Dairy Management using tax dollars to sell you cheese! »
Dairy Management, essentially the marketing arm of the USDA, has had one purpose since its creation in 1995: to get everyone to buy more dairy products! According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Dairy Management has been helping with and paying for the marketing of cheesy foods since 1997. Apparently, “if every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually.”
Most recently, Dairy Management consultants met with Domino’s Pizza “to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese.” Dairy Management also paid $12 million for the marketing. What $12 million? Our $12 million, citizens! Who do you think funds the government? Yeah, we’re collectively paying for the “Got Milk?” campaign, too.
“Clinical studies show that people on a reduced-calorie diet who consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day can lose significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories.” Do you remember hearing that? It came from a study commissioned by Dairy Management that turned out to have no basis in reality. Yes, it was a lie! A lie perpetrated by an arm of the government! For four years these ads ran, until the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine challenged the study in 2005 and got the Federal Trade Commission to finally pay attention and suspend the campaign in 2007 “pending additional research.”
Please read the rest of the article—you will love all the fun techniques Dairy Management uses to turn us buffoons into cheese-devouring zombies, and just how much more cheese the country has been eating since Dairy Management’s inception (hint: a whole lot!).
Should you ever find yourself craving an eight-cheese pizza—like the new “Wisconsin” by Domino’s, with two cheeses in the crust and six on the top—your Vegansaurus would like to remind you of all the vegan alternatives available today. For this generic melting dairy cheese that Dairy Management tries daily to shove down your throat, there are equally delicious vegan analogs without the taint of the dairy industry, obscenely high levels of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and no one is sneakily marketing it to you.
USDA and Let’s Move! want veg recipes for school lunches! BEEF magazine fears for children’s health »
Who knew there were multiple BEEF magazines? The one in question today is a trade magazine, specifically “America’s leading cattle publication,” which means they don’t write articles for consumers, but they are heavily invested in the consumption of beef. No surprise, then, that they’ve pitched a big old fit about the USDA’s new Let’s Move! Recipes for Kids Challenge that requires vegetables and whole grains, but not beef. NOT BEEF.
A disaster! Kristina Butts is terrified that this will deprive schoolchildren of—beef? Her argument isn’t what you’d call convincing, though considering she is the director of Legislative Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association—and the only source quoted in this article—perhaps she has different priorities than our beloved FLOTUS. Kristina Butts finds this emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables ridiculous: “[P]lants already make up 70 percent of our diets,” she says. Isn’t that enough? Not to mention that “[o]n average, Americans are consuming about 2.3 oz. of red meat/day, well within [the] 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. By excluding meat from its healthy kids recipe contest [sic], [the] USDA continues to add to the misconception that meat is over-consumed in the U.S.”
Don’t you see the problem? If we don’t “encourage [our] elected lawmakers to ask [the] USDA to use science and facts when finalizing the dietary guidelines,” they might do something totally insane, like recommend people eat a plant-based diet, and cut back on their consumption of ALL animal products—not just BEEF, but PORK and CHICKEN and EGGS and GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE, don’t they know soy gives you gay cancer? Jesus didn’t eat tofu!
The point, says Kristina Butts, is fuck this Recipe Challenge, unless you can get a bunch of eligible contestants together, in which case make it as beefy as possible. Show those USDA morons what real Americans eat.
*If you would like to enter this contest, it is unfortunately more complicated than being good at making vegetable-based dishes that children love. You have to form a team with “a chef, a a school nutrition professional, at least one student currently enrolled in grades 4-12 [sic], and at least one parent or community member.” Then there’s a bunch of business about recipe sizes and requirements, nutritional information, student taste-testing—Let’s Move! is not messing around with this. The deadline for submission is 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 30, so you still have plenty of time to get yourself together. Still, it is a noble cause, and now that BEEF has declared war on the Challenge, the veg community is honor-bound to win. Go on, school lunch champions. Do it for the animals. Or FLOTUS! Or Elizabeth, she’ll be so proud of you.
[cover image from, yes, BEEF magazine]
The truth about mechanically separated chicken »
I want to leave the second person plural a minute and talk to you all, editor-to-readers, about this mechanically separated chicken monstrosity Laura posted on Wednesday. You remember; it was pink and beautiful, before the realization that it was made of chickens. And then we all wanted to barf for about 10 years? Most of us did, anyway. It appears that some of you readers don’t believe that that photo is accurate; some doubt both the photo’s veracity and the facts we included from the original post about mechanically separated chicken.
That’s fair. I can understand not wanting to believe such a process exists, or that companies like McDonald’s don’t serve such a substance to their customers. Unfortunately, it’s real and true.
