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From eggs to beef, U.S. consumers often in the dark about production practices

From eggs to beef, U.S. consumers often in the dark about production practices

Picture of Martha Rosenberg

January brought implementation of the California law mandating more room for egg laying chickens. But larger cages do nothing for the suffering of hatchery chickens which are ground up alive at birth. Yes, you read that right. Until the egg industry ceases to buy its layers from hatcheries which the industry admits kills “200 million male chicks” a year, there is no such thing as an ethical egg. Hatcheries also risk human health by injecting the eggs of future egg layers with antibiotics. Yum.

Earlier this month, video obtained from a Whole Foods egg supplier, Petaluma Farms in Petaluma, Calif., shows just how bad the situation is on commercial egg farms. Hens are depicted in disturbing states of sickness and suffering, despite the operation hewing to Humane Farm Animal Care standards, reports the New York Times.

While the U.S.D.A. is in charge of farm regulation — yesterday it announced new standards to reduce bacteria in poultry including better inspections — it shamelessly plays both sides of the food "street." According to an expose this week in the New York Times, it uses tax dollars to help private industry develop more "profitable" animals in a semi-clandestine operation called the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. The experiments often cause the death of mothers and offspring, reports the Times and veterinarians have objected for years.

The U.S. government's allegiance to the meat industry at the price of consumers is also seen in its handling of "mad cow" scares. Four “mad cows” have been found in the United States in the last ten years and the government protected the identities of the Alabama and Texas ranches that produced two of them.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the first "mad cow," which came from Canada, was eaten by the public and health officials even refused to identify the restaurant outlets that served the meat. When the most recent "mad cow" was found in the U.S. in 2012, at a slaughter facility near Fresno, the government did not even look for the source of its fatal, transmissible disease, preemptively calling it "atypical." Thanks!

Food consumers are not powerless over these practices. They were successful in getting pink slime (“lean finely textured beef”) out of the National School Lunch Program and the manufacturer shut down in just a few days of outrage. 

My expose, "Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health," chronicles government handling of the mad cow outbreak as well as other health threats.

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