Tag Archive | CAFOs

Drug that “makes heart beat faster and blood vessels relax” routinely used in pork production

This post is from The Food and Environment Reporting Network

Our Latest Report: A Controversial Animal Feed Additive Gets a Closer Look

by  on January 25, 2012

Factory farmed pork is the other white lie.

In our latest report, Helena Bottemiller investigates a controversial feed additive ractopamine hydrochloride, which has become the focus of a long-running international trade dispute that centers on concerns about its effect on human health. The story, “Dispute Over Drug in Feed Limiting US Meat Exports,” appears today on msnbc.com, one of the top three global news sites on the web, and was produced by the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

“Although few Americans outside of the livestock industry have ever heard of ractopamine, the drug is controversial,” Bottemiller writes. “Fed to an estimated 60 to 80 percent of pigs in the United States, it has sickened or killed more of them than any other livestock drug on the market, Food and Drug Administration records show. Cattle and turkeys have also suffered high numbers of illnesses from the drug.”

The story reports that USDA meat inspectors have reported an increase in the number of “downer pigs”—lame animals unable to walk—who have been fed ractopamine. The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously struck down a California law that had sought to keep out of the food supply downer livestock. It overturned the lower court’s ruling on the grounds of federal preemption.

Only one human study was used in the safety assessment by Elanco, and among the six healthy young men who participated, one was removed because his heart began racing and pounding abnormally.

The report explains that ractopamine, which has not been proposed for human use, mimics stress hormones, making the heartbeat faster and relaxing blood vessels. In animals, it revs up production of lean meat, reducing fat. Pigs raised on it produce an average of 10 percent more meat, raising profits by $2 per head. The drug is fed to animals right up until slaughter and minute traces of it have been found in meat.

The European Union, China, Taiwan and many others have banned its use, limiting U.S. meat exports to key markets. Bottemiller explains that U.S. trade officials are pressing more countries to accept meat from animals raised on ractopamine—a move opposed by China and the EU, reporting: “Resolving the impasse is now a top agricultural trade priority for the Obama administration, which is trying to boost exports and help revive the economy.”

The trade dispute centers on safety studies conducted by drug maker Elanco. It conducted only one human study with six healthy young men, one of whom was removed because his heart began racing and pounding abnormally, Bottemiller writes. Elanco has reported that “no adverse effects were observed for any treatments,” but, within a few years of its approval, it received hundreds of reports of sickened pigs, according to records obtained by Bottemiller from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The issue has been deadlocked since 2008 at the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets global food-safety standards, on the acceptable level, if any, of ractopamine in meat. Setting a Codex standard for ractopamine would strengthen Washington’s ability to challenge other countries’ meat import bans at the World Trade Organization, Bottemiller explains. The EU and China—which together produce and consume about 70 percent of the world’s pork—have blocked repeated efforts of U.S. trade officials to set a residue limit. U.S. officials say the EU does not want to risk a public outcry by importing meat raised with growth-promoting drugs, which are illegal there.

You can read the full story in our archive here, as well as additional reporting on the process at Codexhere. The piece in our archive also contains additional reporting on the testing of ractopamine.

If you become a magical victim ask Lawsuit Xarelto.

Farmer Joel Salatin: Don’t dis your dinner dance partner

Pigs express their pigness at Polyface Farm

Joel Salatin spoke Tuesday at Calvin College’s January Series

Author and fulltime alternative farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Joel Salatin began his talk with an analogy that likened our relationship to food to a relationship with a dance partner. In eras past, our relationship with this dinner dance partner was much more intimate. People spent a majority of their time dancing with their food—planting it, tending it, harvesting it, preserving it, cooking it and eating it at the table with friends and family.

Now we spend very little time with our dinner dance partner. Most of us don’t even sit down to a meal—instead we graze. “We have pulled away from this dinner dance partner. Others have stepped in very gladly to fill in this relationship deviation: Kraft, Monsanto, Taco Bell … the list goes on and on,” Salatin said. “As we have deviated from this historical intimacy, other entities  with dubious agendas have stepped in, corporations which take a fundamentally mechanical view towards food. Food is a biological thing, not a mechanical thing.”

