well offers up some extra food!


Other News Bites

As beef prices rise and consumers make choices on protein, it looks like McDonalds is making some of the decisions for their patrons by dropping the third-pound Angus burgers from its menu.  NBC says McDonalds has been working to offset higher beef costs by promoting chicken.

In the "news you are dying to know," today we offer the top food choices for those facing their final day on death row. Some are quite extravagant; others simple and a few others just odd. But we did notice that beef is on many of those menus.

Birth order brainiac? A study says first-borns are smarter ...

How do you get to the DMV to get a drivers license after its been suspended? With horsepower ...

 

New Rule: Don’t Buy Body Fluids Online

Oct 23, 2013

Apparently, there are some folks that need to be warned not to buy body fluids online. Specifically, researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, say human breast milk purchased online can contain potentially dangerous bacteria, including salmonella. In fact, three-fourths of the breast milk samples they tested contained high amounts of bacteria. Shocking!


Blatant Inconsistencies are a Head-Scratcher

We’re glad to know we aren’t the only ones perplexed about our relationships with animals. But Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, spends so much time contemplating the relationships between man and animals that it makes our heads hurt. Herzog, also the author of "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals" and the blog Animals and Us, wrote an editorial in the Los Angeles Times that points out what he sees as "blatant inconsistencies in how we think about animals." And he acknowledges that consistencies by animal rights activists can come at a personal cost.


Florida Farm-to-Fork Tour Shout-Out

We enjoy poking fun at agriculture-challenged journalists when they stumble over important issues and events that affect your business. But we also like to give a shout-out to fellow reporters when they get it right. Our thanks to Laura Reiley, Food Critic of the Tampa Bay Times, for her story about how Florida ranchers use technology to raise beef. The story was the result of a farm-to-fork tour sponsored by the Florida Beef Council.


A Partnership Made in Propaganda Heaven

Two of the most blatant disseminators of misleading information about livestock production are teaming up to produce new drivel. Chipotle Mexican Grill and The Huffington Post plan to launch "Food For Thought," a blog they claim will help people better understand the food system. We’re pretty skeptical of that claim since Chipotle is guilty of misleading their customers and painting most livestock producers as uncaring and over-zealous users of antibiotics, and The Huffington Post allows columnists to regularly disparage modern agriculture in favor of chic, organic and boutique farming.

Country Kids Cheaper to Raise Than NYC Pooches

Oct 22, 2013

We've known for a long time that raising a family in the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple wasn't for us. Now it looks like even having man's best friend in the urban jungle of New York City will break the bank. The folks at Bloomberg did the math and the cost to have a canine companion in America's biggest (and most pricey) city for a year is more expensive than a middle-income, two parent family raising a child. Of course, in New York City the price for walking your dog and kibble is outrageous, so it's probably better to just feed them Ol' Roy and let 'em run the streets.


Running Around Like a Chicken on a Tractor?

Poultry isn't exactly our forte around these parts, but for an Australian cattle producer his chickens have become quite the nuisance when he drives the tractor anywhere near them. Each time Dan Carney pulls his tractor into various paddocks that he houses up to 1,600 birds in he is swarmed by the pecking poultry who climb all over the tractor, particularly while it is running. The "chooks" (that’s Aussie for chicken) have yet to get the tractor out of neutral, but they love running the throttle and the loader, says Carney. Let's hope we never hear of chickens actually driving a tractor, that news would be just for the birds.


Truckers Becoming More Bandit Than Smokey

Apparently thieves are getting more daring in their attempts to swindle goods via semi-trailers. According to the Associated Press, con men are posing as legitimate truckers running their own truck and trailers. The burglars then gain access to information about shipments via online databases and show up to loading docks where they steal millions of dollars in merchandise, typically food and beverages. Looks like you better get a 10-4 if a trucker is who they say they are.


Too Much Time Online

Social media maybe a black hole that is sucking up time normally spent interacting with actual people. That's what a recent study by Scot Wallsten, an economist and researcher at the Technology Policy Institute, indicates. Wallsten outlines in his research the dilemma that being online can pose to work and social life through a series of charts and time calculations. He found that time spent online in a leisure manner took away from time spent making friends, traveling, learning, working and sleeping. Maybe this is a sign that less time should be spent Facebooking and Tweeting, with more time invested in actually doing something.

