Shellethics Ethics, Veganism, Animal Rights Sat, 23 Apr 2016 04:32:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 /wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Author-Shellethics.png Shellethics 32 32 What’s Really in Cat Food? Study Shows Shocking Harm /animals/whats-really-in-cat-food-study-shows-shocking-harm/ /animals/whats-really-in-cat-food-study-shows-shocking-harm/#respond Tue, 12 Apr 2016 06:25:13 +0000 /?p=13203 The post What’s Really in Cat Food? Study Shows Shocking Harm appeared first on Shellethics.


Last week the ABC revealed a damning study published in the Australian Veterinary Journal that showed a number of commercial supermarket cat food brands were harmful and may cause “severe illness or injury”. But those involved in the study are refusing to reveal the names of the potentially dangerous products, nor their manufacturers.

The peer reviewed study tested twenty supermarket or pet store products and found that some supermarket and pet shop cat food brands may cause lameness, diabetes, obesity, or anaemia. The chemical analysis of 10 wet and 10 dry cat foods found eight products currently for sale in supermarkets didn’t meet voluntary standards and nine didn’t meet the nutritional information advertised on their packet. Yet, neither the authors of the study, Sydney University, or the Australian Veterinary Journal will release the names of the brands keeping millions of cats at risk.

Even the $2 billion-a-year pet food industry is calling for the release of the products’ names. Despite the university denying corporate influence or funding of the study, they acknowledged sponsorships with two major brands, Hills and Royal Canin. The relationship between multinational pet food companies and university research is a direct conflict of interest, one that we see commonly even in human food research where there is a known established link between industry funded nutrition-related scientific articles never showing a negative impact of the sponsors’ product.

We do want to know more. We have flagged it with members.

Duncan Hall, Pet Food Industry Association

Whose Interests Are at Heart?

It’s quite clear that we’re not able to confidently put the health of our beloved felines in the hands of multinational pet companies and conflicted research outcomes. You should even be questioning the companies who aren’t on the twenty-list (whenever it is revealed). If we acknowledge that low-quality, processed food is nutritionally bad for humans, why do we blindly accept feeding it to our dogs and cats every single day?

We assume that pet food sold at the local supermarket must contain high levels of quality protein and all of the required vitamins and nutrients required for domesticated cats and dogs to enable them to live long, healthy lives free of diet-related diseases. But according to the ABS, the leading causes of death for cats in Australia are ischaemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases (including strokes), cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), and chronic lower respiratory diseases. These accounted for over one-third of all deaths.

The dangers of supermarket dry cat food is well known in the rumbles of rescue groups and no-kill animal shelters where the addictive high sodium content is believed to lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney problems, and some cancers. For cats, who do not have a high thirst drive, this combination can be deadly. Several online resources actively speak out against processed and dry foods for cats, citing disease and health implications, and promoting a more natural diet of raw meat that cats would access in the wild and did ancestrally. This shift has been partially driven by a movement paralleled in the human food marketplace for natural and organic products.

Regulatory bodies, like the AAFCO in America or PFIAA in Australia, are the organisations responsible for providing nutritional standards across the pet food industry. But what kind of job are they actually doing? Who are they influenced by? Can we trust the ingredients they include? Do we really believe they have companion animal interests at heart when, ultimately, their goal is to make money in their partnership with the animal agriculture industry? This unique relationship provides an economically viable off-shoot for the waste products that are generated from the human consumption market, which would otherwise hit landfill.

When we know the truth behind the relationship between animal agriculture and the pet food industry, we can begin to pull apart the well marketed ploy that fools consumers into a false sense of security. It is well documented that companion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters are rendered down and used as sources of protein in pet food in America. Not to mention dead zoo animals, 4D animals (dead, dying, diseased, disabled) from agriculture, and even road kill are part of the rendering machine that generates upwards of $6-8 billion dollars every year globally.

It is gut churning to think about and while there is seemingly no confirmation yet on whether euthanised cats and dogs are included in the Australian rendering industry process or not, there is also no confirmation as to where the approximately 250,000 per year euthanised cats and dogs actually go to safely prevent the risk of spreading disease. Australian pet food standards are largely based on America’s standards and what company or regulatory body would ignore a free protein source..?

Cat Food Alternatives

There is a growing number of people advocating for human-grade, raw meat diets for cats and dogs. Cats especially, given they are obligate carnivores and many cat food brands contain carbohydrates, which cats have no physiological or dietary requirement for. The FDA, however, cites raw meat diets as unsafe due to the potential for bacterial contamination. As a result of the FDA attempting to interfere with the raw pet food industry, many raw pet food manufacturers have begun using High Pressure Processing (HPP) to sterilise their foods without cooking them, which is where nutrients are lost.