This is an image of mechanically separated chicken that has been divided according to the part of the chicken it came from. Note that while two of the three raw globs are quite pink, all three of the cooked globs have turned white or nearly white. This image comes from an article written in 2005 about University of Georgia professor Daniel Fletcher, who is “highly regarded and respected by poultry instructors and researchers in industry, government, and academia,” according to the World’s Poultry Science Association, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2008. Professor Fletcher had used a centrifuge to help separate the meats.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Services Poultry Slaughter and Inspection Training publication called “Plant Familiarization: Characteristics and Manufacturing—Poultry” [.pdf], “Often, the industry searches for ways to yield the maximum edible, wholesome product from the meat or poultry carcass. The mechanical separation process is a technology that industry uses to obtain more usable product from bones from which the muscle has been removed.”
The USDS FSIS glossary defines mechanically separated chicken (and turkey) as “a paste-like and batter-like product…intended for use in the formulation of other poultry products…. Mechanically separated chicken and turkey are used in products such as chicken and turkey franks, bologna, nuggets, and patties.” National Geographic’s video of processing hot dogs rather graphically illustrates the meat-slurry creation process.
One final note: Should anyone seriously doubt any claims made by any Vegansaurus contributor again, please contact us (me or Laura) about such matters. We will take you seriously. However, no writer would deliberately post something untrue, and we always do our research; we respect you and ourselves too much to lie.
(Besides, we aren’t your confused great-uncle sending warnings about deserted highways where scary strange man drivers flash their headlights at lady drivers who drive faster to get away when it turns out the man driver was trying to warn the lady that the scary strange man is in her backseat so when she drives really fast to get away from the flashing-lights guy she’s actually driving faster toward her imminent RAPE and DEATH, LADIES DON’T EVER DRIVE ALONE AND ALWAYS LISTEN TO MEN!!! Seriously.)
Colorado Bureau of Animal Protection’s chief investigator is “anti-animal rights” »
Nope, not even kidding a little bit. Check out Scot Dutcher’s Twitter, which as of this post is still up and functioning, despite the state’s Dept. of Agriculture Deputy Director Jim Miller’s admission that Dutcher’s Twitter was “unauthorized,” and moreover, that “[I]t was something that we spoke with [Dutcher] about. He understood that he wasn’t supposed to be doing that.”
But I guess the guy in charge of animal protection for the entire state of Colorado is too, shall we say Mavericky to be silenced by mere policy. He is anti-animal rights and proud! Never mind the 860,000 pigs, 115,000 dairy cows, 400,000 sheep and lambs, “more than” 2.70 million beef cattle and calves, and approximately 6.25 million layer hens counted among Colorado’s top agricultural commodities*—Scot Dutcher thinks their living conditions are just fine, thank you, and doesn’t need any pesky USDA or FDA inspectors or anyone else telling him how to take care of them; they’re commodities, not precious little puppies. Would you tell a wheat farmer to be kinder to the wheat? A strawberry farmer to harvest the berries more humanely? No—and to Dutcher, animal rights appears to sound just as crazy.
This definitely seems like the right guy to call when you suspect farm animals are being abused. How much would you bet one of his first questions is whether they can still produce milk/eggs/wool/meat.
*Latest figures available were from 2007
Going off-grid with the USDA: Grow your own soybeans! »
From this amazing book called Gardening for Food and Fun, published by the Department of Agriculture in 1947 and reprinted by Library4Farming in 2009 comes instructions for the at-home gardener on growing your own vegetable soybeans!
Did you know, for example, that, “The cultivated soybean, Glyine max (L.) Merrill, is the only member of the genus having an erect bushy plant with an annual growth habit”? DYING. The Dept. of Ag is full of interesting information. Also some outdated stuff, as this was written in the mid-/late ’40s; it recommends growing soybeans because they’re difficult to find “in canned or frozen form.”
However, it does seem quite useful. Your Vegansaurus asked an experienced horticulturalist about the instructions, and she said they seem very reasonable. So if you’re worried about issues like buying from companies whose soybeans also feed livestock or use GMOs, or you’d like to live more independently in general, growing soybeans may be for you. I especially love Gardening for Food and Fun because it tells you exciting! and new! ways to eat the food you’ve grown, like how to sprout and dry the soybeans; it’s adorable. Soybean sprouts are not on my imaginary 1950s dinnertables, but there are your helpful tips anyway.