Could an App Make Cockroaches Pets?

Oct 21, 2013

We’ve never given much thought to whether cockroaches have free will, but we may need to consider that after reading this story about how these guys at Backyard Brains have developed a device to control the movements of cockroaches with a smart phone. The device is called RoboRoach and the Backyard Brains guys say they created it to inspire a new generation of neuroscientists. The RoboRoach app requires that the roach be fitted with small wires into their antennas, which creates a cockroach that follows your directions. Seems like a lot of effort to make a pet out of a cockroach.


Mystery of Meatless Monday Missing

We mostly ignored Food Day last week, chiefly because it’s the three-year-old brainchild of Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group whose main interest is putting livestock producers out of business. But this article on the Huffington Post that attempts to join in the Food Day fun really sticks in our craw. Here’s the headline: "Meatless Monday -- Bite into Real Food For Food Day." One would expect to open that story to read a diatribe of how eliminating meat from your diet can fix everything from the federal deficit to flat feet. Nope. The story doesn’t even mention Meatless Monday, though the author claims to be a vegetarian. We think the headline should read: Meatless Mondays Turned My Mind to Mush.


The "Spin" on Michelle’s White House Garden

Recent stories about the White House garden being "overgrown" with weeds during the government shutdown are false and were not written by a journalist who ever had dirt under his/her fingernails. We know because, well, any farm kid can tell you that the growing season is mostly done by Oct. 1 at the latitude of Washington, D.C. So, while we can believe that some pumpkins and other vegetables may have gone to waste during the government furlough, weeds springing up and overtaking the garden is just creative copy from some junior journalist. In Washington-speak such copy is called "spin."

 


More Misleading Messages about Monsanto

We’re on our soapbox today about journalists misleading folks about agriculture. This guy named Ocean Robbins writes a blog at www.foodrevolution.org, which contains a lot of inaccuracies, but a recent article published by The Huffington Post just ain’t so.

First, it’s clear Robbins is not a fan of Monsanto or GMOs, and that seems to taint his perspective. He writes: "Just three days ago, Mexico banned genetically engineered corn." USAgNet reminds Robbins that Mexico in fact banned GMOs in 1998, not three days ago.

Apparently not one to let facts interrupt a good anti-Monsanto storyline, Robbins writes: "This means that companies like Monsanto will no longer be allowed to plant or sell their corn within the country's borders." Ummm, yeah, if you’re referring to the 1998 law, but that’s not what the judge said.
 

Pee Time is Just TMI

Oct 18, 2013

We know a lot of folks who make their living doing animal research—feed efficiency, grazing patterns, etc.—and we can usually follow the logic in the results. But, dagnabbit if we can see the value in knowing that it takes the average mammal 21 seconds to pee. In fact, even Grist.com says no one "has thought seriously about this phenomenon before." We think that's an astute observation from Grist. Not quite sure what to make of the researchers observations about pee time, though. We label such stuff TMI—too much information.


Mayor Bloomberg Agrees with Us!

In our view, graffiti is graffiti regardless of who creates it. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg apparently thinks likewise as he told reporters this week, "I just think there are some places for art and there are some places [not for] art. And you running up to somebody's property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art."

Bloomberg was talking about this guy named Banksy who has become a media darling because he's an "elusive British street artist," which is a creative way of describing his illegal graffiti. The Mayor may not like Banksy's work, but the media loves it. The New York Post headline Thursday was "GET BANKSY," along with a handful of stories.

Just to clarify, this is the news we're left with since Harry Reid and John Boehner are taking a long weekend.


Timber! Loggers Go Back to Work

Loggers were forced out of work by the government shutdown, but now a federal judge says they don't have to wait on a paperwork backlog to start their chainsaws. A ban on logging went into effect when the government shutdown, we presume, because there were no feds on duty to supervise the logging.

But, interestingly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department didn't delay plans to start shooting barred owls in Northern California as part of an experiment to determine if that might help northern spotted owls reclaim territory they've been driven out of the past half-century. We're guessing PETA is not fond of that plan.


