The Month in a Minute: March 2023

Media recap of the top stories in agriculture, climate, science and justice in 60 seconds.

Sentient Media's March Month in a Minute

Analysis Month in a Minute

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This month, the animal agriculture industry fell under scrutiny for alleged violations of human rights, its environmental impacts and food labeling. The latest global climate report calls for food system transformation  but the meat industry blocked the IPCC’s attempt to recommend a plant-based diet. Minnesota sought an injunction against a meat processor allegedly employing at least 8 children — and meanwhile, Arkansas eased its child labor protections. Plus, the EPA announced plans to restrict water pollution by meat plants for the first time in almost 2 decades. 

Nearly 200 members of the United Nations signed onto a High Seas Treaty, an historic agreement to protect international waters from commercial fishing.

The European Food Safety Authority stated that calves raised for veal should not be isolated after birth, instead being able to play with other calves and rest comfortably on bedding.

Plus: the Biden administration announced it will crack down on misleading “Product of USA” labels on eggs and meat that were processed within the country but imported from elsewhere. And in the UK, the Food Standards Agency has launched a criminal investigation into the sale of foreign-produced meat — some of it rotten — falsely labeled as British.

The USDA has now spent $670 million on efforts to contain the spread of avian flu on U.S. farms, including the mass culling of birds. Scientists warn widespread vaccination of poultry is the only way to contain the outbreak, a step some western nations — but not the U.S. — are preparing to take.

As Texas mulls a “right to farm” bill that would shield agricultural producers from nuisance lawsuits, South Dakota has signed its own into law.

A new study found that the production of food alone — particularly meat, dairy and rice — could jeopardize the international climate goal of limiting warming to 1℃. 

In other research, the global biomass of livestock was found to be 30 times higher than that of all wild land mammals.

And: plans for the world’s first octopus farm have scientists concerned for the welfare of the 1 million cephalopods who would be intensively raised in its tanks each year.

Meanwhile, a public hearing revealed that Oregonians support a CAFO moratorium by 3 to 1.

Here are more stories that caught our attention this month: 


Two animal rights activists were found not guilty of theft for saving injured chickens, and Marina Bolotnikova reported that open rescue groups are increasingly winning at trial.

Researchers found that animal welfare can be assessed “empirically and transparently,” and that the wellbeing of animals has been largely left out of farm assessments.

More than 150 North Carolina pig and poultry farms are at rising risk of flooding in a changing climate, putting drinking water and public health in jeopardy.

The USDA announced intentions to funnel $89 million into small meat processors in the Biden administration’s latest effort to reduce consolidation of the industry.

And: new USDA data reveals that the U.S. is now a net food importer. In 2023, beef production is projected to decline by 6 percent while rising pork and poultry output “more than offset” that drop.

Animal and environmental advocates decried UK plans to import high-emissions beef and pork produced from pigs who experienced painful practices such as castration and tail docking.

Also in the UK: Meat producers are breeding “super pigs” who give birth to litters so large —  up to 17 piglets — that they cannot nurse their young.

Kentucky faces a shortage of veterinarians able to treat farmed cattle and horses, with only 54 practicing. 

Plus: horse meat is illegal in the U.S., but horses can be slaughtered. The Daily Meal explains.

The U.S. Forest Service shot and killed 19 feral cattle via helicopter, in a plan ranchers called “inhumane.”

Seafood producers on the western coast of the U.S. are urging the government for a 3rd bailout in 3 years, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has halted a once-lucrative export business.

Intensive farming has increased suffering, but almost 60 percent of E.U. citizens would pay higher prices for meat from animals treated more humanely.

Related: as many as 1.2 trillion insects are now farmed for food globally. Experts warn that the sentience of these animals must be considered before the industry continues to scale.

In Germany: meat exports declined by 19 percent over the past 5 years and its production fell by 14 percent. Plus, its consumption dropped 12 percent in one decade.

Meanwhile, Tyson Foods is set to lay off 1,700 workers and close 2 of its poultry plants, citing reduced demand. And Eat Just will drop 18 percent of its workforce dedicated to its plant-based egg, aiming to make the product profitable.

Companies including dairy producers like Arla Foods are launching a joint study of contamination in plant-derived products.

Plus: With domestic consumption of whale meat on the decline, Japan’s whaling industry is reaching out to tourists and influencers.


In the sixth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released March 20, more than 90 scientists warned emissions must be reduced by nearly half by 2030. The IPCC’s findings that we must slash meat emissions are a “final alarm for food systems, too,” according to Civil Eats.

Plus: A leaked draft of the IPCC report reveals that meat industry interference blocked a mention that plant-rich diets could slash emissions by 50 percent.

New data shows that 80 percent of the world’s regions at highest risk from climate impacts fall within China, the U.S. and India.