Library4Farming seems like a pretty useful resource: they are working to put online every single USDA Yearbook of Agriculture series “which has been published almost every year from 1894 to 1992” and which are full of relevant (and irrelevant) information. So far they have scanned the aforementioned GFF, Insects, and Science in Farming. Maybe there are more thrilling revelations from the USDA waiting for someone (us? you?) to discover! Maybe it is excrutiatingly boring blah blah about how to most effectively slaughter insects! We’ve only read the bit about soybeans so far, but that was neat enough to share, it seemed like there might be more USDA fun!
Shocking tasers, shorted-out circuits, and food porn in today’s SHOCKING (themed) link-o-rama! »
How about that: a goat in a blue suit! According to Vice, who did the photoshoot, it’s Look 25 from Dunhill’s spring/summer 2010 collection. I’m not sure about that, honestly—I think it just as easily could be Look 27. Thoughts?
By the way, this is Steve filling in for Meave this week, who blames her absence on a shorted out MacBook keyboard following a coffee spill disaster. But between you and me, I’m suspecting cilantro poisoning.
Upcoming vegan events!
Like vegan cupcakes? Feeling judgy? Then sign up to be a judge for the 2nd Annual Vegan Cupcake Bake-off on May 22nd in Oakland. This will probably be the biggest field trip ever, so get those permission slips sorted out in advance.
Here’s an epic battle of the century that you won’t want to miss, organized by VegNews and Earth Island Journal. Cattle rancher-turned-vegan Howard Lyman and Niman Ranch co-founder Nicolette Niman will debate why or why not meat is a sustainable and ethical product. Tickets are $10 and will sell out quickly.
Miscellaneous items of significant social importance!
The Taser company funded a “study” that involved anesthetizing sheep, putting them on a methamphetamine IV drip, and then shocking them with Tasers—in order to test “the effects of Tasers on meth-addled targets.” But don’t worry, it didn’t cause the sheep any immediate heart problems!
Kelly Osborne has discovered the super-grossnosity of the U.S. meat industry, and in response has resolved to eat only “organic” meat.
Speaking of grossnosity, McDonald’s really, really doesn’t want to buy even 5 percent of its eggs for its U.S. stores from cage-free sources.
Mumbai now has an all-organic farmers market, which sells produce, cotton candy (YES PLEASE), “paint, paper, furniture, and cosmetics,” and prepared food like vegan quiche. Because we didn’t need enough reasons to visit India.
SFoodie has created a map to our fine city’s many seasonal farmers markets, where you can probably buy some wild leeks, a.k.a. ramps, which are this year’s fancy decorative green that non-professionals apparently don’t know what to do with. Or something.
The best baguette in Paris can be bought in Montmartre for less than two euro. But if you want to live forever, you had better forswear bread—and 50 percent of your body’s desired caloric intake—for the rest of that forever-life. The near-anorexics will rule us all, if very weakly.
Our local paper of record likes us; they really like us. SFGate started up a new vegan and vegetarian lifestyle section. We’re looking forward to more local coverage of veg issues, but we’re a bit less excited about the witty and insightful comments that we’re bound to get from the white-flight crowd that hangs out over there. Flame suits, on.
The Kitchn is on a vegan kick this week, with 10 Vegan Lunch Ideas. But breakfast is the most important meal of the day (especially if you eat breakfast food for lunch and dinner), so why not click through to their 10 Vegan Breakfast Ideas while you’re at it?
Killer whales kill (duh), unless you’re a dog. Then they’re like, “hop on my back, little friend, and I will take you on a magical tour of my sea kingdom.” But dogs aren’t safe if sharks are around so don’t forget a pair of “I’m With Orca” board shorts for your dog on beach walks.
Oh great. Almost everyone knows about the trash island the size of Texas floating in the Pacific, but did you know there are four others just like it? Check out photos from the North Atlantic Gyre courtesy of The 5 Gyres Project. I really can’t wait for a future of marine life evolved to eat a diet entirely of plastic.
WildCare brings us 15 seconds of how-can-I-exist-in-a-world-with-orphaned-ducklings tears in video form. Spring time means heavy rains and orphaned ducks in storm drains, so go sponsor some baby ducks, or the videos will keep getting sadder and shorter. No pressure.
The Winter Olympics are over, but how about a video of two dogs who may just win the gold in luge in 2014.
Humans are smarter and better than animals at everything, except for all the things they do exactly the same as us. Researchers in Portugal discovered that rats can understand complex game theory, and successfully cooperate with each other or manipulate other players in the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma game scenario.
Trace residue of hexane in soy burgers may have been the big health scare news story of the week, so of course this USDA report about veterinary drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals in the meat supply will get just as much attention, right? (Right guys? Guys? Anyone?)
Here’s some vegan chocolate food porn from chef and food stylist Claire Thomas, along with some bonus food erotica from The Physiology of Taste, written in 1825, describing how hot chocolate would have been prepared (with water, no milk) at Versaille.
