By Brett Wilkins
Documents obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen and published Wednesday reveal how leading players in the meatpacking industry—one of the hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic—fought the minimal efforts imposed by the Trump administration to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in meat processing plants last spring.
As Public Citizen put it, "these docs are utterly damning."
Responding to Public Citizen's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the USDA handed over documents showing that:
- In April 2020, officials in the North American Meat Institute protested USDA's decision not to send Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors who were exposed to Covid-19 into other plants. On April 15, 2020, one NAMI official stated that "we can't start sidelining individuals at FSIS or in the industry because they may have been exposed. We all may have been exposed at this point";
- Later in April 2020, officials at the National Chicken Council complained to USDA that FSIS was asking too many questions about Covid-19 testing at poultry processing facilities, stating the "questions seem to be unnecessary."
- In May 2020, officials at animal processing giant Tyson Foods complained to USDA that the company had to "spend significant resources... each day when reporting positive team members."
- In March 2020, the Food and Beverage Issue Alliance developed guidance for industry members stating that, unless state or local governments required it, "physical (social) distancing should be a tool but not a requirement."
- Industry officials reported FSIS employees who warned their friends and families about plants with cases of Covid-19, specifically forwarding a personal Facebook post and asking USDA to take disciplinary action against the inspectors.
Adam Pulver, an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group, said in a statement that "it is heartbreaking to see the callousness of the meatpacking industry, pushing back against basic safety measures that could have saved hundreds of lives and helped contain the Covid-19 pandemic."
BREAKING: New docs we uncovered show the meatpacking industry vehemently fought COVID safety measures, arguing that… https://t.co/HTeX4A9anG— Public Citizen (@Public Citizen)1614799740.0
"While we knew that meatpacking companies did not take adequate measures to protect their workers and the communities they lived in from the threat of Covid-19, these documents show that the industry actively pushed back against the few steps the Trump administration took to try to ensure the safety of meatpacking workers and federal inspectors," Pulver added.
As Public Citizen notes, at least 45,000 coronavirus cases and 240 Covid-19 deaths have been linked to U.S. meatpacking facilities.
In September 2020, Public Citizen and American Oversight published documents also obtained via FOIA requests that showed how the USDA and the meatpacking industry worked together to downplay and disregard risks to worker health during the pandemic. The documents revealed that a leading meat industry lobby group drafted a proposed executive order that was strikingly similar to a directive issued a week later by then-President Donald Trump to keep meatpacking plants open against the orders of local health officials.
Last September's revelations were followed by a November scandal involving supervisors at a Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa who placed cash bets on how many workers at the facility would contract the coronavirus. More than 1,000 employees—over a third of the plant's workforce—were infected.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The World Health Organization has determined that red meat probably causes colorectal cancer in humans and that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans. But are there other health risks of meat consumption?
A new study published in BMC Medicine on Tuesday sought to find out. Researchers investigated whether meat consumption was linked to any of the 25 leading causes of hospital admission in the UK, besides cancer. They found a connection between regularly eating red or processed meat with five non-cancerous diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and pneumonia. Meanwhile, frequent poultry consumption was associated with six different diseases, including gallbladder disease and diabetes.
"We have long known that unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption is likely to be carcinogenic and this research is the first to assess the risk of 25 non-cancerous health conditions in relation to meat intake in one study," Dr. Keren Papier from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford and lead author said in a press release.
The researchers surveyed 474,985 middle-aged adults in the UK and asked them to complete a dietary questionnaire assessing how often they ate meat on a weekly basis. Researchers then compared the participants' meat consumption to hospital admission and mortality data.
In addition to the above findings, researchers determined that for every 70 grams of red or processed meat someone ate a day, their risk of developing heart disease increased 15 percent and their risk of diabetes increased 30 percent.
For every extra 30 grams of poultry someone consumed in a day, their diabetes risk increased 14 percent.
However, eating meat did have one health benefit: reducing the risk of iron deficiency. Researchers estimated a 20 percent risk reduction for every 50 extra grams of red meat a day and 17 percent for every 30 extra grams of poultry a day.
The researchers did find that people who ate meat three or more times a week were also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol or eating fewer fruits and vegetables. They were also more likely to have a high body mass index. The researchers adjusted their calculations to remove those factors, and learned that the health risks from meat consumption were reduced after factoring out body mass index.
"Additional research is needed to evaluate whether the differences in risk we observed in relation to meat intake reflect causal relationships, and if so the extent to which these diseases could be prevented by decreasing meat consumption," Papier said.
The results don't mean that people should stop eating meat, according to public health experts.
Instead, Public Health England recommended that anyone who eats more than 90 grams of meat a day should reduce it to 70 grams, The Guardian reported.
"Globally the evidence suggests that people who eat red and processed meat should limit their intake," Dr. Alison Tedstone, the agency's lead nutritionist, told The Guardian. "While it can form part of a healthy diet, eating too much has been linked to increased risk of developing bowel cancer."
However, there are also environmental and ethical reasons one might choose to stop eating meat. Some studies have found that cutting out animal products is the single biggest step a person can take to limit their environmental impact. Papier has advice for those who do so.
