The Month in a Minute: January 2024
Month in a Minute•3 min read
August’s top stories in agriculture, climate and food in 60 seconds
Words by Sentient Media
In August, headlines revealed animal agriculture’s efforts to block climate action and ‘humanewash’ its products. In the UK, undercover footage shows chickens collapsing and dying at an ‘ethical’ supermarket cooperative — while on a U.S. pig farm, employees were documented feeding dead piglets’ intestines to pregnant sows. A new study finds the powerful meat industry is impeding sustainable alternatives, and animal farming receives the most public funding for food producers. Speaking of which, the USDA has updated its livestock disaster payment rate to assist producers hit by extreme heat, with officials stating, apparently without irony, that “a changing climate is creating immediate challenges for farmers and ranchers.”
And, before she could be released to her native waters of the Pacific Northwest, Tokitae — the orca some called Lolita — died after five decades in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium.
New research concludes plant-based meat could not currently replace meat, as “social and psychological factors” play into consumer food choices.
New data from the Monthly Meat Demand Monitor shows that the older you are, the less you care about the environmental impact of meat, and the more you care about the taste.
And Purdue data reveal that shoppers believe that cattle-based beef is superior to its alternatives in nearly all categories, including sustainability and health.
Plus: over 30 scientists signed an open letter warning that misleading media stories about Iberian orcas ‘attacking’ vessels are putting the endangered whales at risk of human retaliation.
Here are more stories that caught our attention this month:
New undercover footage from Animal Justice Project reveals hens “trampled to death” on a Lidl-supplying egg farm.
Industry groups the Animal Agriculture Alliance and National Institute for Animal Agriculture have teamed up on an effort to counter ‘misinformation’ about the farming of animals.
Plus, the Institute launched a program for third-party review of animal agriculture policies.
Tyson Foods shares continue to decline, dropping by 8 percent as the company closed four more chicken plants and beef demand fell.
Plus, with over 4,000 Tyson workers facing layoffs, CBS reported Tyson plant closures reveal “the sometimes risky entanglements between small communities and big industrial employers.”
The Wall Street Journal showed the impacts of factory farms on surrounding communities, as residents lose the legal ability to fight farm expansions and pollution.
In response to this and footage from Mercy for Animals, Nicholas Kristof penned a New York Times op-ed, writing “today’s mass production of pork is intrinsically inhumane.”
And the New York Times reported that extreme heat, war and trade restrictions are a “new normal” that will continue to create volatile food prices and supply.
New analysis reveals U.S. and E.U. farmers received 800 and 1,200 times more public funding, respectively, than plant-based and cultivated protein producers.
Research into animal personalities is rising, but these studies are often used to benefit profits for meat producers rather than animal welfare.
Amid seaweed’s rising popularity, mariculture could offer native Alaskans an opportunity, reports the Washington Post.
Animal advocates criticized Starbucks, TGI Friday’s and other companies for failing to meet their own cage-free egg pledges.
And the National Pork Board launched a new consortium with universities, aimed at gaining consumer trust.
Inflated food prices demonstrate the need for agriculture to become “more insulated from global shocks and the impact of climate change,” concludes a new report.
The global total of chickens slaughtered annually is projected to increase 15 percent by 2032, reaching 85 billion birds.
The USDA is set to provide disaster relief to Vermont farmers in the wake of flooding.
Small-scale farmers feel left out by Europe’s “most powerful” agriculture lobby, reports Politico.
Researchers are exploring virtual fencing to confine cattle using electric shocks.
Italian crab fishers are aiming to catch invasive blue crabs that present competition.
China reports outbreaks of disease in farmed animals and damaged crops due to flood waters.
Plus: a new three-year agriculture deal between China and Egypt aims to increase aquaculture.
Unbeknownst to many, thousands of Pennsylvania horses are sold for slaughter each year.
This month, Cargill reported a record revenue of $177 billion, up 7 percent from a year prior — but Cargill’s profits come at the expense of human rights and the climate, claims an op-ed.
A Guatemalan family chose to care for llamas rather than raise them for meat, now teaching tourists about animal welfare and how to protect the climate.
The majority of soy goes to feed livestock, and in 2021-2022, U.S. farmed animals consumed $16.6 billion of soybean meal.
And: Mashed named foie gras, veal, octopus and lamb among the “most controversial foods” in the U.S. due to concern for animals.
But in New York, the state government is blocking New York City’s attempts to ban foie gras, produced by force feeding ducks and geese.
Many aquifers supplying 90 percent of the U.S. water supply are being drained, a New York Times analysis shows, and an important Kansas aquifer “can no longer support industrial-scale agriculture.”
Environmentalists are opposing a U.S. share listing for JBS over the largest meat producer’s ties to deforestation and other climate impacts.
Extreme heat killed hundreds of cattle in Iowa, as July marked the world’s hottest month on record.
In the top U.S. beef-producing state, Texas ranchers are selling off cattle amid the heat.
Meanwhile, a timely study finds 1 billion cattle will suffer heat stress globally if emissions are not reduced and the industry is allowed to expand.
Plus: farmers are turning to digitally-controlled cooling pads for pigs and tracking the vital signs of cows to try to keep livestock cool.
A record marine heatwave in 2013 was a sign of things to come as rising temperatures will impact fisheries and cost billions of dollars, warn scientists.
A study links farming emissions and wildfires to air pollution that could raise dementia risk and cases.