And: a report reveals that rising sea levels could cause areas of the U.S. to experience back-to-back hurricanes within 15 days of each other every 1-2 years. Florida alone will account for more than 70 percent of the economic damage.

The USDA will dedicate $48.6 million to funding climate efforts such as forest restoration and reducing wildfire risk.

And: a new study recommends more local regulations to curb the pollution of waterways by dairy farms. Its authors conclude that despite “decades of effort to address the problem,” animal agriculture remains inadequately monitored and a “leading source of water pollution.”

Fearing right-wing opposition — reportedly including meat industry lobbying groups — to its show hosted by David Attenborough, BBC chose not to air an episode on environmental degradation.

Research indicates that Iceland could become “protein self-sufficient” and feed 6 million people annually by scaling up its spirulina production.

JBS is appealing recommendations that the world’s largest meat producer stop publicizing its unsubstantiated plans of net-zero emissions by 2040.

Global poultry production is expected to grow over the next 10 years while pork and beef decline, seen by consumers as a healthier and cheaper option.

Plus: Australia aims to create a more sustainable poultry industry over the next 5 years, expecting consumers to eat less meat due to animal welfare and health concerns.

And: 40 large meat and dairy companies, including Tyson and Cal-Maine Foods, are expected to face a $24 billion drop in profits by 2030 as climate change increases feed costs and carbon taxes.

A joint media investigation finds that the farming of cattle for collagen is causing Amazon deforestation and threatening Indigenous communities.

Plus: Environmental groups have sued a bank for allegedly violating French law by funding companies, including meat producers, contributing to the destruction of the Amazon.

A draft EU law could implement jail times of up to 10 years for illegal timber and other “crimes against the environment.”

Climate impacts are projected to cost Germany over $956 billion by 2050.

The restoration of grazing pasture to forestland in Brazil has brought about the planting of 750,000 trees and the return of hundreds of birds to their habitat.

Mother Jones exposed environmental impacts of Russia’s war on Ukraine, including 57,000 acres of burned forest and a mass fish die-off after a missile strike released livestock waste.

A mass of sargassum seaweed, exacerbated in part by the farming of soy, is threatening to inundate the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Climate experts warn that Scotland has no plan in place to slash emissions by 75 percent by 2030, and that it must reduce the number of farmed animals.

Meanwhile, E.U. nations are working to ease limits on livestock emissions and pollution.

But: there are true climate solutions. Experts recently told NPR ways to know what’s real and what’s corporate greenwashing.

And: the city of Montclair, New Jersey advocated plant-based eating at restaurants this month for a lighter carbon footprint.

Avian Flu

Argentina halted poultry exports after identifying its first case of avian flu in industrially farmed birds.

Meanwhile, Brazil increased its poultry exports by 10.6 percent as neighboring countries are hit with outbreaks.

The official total of birds culled in the Yucatán region was 1.7 million, but farmers claimed that closer to 3 million were burned and buried.

Plus: scientists are worried new outbreaks will emerge as birds migrate back north for spring.

Cambodian officials stated that infections found in a father and his 11-year-old child, who later died, originated in animals and did not spread between the two family members.

But: while human cases are extremely rare, the influenza has had a mortality rate of over 50 percent among infected people.

Concern grows as avian flu is discovered in more mammals: in France, 3 foxes found dead near Paris — and in Peru, nearly 3,500 sea lions killed.

A rise in cases within Pennsylvania prompted Florida, Ohio and Texas to restrict poultry imports from the state.

And: Wisconsin officials are urging more monitoring of and a stronger response to outbreaks in animals.

The rapid spread of influenza continues to impact the nation’s supply of eggs, reports the New York Times, and caused their price to reach $4.25 per dozen.

Meanwhile, Britain will require citizens keeping 50 or more birds to register the animals, as the U.S. state of Michigan culls a flock of backyard chickens due to infection.


Researchers from Duke University and the Environmental Working Group found that freshwater fish are a “significant source” of PFAS, or forever chemicals. 

A new study ties 500,000 urinary tract infections in the U.S. annually to meat contaminated with E. coli, bacteria that just caused the recall of nearly 2 tons of meat products sold in 9 states. 

Amid concern over antibiotic-resistance, the CDC called a rise in nearly untreatable cases of gastrointestinal illness Shigella a “serious public health threat.”

Meanwhile, an antibiotic-resistant gene was found in cattle feedlot water bowls.

And: over half of the global supply of farm-raised shrimp is raised by facilities widely using the medically important drugs.

The FBI indicated that COVID-19 may have had its origins in a Wuhan lab leak, but some experts now believe the virus spread from raccoon dogs in a market in the same city. 

New research reveals that an influenza virus may have originated in fish and evolved over the past 600 million years. 