"The result that meat consumption is associated with a lower risk of iron-deficiency anemia, however, indicates that people who do not eat meat need to be careful that they obtain enough iron, through dietary sources or supplements," she said.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
This cell-based industry is where scientists, environmentalists and food technology companies intersect to offer more sustainable ways to feed the world's growing population. The high-tech food innovations take "the animal out of the meat" and create "seafood without the sea," respectively coined by New Atlas and NPR. These products — real meat and seafood — are originally cultured from animal cells but made without the actual animal. Because of this, many of the personal and global concerns about safety, ethics and the environment can be avoided without sacrificing food preferences.
Two leading industry examples are Eat Just and BlueNalu. Last month, Singapore issued San Francisco-based Eat Just the world's first regulatory approval for cell-based meat. The "chicken nuggets" are now available at downtown Singapore restaurant 1880. Meanwhile, San Diego's BlueNalu has pioneered "cellular aquaculture" to create cell-based seafood fillets from fish, including yellowtail, mahi-mahi, red snapper and tuna. In mid-2020, the company increased its research and development facilities six-fold after completing a $20 million funding round, The Fish Site reported. These two companies are pushing the industry to the next level with key regulatory developments and new innovations.
The Science Behind Cell-Based
In a nutshell, this is how cell-based food works: muscle stem cells are obtained from an actual animal, like chicken or fish, and cultivated in steel tanks with the same nutrients that living animals consume. The goal is not to grow a full animal, so the end result doesn't include the head, tail or heart, for example, while the original cell donor isn't sacrificed. The harvested cells multiply and are shaped to form meat or fish that cooks, looks and tastes just like its real counterpart.
"The process is somewhat like culturing a beer. At the end of the process, you have chicken meat," Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick told Bloomberg.
BlueNalu's President and CEO Lou Cooperhouse agreed, telling EcoWatch, "We aren't making a living being, it's just a fish fillet. It's live tissue until we freeze it. Then it's no longer live; it's the product you might have and consume every day."
But how does it really taste? Identical to what consumers are used to, both companies told EcoWatch.
Cooperhouse described how his company mimics the "mouth feel" of conventional fish by recreating the same proportions of muscle, fat and connective tissue in their cell-based fillets. The company uses starter cells to grow all three types of tissue and then combines them to create the same exact product that consumers are used to eating.
"We're creating identical mahi-mahi to conventional mahi-mahi, from a sensory perspective and a functional perspective," Cooperhouse told EcoWatch. "When you cook it, it smells like fish. You can fry it, bake it, saute it. It caramelizes. It has all the same characteristics as fish, because it is fish. We just made it out of the body. We made it in steel tanks."
Andrew Noyes, head of global communications for Eat Just, similarly said that their chicken product "cooks, looks and tastes like chicken," including the flavor profile and texture, "because it is chicken."
The Many Advantages of Cultured Foods
Both companies emphasized how cell-based foods don't require killing animals or adding growth hormones or antibiotics. Cell-based food also removes the environmental impact of industrial farming and commercial fishing. This "critical overlay of benefits at every level" creates a new solution for global supply chains that supports biodiversity and the planet's health, Cooperhouse said.
"We want consumers to know our fillets are different in these ways," Cooperhouse added. "They're not wild, not farmed." On a company blog, Cooperhouse said that BlueNalu's products are a third alternative way to enjoy fish that is "as delicious and nutritious as their wild-caught or farm-raised counterparts... but without the mercury, microplastics or other pollutants that might be associated with conventional seafood."
Tetrick also emphasized the safety advantage of cultured meat over conventional. "This way of making meat radically decreases the probability of zoonotic diseases through our food system," he told Bloomberg, because it avoided pathogens like E. coli and salmonella, as well as sanitization concerns.
The environmental benefits of cell-cultured meat also mean less environmental destruction. Conventional meat production requires massive amounts of land for grazing and food production. Just growing feed for livestock uses 71 percent of global arable land and drives Amazonian deforestation.
"Chicken is the world's most consumed (and fastest growing) meat," Noyes told EcoWatch. "Chickens also consume more feed collectively than other farmed animals. Today, more than one-third of the ice-free land on Earth and tens of millions of acres of rainforest teeming with our planet's most diverse life forms have been replaced with fields of chicken feed."
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 60 percent of the world's fisheries are fully fished, or at maximum output capacity, and 33 percent are overfished. Additionally, in the last half-century, oceanic dead zones have quadrupled due to fishing and the climate crisis, reported Big Think. Fish farming, once thought to be a solution to declining wild fish populations, brings its own issues, including the loss of critical mangrove habitat and the proliferation of sea lice and other diseases from farms, which escape and kill wild fish, Seafood Watch reported.
Cell-based seafood won't put pressure on these depleted stocks and fragile habitats and will also avoid bycatch, a serious threat to biodiversity when unintentionally fished creatures are injured or killed.
Meat production is also energy-intensive and generates vast amounts of methane and other greenhouse gases. Cell-based foods are more carbon efficient and climate-friendly than conventional meat and seafood because of production efficiency and a localized distribution plan.
"If you look at climate change, this way of making meat is 90 percent more carbon-efficient than the typical approach," Tetrick told Bloomberg.
BlueNalu is preparing to scale for global cities to house 150,000-square-foot facilities, each capable of producing enough cell-based seafood to feed more than 10 million local residents, NPR reported. This way, cell-based seafood will avoid greenhouse gas emissions caused by shipping.
Finally, waste is reduced because these companies are only growing the animal parts to be consumed. Traditionally, cattle are inefficient, requiring five to 20 pounds of plant-based feed to create one pound of conventional beef, CNet reported. Scientific American estimated that one tissue sample from a cow could yield enough muscle tissue to make 80,000 quarter-pounders.
