More than a century ago, Congress put the USDA in charge of meat safety, including regulation of slaughterhouses and packing plants. A rider on the USDA-FDA funding bill for fiscal 2019, scheduled for a House Appropriations Committee vote on Wednesday, would expand the USDA's food safety portfolio to cover lab-grown meat, variously called clean meat by proponents and fake meat by ranchers.
The Agriculture Department carried out its plan, announced in the early months of the Trump administration, to kill a 2017 regulation that would have given livestock on organic farms more elbow room than factory farms routinely allow for chickens, hogs, and cattle.
Hog giant Smithfield Foods has launched a program to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025, but it is doing so largely by focusing on the fertilizer applications of its grain farmers. While that’s an important step, it also sidesteps the biggest source of the company’s emissions — its 19 million hogs, FERN’s latest story, in partnership with The WorldPost, reported. (No paywall)
Thirteen agricultural states filed suit in U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a Massachusetts law that effectively bans the sale of eggs, pork, and veal produced by farms that use “battery” cages for hens, sow crates in hog operations, and veal-calf stalls.
The amount of antibiotics sold for use in livestock in the United States has dropped for the first time since data collection began, according to FDA numbers. The data also show for the first time which types of meat animals are receiving the most antibiotics. (No paywall)
In a major new statement about the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, the World Health Organization is urging livestock agriculture and fish farming worldwide to sharply cut antibiotic use, reserving the precious drugs for animals that are sick and then choosing only antibiotics that are not important to human medicine. (No paywall)
The National Pork Producers Council, representing conventional agriculture, called on Congress and the incoming Trump administration to overturn a new USDA animal-welfare rule for organic farms, a small part of U.S. food production. House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway said he hoped Trump officials "will immediately withdraw this rule but stand ready with my colleagues on the Hill to roll back the regulation if necessary."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes that new proposed organic regulations for animal welfare will be complete before President Obama leaves office in January, but isn't sure. “I’m hopeful that we get them done,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a report by Harvest Public Media. “I can’t guarantee that they’ll get done, but I’m hopeful they get done.”
Eight months after one USDA agency rescinded its standard for grass-fed beef, a sister agency published a "labeling guideline" — open to public comment for 60 days — that says the term is available only for beef from cattle "that were only (100 percent) fed grass (forage) after being weaned." A small-farm group said the step would "preserve the label's strong reputation."
Antibiotics play a crucial role in treating disease in farm animals and plants, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in releasing an "action plan" to promote prudent use of antimicrobials. "Their use is essential to food security, to our well-being and to animal welfare," said the FAO, but the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is a threat to human health.