Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

The Great American Cheese Glut

July 3, 2018

The Great American Cheese Glut

The U.S. has the largest stockpile of cheese in 100 years,1.39 billion-pounds of coagulated dairy fat. Is this a great country or what? Milk production is booming, but Americans are drinking less moo juice, so dairy producers are storing the surplus as cheese. The summer closure of chocolate-milk– and cheese-happy school cafeterias adds to the dilemma:

“The 1.39 billion-pound stockpile, tallied by the Agriculture Department last week, represents a 6 percent increase over this time last year and a 16 percent increase since an earlier surplus prompted a federal cheese buy-up in 2016.

Analysts say commercial warehouse stocks have swelled because processors have too much milk on their hands, and milk is more easily stored as cheese. Demand has also fallen as school cafeterias close for the summer and restaurants wind down the cheesy specials they offer in the winter and early spring.

Some have grown concerned that stockpiles will build further yet if trade tensions with China and Mexico cut into cheese exports. Cheese prices have fallen sharply, they say, eroding dairy farmers’ already thin margins.”

— “America’s cheese stockpile just hit an all-time high,” Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post

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Bayer Gobbles Up Monsanto

June 11, 2018

Bayer Gobbles Up Monsanto

German pharmaceutical company Bayer has the go-ahead to acquire U.S. seed and agrochemical company Monsanto for $66 billion. The new firm will be called “Bayer” rather than “Monsanto” because Americans associate the former with children’s aspirin and the latter with Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, glyphosate, GMOs, and other now-unpopular products.

Like many German corporations, Bayer has its own dark history. It was once part of the IG Farben conglomerate, which made Zyklon B gas for Third Reich death camps, and Bayer itself used Jewish slave labor in its wartime factories.

But memory is short, so “Monsanto” is out and “Bayer” is in. As Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing puts it, “Bayer and Monsanto merge into a new company called ‘Bayer’ because Nazis have a better reputation than Big Ag.”

More:

“Monsanto is about to disappear. Everything will stay exactly the same,” Zoë Schlanger, Quartz

“Why ‘Monsanto’ is no more,” Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post

“Monsanto to ditch its infamous name after sale to Bayer, Rupert Neate, The Guardian

“Bayer Can Drop The Name Monsanto, But Can’t Erase The Hate,” Elisabeth Dostert, Suddeutsche Zeitung, via Worldcrunch

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Less-Gassy Grass Cuts Cow Burps, Eases Global Warming

October 17, 2016

Less-Gassy Grass Cuts Cow Burps, Eases Global Warming
Scientists at Denmark’s Aarhus University and the DLF seed corporation are using DNA technology to develop a type of grass that is easier for cows to digest, meaning less gas builds up in bossy’s belly. Bovine burps are a major source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that promotes climate change.

The project, funded by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food, uses genomic selection to determine promising grass strains for breeding. The project is expected to take about 5 or 6 years, so you’ll have to excuse bovine belching until then. Environmentally-anxious cowboys and cowgirls can follow the project here.

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

 Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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Brits Are Eating Bambi!

September 20, 2016

Brits Are Eating Bambi!
British diners are eating venison faster than Scotland can raise it. Maybe they’d like to nibble on some of the fresh whitetail deer roadkill from America’s annual vehicular deer harvest.

More:

“Brits are eating venison faster than Scotland can produce it,” Chris Baraniuk, Quartz

“Diners game for wild meat as ‘Bambi effect’ fades, says chef,” Rod Kitson, Evening Standard

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Image (“Brits Are Eating Bambi, apres l’atelier Disney”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Government Cheese

August 25, 2016

Government Cheese

There’s a cheese glut in America. Cheese inventories are higher than they’re been in over 30 years, while families go hungry. Even a third of those on food stamps need to visit food banks.

The USDA is trying for a twofer by buying $20 million in surplus cheese — 11 million pounds — and distributing it to food banks. While you might question the wisdom of paying tax dollars to support corporate dairy operations, surely no one can object to the government helping food banks feed the hungry, right?

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Trump Explains His Agricultural Policy

August 3, 2016

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump first outlined his agricultural policy at the 2005 Emmy Awards in the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California.

Related:

“A Donald Trump presidency could lead to food shortages in the US,” Deena Shanker, Quartz

“Farmers: Trump ‘terrible for agriculture,'” Bill Tomson, Politico

“Here Is the Mysterious High Roller Donald Trump Wants to Put in Charge of Our Food,” Tom Philpott, Mother Jones

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Strawberries from Fumigated Farms

July 29, 2016

Americans eat four times as many strawberries as they did 40 years ago. A short animation from The Center for Investigative Reporting explains how and why.

Director, Producer, Animator: Ariane Wu
Illustrator and After Effects: Arthur Jones
Narrator: Roman Mars
Reporters: Kendall Taggart, Bernice Yeung, Andrew Donohue

Read more here.

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The Curse of the Potato

May 3, 2016

Before the rise of the modern world, why did some societies develop social and architectural complexity while others didn’t?

“The most advanced civilizations all tended to cultivate grain crops, like wheat and barley and corn. Less advanced societies tended to rely on root crops like potatoes, taro and manioc.

It’s not that grains crops were much easier to grow than tubers, or that they provided more food, the economists say. Instead, the economists believe that grains crops transformed the politics of the societies that grew them, while tubers held them back.

Call it the curse of the potato.”

More:

“The sinister, secret history of a food that everybody loves,” Jeff Guo, Washington Post

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Photo by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Outer Space Salad!

August 11, 2015

Outer Space Salad!
Astronauts on the International Space Station grew and ate heads of red romaine lettuce. With extra virgin olive oil and Italian balsamic vinegar. Next stop: Entrées  Mars!

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Turkeys, Wild and Otherwise

November 25, 2014

Turkeys, Wild and Otherwise
There may or may not have been turkey at the first thanksgiving, but there will probably be one on your holiday table. Centuries before Columbus, the Aztecs domesticated wild turkeys, and Spanish conquerors took some birds home to Europe where they became popular, reaching England between 1524 and 1541. That means the New England “pilgrim” Puritans were as familiar with turkeys as their Wampanoag dinner guests, but neither would recognize the over-bred bird you bought this week.

A wild tom turkey usually weighs about 20 pounds and can fly for up to a mile with speed bursts up to 55 miles per hour. It’s dark-feathered, sly, slim, tall and long-legged, and can run like the devil through the brush. It can live up to 10 years if it doesn’t get an infection and can be found in any of the contiguous 48 states.

A domestic tom turkey can weigh up to 40 pounds, has white feathers, stumps around on short legs, and sports a huge breast. Most market turkeys come from Minnesota or North Carolina. A domestic turkey can’t fly or reproduce normally, is treated with antibiotics, and only lives for 2 or 3 months before it gets slaughtered for your dining pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving!

 More:

“Head To Head: Wild Vs. Supermarket Turkeys (Infographic),” World Science Festival

“Wild and domestic turkeys: birds of a different feather,” South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

“On This Thanksgiving, Celebrating The Wild Turkey,” Barbara J. King, NPR

Related:

“Look How Much Bigger Thanksgiving Turkeys Are Today Than in the 1930s,” Kiera Butler, Mother Jones 

“How Turkeys Got Broad, White Breasts,” Sara Bir, Modern Farmer

“How America’s Thanksgiving turkeys got so huge,” Svati Kirsten Narula, Quartz

“Benjamin Franklin praises the virtues of the turkey,” from a 1784 letter to his daughter via Lapham’s Quarterly

“Get to Know the Turkey Species You Don’t Eat,” Matt Somiak, Mental Floss

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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