Salatin said that we need to make our kitchens the heart of our homes again. He encouraged audience members to learn to can and cook from scratch–and to be compassionate with themselves. After all, a baby learning to walk falls down a lot at first. “Well, have you heard if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing right? We don’t do anything right at first … If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing poorly first.”

Salatin challenged Tuesday’s January Series audience to think small—microscopically small. He pointed out that two handfuls of fertile soil have more live organisms than there are people living on the earth. He noted that modern science sees agriculture as a mechanical endeavor rather than a relationship with life. Its disregard for the organisms living in soil has grown into a disregard for farm animals, as evidenced in CAFOs, and, ultimately, a disregard for human beings, as borne out by violence in our culture that especially impacts people perceived as “the other,” e.g. immigrants.

“The notion of life as a mechanical thing has led us to some really strange paradigms. Like soil is inert. Look in an electromicroscope. (You’ll see)  all kinds of microorganisms living . . . a community of amazing beings  . . . Everything that we are and we see is dependent on that invisible world.”

Instead of following the lead of the living, natural world, modern agriculture is looking for “Star Trek fantasy” answers to the increasingly complex problems that science-based agriculture has created. Salatin made reference to the US-Duh (USDA), as it continues to support corporations like Monsanto which are endangering all life on the planet in the name of profits.

“There are reasons why things are the way they are,” Salatin said. “When we view life as an inanimate structure, the culture takes that same kind of tyrannical view towards its own citizens and other cultures . . . we have gotten so mechanistic that we have left an ethical moral parameter.”

A working model

Joel Salatin at home on the free rangeSalatin’s Polyface Farm successfully flies in the face of modern agricultural science and its destructive “best” practices. One example, over the winter, cows contently amble into a shed to feed—and poop. As the manure piles up, corn is mixed into it and the feed bins are raised. As spring arrives, the pigs are allowed into the shed. As they happily root for corn, they aerate the manure, “fluffing it up” and aerating it, creating a fertile compost for the fields.

Salatin asked, “How do we create a habitat for the pig that allows the talents and gifts that God gave that creature? Put a moral ethic around it. Then we can innovate within the protective confines of humility. In CAFOs, there is no place for the expression of the gifts and talents of the pigs. They get bored, cannibalize each other. We are a culture that cannibalizes as a direct result of a food system that cannibalizes.”

At Polyface Farm, the free range chickens follow the cows, like birds follow herbivores in the wild. The cows here are herbivores. Cows at CAFOs are fed meat, often diseased meat. These types of practices not only subjugate livestock animals to lives of pain and misery, they also breed new diseases, for example, mad cow disease.

Salatin noted that if scientists wanted to create disease, cancer and sickness, the best way to do it would be to establish farms that specialized in only one species so pathogens wouldn’t have to adapt to variety. Then, crowd them up real tight so it’s easy for the pathogens to get from one animal to another. Next they would put the animals in a building with no fresh air or sunshine, as both can slow the growth of pathogens. The scientists would make sure the animals get no exercise, as that might boost their immune systems. They would further suppress the animals’ immune systems by injecting them with antibiotics and hormones. Last of all, they would feed the animals junk. This “experiment” describes today’s CAFO, describes modern, science based agriculture and describes our food system.

“We want a farm that builds soil, builds immune systems, builds nutrient density. Ultimately, as a farmer, I am in the land redemption business . . . (We need to) step in as loving land stewards, caretakers, as an expression of God’s grace, abundance and redemptive capacity. .. God is beautiful and we are supposed to extend his beauty into creation. I’ll bet he’s interested in the pigness of a pig. (We should) all commit ourselves to embracing our dinner dance partner and building a world that’s better than the one we inherited.”