How Not to Deal with a Feral Cat in the House

A barn cat is a good thing to have on most farms, but apparently feral cats have become a menace in Australia. Folks there claim the cats have decimated native wildlife and backyard "chooks," which is Australian for chickens. Residents have been trapping the cats, but one man's "run-in with a feral cat at his house near Alice Springs plays out like a comic strip."

 

Biotechnology Takes Center-Stage

Oct 17, 2013

The anti-GMO activists are calling this year's recipients of the World Food Prize controversial, which just underscores their lack of understanding of the science and technology the prize winners have used to increase food production. Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of the late Norman Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, says she expected a backlash when three biotechnology pioneers were named this year's winners. But, she also said "hallelujah." In a column this week she wrote: biotechnology's opposition "cannot be permitted to deprive billions of people of its promise." The World Food Prize will be awarded today in Des Moines, IA.


Technology is a Good Path, Farmer Says

Tony Thompson qualifies as an "industrial farmer." But when The Washington Post says big farming doesn't have to mean bad farming, we take notice. In fact, we're seeing more positive stories about agriculture in recent weeks where the use of technology to raise food is viewed as a good thing. This profile of the Minnesota farmer proves that size isn't everything as it relates to farming techniques. Thompson may not inspire the folks who shop at Whole Foods, but he inspires us.


Debt Deal Undermines "Senator Gridlock" Label

Today we know how many congressmen it takes to turn on the lights in Washington, and now we're hearing from nearly all of them how they were the key to preventing the economy from going over the cliff. One of the winners, however, appears to be Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. He secured funding for a lock-and-dam project on the Ohio River that would benefit his home state, and according to the Lexington Herald Leader, provided a boost to his Senate re-election campaign.


Swedish Meatballs a Specialty

We don't think of furniture makers as sources of good food, but IKEA is trying to change that. The Swedish company makes inexpensive furniture that Americans have been going bonkers for in recent years, but their food sales now total nearly $2 billion. The company estimates they'll sell 150 million meatballs this year in 300 store cafeterias world-wide.

Furry Intruder Guards the White House Garden

Oct 16, 2013

There’s a fox guarding Michelle Obama’s garden at the White House. Or maybe he’s just seeking refuge from the other critters that inhabit Washington these days. While lawmakers wrangle over the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling, Michelle’s garden lacks TLC. Eddie Gehman Kohan, the author of the Obama Foodorama blog which chronicles food policy at the White House, reports groundskeepers have been sidelined by the shutdown, and that "pounds and pounds of ripe organic bounty have gone to waste." Kohan says the fox arrived two weeks ago and has been "spotted many times" according to "highly reliable" White House sources. Grist says "thanks to the shutdown animals are running amok" at the White House. Others might argue that that was true before the shutdown.


Damning News for Anti-GMO Activists in Europe

Some days the voices of reason just simmer to the top. For instance, Ann Glover, the EU’s chief scientific advisor says European countries should "rethink" their rejection of GMOs. Glover supports a new report from the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) that warns of "grave scientific, economic and social consequences of the current European Union policy towards GM crops." The report also refutes some of the claims of the anti-GMO activists with statements such as: "The scientific literature shows no compelling evidence to associate such (GM) crops, now cultivated worldwide for more than 15 years, with risks to the environment or with safety hazards for food."


Missiles for Milk?

With a $100 million debt for imported dairy products and no cash on hand, Russia resorted to the barter system in 1993. According to a new book, after the collapse of the Soviet Union the country offered a pair of fighter jets and a nuclear submarine to New Zealand to settle its milk debt. Not a good offer, since New Zealand is a nuclear-free zone. The book, "Till the Cows Came Home," was written by Clive Lind, who describes the New Zealand officials as "stunned" by Russian offer.


Ethanol Does Not Reduce Gas Prices

Depending on your perspective (or maybe the number of acres of corn you raise), ethanol has either been a boon or a bust to your business. The debate about ethanol is far from settled, but a new report by an MIT economist seeks to rebut the claim, broadly aired over the past couple of years, that widespread use of ethanol has reduced the wholesale cost of gasoline by $0.89 to $1.09 per gallon. Whatever the benefits or drawbacks of ethanol, MIT's Christopher Knittel says, price issues are not among them right now.

