The Month in a Minute: April 2023

April’s top stories in agriculture, climate and our food system in 60 seconds.

The Month in a Minute: April 2023

Analysis Month in a Minute

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This month, governments and the justice system took a closer look at the meat industry. A U.S. federal court ruled the USDA can no longer offer loans to medium-sized factory farms without an environmental impact assessment. Plus: the Michigan attorney general’s office asked top U.S. grocery chain Kroger to clarify animal welfare claims on its egg labeling. The European Food Safety Authority stated veal calves should no longer be isolated and confined. Meanwhile, the U.K. Food Safety Agency launched a criminal investigation into the sale of rotten pork falsely labeled as British.

Plus: Oxford researchers found animal agriculture’s use of the antimicrobial colistin has endangered human immune systems with treatment-resistant E coli.

A new EU law requires companies to verify products including beef and soy are not tied to deforestation.

Meanwhile, a Cambridge study clearing of the Amazon could be halved if Brazilian cattle companies fully implemented their deforestation policies.

Research found DNA can reveal the way in which farmed animals were raised, such as whether a chicken was free-range.

New FDA guidance allows plant-based producers to label their products as “milk,” but the recommendations still favor dairy

Scientists warned that new outbreaks of “highly pathogenic” avian flu demand a “coordinated response” from governments, animal agriculture and wildlife agencies.

And: the slaughter of Cedar the goat by Shasta County Fair Officials, despite the pleas of the child who raised him, sparked outcry as the story went viral.

Here are more stories that caught our attention this month:


Top U.S. egg producer Cal-Maine Foods saw profits rise by over 700 percent in the first quarter of 2023 amid soaring prices blamed on avian flu and inflation. 

U.S. chickens are so commonly bred to grow unnaturally large that retailers are unable to find smaller cuts of meat.

WIRED explored why the U.S. food and agriculture industries are highly vulnerable to hackers.

George Monbiot discussed cattle ranching’s involvement in the U.S. capitol riot and an attack in Brasília.

Vermont dairy workers are demanding better working conditions, as 40 percent are paid below minimum wage and 28 percent work 7-hour shifts without a break.

VICE visited a dog farm being shut down, as its owner shifts to growing crops and nearly 60 percent of South Koreans support a ban on dog meat. 

Meanwhile, dog farmers protested signs that a prohibition could be coming.

Maine is considering a $5.5 million bailout for its dairy industry, following a 25 percent drop in the number of farms over 2 years.

Purdue University was given a $500,000 grant for research on pork production’s poorly studied effects on air quality.

Environmentalists criticized a proposal of the East Coast’s first ocean-pen fish farm, which would produce millions of pounds of salmon and trout.

Meanwhile, Washington is considering land-based aquaculture following controversy over a 2017 spill of nonnative salmon into surrounding waters.

And: Norway is mulling higher taxes on its farmed salmon industry, as producers enjoy a profit margin of around 45 percent.

Despite being the largest dairy producer, India aims to increase imports amid a drop in supply.

The World Bank will invest $240 million to boost Uzbekistan’s growing livestock sector.

Plus: industrial agriculture is the reason for cheaper meat. The Grocer explored the cognitive dissonance keeping consumers who care about animal welfare unwilling to pay higher prices. 

And: Tyson relocated pigs to keep operations running after a fire forced the closure of a plant that slaughters around 8,250 animals daily.


New research ties the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture to pathogens considered a “critical priority” by the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, a Berkeley University study found state and local regulations have not forced a reduction in antimicrobial use on farms.

And a new study links 7 out of 10 cases of Type 2 diabetes in 2018 to dietary habits, including red meat consumption.

Florida, Ohio and Texas restricted imports of Pennsylvania poultry products due to avian flu outbreaks.

The American Medical Association dedicated its April journal to “Meat and Health,” including the importance of teaching medical students the connections between animal and human health.

Influenza D is passing from cows to humans on dairy farms, with no system established to track the illness, according to NPR.

New York Times reports the U.S. dairy industry is marketing to Gen Z consumers lost to health and climate worries.

France ordered 80 million doses of bird flu vaccines intended for poultry, as the U.S. began testing.

China reported the world’s first human death from H3N8, as Chile documented its first human infection with avian flu.

Meanwhile, Japan is running out of room to bury over 17 million birds culled since September.

And: Senegal reported that an outbreak in its poultry industry most likely spread from wild birds.

France called on farmers to reduce cancer-associated nitrites in deli meats by 20 percent.

A study of outdoor U.S. chicken farms found a bacterial pathogen in over 69 percent of flocks.

A government-sanctioned hunt in Yellowstone National Park killed 1,150 bison, sparking controversy over the attempt to stop the spread of brucellosis to farmed cattle. 

New market research shows 54 percent of U.S. consumers believe plant-based foods contain “hidden unhealthy ingredients.”

Mashed explained why the pork slogan “the other white meat” was a “misleading” part of an industry effort to shed the meat’s reputation as unhealthy. 

Almost 2 tons of ground beef were recalled for E. coli contamination, shortly after research tied the bacteria in meat to 500,000 U.S. urinary infections annually. 