Explore Feline Nutrition or Dog Food Advisor to discover how you cat and dog can consume a raw diet so they can lead a nutritionally balanced, healthy life away from processed, low-grade left overs.

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Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food /ethics/food-pets-die-for/ /ethics/food-pets-die-for/#respond Tue, 12 Apr 2016 03:25:05 +0000 /?p=13178 This is an excerpt from the book “Food Pets Die For” written by Ann N. Martin. Ann Martin was the first to expose the fact that euthanised cats and dogs are common ingredients in many commercial pet foods in America. The updated and revised version of the grassroots bestseller, she expanded her research to find that pet […]

The post Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food appeared first on Shellethics.

This is an excerpt from the book “Food Pets Die For” written by Ann N. Martin. Ann Martin was the first to expose the fact that euthanised cats and dogs are common ingredients in many commercial pet foods in America. The updated and revised version of the grassroots bestseller, she expanded her research to find that pet food can also contain diseased cattle, contaminated meat, mouldy grain, roadkill, and rancid fats from restaurants, while cats and dogs are used in vivisection to test the nutritional claims of pet food ingredients.

While there is seemingly no confirmation yet on whether euthanised cats and dogs are included in the Australian rendering industry process or not, there’s also no confirmation as to where the approximately 250,000 per year euthanised cats and dogs actually go to safely prevent the risk of spreading disease. Australian pet food standards are largely based on America’s standards and what company or regulatory body would ignore a free protein source..?

Don’t ignore the truth, it has to be told.

Television commercials and magazine advertisements for pet food would have us believe that the meats, grains, and fats used in these foods could grace our dining tables. Chicken, beef, lamb, whole grains, and quality fats are supposedly the composition of dog and cat food. In my opinion, when we purchase these bags and cans of commercial food, we are in most cases purchasing garbage. Unequivocally, I cannot state that all pet food falls into this category, but I have yet to find one that I could, in all good conscience, feed my dog or cats.

Pet food labels can be deceiving. They only provide half the story. The other half of the story is hidden behind obscure ingredients listed on the labels. Bit by bit, over seven years, I have been able to unearth information about what is contained in most commercial pet food. At first I was shocked, but my shock turned to anger when I realized how little the consumer is told about the actual contents of the pet food.

Protein Sources

As discussed in Chapter Two, companion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters can and are being rendered and used as sources of protein in pet food. Dead-stock removal operations play a major role in the pet food industry. Dead animals, road kill that cannot be buried at roadside, and in some cases, zoo animals, are picked up by these dead stock operations. When an animal dies in the field or is killed due to illness or disability, the dead stock operators pick them up and truck them to the receiving plant. There the dead animal is salvaged for meat or, depending on the state of decomposition, delivered to a rendering plant. At the receiving plants, the animals of value are skinned and viscera removed. Hides of cattle and calves are sold for tanning. The usable meat is removed from the carcass, and covered in charcoal to prevent it from being used for human consumption. Then the meat is frozen, and sold as animal food, which includes pet food.

Rendering plants are melting pots for all types of refuse .. restaurant grease and garbage, meats .. past the expiration dates, entrails from dead stock removal operations, and the condemned and contaminated material from slaughterhouses.

The packages of this frozen meat must be clearly marked as “unfit for human consumption.” The rest of the carcass and poorer quality products including viscera, fat, etcetera, are sent to the rendering facilities. Rendering plants are melting pots for all types of refuse. Restaurant grease and garbage; meats and baked goods long past the expiration dates from supermarkets (Styrofoam trays and shrink-wrap included); the entrails from dead stock removal operations, and the condemned and contaminated material from slaughterhouses. All of these are rendered.

The slaughterhouses where cattle, pigs, goats, calves, sheep, poultry, and rabbits meet their fate, provide more fuel for rendering. After slaughter, heads, feet, skin, toenails, hair, feathers, carpal and tarsal joints, and mammary glands are removed. This material is sent to rendering. Animals who have died on their way to slaughter are rendered. Cancerous tissue or tumors and worm-infested organs are rendered. Injection sites, blood clots, bone splinters, or extraneous matter are rendered. Contaminated blood is rendered. Stomach and bowels are rendered. Contaminated material containing or having been treated with a substance not permitted by, or in any amount in excess of limits prescribed under the Food and Drug Act or the Environmental Protection Act. In other words, if a carcass contains high levels of drugs or pesticides this material is rendered.

Before rendering, this material from the slaughterhouse is “denatured,” which means that the material from the slaughterhouse is covered with a particular substance to prevent it from getting back into the human food chain. In the United States the substances used for denaturing include: crude carbolic acid, fuel oil, or citronella. In Canada the denaturing agent is Birkolene B. When I asked, the Ministry of Agriculture would not divulge the composition of Birkolene B, stating its ingredients are a trade secret.