Cockroach Farms Thriving in China

Oct 15, 2013

We often criticize Americans for spending money foolishly. Like those concocted caffeinated beverages that are way over-priced with names like Pumpkin Spice Latte or Chocolate Chai Tea Latte. Then, we read this article about the Chinese spending $20 per pound for cockroaches. Li Shunan, a professor of traditional medicine, told the LA Times, "I lost my hair years ago. I made a spray of cockroaches, applied it on my scalp and it grew back. I've used it as a facial mask and people say I haven't changed at all over the years." But Liu Yusheng, head of the Shandong Insect Industry Association, worries about the "rapid growth of an industry with too many inexperienced players and too little oversight." Seems like a legitimate concern.


Cattle Prices Poised to Break Records this Week

Showlist cattle are priced at $130 per cwt. and higher at feedyards this week. Will packers bite? There're plenty of reasons to suggest they will, but also a growing concern that retail beef prices have found a resistance point from consumers. Feeder cattle remain the hottest commodity in the cattle complex, and in shortest supply.


Food Stamp Shopping Spree

A power outage in Louisiana temporarily lifted the caps on food stamp spending cards, which created chaos at local Walmart stores on Saturday evening. Springhill, LA, Police Chief Will Lynd said, "It was definitely worse than Black Friday. There was no food left on any of the shelves and no meat left." Louisiana officials are trying to decide what to do, if anything, about the incident.


South Dakota Opens Two Disposal Pits for Cattle Carcasses

Two 20-foot-deep disposal pits opened in western South Dakota on Monday to help ranchers dispose of livestock carcasses from the October blizzard. Animal Industry Board rules require the carcasses to be burned, buried to a depth of four feet or disposed of by a licensed rendering plant within 36 hours. That timeframe, however, has been waived by Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Stuffed Animals Hauled to Slaughter in NY

Oct 14, 2013

We admit: most modern art is lost on us. Our appreciation for such work is, well ... similar to our understanding of the anti-meat movement. Which explains why we never heard of this guy Banksy until now, but he was rather busy over the weekend trying to tarnish the image of livestock producers. Banksy is an England-based street graffiti artist (some people get arrested for that), political activist, film director and painter. He set up a display in Central Park where he sold "original signed Banksy" paintings for $60. Then he hired a truck to drive through Brooklyn hauling screaming stuffed animals being taken to slaughter. Makes one want to swear off eating stuffed animals.


Not all Chicken Nuggets are Created Equal

We don’t eat much chicken—and certainly never in public. But there seems to be a lot of folks who do, so we thought this was an interesting report by a Mississippi doctor, who says, "Our sampling shows that some commercially available chicken nuggets are actually fat nuggets," he told The Salt.

Problem is, his sample size was two—as in two over-the-counter purchases. As you might expect, the National Chicken Council didn’t like the report, and they make some valid rebuttal points.


Bad Weather, Bad Politics—the Perfect Storm Hits S.D. Ranchers

The killer blizzard that hit South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana devastated the region’s livestock industries. Ranchers have been left to clean up on their own while politicians allow the federal government to shut down. The dead cattle number in the tens of thousands, and many ranchers lost everything. Where is the outrage from John Boehner and Harry Reid? FEMA is notably absent. Meanwhile, the 6,000 ranches hit by the storm have no safety net. Individuals from around the country, however, are calling in to offer help.


Better Livestock Handling Tips from the U.N.

It may not be your first source for cattle breeding and feeding tips, but the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued some recommendations to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They say these practices could trim greenhouse gas emissions by livestock by up to 30 percent. The report doesn’t mention that some previous claims about livestock’s carbon footprint have been described as inaccurate, among other things.

Morning Juice? Starbucks Has It for $12 to $24 Per Gallon

Oct 11, 2013

Americans may be the richest folks in the world, but we're apparently also the most gullible. Starbucks announced it has opened a $70 million, state-of-the-art "juicery" in California to bottle its Evolution Fresh juice, a brand it acquired two years ago. But this is no ordinary juice, it's high-end "super-premium" juice that provides "incredible nutrition." We don't know about the nutrition, but the price is certainly "incredible"—$2.99 to $6.99 for a 15.2 ounce bottle. Yikes!!

What was it P.T. Barnam said about suckers?


