As an anecdotal aside, Wisconsin has notoriously had higher standards when it comes to care and quality of animal byproducts – in particular when it comes to dairy farming. Wisconsin has been fairly resistant to the animal feedlot / massive factory farming movement and has done so by controlling things like antibiotic use, square footage available per animal, etc. That’s why this news from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is especially shocking.
Pursuant to a statute allowing local Wisconsin governments to create water quality standards and regulations that are more strict than existing state law, Bayfield County passed a one year moratorium in February 2015 on large scale, factory farms to block an Iowa based company from creating a 24,000-26,000 head hog farm (a controlled animal feeding operation, or “CAFO”). At the expiration of the moratorium, Bayfield County then passed two ordinances in February 2016 that gave the County massive oversight of farm operations and water pollution.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources blocked these ordinances, essentially siting that they were not tailored enough to the actual water pollution problems in the watersheds of the County.
Modern methods of livestock care focus on the use of antibiotics – it fattens livestock up fast and, when used as non-therapeutic supplement, it prevents the spread of infectious viruses among cattle. Overcrowding of livestock in factory farm settings creates a huge risk of viruses, infections, and diseases among the animals that can spread fast. Antibiotics, when used supplementary in animal feed, prevent this and allow for more crowded quarters and ultimately a higher yield in animal byproducts.
This use of antibiotics in this manner is detrimental to human health and medical science. When overexposed to antibiotics through ingestion of animal byproducts, people develop a resistance to antibiotics, rendering them ineffective to treat common ailments – the flu, injury infections,etc. The CDC issued a threat report at the end of 2013 that found that 23,000 people in the United States die annually from antibiotic resistance – deaths that should have been avoided with effective antibiotic treatment. The CDC warns that the continued use of antibiotics in animal feed creates a risk of death for simple infections such as strep throat.
Now, for the first time in over 35 years, the FDA is seeing some control over the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock through a new voluntary program. While the FDA is not directly regulating the practice, they have issued guidance documents and recommendations (see #209, #213). THe FDA asks veterinary antibiotic manufacturers to alter the drug labels to no longer provide antibiotics over-the-counter, thus rendering the drugs unavailable for use in animal feed.
On March 26, 2014 the FDA published a list of 25 companies that agreed in writing to no voluntarily comply and no longer allow their antibiotics to be sold over-the-counter.
For more information, see this article.
Why Food Law is an Important Growing Field
To quickly summarize the importance behind Harvard’s new push to open a Food Law Lab:
- “Sell by” and “best by” dates on food have no relationship to safety and are not federally regulated. Americans throw 160 billion pounds of food a year.
- World’s biggest pork producer was purchased by a Chinese company with a jaded history.
- Some countries are now rejecting American grown products outright because of the controversial safety of genetically modified foods
- Agribusiness and meat industry are polluting air and groundwater
- Food workers don’t earn enough to feed their own families.
The Seventh Circuit released a recent opinion on a labor law issue at a poultry processing plant. In Mitchell v. JCG Industries, employees of a poultry processing plant sued for payment for time spent “doffing” before and after lunch breaks. Employees in the poultry plant are required to wear protective gear and uniforms. The employees claimed the process of robing and de-robing for breaks was taking 10-15 additional minutes of time for which they should be paid. The employer processing plant claimed the process took only 2-3 minutes.
Out of curiosity, Judge Posner ordered the poultry plant protective clothing and had three court staff go through the process.
In the end, the court found for the employer poultry plant. Apparently the court staff only took about three minutes to don the protective gear.
How the Meat Industry Killed the Free Market
All meat in America is produced by one of four major companies. According to investigative reporter Christopher Leonard, the meat monopoly has created a system where farmers are in a state of “indebted servitude” like that of the 1900s before meat monopolists were first broken up. Forty years ago, 36 companies produced all of the chicken and chicken byproducts while today there are only three.
To purchase the full exposé, see [http://www.amazon.com/The-Meat-Racket-Takeover-Americas/dp/1451645813/saloncom08-20]