At the rendering plant, slaughterhouse material, restaurant and supermarket refuse, dead stock, road kill, and euthanized companion animals are dumped into huge containers.

At the rendering plant, slaughterhouse material, restaurant and supermarket refuse, dead stock, road kill, and euthanized companion animals are dumped into huge containers. A machine slowly grinds the entire mess. After it is chipped or shredded, it is cooked at temperatures of between 220 degrees F. and 270 degrees F. (104.4 to 132.2 degrees C.) for twenty minutes to one hour. The grease or tallow rises to the top, where it is removed from the mixture. This is the source of animal fat in most pet foods. The remaining material, the raw, is then put into a press where the moisture is squeezed out. We now have meat and bone meal.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials in its “Ingredient Definitions,” describe meat meal as the rendered product from mammal tissue exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, hide, trimmings, manure, stomach, and rumen (the first stomach or the cud of a cud chewing animal) contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. In an article written by David C. Cooke, “Animal Disposal: Fact and Fiction,” Cooke noted, “Can you imagine trying to remove the hair and stomach contents from 600,000 tons of dog and cats prior to cooking them?” It would seem that either the Association of American Feed Control Officials definition of meat meal or meat and bone meal should be redefined or it needs to include a better description of “good factory practices.”

When 4D animals (dead, dying, diseased, disabled) are picked up and sent to these rendering facilities, you can be assured that the stomach contents are not removed. The blood is not drained nor are the horns and hooves removed. The only portion of the animal that might be removed is the hide and any meat that may be salvageable and not too diseased to be sold as raw pet food or livestock feed. The Minister of Agriculture in Quebec made it clear that companion animals are rendered completely.

Pet Food Industry magazine states that a pet food manufacturer might reject rendered material for various reasons, including the presence of foreign material (metals, hair, plastic, rubber, glass), off odor, excessive feathers, hair or hog bristles, bone chunks, mold, chemical analysis out of specification, added blood, leather, or calcium carbonate, heavy metals, pesticide contamination, improper grind or bulk density, and insect infestation.

Please note that this article states that the manufacturer might reject this material, not that it does reject this material. If the label on the pet food you purchase states that the product contains meat meal, or meat and bone meal, it is possible that it is comprised of all the materials listed above.

Meat, as defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle that is skeletal or that which is found in the tongue, diaphragm, heart, or esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels that normally accompany the flesh. When you read on a pet food label that the product contains “real meat,” you are getting blood vessels, sinew and so on-hardly the tasty meat that the industry would have us believe it is putting in the food.

Be assured that if it could be used for human consumption, such as kidneys and livers, it would not be going into pet food.

Meat by-products are the non-rendered, clean parts other than meat derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. Again, be assured that if it could be used for human consumption, such as kidneys and livers, it would not be going into pet food. If a liver is found to be infested with worms (liver flukes), if lungs are filled with pneumonia, these can become pet food. However, in Canada, disease-free intestines can still be used for sausage casing for humans instead of pet food.

What about other sources of protein that can be used in pet food? Poultry-by-product meal consists of ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practice. Poultry-hatchery by-products are a mixture of egg shells, infertile and unhatched eggs and culled chicks that have been cooked, dried and ground, with or without removal of part of the fat.

Poultry by-products include non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, and viscera, free of fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice. These are all definitions as listed in the AAFCO “Ingredient Definitions.” Hydrolyzed poultry feather is another source of protein—not digestible protein, but protein nonetheless. This product results from the treatment under pressure of clean, intact feathers from slaughtered poultry free of additives, and/or accelerators.

Other Sources

We have covered the meat and poultry that can be used in commercial pet foods but according to the AAFCO there are a number of other sources that can make up the protein in these foods. As we venture down the road of these other sources, please be advised to proceed at your own risk if you have a weak stomach.

Hydrolysed hair is a product prepared from clean hair treated by heat and pressure to produce a product suitable for animal feeding.

Spray-dried animal blood is produced from clean, fresh animal blood, exclusive of all extraneous material such as hair, stomach belching (contents of stomach), and urine, except in such traces as might occur unavoidably in good factory practices.

Dehydrated food-waste is any and all animal and vegetable produce picked up from basic food processing sources or institutions where food is processed. The produce shall be picked up daily or sufficiently often so that no decomposition is evident. With this ingredient, it seems that what you don’t see won’t hurt you.

Dehydrated garbage is composed of artificially dried animal and vegetable waste collected sufficiently often that harmful decomposition has not set in and from which have been separated crockery, glass, metal, string, and similar materials. Dehydrated paunch products are composed of the contents of the rumen of slaughtered cattle, dehydrated at temperatures over 212 degrees F. (100 degrees C.) to a moisture content of 12% or less, such dehydration is designed to destroy any pathogenic bacteria.