Caution: Monsanto Bashing Ahead

You either believe in technology or you don't. We've come to expect content from Grist.org that suggests we should all go back to farming with a team of mules. That's why this article "5 ways Monsanto wants to profit off global warming" totally confuses us. The article begins with an array of buzz words that suggest there's Monsanto bashing to come: "Global warming could mean big business for controversial agriculture giant Monsanto." But as the article proceeds to list the 5 ways Monsanto could profit off climate change, Grist actually makes the case for how Monsanto and other agriculture technology companies are helping to aid the environment and feed a growing population. It's kinda hard to criticize stuff like drought-resistant corn hybrids and data to help farmers cope in a changing climate. Still, we have to give Grist a "fail" on this attempt.


Farm Bill Update on "AgriTalk"

Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) tells "AgriTalk" the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to announce its conferees for farm bill discussions with the Senate today. While she thinks it's possible for the House and Senate to reach consensus on spending reductions for the nutrition title, "We certainly are a longs ways apart right now." Noem says she's "hoping we can meet in the middle."


Trendy, Interesting and Just Plain Wrong

Ready to save the world? Vincent Kitirattragarn is ready to help. He provides a list of 5 things our grandchildren will call dinner so they can "save the world by eating responsibly." Don't know Kitirattragarn? Neither did we, but he's the founder of Dang Coconut Chips (we don't know what those are, either), the first nationally available brand of toasted coconut chips snacks. Here's his list of "food sources that have minimal or even positive impacts on our planet." The list begins with choosing insects over beef—for environmental reasons. 'Nuff said.

Ohio Judge to Man: You’re Still Dead

Oct 10, 2013

If you want to disappear don’t try to come back later to collect Social Security. At least not in Ohio, where a judge told a man declared "legally" dead in 1994 he is still dead in the eyes of the court. The man ran out on his wife, children and thousands of dollars in unpaid child support in 1986. He’s now 61 and hopes to "reestablish" his social security number. But his ex-wife wanted him to remain dead, too, (don’t they all?) since she received Social Security death benefits to support her two children.


Flat-Earthers Keep Your Opinions to Yourself

If you’ve got an opinion about global warming and it doesn’t square-up with the one held by The Los Angeles Times, keep it to yourself. Well, you can write to The Times, they just won’t publish it. Why? The newspaper’s editors say they don’t publish letters that "have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change)." I guess that means we can believe everything The Times publishes.


Texas-Sized Problem with Pigs

Somewhere between 2 and 6 million feral hogs have made themselves unwelcome in America. They ruin golf courses, tear up residential shrubbery and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Recently, Jana Waller, host of Sportsman Channel's "Skull Bound TV," co-hosted a series on the devastating impact of feral hogs on the residents and livestock of Texas. She says they affect everyone who drives a car or drinks tap water. CNN has her story.


More Global Warming Warnings

There’s more research showing alarming acceleration of climate change, this one published in the journal Nature. Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa predict that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rates, the annual average temperatures in many areas will be hotter than they have been in any year between 1860 and 2005.

Multiple Blows to the Head Can Make You Vegetarian

Oct 09, 2013

That’s our take, anyway, from what Timothy Bradley says about his eating habits before a big fight. Bradley, the 30-year-old undefeated WBO welterweight boxing champion from Cathedral City, CA, claims he becomes a vegetarian during pre-fight training. But then, he says, when his weight got out of control for his last fight, he returned to eating chicken and fish as part of a crash diet. Confused? So are we.


Early Blizzard’s Devastating Impact to Ranchers

Tens of thousands of cattle died in South Dakota following a blizzard that could become one of the most costly in the history of the state’s agriculture industry. Ranchers are finding the dead cattle in a wide swath of the storm’s path, stretching from the Wyoming line east for about 100 miles.


Another (Sigh) Documentary on the Evils of Food Production

There’s this video on Upworthy.com you should watch, and you don’t need a strong stomach. It’s a clip from a documentary called Samsara, which is about the evils of livestock and food production. Grist says, "If you weren’t already convinced factory farming is really effing depressing and cruel to animals, this snippet will convince you." No, actually, it did nothing of the kind to us. There’s no blood and gore here, no flagrant animal abusers--just some reality of modern food production. If Samsara is trying to make us feel guilty about eating meat, this video is a fail.