Cooperhouse estimated that a typical fish would produce a 60 percent yield after cutting off the head and tail and removing the skin and bones, whereas his fillets yield 100 percent.
"It's a total paradigm shift from an environmental and sustainability perspective," he told EcoWatch. "All that freight, oil, labor, dry ice, foam coolers — all goes away."
The consistency of quality, readily available products has also garnered interest from foodservice operators, Cooperhouse said. Having a stable supply available year-round will help restaurants combat the variability they currently experience.
The big question is whether or not the general public will eat the products, once available.
"If there's an ick factor to cell-based fish, remember that most processed foods are already created in laboratories," argued Big Think. "There are no Oreo trees or ketchup plants to harvest."
A University of Queensland survey found that a majority of respondents would try the products, but less would eat them regularly or see them as conventional meat replacements, New Atlas reported. Respondents reported that taste would be a driving factor in favor of cell-based foods.
Cost is the other issue. For Eat Just, their products are competitively priced with premium chicken, although they foresee a pathway for a cheaper price within the next five years, Tetrick told Bloomberg. BlueNalu doesn't yet have a price point for their inaugural mahi-mahi fillet, but are aggressively partnering with known brands and distributors to lower costs.
Singapore's approval of Eat Just's nugget is paving the way for other companies and nations to follow suit, The Guardian reported. Both Eat Just and BlueNalu are actively engaging regulators in the U.S. and other countries to bring their products online as quickly and safely as possible. Since the products are not genetically modified, "the approval will be about whether this is safe, clean, and are the manufacturing processes reliable and accountable," Cooperhouse told NPR.
While not a substitute for all conventional food, if cell-based meats and seafood are scaled up and accepted, many hope to feed the world's anticipated 9.5 billion people without stripping the planet bare and ruining the climate.
"The simplest way to think about it is it allows all of us to consume meat, the good part, the nutritional composition, the taste, and do away with the bad part, which is the killing, the environmental deforestation, the acceleration of zoonotic disease, and we can still have a fried chicken," Tetrick told Bloomberg.
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"Industrial meat production is not only responsible for precarious working conditions, it also pushes people off their land, leads to deforestation, biodiversity loss and the use of pesticides — and is also one of the main drivers of the climate crisis."
Such were the words of Barbara Unmüssig of green think tank, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, at the Berlin presentation of the so-called "Meat Atlas 2021."
Across 50 pages, the atlas — which is collaboratively published by the foundation, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and the international monthly newspaper Le Monde diplomatique — outlines trends and the implications of global meat production on both human and planetary health.
It highlights, for example, how the over-use of antibiotics in intensive animal farming is leading to increasingly resistant germs, thereby threatening the effectiveness of drugs used for humans.
Similarly, the clearing of forests for animal feed is held up as a threat to human health. As habitat loss brings animals and humans into closer proximity with one another, viruses can be transmitted more easily. This, in turn, can lead to new pandemics.
In a survey for the report, young people between the ages of 15 and 29 were asked about their thoughts on meat. The majority said they rejected the meat industry in its current form.
Germany Plays Leading Role in the Meat Industry
Olaf Bandt, chairman of BUND, says policymakers must take account of society's desire to restructure the sector. "This requires far-reaching political realignment of agricultural policy," he said. "But there can be no agricultural transition without a food transition."
Bandt describes Germany as a key player in the production of pork and milk, with a 20% share of the EU market.
"Huge amounts of meat are exported," he said, adding that this reliance on international markets is having a detrimental effect on the environment, livestock and farms. "More and more animals live on ever fewer farms, further exacerbating the pollution of groundwater in those regions."
Meat Devours Rainforest
Global population and economic growth are the drivers behind increasing demand for meat. In 1960, the planet was home to just 3 billion people and, according to the report, meat consumption at that time was around 70 million metric tons. That equated to an annual per capita global average of 23 kilograms.
By 2018, however, when the population had grown to 7.6 billion people, meat consumption had risen seven-fold to around 350 million metric tons — or a global average of 46 kilograms per person annually.
A key problem with this trend is that meat production requires vast areas of land. According to the German Environment Agency (UBA), the country's central environment authority, 71% of global arable land is currently used for livestock feed. That is four times the amount required for direct food growth (18%) or other raw materials such as cotton (7%) and energy crops like corn for biogas (4%).
As global demand for meat continues to grow, so does the pressure on available arable land. As a result, huge areas of forest in countries such as Brazil are being lost to create land on which to grow animal fodder.
In order to feed the world's population and stop rainforests from being cleared, while simultaneously designating land for reforestation, experts are calling for a dietary rethink: less meat and more plant-based foods that require much smaller areas.
In a report on the health of the planet published last year, leading global scientists such as Johan Rockström, director at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) suggested dietary changes that would equate to an average of 16 kilograms of meat and 33 kilograms of dairy products per person per year. Current meat consumption in North and South America as well as in Europe can be as much as seven times that amount.
The Problem With Pesticides
Besides revealing the power and global impact of the international meat industry, authors of the "Meat Atlas" also illustrate links to the global chemical industry. They write that dangerous and sometimes banned pesticides are exported by large chemical companies. Among the producers and exporters of such chemicals are European players, Bayer Crop Science, BASF, and Syngenta, as well as U.S. companies Corteva and FMS.