Dried poultry waste is a processed animal waste product composed primarily of processed ruminant excreta that has been artificially dehydrated to a moisture content not in excess of 15%. It shall contain not less than 12% crude protein, not more than 40% crude fiber, including straw, wood shavings and so on, and not more than 30% ash.

Dried swine waste is a processed animal-waste product composed primarily of swine excreta that has been artificially dehydrated to a moisture content not in excess of 15%. It shall contain not less than 20% crude protein, not more than 35% crude fiber, including other material such as straw, woodshavings, or acceptable bedding materials, and not more than 20% ash.

Undried processed animal waste product is composed of excreta, with or without the litter, from poultry, ruminants, or any other animal except humans, which may or may not include other feed ingredients, and which contains in excess of 15% feed ingredients, and which contains in excess of 15% moisture. It shall contain no more than 30% combined wood, woodshavings, litter, dirt, sand, rocks, and similar extraneous materials.

After reading this list of ingredients for the first time and not really believing that such ingredients could be used in pet food, I sent a fax to the chair of the AAFCO to inquire. “Would the ‘Feed Ingredient Definitions’ apply to pet food as well as livestock feed?” The reply was as follows, “The feed ingredient definitions approved by the AAFCO apply to all animal feeds, including pet foods, unless specific animal species restrictions are noted.”

If a pet food lists “meat by-products” on the label, remember that this is the material that usually comes from the slaughterhouse industry or dead stock removal operations, classified as condemned or contaminated, unfit for human consumption. Meat meal, meat and bone meal, digests, and tankage (specifically animal tissue including bones and exclusive of hair, hoofs, horns, and contents of digestive tract) are composed of rendered material. The label need not state what the composition of this material is, as each batch rendered would consist of a different material. These are the sources of protein that we are feeding our companion animals.

In 1996, I decided to find out the cost of this “quality” material that the pet food companies purchase from the rendering facilities. Aware that a phone call from an ordinary citizen would not elicit the information I required, I set about forming my own independent pet food company. Stating that my company was about to begin producing quality pet food, I asked for a price quote on meat by-products and meat meal from a Canadian rendering company and from a U.S. rendering company. Both facilities I contacted were more than pleased to provide this information. As I was just a small company and did not require that much material to begin production, the cost was higher than it would have been for one of the large multinationals. Meat and bone meal, with a content of a minimum of 50% protein, 12% fat, 8% moisture, 8% calcium, 4% phosphorus, and 30% ash, could be purchased by me, a small independent company for less than 12¢ (Canadian) a pound. As for the meat by-products the prices varied: liver sold at 21¢ per pound, veal at 22¢ per pound, and lungs for only 12¢ per pound.

The main ingredient in dry food for dogs and cats is corn. However, on further investigation, I found that according to the AAFCO, the list is lengthy as to the corn products that can be used in pet food. These include, but are not limited to the following ingredients.

  • Corn four is the fine-size hard flinty portions of ground corn containing little or none of the bran or germ.
  • Corn bran  is the outer coating of the corn kernel, with little or none of the starchy part of the germ.
  • Corn gluten meal  is the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm.

Wheat  is a constituent found in many pet foods. Again the AAFCO gives descriptive terms for wheat products. Wheat flour consists principally of wheat flour together with fine particles of wheat bran, wheat germ, and the offal from the “tail of the mill.” Tail of the mill is nothing more then the sweepings of leftovers after everything has been processed from the week.

Wheat germ meal consists chiefly of wheat germ together with some bran and middlings or shorts. Wheat middlings and shorts are also categorized as the fine particles of wheat germ, bran, flour and offal from the “tail of the mill.”

Both corn and wheat are usually the first ingredients listed on both dry dog and cat food labels. If they are not the first ingredients, they are the second and third that together make up most of the sources of protein in that particular product. Perhaps the pet food industry is not aware that cats are carnivores and therefore should derive their protein from meat, not grains?

In 1995, one large pet food company, located in California, recalled $20 million worth of its dog food. This food was found to contain vomitoxin. Vomitoxin is formed when grains become wet and moldy. This toxin was found in “wheat screenings” used in the pet food. The FDA did investigate but not out of concern for the more than 250 dogs that became ill after ingesting this food. It investigated because of concerns for human health. The contaminated wheat screenings were the end product of wheat flour that would be used in the making of pasta. Wheat for baking flour requires a higher quality of wheat. Wheat screenings, which are not used for human consumption, can include broken grains, crop and weed seeds, hulls, chaff, joints, straw, elevator or mill dust, sand, and dirt.

