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Book Review: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 14:43:06 PM PDT

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery is an excellent read, with one caveat. "Small-scale" is intended to mean anywhere from 25 to a few hundred chickens. For me and many other urban chicken keepers, "small scale" means about four chickens. If you have a small farm or larger homestead, you'll find this book to be incredibly useful. If you live in the city and keep a few chickens, you'll find a lot of useful information in this book, but it shouldn't be your initial basic guide to keeping chickens.

What I LOVED about this book is that it goes beyond simply the basics like housing, feed, and chicken behavior. It is about how to use your chickens as an integral part of pest control and soil fertility. Chickens' contribution to a garden, homestead, or farm is far more than just eggs and/or meat. They provide pest control and free high-quality fertilizer as well. As Ussery points out, keeping several species can be to one's advantage, as geese are valuable for weeding and ducks will eat slugs whereas chickens might not.

There's More... :: (12 Comments, 654 words in story)

Awesome New USDA Antitrust Rule on Meat Industry

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 21:01:35 PM PDT

The USDA has come out with a new proposed rule and - based on the reaction it has gotten thus far - it's a big fucking deal. In a good way. Here's how the AP described the new rule:

The rules would place the sharpest limits on meat companies since the Great Depression, drastically lowering the bar that farmers and ranchers must meet to sue companies  whom they accuse of demanding unfairly low prices.

The rules would dictate how meatpackers buy cattle on the open market, and prohibit them from showing preference to big feedlots rather than buying from small producers.

They would also limit the control chicken companies have over the farmers who raise birds for them. The companies couldn't require farmers to take on debt to invest in chicken houses, for example, unless farmers were guaranteed to recoup 80 percent of the cost.

The law would also make it easier to file suits under the Depression-era Packers and Stockyards Act by stating that farmers don't need to prove industrywide anticompetitive behavior to file a lawsuit under the act.

Sen. Feingold, a longtime champion for fair competition in agriculture, has already come out praising this rule in a statement I've included below. South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson praised the rule as well, as did R-CALF USA. You can see the USDA's press release about this here and the actual rule itself here.

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List of Additives Allowed in Meat & Poultry (Yum!)

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Feb 10, 2010 at 12:34:50 PM PST

Want to know what's in your meat and/or poultry? The government's got a new 40-page PDF document with a complete list of allowed additives. And, to help you decipher the list, they also provide a Glossary of Commonly Used Meat and Poultry Additives and Terms. Details below...
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Seven reasons to worry about Obama's food safety pick

by: Deep Harm

Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 13:02:51 PM PST

In a diary posted at Daily Kos, I have outlined seven reasons to be concerned about President Obama's planned nominee for Under Secretary of Food Safety, at USDA.  Unfortunately, you'll have to go there to read it because this site keeps rejecting the code I tried to cross-post. (Something about a "java" error.)

I do hope that you will read it, though, because the safety of our food supply depends on getting the right person in that job.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Awesome Cookbook, Nourishing Traditions

by: Brad Wilson

Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 09:16:38 AM PST

Weston A. Price Foundation

Have you folks seen Sally Fallon's awesome cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.  She's with the Weston A. Price Foundation, which is listed on the promotional page for the film, "Fresh," here:

The book has recipes and the margins are filled with fascinating food facts and quizzes.  The front has a powerful summary of research based nutritional information.

This group has done a great job of demonstrating shared interests between the food movement and farmers.  (See Joel Salatin's endorsement of Sally Fallon's work here  Their research data emphasizes nutritionally dense foods.  They're great at overcoming corporate myths for vegetable transfats and hydrogenated oils and against saturated fats from eggs, dairy/milk, pork, and poultry, which they show to be crucial to our health.  They're leading in the fight for raw milk and against soy.  Got Silk?  Oooops.  You better check out what the Weston A. Price foundation has found out about it.  (Have yo seen the bumper sticker:  Babies need milk, not beans!)

