Terrence O’Keefe, WATT’s content director, provides his perspective on everything from animal agriculture trends that impact our food chain to food-safety related issues affecting chicken and egg production. O’Keefe has covered the poultry industry as an editor for more than a decade and also brings his experience in plant management and poultry production to comment on today’s issues.
On my recent visit to the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention, the supply of eggs for California in 2015 was a hot topic of conversation. There seems to be two schools of thought on what will happen in California after the January 1, 2015 implementation of Proposition 2. One group projects that California authorities will not be able to enforce state laws requiring that shell eggs brought into the state must meet Proposition 2 standards and this will result in a California marketplace with an ample supply of shell eggs and with California producers operating at a competitive disadvantage.
NationalPublic Radio (NPR) ran a story recently on how high organic soybean prices hadled to a shortage of organic eggs in the U.S. Biofuels policies in the U.S. andE.U. may not make sense from an environmental or energy independencestandpoint, but they have worked wonders at driving up incomes for grainfarmers.
Chick-fil-A recently announced its intention to serve only chicken products from birds raised without antibiotics in all of its restaurants within five years. The company currently serves all white meat products processed from chickens that are conventionally raised, which means they may have received antibiotics at some point in their growing cycle.
Thirtyactivist groups sent an open letter to Ron Foster, CEO, Foster Farms Inc.,asking him to release information about antibiotic use in his company’s broileroperations. A recent outbreak of human Salmonellosis has been linked toready-to-cook chicken products produced at three of Foster Farms’ facilities.
When I read the ConsumerReports’ article, "The high cost of cheap chicken,"on the testing organization’s latest sampling results for retail chickenproducts, I was struck by the lack of consistency in how opinions fromdifferent groups were presented. The article is quick to blame antibiotic use asa culprit in the presence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics on thechicken sampled in the study, yet they do not share the resistance data for thebacteria collected from the chicken that was labeled “organic” or “noantibiotics.”
Since the rate of human Salmonellosis cases aren’t declining, it really does seem to be time to try something different. Unfortunately, in many ways, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Salmonella Action Plan is just a re-emphasis of the same strategies that the agency has already employed.
Hampton Creek Foods and the famous tech billionaires who back the San Francisco-based company have done a remarkable job getting the mainstream media to listen to them. All this publicity is nice for Hampton Creek’s egg-less products, such as Beyond Eggs, Eat the Dough and Just Mayo, but you really need to look at who is writing the articles.
The recent outbreak of human Salmonellosis cases that have been linked to consuming chicken from three Foster Farms facilities and the actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foster Farms and some of Foster Farms’ customers have been difficult for some legislators, media and consumers to understand. I don’t claim to have any special knowledge of the events before and after the USDA issued a public health alert stating Foster Farms' chicken products were associated with the outbreak, but I hope I can help some people gain a better understanding of why some of the parties have taken the steps that they have.
The United States Attorney’s office in Denver, Colo., recently charged brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen, former owners and operators of Jensen Farms, with six counts each of adulteration of a food and aiding and abetting. Cantaloupes grown and packed by Jensen Farms were linked to a Listeriosis outbreak that resulted in 33 deaths and 147 illnesses. This case reminds me of the Salmonellosis outbreaks associated with table eggs in the U.S. a couple of years ago and the subsequent farm investigations.
The food chain is a critical avenue for the introduction of antibiotic resistance through daily food consumption, said Dr. Hua H. Wang, professor, food science and microbiology, Ohio State University. Speaking at the International Association for Food Protection annual meeting, she said that, in spite of cooking, food can still be a major source of antibiotic resistance genes.
Rick Berman,executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, has been a staunch opponent of the Humane Society of the United States and has made critical comments, both verbally and in writing, about the Egg Bill. In response to my last blog post on his comments, Mr. Berman sent me this reply in which he countered some of the points that I made.
I think that one of the best ways to avoid the hubris of discounting the other side’s arguments is to be forced to assume the other side’s position and defend it. This is exactly the approach taken at the Current Controversies in Food Safety Round Table at the International Association of Food Protection’s annual convention in Charlotte, N.C., and it made for an entertaining and thought-provoking exercise.