Fats give off a pungent odor that entices your pet to eat the garbage.

Fat is usually the second ingredient listed on the pet food labels. Fats can be sprayed directly on the food or mixed with the other ingredients. Fats give off a pungent odor that entices your pet to eat the garbage. These fats are sourced from restaurant grease. This oil is rancid and unfit for human consumption. One of the main sources of fat comes from the rendering plant. This is obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial process of rendering or extracting.

An article in Petted Industry magazine does not indicate concern about the impurities in this rendered material as it relates to pet food. Dr. Tim Phillips writes, “Impurities could be small particles of fiber, hair, hide, bone, soil or polyethylene. Or they could be dirt or metal particles picked up after processing (during storage and/or transport). Impurities can cause clogging problems in fat handling screens, nozzles, etc. and contribute to the build-up of sludge in storage tanks.”

Other tasty ingredients that can be added to commercial pet food include:

  • Beet pulp is the dried residue from sugar beet, added for fiber, but primarily sugar.
  • Soybean meal is the product obtained by grinding the flakes that remain after the removal of most of the oil from soybeans by a solvent extraction process.
  • Powdered cellulose is purified, mechanically disintegrated cellulose prepared by processing alpha cellulose obtained as a pulp from fibrous plant material. In other words, sawdust.
  • Sugar foods by-products result from the grinding and mixing of inedible portions derived from the preparation and packaging of sugar-based food products such as candy, dry packaged drinks, dried gelatin mixes, and similar food products that are largely composed of sugar.
  • Ground almond and peanut shells are used as another source of fiber.

If, however, the entire fish is used for pet food, oftentimes it is because the fish contains a high level of mercury or other toxin making it unfit for human consumption.

Fish is a source of protein. If you own a cat, just open a can of food that contains fish and watch kitty come running. The parts used are fish heads, tails, fins, bones, and viscera. R.L. Wysong, DVM, states that because the entire fish is not used it does not contain many of the fat soluble vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. If, however, the entire fish is used for pet food, oftentimes it is because the fish contains a high level of mercury or other toxin making it unfit for human consumption. Even fish that was canned for human consumption and that has sat on the shelf past the expiration date will be included. Tuna is used in many cat foods because of its strong odor, which cats find irresistible.

In her book The Natural Cat, Anitra Frazier describes the “tuna junkie” as an expression used by veterinarians to describe a cat hooked on tuna. According to Frazier, “The vegetable oil which it is packed in robs the cat’s body of vitamin E which can result in a condition called steatitis.” Symptoms of steatitis include extreme nervousness and severe pain when touched. The lack of vitamin E in the diet causes the nerve endings to become sensitive, and can also induce anemia and heart disease. However, excess levels of vitamin E can be toxic. A veterinarian with an understanding of nutrition should be consulted.

[Kibble is] high in sugar, laced with dyes, additives, and preservatives, and have a shelf life that spans eternity.

One commercial food that most cats and dogs seem to love are the semi-moist foods. These kibble and burger-shaped concoctions are made to resemble real hamburger. However, according to Wendell O. Belfield and Martin Zucker in their book, How to Have a Healthier Dog, these are one of the most dangerous of all commercial pet foods. They are high in sugar, laced with dyes, additives, and preservatives, and have a shelf life that spans eternity. One pet owner wrote to me explaining that she had fed her cat some of these semi-moist tidbits. The cat became ill shortly after eating them, and even professional carpet cleaners could not remove the red dye from the carpet where her cat had been ill. In his book, Pet Allergies: Remedies for an Epidemic, Alfred Plechner, DVM., writes, “In my opinion, semi-moist foods should be placed in a time capsule to serve as a record of modern technology gone mad.”

The pet food industry corrals this material, then mixes, cooks, dries and extrudes the stuff. (Extruding simply means it is pushed through a mold to form the different shapes and to make us think that these so called “chunks” are actually pieces of meat.) Dyes, additives, preservatives are routinely added and they can accumulate in the pet’s body. According to the Animal Protection Institute of America newsletter, “Investigative Report on Pet Food, “Ethoxyquin (an antioxidant preservative), was found in dogs’ livers and tissue months after it had been removed from their diet.”

After processing, the food is practically devoid of any nutritional value. To make up for what is lacking, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and supplements are dumped into the mix. If the minerals added are unchelated (chelated means minerals will more readily combine with proteins for better absorption), they will pass through the body virtually unused. Most are added as a premix, and if there is a mistake made in the premix, it can throw off the entire balance. Veterinarians Marty Goldstein and Robert Goldstein have stated that the wrong calcium/magnesium ratio can cause neuromuscular problems. As an example, when I had the commercial pet food tested by Mann Laboratories for my court case, most of the minerals showed excess levels.