According to Unmüssig, the use of such pesticides threatens thousands of lives, which is why, Bandt says the "German government must do everything it can to ensure that German companies no longer export toxins that have been banned in the EU."
Unmüssig warns that the planned EU-Mercosur agreement would exacerbate the use of dangerous substances. "Dismantling tariffs would lead to more pesticides being delivered to Latin America and more rainforest would be cleared for soy plantations and meat production."
The experts conclude that establishing a way to farm animals in a cruelty-free way that doesn't harm the climate or the environment, requires a far-reaching shift in agricultural policy as well a rethink in consumption and production.
"As yet, we have not seen the start of any real meat transition," Unmüssig said.
This article was adapted from German.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Brett Wilkins
Advocates for eco-friendly, plant-based diets hailed a study published last week that revealed the climate cost of organic meat production is as high as that of conventionally produced animal products.
The study, published on December 15 in Nature Communication and reported Wednesday in The Guardian, used the German government's climate damage cost baseline of $219 per tonne of CO2 and determined that in order to cover climate costs, the farm-direct price of beef must rise by $7.31 per kilogram, while the per kilo price of chicken must increase by $3.66. The price of conventionally raised meat would have to rise by 40% in stores, while organic meat would need to be about 25% more expensive. Conventional milk would be one-third higher, while the price of organic milk would rise by 20%.
The researchers analyzed animal agriculture in Germany and concluded that the climate costs of organic beef and lamb are similar to that of their conventionally produced counterparts. And while they found that organic pork has a slightly lower climate cost than conventional pig meat, for organic chicken it was somewhat higher.
The cost of plant-based foods, on the other hand, would remain nearly the same.
💔🌎 'The cost of the climate damage caused by organic meat production is just as high as that of conventionally farm… https://t.co/LiI9OqOFqt— Veganuary (@Veganuary)1608745674.0
"We expected organic farming to score better for animal-based products but, for greenhouse gas emissions, it actually doesn't make much difference," Maximilian Pieper of the Technical University of Munich, who led the study, told The Guardian. "But in certain other aspects, organic is certainly better than conventional farming."
University of Greifswald researcher Amelie Michalke, who also participated in the study, said that "the prices are lying."
"Climate costs are rising and we are all paying these costs," she said.
While animals emit greenhouse gases in their excrement—and in the case of cows and sheep, through belching and farting—the grain fed to conventionally raised livestock can also contribute to emissions, especially if it is grown on land which has been deforested in places like South America's Amazon rainforest.
Animals raised organically are often grass-fed. But they also grow at a slower rate and spend more time expelling greenhouse gases before they are slaughtered.
All animals also need water to live, and separate research has shown that the global average water footprint—the total amount of water needed—to produce a pound of beef is nearly 1,800 gallons. For a pound of pork, it's 576 gallons. In stark contrast, a pound of soybeans needs only 216 gallons of water; for corn, just 108 gallons.
The new study's researchers said the results show a need for government policies that reflect the true cost of eating animals, including a meat tax. Revenues from such corrective measures could be used to help farmers adopt more eco-friendly practices, and to provide relief to poor families and people affected by the climate crisis.
However, instead of encouraging Americans to consume less meat, the U.S. government subsidizes animal agriculture by as much as $38 billion annually. Shoppers pay artificially low prices for animal products at the supermarket checkout counter, while their tax dollars fund an industry whose retail sales approach $250 billion per year.
As David Simon notes in his 2013 book Meatonomics, for every $1 of product sold by the animal agriculture industry, taxpayers pay $2 in hidden costs, and a $4 McDonald's Big Mac really costs society $11.
If meat cost its actual price none of you leftist would be saying is classist to be vegan. Its already cheaper to… https://t.co/j2SbIMHKFF— Andrew Velez 🌱 (@Andrew Velez 🌱)1608130558.0
"The climate damage costs for meat are especially startling if you compare them to the other categories," Pieper told The Guardian. "The price increases required are 10 times higher than for dairy products and 68 times higher than for plant-based products."
"The big difference is the simple effect that when you have a field of plants and you eat them directly, then that's the end of the [emissions], basically," he added. "But for beef, for example, you need 42kg of feed to just produce one kg of beef. This huge inefficiency explains the gap."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By David Coman-Hidy
The actions of the U.S. meat industry throughout the pandemic have brought to light the true corruption and waste that are inherent within our food system. Despite a new wave of rising COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently submitted a proposal to further increase "the maximum slaughter line speed by 25 percent," which was already far too fast and highly dangerous. It has been made evident that the industry will exploit its workers and animals all to boost its profit.
The revelations continued when Tyson Foods, the world's second-largest producer of chicken, beef and pork, cooperated with the Department of Justice to avoid scrutiny into the company's role in the monopolization of the industry to fix prices of chicken for both consumers and retailers. This news comes at a time when Tyson has already been under fire for exposing its workers to an enormous risk of contracting COVID-19. We can now add competitors and consumers to the ever-growing list of those victimized by the corporate giant. This is further evidence that it's time for our nation's food supply chain to change in a big way.
Tyson Foods former CEO Noel White, replaced by Dean Banks in October, rushed to cooperate under the Department of Justice's antitrust leniency program, stating, "I am proud to lead a company that took appropriate and immediate actions in reporting the wrongdoing we discovered to the Department of Justice." What White failed to mention is that cooperating will afford Tyson protection from public scrutiny and legal fines, at the expense of its competitors.