Obamacare Faces Ctrl/Alt/Delete

Nevermind the health care provisions, Obamacare is facing a possible demise from computer glitches. TIME reports officials running the new Affordable Care Act need to fix the web sites by the middle of November to handle major traffic or the law’s future could be imperiled. We wonder, will the government be open by then? Will the U.S. be in default? Will Miley Cyrus still be making headlines? (She makes us wish for the heyday of Paris Hilton.)

Lambs are “For Sacrifice” in Hollywood

Oct 08, 2013

In most any city in America this street protest would draw attention. But in the Hollywood Boulevard freak show over-the-top doesn’t even place. Still, Mercy for Animals’ protest against carnivores caught the attention of The Los Angeles Times, which noted "it was a bit odd to see a bunned, 10-foot-long (inflatable) dog lying on its side, with a belly striped with ketchup and mustard." Odd? Among pedestrians that included a web of Spider-Men — one rail-thin, one chubby, one wearing a bulging fanny pack – and Popeye, in dirty white track pants? No more so than the Queen of Darkness – "in tiara, eye mask, black gown, black cape and elbow-length black lace gloves — who paused to tell the protesters, ‘God made cows, deer, pigs, goats and lambs for food — and lambs are for sacrifice.’"


Are Consumers Stupid? Does Science Matter?

We think the first answer is ‘probably,’ and the second ‘definitely.’ Ronald L Doering, past president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, sees it this way: "Most consumers are scientifically illiterate, but they’re not stupid." Doering says consumers are questioning regulators and livestock producers who have insisted for years that the prudent use of antibiotics in agriculture poses no human health risk. If that’s true, "why are we seeing the proliferation of meat labels with ‘no antibiotics’ claims?" Doering believes the "perception risk can trump the scientific risk, and the science doesn’t really matter."


Under a Beaver’s Tail

There are just some things about our food we really don’t need to know. Like the connection between vanilla ice cream and a beaver’s butt. Alas, TIME tells us that the smell of vanilla is derived from castoreum a.k.a. a fragrant, brown slime that comes from a beaver’s castor sacs, which are located pretty much where you'd expect them to be located.


Sad Reality of Blizzards on the Central Plains

Horrific, incredibly sad photos of Mother Nature’s wrath during this week’s snowstorm we found on Facebook. AgriTalk's Mike Adams has the details on this tragedy. There's some great info in this segment but if you'd like to skip straight to the interview with Jodie Anderson, Executive Director at SD Cattlemen's Association, it is around the 44:00 mark.

Private Industry Fills Market Information Void

Oct 07, 2013

The government shutdown, and the lack of U.S. Department of Agriculture market reports, has been good for some private businesses. The lights may be out at USDA, but the phones lit up at commodities firm Urner Barry and other private market analysis firms. Market participants are scrambling to find reliable sources for information that can make a difference between profit and loss as they bring corn, beans, or cattle to market.


CAFO: "The Auschwitz of Livestock?"

Our hats are off to Holly Spangler of the Kansas Farmer and her recent blog post about her encounter with an activist spreading misinformation about livestock production. On an informational, Spangler listened as George Kalogridis, an Indiana-based organic certification manager, stepped in front of the crowd of Chicago Field Moms and downstate (cattle raising) farm moms, and called CAFOs  "the Auschwitz of livestock." He said CAFO raised animals are not allowed outside, they never breathe fresh air, they can't turn around, they're miserable and there's not a single good CAFO out there. Ah, but there was Holly, willing to challenge Kalogridis with the facts. She summed up the encounter this way: "Against all odds, there is a bright side to this story: the Chicago moms saw right through him and his CAFO definition lie." 


Shutdown = No Weddings at National Monuments, No Problem

Apparently Smokey Bear was laid off by the government shutdown, too. And the shutdown also means long-planned weddings at national monuments were cancelled. That brought comedian Stephen Colbert to the rescue. Stephen stepped up to marry a couple whose Jefferson Memorial ceremony was threatened by the shutdown.


Law Firm Lists Effect of Government Shutdown on Ag 

Attorney Bradley A. McKinney, Faegre Baker Daniels, compiles a list of all government programs and initiatives that have seen an impact from the government shutdown.