As the U.S. government ends its pandemic food relief program, some households will receive $250 less each month, reports NPR.

Related: SELF offered ways to help others experiencing food insecurity, including knowing what is best to donate at local food banks.

Clinics offered by Ohio and Pennsylvania are doing little to reassure residents concerned they are experiencing symptoms related to the recent train derailment and chemical burn.

Recent research links the popular keto diet to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol.

In January 2023, U.S. grocery prices were over 11 percent higher than they had been a year earlier. But some food producers blaming inflation have seen rising profits.

Over 96,000 pounds of goat meat were recalled, not re-inspected upon passing into the U.S. from Australia. 

Following a case of mad cow disease, Brazil announced plans to resume imports from China and ease food safety agreement protocols.

New Zealand farmers were warned that zoonotic cases of leptospirosis and salmonella linked to livestock could rise due to cyclone-related flooding.

Nutrition experts recommended a healthy ‘diversity diet,’ featuring 30 different plants — including legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains and more — each week.

Plus: for the Washington Post, Michael J. Coren urged Americans to eat lentils daily, as start-ups creating new proteins are overlooking a sustainable solution “with a proven record.” 

Law & Justice 

Spy cam footage revealed pigs suffering from injuries and living in filthy conditions on a UK welfare-certified farm. 

An unprecedented study of U.S. prison agriculture shows the agricultural industry is sourcing free or cheap labor from around 30,000 incarcerated people.

The Dairy Pride Act was introduced in opposition to a recent FDA recommendation that plant milks can be labeled as “milk.”

Environmentalists are concerned the $1.4 trillion Farm Bill will provide biogas producers with more funding for waste management they say does not address animal agriculture’s impacts.

Meanwhile, an attempt to ban plant-derived meat, as well as insect-based and cultivated proteins, from Iowa school menus has failed.

Also in Iowa: a new bill aims to criminalize the use of drones to investigate farms — while farmers in the state are using drones to cut down on labor costs.

And a public hearing showed that Oregonians support a moratorium on factory farms by 3 to 1.

A federal court upheld a ruling that North Carolina’s ag-gag law is unconstitutional.

In Minnesota, Indigenous tribal leaders successfully blocked the construction of a 20,000-cow dairy farm near the White Earth Reservation.

Plus: a $215,000 settlement between the Wisconsin Department of Justice and a factory farm was reached over allegations of manure pollution.

Protests by Dutch farmers opposed to the nation’s environmental policies have given rise to a political party, the Farmer-Citizen Movement.

A lawsuit filed by Tyson Foods employees alleges the company knew of COVID-19 outbreaks in its China operations by January 2020, and yet failed to protect U.S. workers.

Wisconsin has pledged to address conditions for immigrants working in its meat industry, after a dairy farm employee was wrongly blamed for his son’s death.

And: a 1.2 million settlement was reached after Tennessee meat plant workers alleged they were illegally targeted for their race and falsely detained by government agencies.

Plus: An ammonia leak sent 15 injured workers to a hospital and forced an evacuation of Fearman’s Pork — the same Canadian plant at which animal activist Regan Russell was hit and killed by a transport truck in 2020.

Indigenous communities in Brazil are demanding a say in plans to build a railway through their lands with the goal of reducing soy transportation costs.

Veterinarians, attorneys and farmers met to discuss the intensive confinement of 4 million animals in Oklahoma’s agricultural operations.

Authorities seized 1,000 cattle and found 150 dead on a Nebraska farm, its owners now accused of neglect.

An existing price minimum set for Minnesota dairy products could be overturned, as producers aim to compete with makers of plant-sourced alternatives.

Future of Food:

Another U.S. cultivated chicken producer, Good Meat, has been cleared by the FDA — but these 4 challenges remain for the emerging industry.

Yet, this projection finds cultivated products will account for 35 percent of the world’s meat consumption by 2040, while 25 percent will be in the form of plant-derived alternatives.

Some startups are counting on luxury foods such as fish bladder, rather than chicken or beef, to hold the key to cultured protein’s profitability.

Australian company Vow used sheep cells to create a meatball with protein from the wooly mammoth, extinct for around 10,000 years.

Plus: 47 percent of U.S. consumers say they would feed cultivated meat to their pets.

Grocery retail chain ALDI is expanding its plant-sourced products, to more than 1,000 items by 2025. 

And: following the $50 million sale of Tofurky to a tofu producer, its CEO says to expect more consolidation of the meat alternatives industry.

In a rising diet trend, social omnivores are eating conventional meat when with friends and family to avoid conflict.

Plus: as Hershey announced the imminent release of a non-dairy version of its popular Reese’s peanut butter cups, CNN said the chocolate maker is “late to the game.”

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