Explore Feline Nutrition or Dog Food Advisor to discover how you cat and dog can consume a raw diet so they can lead a nutritionally balanced, healthy life.

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More Marketing Bullsh*t: Cage Eggs Out, “Free Range” In /animal-cruelty/cage-eggs-out-free-range-in/ /animal-cruelty/cage-eggs-out-free-range-in/#respond Thu, 07 Apr 2016 06:40:48 +0000 /?p=13116 The post More Marketing Bullsh*t: Cage Eggs Out, “Free Range” In appeared first on Shellethics.


One of the latest Animals Australia welfare campaigns has been focusing on convincing many major supermarkets to stop stocking cage eggs. To their credit, they’ve had some movement, though it’ll actually be several years before any of them actually stop selling cage eggs. The joyous cries of victory go up but the confetti settles on several more years of barbaric confinement of hens in an area not bigger than an early generation iPad.

A slice of history shows us that Piedemonte’s were one of first to ban cage eggs and got the ball rolling. Woolworths said they’d phase out by 2018. Coles removed their Coles-brand eggs during 2013, and they’ll likely follow suit with the rest. McDonalds Australia are going to phase cage eggs out across their 900 stores in 2017. Subway Australia committed to their 1,400 stores being cage egg free by 2018. Walmart, the nation’s biggest food seller in the US, is even on board .. but you know, sometime off in 2025 or something.

Certainly, a cold hard fact is that consumer demand and pressure has made several organisations plan to move away from cage eggs. Animals Australia just claimed today that a social media revolution has started as the pressure builds in Aldi to follow suit. Pwoar, that’s a gigantic call to make, especially when a revolution implies a forcible overthrow of social order in favour of a new system. Never mind the tumbleweed blowing by as I go looking for that new system.


“Free” Range

Now for all your egg eaters out there, in Australia just recently the state and commonwealth ministers had announced its legal definition of the term “free range”. Previously, no one had the slightest idea and it was often up to the discretion of the company’s marketing team to paint a rosy picture of green pastures and Freedom! Glorious Freedom! and foolish customers didn’t bat an eyelid. But ha-ha! Now you can retort back to all those “angry animal rights activists” about how free range is free range, der.

Now, in order for eggs to be labelled “free range”, the national standard states that there needs to be a minimum standard stocking density of 10,000 chickens per hectare. That sounds okay, doesn’t it? It’s actually a massive increase from the 1,500 per hectare that many people and groups consider to be “humane” .. as they actively support exploiting these hens for their eggs and slitting their throats when they stop producing eggs because their bodies get worn out.


On top of the density requirement, there is also “meaningful access” to outdoor areas that is required under these new standards. But, technically, hens don’t actually need to leave the shed at all for their eggs to be considered “free range”. Oh, you cheeky buggers! What ever will we do with you? It’s the icing on the egg-beaten cake really—a nice loophole designed to fool the average shopper who could barely care about a hen’s existence, and enough marketing spiel that your slightly more concerned individual sitting on the fence of a moral cognitive dissonance battle, would then be able to push that nagging guilt into the back of their head as they allow themselves to pick up a fresh batch of “free range” hen eggs.

A perfect example of just how empty this bullshit commitment really is. And you know it.

Cage Eggs Out, Free Range In

It’s good days for egg eaters really. The decision makes it much easier for large-scale farms and businesses to benefit from the free-range label, without adhering to pesky recommendations from the CSIRO–Australia’s science agency–and the annoying RSPCA.

“Free range” is a feel-good marketing term that businesses use—now with the support of the government—to make consumers feel kind as if their choices aren’t really resulting in any kind of negative consequence. “Well, at least they get to go outside”. Ha—hook, line, and sinker, though let’s leave fish out of this They have feelings, too. In reality, every single egg brand is doing horrible things to hens every single day of the year, whether they’re classified as cage, free range, or organic by human eyes.

All hens are used for their bodies (another one of those cold hard facts, brr it’s getting chilly in here). All hens have their pituitary gland manipulated by artificial lighting to produce a hormone that is carried via the bloodstream to the ovary, which sets egg production in motion. All farmers are recommended to “trick” hens into continuing to lay eggs for longer periods in each day and throughout the entire year—jokes on you, hens! Most chickens are “debeaked” where a sharp blade slices off part of their sensitive peak; this stops hens from injuring one another in overcrowded spaces (like iPad cages or 10,000 per hectare cages—whoops I mean, sheds) and also stifles healthy, natural social behaviours like preening or, you know, eating.