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Sampler Platter 09.25.09

by: JayinPhiladelphia

Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 13:00:00 PM PDT

  • The State of Oklahoma's lawsuit against the poultry industry for fouling (easy pun passed over, heh) the Illinois River watershed got underway in a Tulsa federal courthouse yesterday.  Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is suing Tyson, Cargill and nine other companies for violation of numerous state and federal laws.

  • Jim Hightower takes on local-washing and corporate-speak.  "Such 'down-home' companies as Unilever and HSBC"... lol!

  • The Humboldt jumbo squid that have been swarming the San Diego coastline all summer are now beginning to wash up as far north as the central Oregon Coast; a sardine mystery is being investigated on Oregon's North Coast; and US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco publish an Op-Ed on the government's Northwest salmon plan.

  • Here's another piece on the culture clash between the old and the new in New York City street food.

  • The City of San Jose, California has just passed what is called the nation's strictest bag ban. The ordinance will prohibit all retailers except for restaurants and nonprofits from giving out single-use plastic bags, and will only allow them to give out paper bags (which must be at least 40% recycled) for a fee.

  • Sustainable transportation news roundup: a census survey released today ranks Portland as #1 of America's 30 largest cities in terms of bicycle commuting, with 6.4% of Portlanders getting to work via bike, a jump of more than 50% since 2007; Streetsblog NYC makes the case for openness in MTA data to improve riders' transit experience; and the feasability study on reinstatement of Amtrak's old Pioneer Route (Seattle & Portland to Salt Lake City & Denver via Eastern Oregon and Idaho) has just been released.  Why is it that highways and airports are never expected to be self-sustaining, while rail transit always is?  It's long past time that we stopped leaving most of the West to the tyranny of compulsory private automobile travel.

  • The Bend-La Pine School District in Central Oregon is seeking to make its new elementary school one of the greenest public schools in the nation.
Discuss :: (14 Comments)

Messed Up Chicken Trade Policies

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Aug 05, 2009 at 19:51:36 PM PDT

Check out these two headlines from Meatingplace:

Senate-passed bill would allow Chinese chicken imports

China bans U.S. pork, poultry plants

Here's a bit of background info about the U.S. debate on keeping Chinese chicken banned. Here's some of the article about the Senate vote on the Chinese chicken ban:

The Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a funding bill for USDA and FDA which would allow chicken imports from China with additional oversight.

The Senate bill would require approval of plants in China that wish to export to the United States, plus annual inspections of those plants and increased inspection of incoming product at U.S. ports, according to Reuters.

The House-passed version of the bill would keep current restrictions on Chinese chicken imports in place.

The World Trade Organization last week agreed to China's request that it investigate and rule on whether the U.S. ban violates international trade rules.

Personally, I don't mind if China bans our factory farmed meat (and I am absolutely for our ban on Chinese chicken). If other countries want cheap factory farmed meat, why should the American people have to live with the pollution generated by its production?  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Tyson) and Chinese Chicken

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 04:56:28 AM PDT

Back in May, I wrote about Chinese chicken. Meatpackers want to be allowed to import processed Chinese chicken. A broad coalition of other groups oppose it. Currently, it's illegal. America does not import processed Chinese chicken. The fight is over whether or not to legalize it. And... it looks like Sen. Mark Pryor (predictably, the Senator from Arkansas, the same state as Tyson) might try to make processed Chinese chicken legal again.

Over on the House side, I believe Rep. Rosa DeLauro is more or less in charge of this decision, as she chairs the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee. She passed a bill leaving the ban in place. Pryor's attempting to put language in the Senate bill that would:

...ease the ban by allowing the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service to develop and implement regulations for importing cooked poultry products from China. The measure would require on-site inspections at Chinese facilities in addition to reinspections at ports of entry.

In other words, he wants to legalize it. With additional inspections, to make sure it's safe. What's really at stake here is our meat export market to China. China doesn't want American chicken unless America will accept Chinese chicken. China is our largest export market for poultry, and they account for 12 percent of Tyson's international sales. In other words, this move to legalize Chinese chicken has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with helping Tyson.