Drones May Transform the Way We Grow Food

Oct 04, 2013

Unmanned drones certainly have their controversial uses, but many say the technology could be fantastic for agriculture. Chris Anderson, the CEO of 3-D Robotics, which manufactures electronics and aerial vehicles, says he believes "drones might be the future of food." He says that, contrary to public opinion, drones aren't good for fighting domestic terrorism or smuggling drugs. However, Anderson believes drones are going to be one of the biggest sources of big data in one of the biggest industries in the world, which is agriculture. Farm Journal offers up the "Drone Zone" with the good, the bad and the ugly of unmanned aerials.


Cargill Will Bring Australian Grass-Fed Beef to U.S. Stores

Grass-fed beef has long been a niche product in the U.S., sold mostly in high-end retail outlets where price is rarely an obstacle for shoppers. But the market share of grass-fed beef is likely to expand, now that Cargill, one of America's largest food companies, has entered into an agreement with Teys Australia to import the Australian beef to the U.S.

NPR’s blog "The Salt" delivers their version of why most grass-fed beef sold in the U.S. comes from down under


FBI Collars the Silk Road Kingpin

The government shutdown and a wild car chase in Washington grabbed most of the headlines this week, but maybe just as significant is the news the FBI caught the man accused of creating Silk Road. Yeah, we didn't know about Silk Road either, but apparently it's a shadowy e-commerce site that's described as the "most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet." CNN describes how federal agents collared Ross William Ulbricht in a San Francisco public library on Tuesday:

The FBI believes Silk Road facilitated roughly $1.2 billion in sales of illegal drugs, fake documents, hackers-for-hire and other illicit goods. The Atlantic asks, "Did shutting down Silk Road make the world a more dangerous place?"  


Change is Coming with Commodities-Equities Cycle

Looking at the Commodites-Equities Cycle, analyst Mike Hogan, Stewart-Peterson, says a shift happens about every 17 to 21 years. "Since 2000 we've been in a state where commodities have been pulling the economy forward. There’s only a couple years left in that cycle." AgDay TV has the full interview. 

 

Day 3: Entering an Information Vacuum

Oct 03, 2013

These are good days for folks in the news business--you know, plenty of colorful quotes from angry lawmakers questioning the intelligence (and ancestry, too) of their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. But the government shutdown has livestock producers more than just a little angry. The absence of reports from USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service is costing livestock operations money as commodity markets thrive on hard data. John Kemp, a columnist for Reuters, says "the extent to which commodity markets rely on government data is hard to exaggerate."


Lawmakers See Another Fiscal Storm Brewing

Before there's even a hint that Congress can reach an agreement to end the government shutdown, lawmakers are warning of the next impending crisis--the debt limit ceiling. Congress must raise the debt limit ceiling or risk going into default on the national debt, reports USA Today. The last battle over the debt limit was two years ago, and the Treasury Department says that event caused the stock market to drop 17 percent and monthly payments on new mortgages went up an average of $100.


Labels that Campaign for More Labeling

The label of a bottle of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps probably resembles what you would expect to see on a bottle of laudanum-based snake oil--small type, lots of praise for the product and its healing effects. Now, as reported by good 'ol Grist, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps has become a special advertising vehicle for Washington state's proposition 522, which would require food makers to label products that might contain genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. The vote on Prop 522 is scheduled for Nov. 5.


Google Start-Up Aims to Fight Aging

As a brand, Google is the second most valuable in the world, right behind Apple, which dethroned Coca-Cola this year.

The rankings come from research by a company called Interbrand, which had Coca-Cola number one for 13 consecutive years. Many large companies are adopting strategies that include a "greater focus on social purpose" to improve people’s lives. Maybe that explains Google’s latest venture, Calico--or the California Life Company--which has been set up to research subjects related to aging and its associated diseases. Announcing Calico at a media briefing, Google said that the new and independent company will largely focus on age-attendant conditions such as Alzheimer's, cancer and heart disease.

Day 2: Will the Horses be Fed?

Oct 02, 2013

One of the more intriguing stories from the government shutdown involves busloads of World War II veterans, many in wheelchairs, whose long-planned trips to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington encountered barricades and closed gates.