All hens get trucked off and killed after 18 to 24 months when their bodies are drained of life from the intensive production. All male chicks are ground up alive on day 1 in a especially designed blade machine—an endearing term you may have heard, maceration—because males can’t lay eggs. Ah, never mind that flickering there from the lightbulb of realisation. In fact, if you listen closely, you can hear their fragile bones being turned into a rough powder off into the distance as you crack an egg open on the fry pan.

According to farmers and most people, sentient animals are mere products and outputs to generate profit with no inherent value that could lead them to being able to live their lives for their own reasons, instead of ours. Before you denounce me as the evil vegan, it would be ludicrous to deny the cold hard facts (that’s three! brr) and nothing but a derail attempt to try and justify it.


It’s seemingly perfect timing really, the release of the “free range” definition, as social media campaigns mount and individuals who believe in kind exploitation and oppression plaster business Facebook pages with damning double standard comments. As the consumer attitude changes and pushes back against hens being shoved into tiny iPad-sized cages, the “free range” definition makes its timely landing to stipulate that farmers should get rid of tiny cages and implement a big, large cage instead—better known as a shed.

It’s all quite perfect really, except for the chickens. They’ll continue to be exploited, used, oppressed, and killed to the tune of billions every year. Paint it however you want but cage eggs on the way out is certainly not a revolution of any sorts. One cruel way of using animals is simply replaced with another cruel way of using animals. It’s animal welfarism at its finest.

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This is Why You Crave Beef: Lobbyists, Subsidies & PR /ethics/this-is-why-you-crave-beef/ /ethics/this-is-why-you-crave-beef/#respond Wed, 06 Apr 2016 03:42:04 +0000 /?p=13071 The post This is Why You Crave Beef: Lobbyists, Subsidies & PR appeared first on Shellethics.


This is an excerpt from “Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat” by Marta Zaraska. Published by Basic Books. Copyright © 2016 Marta Zaraska.

Marta Zaraska is a Polish-Canadian journalist whose science writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Scientific American, Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, and New Scientist, among others.

Inside Secrets of Big Meat’s Billion-Dollar Ad and Lobbying Campaigns

Sleek seems like a good word to describe the offices of the National Chicken Council (NCC) in Washington, D.C. The sleekness begins on the street. The building at 1152 Fifteenth Street, which houses the NCC, is ultramodern, enclosed in glass, with a lavish lobby that echoes my footsteps as I walk in. Up on the fourth floor, I’m greeted by NCC’s senior vice president Bill Roenigk—a jovial man who looks exactly like a “Bill.” Roenigk leads me into a conference room where we sit at a large, oval table. Even though there are some vintage photos of farmers on the walls, the whole place feels much more “consulting” than “farming.”

The NCC, just like its beef and pork equivalents (the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Board), is a trade association of meat producers. These organizations protect the interests of the industry, deal with PR crises, lobby the government, and arrange marketing campaigns. But at its core, their goal is rather simple: make sure Americans buy as much chicken, beef, and pork as possible. In other countries, similar organizations exist: the British Meat Processors Association, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, and so on. Such organizations, together with powerful meat companies such as Tyson Foods or JBS, spend billions of dollars a year on lobbying and promotion so that we don’t lose our appetites for animal protein. Some researchers argue that increasing meat consumption around the globe, the U.S. included, is not demand driven but supply driven: it’s pushed more by the actions of the meat industry and not so much by the desires of our taste buds. The industry doesn’t exactly pretend otherwise, either. As the cattlemen’s magazine Beef admitted in 2013: “The beef industry has worked hard to create the love affair that Americans have with a big, juicy ribeye.”

Some researchers argue that increasing meat consumption around the globe .. is not demand driven but supply driven: it’s pushed more by the actions of the meat industry and not so much by the desires of our taste buds.

The meat industry is capable of swinging our food preferences because it is ultrapowerful and ultraconsolidated. Consider these numbers: in 2011, in the U.S. alone, the annual sales of meat were worth $186 billion. That’s more than the GDP of Hungary or Ukraine. Moreover, just four pork producers control two-thirds of the market, and the top four in beef have about 75 percent of the market. Tyson, the largest meat corporation in the U.S., recently had a revenue of $34 billion—that’s over twenty times as much as the GDP of Belize.

The meat industry is capable of swinging our food preferences because it is ultrapowerful and ultraconsolidated.

Other companies besides those that raise, slaughter, and sell meat benefit from consumers’ carnivorous appetites: the fertilizer and pesticide producers, farm equipment manufacturers, seed growers (including Monsanto), soy and corn farmers, and pharmaceutical corporations, which sell antibiotics, beta-adrenergic agonists, and other drugs to the meat companies. In a way, they are all part of the meat business too. According to the American Meat Institute, the industry’s primary trade organization: “Meat and poultry industry impacts firms in all 509 sectors of the U.S. economy .. The meat and poultry industry’s economic ripple effect generates $864.2 billion annually to the U.S. economy, or roughly 6 percent of the entire GDP.”