Unethical business practices seem to be the norm for Tyson Foods. Due to a lack of proper safety measures and harsh attendance policies, more than 10,000 Tyson plant workers tested positive for the virus, substantially more than any other U.S. meat company. Before the pandemic, working on a meat processing line was one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Now, with the constant threat of COVID-19 looming over these elbow-to-elbow assembly lines, meat processing may be among the most deadly jobs in the world. Workers are not just getting sick from this virus—they're dying.
The pandemic has led to major disruptions in the supply chain. While Tyson has not yet engaged in the mass "depopulation" of animals that other producers resorted to, in a typical week, the company slaughters an estimated 37 million chickens. The poor treatment of the chickens within its supply chain—including breeding birds to grow at such an unnaturally fast rate that they can't even hold up their own bodies—has made Tyson the target of public campaigns urging the company to make meaningful changes.
More than 120 labor, food justice, animal welfare and environmental organizations have banded together to take action against the company. Tyson must take immediate action to protect the safety and well-being of its workers, make improvements to support animal welfare and reduce its harsh impact on the environment.
For too long, the unethical, avaricious practices of the meat industry have been hidden from view. The scandals surrounding Tyson and other major producers are making clear that vulnerable workers, abused animals and a rigged system are the foundation of an unethical and destructive business model.
Tyson had a role in creating the industrialized system, and it must step up its role in fixing it. The meat giant has had one singular focus since its inception: profit. The company's greed has caused it to exploit anyone in its path. Tyson's disregard for human and animal life extends to its workers, animals killed in its plants, consumers and now its competitors. Tyson took ownership for rigging the system using price-fixing. It's time for Tyson to take ownership for exploiting and endangering its more vulnerable victims as well.
Sign the petition urging Tyson to stop neglecting workers, animals and public health.
Sign the petition urging the U.S. chicken meat industry to end the cruel practice of boiling birds alive.
David Coman-Hidy is president of The Humane League, a global nonprofit working to fix our broken food system and end the abuse of animals raised for food.
A group of scientists is warning that livestock production must not expand after 2030 for the world to stave off ecological disaster.
The scientists warn that a coordinated effort from the world's governments to identify and reduce the largest sources of emissions is needed to reduce the risk of global temperatures exceeding the "safe" limit of 1.5-2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as CNN reported.
"The reduction we need means we need deep transformation in every sector," said Helen Harwatt, an environmental social scientist at Harvard Law School and lead author of the letter, to CNN. "To reduce to 1.5 C, we need to remove massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. We're suggesting agriculture transitions to optimal systems, and that's plant-based."
In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it's important to cut back on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that cattle and sheep notoriously emit during digestion.
Furthermore, carbon-capturing forests are destroyed to create room for livestock and to grow grains for intensively raised animals, as The Guardian reported. More than 80 percent of farmland is used to raise livestock, but it produces just 18 percent of calories.
Researchers have found that the best way to store large amounts of carbon is to reduce meat and dairy intake and for people to shift to a plant-based diet so land is returned to forest, according to the The Guardian.
"If the livestock sector were to continue with business as usual, this sector alone would account for 49 percent of the emissions budget for 1.5°C by 2030, requiring other sectors to reduce emissions beyond a realistic or planned level," the scientists wrote in their letter.
The letter notes that decreasing livestock production will reduce the carbon footprint left by animal husbandry. The UN estimates that raising animals for meat accounts for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is twice as much as the fashion industry, according to CBS News.
"Ruminant meat is 10 to 100 times more damaging to the climate than plant-based food," said Pete Smith, at the University of Aberdeen, UK, a senior author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on land use and climate change, to The Guardian. "As a planet, we need to transition away from a dependence on livestock, just as we need to transition away from fossil fuels, if we are to have any chance of hitting the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Livestock numbers need to peak very soon and thereafter decline substantially."
The scientists also pointed out that the land being used to raise cattle is needed to fight the climate crisis. A growing body of research has found that trees are one of the best weapons we have to capture excess carbon. A study published in July found that planting 500 billion trees, which we have the space to do if we reduce land used for livestock, can remove nearly two-thirds of the CO2 people have pumped into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution, as EcoWatch reported.
"Food demand is expected to increase massively as our population expands toward 10 billion," said professor Matthew Betts at Oregon State University and another author of the letter, as The Guardian reported. "Reducing human demand for resource-intensive animal protein would considerably slow the rate of global forest loss, with huge benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services, in addition to carbon storage."
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Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday if you're trying to avoid animal products — after all, its unofficial name is Turkey Day. But, as more and more studies show the impact of meat and dairy consumption on the Earth, preparing a vegan Thanksgiving is one way to show gratitude for this planet and all its biodiversity.
A vegan Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a sacrifice. A plant-based feast can be just as delicious as a traditional holiday meal. Here are some tips for putting together an animal-free spread that still gives your tastebuds plenty to be thankful for.
1. Meatless Turkey
The traditional centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal may feel like the most intimidating element to swap out, but there are plenty of faux-turkey alternatives on the market. Juliet Lapidos sampled four back in 2009 and rated the Gardein Stuffed Veggie Turkey Roast as the tastiest. The product is now sold as the savory stuffed turk'y or holiday roast. Gardein's replacement turkeys got a bill of approval from The Spruce Eats for their natural ingredients and realistic appearance.