Those obstacles didn’t stop the vets on Tuesday, however, as they broke past guards to view their memorial. We’re not worried about the World War II vets – they showed us 70 years ago in Europe and the Pacific they’re quite capable of taking care of themselves. We are, however, concerned about a few of the other programs that have fallen by the wayside as 800,000 government workers were placed on furlough this week. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration says the agency’s nutrition information and promotion programs are in limbo. "FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities," the agency states in its funding contingency plan. Ditto for the employees who keep our food supply safe. "FDA will also have to cease safety activities such as routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities ... and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making."

Rest assured, however, the horses will be fed. According to the Bureau of Land Management's contingency plan, the agency will continue to manage wild horse and burro holding facilities. Unfortunately, they will not be up for adoption during the shutdown.


USDA’s Market News a Victim of Shutdown

American farmers, ranchers and commodities traders are left in the dark this week as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistical reports are shuttered. Meat inspections are considered essential services and will continue. USDA may be forced to delay the release of its monthly crop estimates.

Livestock producers will miss many critical weekly reports, including results from cattle auctions and other vital livestock and meat price reports. One barometer essential for cattle producers is the weekly feeder cattle index, which will not be available. CME Group officials are responsible for providing an interim solution. During the shutdown, livestock producers will still be able to trade futures and options, but the lack of cash market information makes it difficult to pick the right time to offset such positions. Farm Futures has the details.

The CME Group sent a letter warning their customers that settlement prices based on cash prices could be affected by the government shutdown.


Kentucky is No Place for Wolves

The first endangered grey wolf to wander into Kentucky in 150 years didn’t survive long. A hunter, said to have mistaken the wolf for a coyote, shot and killed the wolf back in March. Department of Agriculture officials believe the wolf was well-traveled, however, as the nearest known population of the species is in northern Michigan, about 600 miles away.


Taking Meat Eating to the Extreme

We like our steaks medium-rare, but cooking is a must. That’s why we’re a little grossed out by this guy Derek Nance and his carnivorous version of the Palaeolithic diet. For the past five years he’s eaten only raw meat. And if that’s not strange enough, Derek’s girlfriend is "a vegetarian for compassionate reasons." A couple that gets along despite their differences, did you take note of that Congress?

Closed Until Further Notice

Oct 01, 2013

Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.

That's what you'll find if you try to access USDA's website today. As many as 800,000 federal workers are on furlough until Congress can reach a compromise, which seems increasingly unlikely. Just how silly is this whole mess? Consider that House Republicans voted back in August for the 40th time to repeal Obamacare, despite knowing full-well that any such bill would be dead-in-the-water once it reached the Democratically-controlled Senate. In case you're keeping score, that's 40 votes to repeal Obamacare, 2 votes on a farm bill. Yep, they voted on the farm bill twice this summer, but the bills included provisions House Republicans knew Democrats would never accept.


Tattoos for Farmers – the Next Big Thing?

Have a passion for farming and ranching and want to wear it forever? Grist reports a growing number of farm folks are using tattoos to "tell stories, carry messages, and speak volumes about the passion their wearers feel for the land and the things they coax from it." This list of favorite farm tats includes colorful veggies and messages about organic. We didn't see any trend-setters with "Factory Farmer" or "Beef: It's What's For Dinner" tattooed on their backs, but there is one guy who has a whole Berkshire hog inked on his arm, broken down into the cuts of meat.  


Rogue Cattle, Ethanol Futures Trader Loses $42 Million

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is fixing to come down on a futures trader named John Aaron Brooks who traded commodities for CitiBank until October 2011 when he was fired for exceeding "internal trade limits on cattle futures," and was told to unwind all of his positions. The bank then allegedly discovered he had been fraudulently mismarking ethanol futures positions for about a year. Opps! The bank was left holding the bag for about $42 million in losses. Bloomberg has the details.


Foreign Investors Increase Their U.S. Holdings

Foreign investors hold an interest in 25 million acres of U.S. agricultural land, according to a new report from USDA's Farm Service Agency. That's about 2 percent of all privately held agricultural land, and 1 percent of all the land in the U.S. Those statistics are current through the end of 2011, and reveal an increase in foreign ownership of roughly 1.5 million acres.

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