Vegan.com says that Michael Pollan is “dodging the discussion” with Jonathon Safran Foer over criticism in Eating Animals, but saying that “nobody is anti-meat enough for the animal-rights purists” reads more like fighting words than an outright dodge. Sounds to us like it’s time to settle this one in the Octagon.
And because cats are the best, we’ll leave you with a video news clip about the Agee Sanctuary near Sacramento, new home of feral cats recently rescued from a Chinatown housing project. Apparently they have their own Winston, not to be confused with fourfour’s Winston who just joined Twitter this week and has almost as many followers as us. It’s hard out there for a dino.
Another salmonella-related meat recall »
What is this doing taking up an entire post? Bill Marler reported on an outbreak of salmonella montevideo on Marler Blog—which “provid[es] commentary on food poisoning outbreaks and litigation”—on Friday, an entire day before the USDA actually announced the recall of 1.24 million pounds of meat, is what. Obama Foodorama is rightly pissed about this, especially considering that this is a Class 1 outbreak, meaning infection could have serious consequences (read: death).
Ha ha SO CUTE. You know how salmonella outbreaks occur? Animal poo gets into the food. Exposure to high temperatures destroys the bacteria, but the recalled products this time are all salamis, which are cured meats—meaning, they don’t get cooked! Enjoy your salmonella sandwiches, fellow citizens! Something like 184 of you in 38 states already have.
Thanks, USDA, for taking such good care of us all. The only thing that makes me feel safe about food anymore is that I eat vegan, and even then it’s iffy.
UPDATE: Obama reverses pledge to stop funding factory farming!? »
OK, we promised more investigating, and here it is. Let’s get some things out of the way first, though. The USDA rule in question isn’t just about subsidizing factory farms, it’s about corporate farms in general. So, large corporate farms like soybeans, corn, wheat, and so on, and yes, livestock and dairy.
Now, if I were dictator, instead of closing the loophole, I’d just eliminate the farm subsidy program completely. Farm subsidies are a weird throwback to a horse-and-buggy era, and they’re bad news no matter who gets them. Think about all the water, fuel and land that goes to waste to grow food that no one needs. Stupid, right? And if the experience of New Zealand is any guide, ditching farm subsidies would actually save family farms, not hurt them.
But unfortunately I’m not dictator (though MAYBE SOMEDAY and I’ll tell you what, my first act as vegan dictator would be a hell of lot more dictatorial than free brownies, not that I don’t love a good brownie) and it’s pretty obvious that, at the very least, the loophole needs to be closed. So when I heard the change didn’t go through, it triggered my WTF-dar.
So here’s what I set out to answer: (1) Did the rule require an act of Congress to change, or was it fully within the executive branch’s power? In other words, did Obama make a promise that needed new law passed by Congress, or was it in his administration’s power to change? (2) Are there any signs that his USDA plans to tackle it later, or does this reflect a genuine change in priorities for the rest of his first term?
To answer this I called the USDA (and in the process learned that if you want to find out what your government is doing, don’t call your representative, call the bored mid-level civil servant in D.C.) and found the final rules. The original proposed rules were published and made available for public comment on Feb. 9, 2009, with the final rules that sparked blogger outrage published Thursday, Jan. 7. Warning, both links are very dry PDFs.
And I saved you the trouble of reading them. At issue is the definition of “actively engaged in farming.” As defined by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill, a person who might be “actively engaged in farming” is vague enough to include spouses of farmers (which is fine) to farm management (loophole alert!).
So when the USDA published the new rules for the comment period, they got flooded with comments asking them to tighten up this definition of “actively engaged in farming”. Read on and see how they chose to respond to one of these comments, then I’ll unpack what they’re saying:
Sec. 1400.203 Joint Operations
A more rigorous definition or measurable standard for active personal management is needed; too many people per entity are qualifying for payment eligibility based on only active personal management. However, the comments did not represent a consensus on what that standard should be. Use a 1000 hour eligibility (test) for an active contribution of management and labor combined. Require each actively engaged partner to work at least 1000 hours in proving labor or management, or engage in labor or management for hours equal to at least half those required by the share of the operation.
Define active management to include marketing, securing financing, supervising employees, and scheduling field activities.
Close the potential loopholes and end unlimited payments to the nation’s largest farms. Require a person to either work half time on a farm or provide half the labor or management to qualify as an active farmer. The ‘‘actively engaged’’ issue is the biggest potential loophole of all. Megafarms with investor partners use this potential loophole to collect unlimited payments.