Personally, I have a problem with exporting factory farmed meat. It's such a destructive industry, both for the environment and also for rural economies, that I think we get a crummy deal when we export it. America gets left with the manure, the stench, the decreased property values around the smelly factory farm, the antibiotic resistant bacteria, and (often) the impoverished factory farmer; Tyson gets the money; and the foreign country gets cheap meat. I think if they want cheap meat, then they should also have to deal with the consequences of cheap meat, instead of shifting those onto us while Tyson or another multinational corporation pockets the profits.

The question now, if the Senate passes the bill with Pryor's language included, is what will happen when the bill goes to conference.

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

Obama's Food Safety Working Group's Findings

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 04:38:53 AM PDT

Yesterday's announcement by the Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) was written up in the Washington Post. Basically, they decided to have a "go-to" person for food safety at the FDA, a deputy commissioner for food safety (Michael Taylor, former Monsanto lobbyist). Aside from that, they focused on a few specific things. Salmonella in eggs and poultry, E. coli in beef (particularly ground beef), and safety for leafy greens, tomatoes, and melons. So far, the FDA already issued a new rule for eggs. The rest is all set to happen in the future. Essentially, they are leaving a very broken system in place and slapping a few band-aids on it.

Consumers Union put out the statement below.

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Chinese Chicken, Again

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Jun 03, 2009 at 04:56:48 AM PDT

A few weeks ago I wrote about a fight in Washington over whether or not the U.S. should allow imports of processed Chinese chicken. Meatpackers said yes, and nearly everyone else said no.

So here's the latest from on the matter, written by Former Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond:

"Chickety China, the Chinese Chicken. Eat a drum stick, and your brain stops tickin'." Words from "One Week", a song by the Canadian group Bare Naked Ladies. If you have kids in their early thirties, you know of this group.

But Congress must have taken these words literally because they have banned cooked Chinese chicken supposedly so we can keep our brains tickin'. There is nothing about their action that is based on science, so I must assume they will quote these lyrics when responding to the WTO complaint filed by China.

I'm pretty sure he got the lyrics wrong, first of all. I believe it's HAVE a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'. Looks like he checked his facts on that about as well as he checked his facts on the Chinese chicken issue.  

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Dear China, About the Poultry? Thanks But No Thanks

by: Jill Richardson

Tue May 19, 2009 at 12:33:12 PM PDT

There's a quiet fight going on in Washington right now about Chinese poultry. I say it's quiet because I haven't seen much coverage on it. But to those involved, the fight ain't so quiet.

Currently, the U.S. has a ban on processed poultry products from China. Those in favor of keeping it in place include poultry growers associations, family farm organizations, food safety groups, consumer advocacy groups, and others (see a full list below). They cite China's poor food safety regulatory system (with the recent melamine scandals as exhibit A) as a primary reason to keep Chinese poultry out of the U.S. and they also note the effect lifting the ban would have on American poultry growers. Why should we put our own poultry growers out of business so that Americans can eat cheaper but less-safe poultry from China?

And then there's the major multinational corporations (listed below). They are ALL FOR importing Chinese poultry. Their argument? We need to play nice with the WTO and its rules. Which, in my opinion, is a piss poor reason to disregard the health and safety of the American people and the fate of the already troubled domestic poultry industry. Growth in the chicken market has slowed recently and some of the large corporations signed onto this letter have been cutting contracts with America poultry growers, leaving them hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in debt, stuck with enormous broiler houses and nobody to sell chickens to. Isn't now the exact WRONG time to start importing cheap and possibly unsafe Chinese chicken?

If you want to take action, shoot off an email to your Congresscritter, asking to keep the ban on processed poultry products from China in place. And, while you're at it, CC Barack Obama.