You also don't have to bother with fake meat at all. Well Vegan suggests an all veggie-take on the turducken: the Butternut Squash Vegducken. This dish stuffs a zucchini inside an eggplant inside a butternut squash for "a flavor combination that's perfectly suited for the season."
2. Animal-Free Gravy
Gravy is another dish that screams animal product, but there are actually tons of recipes that don't require meat juices.
Alison Andrews of Loving It Vegan shares a recipe for a gravy made in 30 minutes from garlic and onions, vegan butter, flour, coconut milk, vegetable stalk and soy sauce.
3. Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes
You don't need milk and butter to make your mashed potatoes nice and creamy.
"They're extremely easy to veganize," Iosune of Simple Vegan Blog writes, "you just need to use oil or vegan butter instead of regular butter (extra virgin olive oil is my favorite choice) and any unsweetened plant milk instead of cow's milk or cream (soy milk works so well), that's all!"
Iosune explains how you can make your own vegan butter, too. All you need is plant-based milk, lemon juice, coconut oil, a neutral oil like sunflower oil, nutritional yeast (if you can find it) and salt.
4. Vegan Casseroles
Side dishes are probably the easiest holiday foods to conceive of as vegan, since they tend to be veggie-based anyway. But that also means there are lots of exciting recipes out there to try. VegKitchen suggests several, but the most seasonal include Quinoa, Broccoli and Vegan Cheese, Roasted Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese and Vegan Green Bean Casserole.
"Vegan casseroles are always comforting," VegKitchen writes, "and it's nice to know that they're also good for you, not starchy and heavy like the old-fashioned kind."
5. Earth-Friendly Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie is a holiday classic, but many traditional recipes call for cream or eggs. Then there's the fact that it's usually topped with whipped cream.
However, you can have the full pumpkin pie experience without any animal products. Loving It Vegan shares a recipe that uses canned pureed pumpkin for the filling, and the BBC Good Food walks you through the process of making the filling from pumpkins or squash directly.
There are also plenty of vegan whipped-creams options out there, according to PETA. You can buy one of the many ready-to-spray varieties for sale or make your own from chilled coconut milk, sugar and vanilla.
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By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
October 16 marks World Food Day this year, a day celebrated every year by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
World Food Day is a call to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible for everyone, while nurturing the planet at the same time.
But how can this be achieved?
One way, according to a new study, would be to introduce different ways for countries across the world to adapt their diets.
Researchers at the U.S. based Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future looked at diets in 140 countries across the world and measured the ecological impact of their food production in order to identify ways to mitigate climate change.
The study, called Country-specific dietary shifts to mitigate climate and water crises found that an important first step would be to shift Europe and the United States away from a diet heavy in meat and dairy.
But study co-author, Martin Bloem, notes that the solutions needed are not one-size-fits-all.
"The situation for poorer countries is not the same as for high-income countries and the solutions for high-income countries are much more straight-forward," Bloem said.
Why Meat and Dairy Are Bad for the Climate
Livestock are responsible for almost 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the FAO.
Cattle is the biggest culprit. Raised for both beef and milk, cows represent about 65 percent of the livestock sector's emissions, followed by pork (9 percent), buffalo milk (8 percent), and poultry and eggs (8 percent).
A byproduct of cow digestion is methane (CH4) and accounts for the majority of livestock emissions. The greenhouse gas is estimated to be at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
But livestock production is also responsible for other greenhouse gas emissions, such as nitrous oxide (N20) and carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly through the production of their feed, which often involves large applications of nitrogen-based fertilizers.
The Opposite Approach to Combat Hunger?
But with over 800 million people still going hungry every day, impact on the climate cannot be the only guide for what people eat, the study points out.
Animal source foods, specifically milk and eggs, are in fact a valuable source of protein and nutrients like calcium, which are especially important for young children and pregnant women.
"Some countries, such as Indonesia, India and most of the African countries may actually need to dramatically increase their greenhouse gas emissions and water use, because they have to combat hunger and stunting," Bloem said.
In these countries, there is still a 40 percent rate of stunting, a side effect of undernutrition that results in lower than average growth in children.
Stunting also has a major, long-term impact on the cognitive abilities of the children.
"It's irreversible by the age of two, so stunting has huge implications for the human capital in those countries. That's why it's very critical that we prevent stunting and we need animal source foods for that," Bloem said. "We cannot keep that out of the equation when talking about climate protection."
Another solution, according to Bloem, would be to fortify certain products, like cereal. This would help reduce the need to get nutrients through animal products. It's a practice already in use in many developed countries, but so far hasn't been applied in many poorer countries.
Fish Could Make All the Difference
Diets in which protein came predominantly from low food chain animals – such as small fish and mollusks – were found to have nearly as low of an environmental impact as a vegan diet.
"Small fish are really critical for poor people, particularly in Africa and Asia, as that's one of the main sources for protein and calcium, because the milk intake is very low in those countries," Bloem said.
"But 80% of all the fish produced nowadays actually comes from Asia and is imported in Europe and the US. And the feed for some of these bigger fish we import are actually those smaller fish, which means the poorer people have no more access to this vital source of protein and calcium."
Researchers also determined that a diet that reduced animal food consumption by two-thirds – termed by study authors as going "two-thirds vegan" – generally had a lower climate and water footprint than vegetarian diets that included eggs and diary, but not fish.
Where You Get Your Food From Matters
Researchers also found that local production wasn't always the best way to go from a climate perspective.