The excess payments gained from the actively engaged potential loopholes allow megafarms to outbid smaller farmers and beginning farmers for land, leading to the demise of family farming. This potential loophole is strangling the economic future of rural communities and choking off farm entry for the next generation.
As indicated previously, the definition of what constitutes a significant contribution is provided by regulation, not by statute and, therefore, could be changed. We recognize the difficulty in determining the significance of a management contribution under the current definition and the appeal of a measurable, quantifiable standard. However, unlike labor, the significance of a management contribution is not appropriately measured by the amount of time a person spends doing the claimed contribution. The current regulatory definition of a significant contribution of active personal management has been in effect for over 20 years; Congress has not mandated a more restrictive definition during that time, including in the 2008 Farm Bill. However, we are currently exploring whether the current definition could be amended in a manner that would be fair, equitable, and enhance program integrity. Therefore, no changes were made at this time as the result of this comment and other related comments.
Got all that? Here’s what they’re saying in their response:
As indicated previously, the definition of what constitutes a significant contribution is provided by regulation, not by statute and, therefore, could be changed. We recognize the difficulty in determining the significance of a management contribution under the current definition and the appeal of a measurable, quantifiable standard.
So the USDA has the power to change the loophole and doesn’t need an act of Congress. That answers that. They seem to agree that the loophole should be changed (“the appeal of a measurable, quantifiable standard”).
However, unlike labor, the significance of a management contribution is not appropriately measured by the amount of time a person spends doing the claimed contribution. The current regulatory definition of a significant contribution of active personal management has been in effect for over 20 years.
Here they’re saying it’s a hard problem to solve without causing other problems. In the rest of the document, they talk a lot about how spouses of farmers might be affected by an “actively engaged in farming” rule-change, and it’s not clear how much wiggle room they have.
Congress has not mandated a more restrictive definition during that time, including in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Now they’re punting the question to Congress, even though it’s within the USDA’s power to make some kind of change, so this line is a bit of a cop-out. But then again, maybe Congress should just take it up and make the rule change permanent instead of leaving it up to each new presidential administration to fiddle around with things. (Hint hint, more activism and lobbying from vegans kthx.)
However, we are currently exploring whether the current definition could be amended in a manner that would be fair, equitable, and enhance program integrity.
Here’s the crux of it. Do you believe that they’re working on the loophole to try and close it for the next round of rule changes, or do you believe it’s a brush off? And do you believe the loophole should be closed by the USDA, or by Congress? Questions, questions.
From what I can see, there are a lot of issues going on. Has the USDA sold out to corporate farms, or are they honestly trying to grapple with a complex issue without creating unintended consequences for family members of farmers? And are they trying to avoid a separation of powers problem by defining something further than the Farm Bill allows, or are they just being a bunch of lame-brains?
I don’t really have any conclusions here, just more questions, so…I report, you decide!
70 percent of Hamburgers are possibly unsafe, definitely disgusting »
There’s a saying that you should always release bad news on Friday, when no one is paying attention. And when you have REALLY bad news, save it until the end of the year. And when your news is that 70 percent of the nation’s hamburgers, served by McDonald’s and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), are unsafe and possibly filled with E. coli, even after getting pumped full of ammonia? Then you save that sheeze till the last day of the decade.
A New York Times report, politely titled “Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned” (translation from journo-speak: WTF BEEF IS SO FUCKED), reveals that the ammonia process used by Beef Products, Inc. is not only letting E. coli slip through, but that the U.S. Department of Agriculture believes that the process is safe enough to exempt Beef Products, Inc. from inspections. So it’s not only unsafe but the government is taking their word for it because they triple pinky swear promise that it’s OK and corporations never lie, especially not in their own self-published reports.
The idea behind the process is to scoop up fatty slaughterhouse floor leftovers (you know, the kind they usually throw away or dump in dog food), separate the protein from the fat in a centrifuge, squeeze it through tubes, spray it with ammonia, then flash-freeze and compress the final goop. If everything worked, the company believes that the end product will be fully sanitized and free of contaminants like E. coli and salmonella. Normally, slaughterhouse scraps are especially prone to contaminants, but the resulting filler meat is so cheap and “safe” that it’s good enough for McDonald’s and the NSLP.
Forget for a minute if the process works or not. Even if it was 100 percent perfect, YOU’RE EATING MEAT SOAKED IN AMMONIA. Seriously, who cares if it works or not. Nothing I eat needs to be soaked in ammonia to kill it even more after it’s already dead.
And after watching the clip above of the Beef Products, Inc. factory tour, I’m no longer worried about whether or not the American public will accept lab-grown meat as hamburger filler. They will. Squeeze it through tubes into flash-frozen pink slabs and no one will bat an eyelash.