Since 2009, 14 percent of coral reefs have vanished, and industrial farms are an often overlooked culprit.
Plus, as fish populations decline or migrate due to warming waters, Japan’s seafood and sushi industries are facing new obstacles.
Also from Grist, reporting on how a lack of genetic diversity could facilitate disease outbreaks in crops.
Meat producers claim biogas, fuel made from animal waste, is sustainable, but environmentalists are skeptical and the industry profits.
New research examines agriculture’s vulnerability to wildfires, noting that the land area impacted by these blazes has been increasing for four decades.
Some U.S. hospitals report a focus on climate benefits is inspiring patients and employees to choose more plant-rich meals.
Regenerative agriculture is on the rise, but faces resistance from some conventional farmers and the need for more grant funding, reports the Guardian.
And in India, a shift towards industrialized dairy farming has led to increased methane emissions and overgrazing of land.
Plus: on the Sentient Media Podcast, science journalist Sara DeWeerdt broke down the truth about orca ‘uprisings’ against vessels.
Public health experts warn that avian flu is now endemic in North America.
Mass vaccination and reduced crowding on poultry farms are urgently needed to halt bird flu’s spread, warns a new report from a farmed animal welfare group.
Finland will cull 50,000 mink and foxes amid avian flu outbreaks on fur farms.
Plus: 24 of Finland’s mink farms have seen outbreaks since mid-July, prompting research into a potentially growing danger to humans.
And a Salon explainer breaks down why mink farms are a health threat that must be ‘shut down.’
A new survey of 1,149 U.S. shoppers concludes 87 percent of consumers want food labels to indicate whether antibiotics were used in animal products.
Contrary to some food label claims, uncured bacon is no healthier than its cured counterparts, reports Washington Post.
In Michigan, two people exposed to pigs at agricultural fairs tested positive for swine flu.
Indonesia halted imports of live cattle from Australia due to cases of infectious lumpy skin disease.
A California rodeo was canceled due to the continued spread of insect-borne vesicular stomatitis in livestock.
New research finds that compared to those in plant milks, dairy milk proteins may trigger a higher immune response in those suffering from multiple sclerosis.
The CDC identified a new strain of E. coli tied to foodborne illnesses in the past few years.
Plus: new Netflix documentary Poisoned sheds light on food safety and foodborne illness in the U.S.
If passed, it will threaten many state laws including Prop 12, but Marlena Williams argues that the EATS Act may not prove to be constitutional.
U.S. legislators introduced the PLANT Act, which would create more opportunities for farmers to supply plant-based foods.
Meanwhile, the SEAS Act would support equitable funding for aquaculture in comparison to USDA aid for other forms of animal farming.
But Maryland’s Supreme Court reversed a ruling that would have cracked down on poultry farm ammonia emissions.
Civil Eats broke down Farm Bill proposals, from expanding access to healthy produce, to impeding state regulation of farmed animal welfare, and more.
Marlena Williams traced dairy industry efforts to restrict plant-based food labeling way back to the 1870s, when margarine was on the rise.
The Washington Post pondered whether giving rights to wildlife like sharks and sea turtles can save them from extinction.
National Geographic explored open rescue, seen by corporate agriculture as stealing but by activists as saving animals from further suffering.
A court has ruled that Montana youth have a constitutional right to a healthy environment.
Groups gathered signatures needed to put a factory farm ban on the Berkeley, California ballot.
A judge ruled that continued roundups of wild horses must be shown to be justified, following 31 mustang deaths in 26 days.
North Carolina’s Poultry Growers Fairness Act aims to protect farmers by ensuring fees will be paid to their attorneys when they win cases against the companies being supplied.
Following the introduction of legislation that would ban dog meat, South Korean dog farmers are opposing efforts to shut down the dwindling industry.
Oregon banned cosmetic animal testing as well as the sale of dogs from puppy mills.
An Indonesia live market ended its sale and slaughter of dogs and cats, after years of pressure followed investigative footage.
Biocraft Nutrition is developing cultivated mouse and rabbit meat for pet food.
Food Dive traced the timeline of cultivated meat, leading it from “prediction to production.”
Axios taste-tested Good Meat’s cultivated chicken, concluding that it tastes like its animal-based counterpart.
And Slovenia-based Juicy Marbles is making plant-based pork with edible ‘bones’ in an effort to reduce food waste.
Governments must do more than the $1 billion in funding for cultivated meat thus far, reports Vox.
A group reportedly dedicated to “ethical” meat production has sued cell-based protein maker Eat Just for trademark infringement.
Beyond Meat released a new ad to debunk industry claims that plant-based meat is an unhealthy food.
And an emerging coalition aims to help plant-based producers create ad campaigns as effective as the dairy industry’s ‘Got Milk.’
Meanwhile, Fast Company explored rising social media “attacks” claiming plant-based meat is “ultra-processed.”
The developer of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper is now focused on Recreate Foods’ efforts to challenge the chicken industry with plant-based alternatives.
Beyond Meat sales declined 30 percent, a drop attributed to reduced U.S. demand.
Meanwhile, Nestle and Cargill are among the major food producers leading the number of applications for plant-based food patents.
And exploring the politics of meat, food writer Alicia Kennedy says “meat and masculinity have been bound together in the US for centuries.”
Vogue also interviewed Kennedy on her new book, “No Meat Required,” and changing opinions of plant-based cooking.
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