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How The Chicken Gets to Your Plate

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Apr 17, 2009 at 13:52:27 PM PDT

Yesterday I posted about factory chicken farmers going broke. I figured that perhaps it would be a good idea to write up an explanation of how the broiler industry works as a whole. What is amazing is that under this system, you can raise an absolutely disgusting and unsustainable amount of chickens and still not make enough to live on.

Source of info in this diary: The Economic Organization of U.S. Broiler Production by James M. MacDonald, USDA ERS

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 1351 words in story)

The Injustice of Factory Chicken Farming

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Apr 17, 2009 at 08:00:00 AM PDT

It's tragic. The people we rage against - factory chicken farmers - are actually just victims themselves. The real criminals are the "integrators" - companies like Tyson, Perdue, and Pilgrim's Pride. They profit the most from factory farming and take the fewest risks. And when times get tough? They screw over a few hundred farmers and perhaps shed a tear that their stock price dropped a few points.

Check out this article in the LA Times: Recession closes in on chicken farmers. It tells the story of the recession from the point of view of one farmer, Andrew Meeks. Four years ago he borrowed $500,000 to build 3 chicken houses. On just 25 acres, he could raise up to 60,000 chickens.

The deal farmers like Meeks make is described well in one of my favorite articles, "Finger Lickin' Bad:"

The companies provide local growers, who work under contract, with chicks, feed, medicine, and transportation. Growers take care of the rest, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction, maintenance, and labor costs. When the company requires upgrades, the costs fall to the growers. The massive amounts of manure, too, are their responsibility. (In Arkansas alone, chicken farms produce an amount of waste each day equal to that produced by 8 million people.) Payment is results-oriented, based on measures like total weight gain of the flock. It's a system, says the United Food and Commercial Workers, that leaves 71 percent of growers earning below poverty-level wages.

If growers protest, companies can cancel their contracts, leaving farmers responsible for incurred debt, says Laura Klauke, director of contract agriculture reform at the North Carolina-based Rural Advancement Foundation International.

That's what happened to Meeks and 800-900 other chicken farmers, mostly in the South. Chicken sales are down, so the integrators are cutting off many of their farmers. And ya gotta wonder - why is it that farmers like Meeks take such huge risks when the predictable outcomes are so bad???

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

Meat, Egg, Dairy, and Nut Consumption

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 09:10:15 AM PST

I've been doing a series based on the USDA's numbers on historical food consumption in America. These numbers aren't perfect. They probably don't capture what home gardeners grow and eat, I would guess. But they are based on total U.S. production minus exports and waste plus imports.

For similar data on fruits, go here.
For data on vegetables, go here.
The original USDA ERS data is here.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 436 words in story)

Tyson Worker Dies, Tyson Pays Up

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Jan 07, 2009 at 08:44:55 AM PST

According to Tyson Agress to Fine over Worker Death, Jason Kelley worked at a Tyson plant that converts the leftovers from poultry into livestock and pet feed. On October 10, 2003, he was repairing a leaky piece of equipment when he was exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas. The toxic gas killed him and injured others. Hydrogen sulfide is used for "feather decomposition" and as the hydrolyzers needed frequent maintenance, the workers were exposed to the gas as they worked.

A statement from prosecutors said Tyson safety personnel and management were aware at the time that the gas was present at the facility and that Tyson did not take enough steps to reduce exposure within prescribed limits. The company also failed to have controls or protective equipment and did not provide effective training, the government said.

Prosecutors said an identical exposure injured a worker at the facility in March 2002.

Tyson has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine. I'm thrilled that they are paying a large fine (and sadly, I believe this IS large in the scheme of things - particularly during the Bush administration - even though I'd argue that the fine should be several times larger). But is this the value of a human life? Half a million dollars? Probably not to Kelley's family. Having recently lost a loved one myself, I can tell you that no amount of money would be equal to the value of having my brother back with me. And furthermore, is the fine enough to discourage Tyson from doing this again?

I know we've been focused almost exclusively on Tom Vilsack and the USDA, but let's hope that Obama's choice for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, can really fix up the working conditions in our food system.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)
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