Rising milk allergies are fueling the growth of the powdered plant milk market, projected to be worth over $373 million by 2033. 

Plus: in her new book, culinary historian Anne Mendelson questions dairy milk as a “nutritional necessity,” reports the New Yorker.

In a U.S. survey, 82 percent of respondents consume a plant-based product at least once per month, but 7 percent switch back to dairy if they don’t like the first alternative they try.

And: scientists found a plant-based diet can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in dogs.


40 of the world’s top meat and dairy producers may face $24 billion in climate-related losses by 2030.

The World Meteorological Organization warned climate impacts are exacerbating food insecurity, faced by over 2 billion people.

High levels of the pesticide DDT were found on the seafloor off southern California.

And as the western U.S. faces drought, Vox reports 70 percent of the Colorado River’s irrigates crops for farmed cattle.

Smithsonian’s reporting on biogas fails to mention that this method of manure management does not reduce emissions. 

The USDA is granting $20 million to pork industry groups to fund “climate-smart agriculture practices.” 

Fast food chains that have made climate pledges now face a decision as popular meat-heavy dishes boost their social media presence, reports Business Insider. 

New York City urged companies, institutions and organizations to “decarbonize” food purchasing by 25 percent by 2030 via a shift towards plant-rich meals.

Minnesota urged residents to watch for fish die-offs, which can be linked to pesticides.

The effects of climate change are making some costly foods even more expensive, from cashews to eels.

An Al Jazeera video explored the links between the Brazilian beef industry and global warming.

Farms certified by top U.K. quality assurance scheme Red Tractor were deemed more likely to pollute than others.

Plus: the U.K. is considering “methane suppressants” in dairy cow feed to reduce emissions.

Australia’s aquaculture industry aims to become more sustainable by reducing its reliance on fishmeal from wild-caught species. 

Research on “rewilding” shows that restoring populations of whales, gray wolves and other species could help capture nearly 500 gigatons of CO2 by 2100.

Plus: scientists find pesticide usage and warming temperatures can negatively affect bee behaviors important for pollination.

In a New York Times op-ed, Peter Singer argues if Americans replaced 50 percent of animal products in their diets, it would help get the nation one-quarter of the way to its Paris agreement goals.

The NOAA is considering stricter regulations for the sea scallop industry, as scallops were recently found “highly vulnerable” to acidification.

And: Japan’s bear meat vending machine as well as ‘toxic’ dolphin meat containing high levels of mercury drew environmentalists’ concerns.


The Biden administration demanded that meat producers including Tyson, JBS and Smithfield check for child labor in their supply chains.

Plus: JBS and Smithfield are expected to pay $25 million and $75 million respectively to settle allegations of meat price-fixing.

OSHA recommended a $1.9 million fine in fines for a Cincinnati meat plant over injuries including one that led to a worker’s leg amputation.

And: meat plant workers would be granted the right to refuse to work in “dangerous conditions” under a proposed law in Minnesota.

A federal court upheld Louisiana’s law restricting plant-based food labeling, but ruled it can only penalize producers intending to mislead shoppers.

Tyson Foods employees went on strike after a plant was closed to boost the company’s poultry profits.

An explosion on a Texas dairy farm critically injured a worker and killed 18,000 cows. And over 25 Kansas meat processing workers were hospitalized due to a chemical leak.

A ban on livestock transport by sea took effect in New Zealand.

The European Union is expected to boost animal welfare protections covering transport, confinement and more.

Meanwhile, a study found that the EU’s lack of data on farmed animal welfare ‘hinders progress.’

A livestock truck driver pleaded guilty to causing the 2020 death of animal activist Regan Russell outside a Canadian slaughterhouse.

An activist acquitted of theft for filming the rescue of Smithfield pigs warned that a new Utah law could hide animal suffering from the public. 

Future of Food

A new report from the World Health Organization finds food safety considerations surrounding cultivated meat are no different than those related to conventional meat.

Italy is mulling a ban on cultivated meat  — a move that would have climate consequences, warned Time and The Conversation.

Cultured protein maker New Age Meats closed down, but Good Meat became the second to get FDA clearance. The Wall Street Journal and The Spoon explored the state of the industry.

NowThis toured an UPSIDE Foods laboratory to examine the ability of cultivated meat to “save the planet.”

Cultivated protein may need to be blended with animal- and plant-sourced ingredients to reduce costs.

But: cultivated fat could offer a way to replicate the taste and texture of conventional meat in the lab, according to researchers.

Aqua Cultured Foods says its seafood alternative made through biomass fermentation could beat cultivated meat to the market this summer.

Crafty Counter made the first plant-based hard-boiled egg, after eliminating products containing chicken over concerns for animals and workers alike. 

Designer brands are using waste from orange and apple farms to create leather alternatives.

And: media headlines frame plant-sourced leather as unsustainable, but don’t tell the full story.

In Germany, meat consumption sunk to a 34-year low as demand for pork declined.

Meanwhile, the Middle East’s first plant-derived meat factory opened in Dubai.

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