The production of one pound (0.45 kilograms) of beef in Paraguay, for instance, contributes nearly 17 times more greenhouse gases than one pound of beef produced in Denmark. Often, this disparity came from deforestation to create grazing land, according to the study.
"So a food's country of origin can have enormous consequences for the climate," Bloem said.
"In Europe the soil is much more fertile, for instance, which makes the production there more efficient. So trade could actually be good for the climate if food is produced in places where the climate impact is the lowest," Bloem said, adding that this is the case even when emissions from transportation are factored in.
The study concludes that middle- and low-income countries need to be guided and supported by developed countries to avoid environmental mistakes the planet is already paying for.
"It needs to be a close collaboration between developed and developing countries. It's a joint problem. We are all in this together," Bloem said.
Another way industrialized countries could reduce their impact on the climate is reducing food waste — one-third of all food produced worldwide ends up in the bin, with Europeans on average throwing away 95 kilograms (209 lbs) of food per person, per year. In low-income African countries south of the Sahara, it's only 6 kilograms (13 lbs).
Context Is Key
But despite the findings, one key conclusion of the report is that there aren't always straight-forward answers, according to Bloem.
"That's why we conducted analyses in all these different countries so that you can see what the most optimal way is for each individual country – but also the entire world to deal with diets and health criteria, as well as climate and sustainability," he said.
In the end, the study came up with nine plant-forward diets, ranging from no red meat to pescatarian (a vegetarian diet that includes seafood), lacto-ovo vegetarian (a vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs), to vegan, which are to be presented to policymakers in each country.
At the same time, the study urges people in the Western world to do more.
Baby boomers in the developed world, for instance, on average spend less than 10% of their income on food, while the same generation in countries like Nigeria, Kenya or Bangladesh spends 50 to 60% of their income on food, according to Bloem.
"For us in the Western world, we can pay more for our food so that we can pay for the unintended consequences."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.
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It has long been a public health truism that limiting meat consumption is better for your body. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Cancer Research Fund both say red or processed meat can cause cancer, as Reuters noted. But a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine Tuesday argued that this might not be the case.
"Based on the research, we cannot say with any certainty that eating red or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease," Bradley Johnson, an associate professor at Dalhousie University in Canada and a co-leader of the study, said, as Reuters reported.
Free in Annals today: Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From t… https://t.co/jbUJwPuPhm— Annals of Int Med (@Annals of Int Med)1569877243.0
To reach this conclusion, a team of 14 researchers in seven countries spent three years reviewing studies of the link between the consumption of red or processed meat and heart disease or cancer, The New York Times explained.
Their three reviews of the evidence covered randomized trials of 54,000 people and observational studies covering millions, according to The New York Times and Reuters. They concluded that the randomized trials showed no statistically significant link between meat consumption and diabetes, heart disease or cancer. The observational studies showed "a very small reduction in risk" for those who ate less red or processed meat, but observational studies are a weaker form of evidence than random trials, as The New York Times explained:
At the heart of the debate is a dispute over nutritional research itself, and whether it's possible to ascertain the effects of just one component of the diet. The gold standard for medical evidence is the randomized clinical trial, in which one group of participants is assigned one drug or diet, and another is assigned a different intervention or a placebo.
But asking people to stick to a diet assigned by a flip of a coin, and to stay with it long enough to know if it affects the risk for heart attack or cancer, is nearly impossible.
The alternative is an observational study: Investigators ask people what they eat and look for links to health. But it can be hard to know what people really are eating, and people who eat a lot of meat are different in many other ways from those who eat little or none.
The researchers concluded that adults could continue to consume red and processed meat at their current levels.
Many public health experts pushed back against the new findings.
"From a public health point of view, it is irresponsible and unethical to issue dietary guidelines that are tantamount to promoting meat consumption, even if there is still some uncertainty about the strength of the evidence," Dr. Frank Hu and colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health wrote on the school's website.
A closer look at the science behind those new "guidelines" on red and processed meat. https://t.co/TxCZSnVA8Y— The Nutrition Source (@The Nutrition Source)1569880306.0
Because of the difficulty of conducting randomized trials for a variety of public health issues, they argued in part that dismissing high-quality observational studies as weak evidence would make it difficult to support things like the benefits of exercise or the harm caused by air pollution.
University of Reading nutrition and food science professor Gunter Kuhnle agreed that it was wrong to dismiss the observational evidence entirely.
"The data clearly shows that the while the association between meat and cancer does not have to be addressed urgently, it should not be ignored," he told The Guardian. "Small dietary changes can mitigate the effect of red and processed meat on cancer risk, for example a high-fibre diet."
The Harvard response also faulted the study for setting aside a major problem with meat consumption: its impact on the planet. Meat and dairy account for about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, The New York Times pointed out. A recent study found that people in the U.S. should cut their beef consumption by 40 percent in order to feed a growing world population without exhausting the earth's resources.
"This is a missed opportunity because climate change and environmental degradation have serious effects on human health, and thus is important to consider when making recommendations on diet, even if this is addressed separately from direct effects on individual health," the Harvard nutritionists wrote.
But others who agreed with the new study's findings on the personal health level acknowledged that there were other reasons to cut down on red and processed meats.
Ian Johnson, a nutrition expert at Britain's Quadram Institute of bioscience, told Reuters he hoped the study would "discourage dramatic media headlines claiming that 'bacon is killing us'," but he also said that eating less meat could have health and other benefits.
