FERN’s Friday Feed: The cage-free egg glut

There are too many cage-free eggs


Despite consumer pressure to improve laying conditions for hens, cage-free eggs are staying on the shelves compared to their conventional counterparts. Eggs in general are at rock-bottom prices, after prices skyrocketed during the 2015 bird flu, when 40 million hens were exterminated. At the time, manufacturers cut costs by reformulating their recipes to need fewer eggs. But now that farmers have rebuilt their flocks, especially with cage-free hens, some experts say that the supply is too high. They argue that anywhere from six to eight million hens will have to be killed to right the market.

This fish went north

Yale Environment 360

“For decades, the ocean has served as our best defense against climate change, absorbing 90 percent of the atmosphere’s excess heat,” says Yale Environment 360. But acting as a planetary sponge has taken a toll.” With the hottest ocean temperatures observed since recordkeeping started in 1880, fish are straying into new territory in search of cooler waters. For example, Chinook salmon are swimming into Arctic rivers where they’ve rarely ventured, while Portugal fishermen have reported catching 20 new species, many from warmer areas. And in northern Europe, warmer-water sardines have pushed out herring. The changes can wreak havoc on ecosystems accustomed to other species, as well as on fishermen who lack permits to catch the new fish.

Are mega-food companies and food pantries in cahoots?


Anti-hunger activist Andy Fisher warns in his book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups that food stamps and food pantries aren’t as innocent as they seem. In what he calls the “anti-hunger industrial complex” the U.S. Department of Agriculture spends around $85 billion annually to feed the needy. This money acts as a corporate subsidy by keeping wages low, famously at Wal-Mart. The money also supports  the food industry, which depends heavily on food stamps. “For instance, Kraft says that one-sixth of its sales are food stamp-related,” Fisher claims, arguing that anti-hunger groups team with food companies to lobby the government to fund federal nutrition programs, specifically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). However, companies are quick to make sure that their least healthy products like soda and junk food continue to be included in SNAP — items that contribute to the country’s rise in obesity and diabetes, especially among the poor.

Food stamps: where morality and hunger collide

Huffington Post

For decades, American politicians have debated whether hunger is a moral issue. In 1969, House Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Poage, a Texas Democrat, claimed that “families on food relief often had television sets and nice automobiles” and got drunk on whiskey instead of feeding their kids. Today, as the Trump administration’s budget proposal calls for major cuts to the program, a lack of good decision-making is still an argument to curb the federal nutrition program. “Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said at a hearing late last year that ‘billions in taxpayer dollars are being spent on items like sweetened beverages and prepared desserts,’” says Huffington Post. A USDA report found that food stamp recipients are more likely to be obese (40 percent) than people of the same income bracket who qualify for benefits but don’t receive them (32 percent). But while Conaway and other Republicans have argued that recipients shouldn’t be allowed to buy soda, Democrats have generally favored educating recipients on how to make healthier choices, rather than restricting options.

Spies are targeting seeds

Harvest Public Media

In 2013, U.S. authorities discovered genetically engineered rice seeds in the suitcases of several visiting Chinese delegates. They had stolen the seeds from a Kansas lab that had invested close to $85 million in developing rice that could grow human proteins for medical uses. If the delegates had made it back to China, they might have figured out how to reverse engineer the rice and ultimately ruin the lab’s business, which is expected to bring in as much as $1 billion a year. While that case has been closed — at least one of the delegates is facing federal prison time — the FBI warns that agricultural economic espionage is a growing threat. And China, with 1.4 billion people to feed, is especially eager to steal new technologies.

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