"There are (also) strong environmental and ethical arguments for reducing meat consumption in the modern world," he said.
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Meat-eaters put a lot of faith in USDA inspection facilities, which are often overwhelmed by an endless flow of animals ready for slaughter to meet our seemingly endless demand for meat.
Cutting back on meat has tremendous benefits for the environment. And, it may keep you safe from food-borne illnesses when there's a slip-up at a processing plant like the one that happened recently in Chino, CA.
#NowReading - Cut beef consumption in half to help save the earth, says new study https://t.co/7ZMc557NNT via… https://t.co/Rm7NaPdY8Q— World Resources Inst (@World Resources Inst)1563822059.0
American Beef Packers Inc., recalled nearly 25,000 pounds of raw beef that are not safe to eat last weekend, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Inspectors at the facility pulled a possibly contaminated carcass off of the production line and took a few samples for testing. While they were waiting for the results to come back, the questionable carcass was released into the production line where it was butchered into various cuts and ground meat mix, as CNN reported.
The wholesale distributor sent the questionable meats out to various places in California and Oregon, according to the USDA.
Anyone in those states who buys beef should look for establishment number "EST. 34741" inside the USDA mark of inspection, the USDA said.
While there are no confirmed cases of illnesses due to this batch of meat, the USDA is concerned that some of it is in the fridges and freezers of people in California and Oregon. The Food Safety and Inspection Service urges people who have bought beef recently to check the label for EST. 34741 and, if it is found, either throw it away or return it to the store where it was bought, according to its press release.
A few weeks ago, another massive recall was underway when Tyson recalled nearly 40,000 pounds of its Weaver chicken patties after some consumers found pieces of rubber in their meal, according to Reuters.
In that instance, the USDA labeled the recall as Class 1, the strictest classification of recall where the product may cause serious harm or death. The USDA classification rubric says of a Class 1 recall, "This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death."
Tyson, the country's largest meat processor, did not say how many customers found rubber in their food. Nor did it disclose how the rubber from the machines used for processing slipped into the patties, according to Reuters.
That recall followed one just a few months earlier of 12-million pounds of frozen ready-to-eat chicken strips, which may have been contaminated.
One more reason to leave out buying burgers for you summer BBQ. https://t.co/PwKWagOQNP— Ecogreenlabs (@Ecogreenlabs)1554476177.0
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Goldsmiths, University of London announced the beef ban Monday as part of a series of steps designed to help the institution, which has declared a climate emergency, go carbon neutral by 2025. Other measures include an extra 10 pence charge for bottled water and single-use plastic cups and the installation of more solar panels on its campus in Southeast London.
Goldsmiths’ new Warden Professor Frances Corner has announced an ambitious drive for the College to be carbon neutral by 2025.— Goldsmiths (@GoldsmithsUoL) August 12, 2019
The plan includes the removal of all beef products from campus outlets and a 10p levy on plastic bottles https://t.co/sYRHZ0gxxa
"Declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words," Goldsmiths' new Warden Prof. Frances Corner said in a statement. "I truly believe we face a defining moment in global history and Goldsmiths now stands shoulder to shoulder with other organisations willing to call the alarm and take urgent action to cut carbon use."
Goldsmiths' announcement comes about a week after a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended a global shift towards vegetarian diets in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Agriculture and other land use practices contribute almost 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while cattle and rice fields are responsible for half of all methane emissions, the report found. Another study released last month calculated that beef consumption had to fall in order for Earth's current resources to be able to feed the 10 billion people expected to be living on this planet in 30 years. Europeans would have to eat 22 percent less beef for everyone else to have enough food, the study found.
At least one Goldsmiths student is ready to give up campus burgers for the planet.
"I think it's a really positive move—Goldsmiths is recognising its own power and accountability in being more environmentally conscious," 20-year-old psychology student Isabelle Gosse told The Guardian. "Banning the sale of beef meat on campus, phasing out single-use plastics and the other pledges that the new warden has made highlights the current climate emergency that the world is facing."
The Goldsmiths Students' Union also supports the decision, HuffPost reported.
The beef ban will go into effect at the start of the coming academic year. The school will also switch to a 100 percent renewable energy supplier as soon as its current contract ends, according to The Guardian. Further, its endowment fund will cease investments in companies that earn more than 10 percent of their revenue from fossil fuel extraction starting December 2019.
"It's encouraging to see an institution like Goldsmiths not simply declaring a climate emergency, but acting on it," Greenpeace UK Climate Emergency Campaigner Rosie Rogers told The Guardian. "From energy use, to food sales and plastic pollution—all universities and organisations with campus sites can make changes across their facilities that are better for our planet. We call on others to urgently follow suit, and to include cutting all ties from fossil fuel funding in their climate emergency response."
Goldsmiths currently emits around 3.7 million kilograms (approximately 8.2 million pounds) of carbon per year, according to figures released by the university. That number is down nearly 10 percent from what it was three years ago, Goldsmiths said.
But for Goldsmiths Students' Union President Joe Leam it's still too high.
"It is clear our university has a huge carbon footprint," he wrote in a blog quoted by HuffPost. "The promise to have ended this by 2030 at the latest, with the hope of doing so by 2025, is one which is needed. Whilst this plan/action is only the beginning, and much work is yet to be done, it is fantastic to see Goldsmiths taking responsibility and responding to its impact on the climate."