Compared to the meat industry, the vegetable and fruit industry has little clout. For one thing, if the name “vegetable and fruit industry” sounds odd, that’s because such an expression is almost never used. The vegetable and fruit industry hardly exists as a united entity. In North America or the UK, only about five different types of meat really count in terms of sales: beef (including veal), pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb or mutton. Now think of all the different kinds of veggies, fruits, beans, and lentils out there. Or just consider the varieties of beans grown and sold in the U.S.: pinto, navy, black, great northern, garbanzo, red kidney, lima, yellow eye, fava, mung, adzuki, marrow, appaloosa, anasazi.

Who has the power [money] to convince you to love their foods and to eat more and more of them? Not the chickpea industry, that’s for sure.

The list goes on. Do lima bean producers want you to eat more lima beans? Of course they do. But they not only have to compete with garbanzo bean producers but also with other bean, pea, lentil, and vegetable growers. In a similar fashion, apples go up against peaches, blueberries against cherries. Even if the fruit and vegetable producers did unite, their sales would still be much smaller than those of the meat industry: in 2011, for example, all vegetables, fruits, and nuts combined made just over $45 billion in farm cash receipts. That’s almost four times less than the livestock products earned. Beans, peas, and lentils—which are considered proper meat substitutes—fare even worse. In 2011 they made a staggering 140 times less than livestock products. Who has the power to convince you to love their foods and to eat more and more of them? Not the chickpea industry, that’s for sure.

Beef and Tax

To make certain you keep eating meat, the industry levies almost a tax on products sold, known as beef and pork checkoffs. In the U.S. each beef producer pays $1 per bovine head at the time the animal is sold, and each pork producer foots $0.40 per $100 of value. In Canada, the levy is $1 per animal head, and in Australia, it’s $5 a head. Between 1987 and 2013, the U.S. beef checkoff collected $1.2 billion, an impressive pile of money that is used “to increase domestic and/or international demand for beef”—in the words of the industry itself. To give you some perspective: one of the very few campaigns drafted to promote eating veggies, 5 A Day for Better Health, developed by the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, had in 1999 a public communications budget of less than $3 million.

To make certain you keep eating meat, the industry levies almost a tax on products sold.

When Americans ask, “What’s for dinner?,” most will automatically reply: “Beef.” That’s hardly a surprise. Back in 1992 the industry spent $42 million of beef checkoff money spreading the slogan “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” As for its effectiveness, consider this quote from the industry’s own website: “In the minds of the many consumers hearing that question [‘What’s for dinner?’], a dominant answer has been planted: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Not just planted, in fact. Watered, nourished and cared for over the past two decades.” In 2015 the beef industry was planning to spend $39 million of checkoff revenues on promotion and research, “consumer public relations,” “nutrition-influencer relations,” and countering “misinformation from anti-beef groups.” One of the checkoff websites,, is full of ideas on how to make people buy (and eat) more beef. Some examples: organizing cooking demonstrations on university campuses and student contests, providing in-store samplings of easy beef recipes, and employing influential chefs.

Yet it’s the youngest consumers that the meat industry is particularly keen to hook on burgers and drumsticks. In their marketing effort, for example, they design “beef education” curriculums for K–12 classrooms. They are especially eager to attract Millennials, born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. To encourage them to eat more burgers and steaks, beef promoters share recipes on Facebook and use Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, where they post pictures of “delicious beef meals.” They create apps and online resources: these, according to an industry marketing how-to guide, are “a must-have to attract and retain Millennials’ interest.”

Yet it’s the youngest consumers that the meat industry is particularly keen to hook on burgers and drumsticks.

These campaigns pay dividends. Between 2006 and 2013, every dollar dropped into the beef checkoff ’s piggybank returned over eleven dollars to the industry. If it wasn’t for the checkoff, the industry has calculated that we would be eating 11.3 percent less beef. Meanwhile, the pork industry’s “The Other White Meat” tagline is the fifth-most recognized ad slogan in the history of American advertising (the first being Allstate Insurance Company “You’re in Good Hands”). During the five years following the campaign’s kickoff in 1987, sales of pork shot up 20 percent. As C. W. Post, founder of General Foods, reportedly once said about cereal—but it could easily be said about meat: “You can’t just manufacture cereal. You’ve got to get it halfway down the customer’s throat through advertising. Then they’ve got to swallow it.”

Checkoff Program

Checkoff programs are successful not only because they are large but also because the promotional messages of the meat industry are, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, “government speech.” These are not your typical marketing campaigns; they have the blessing of the government. The USDA actually reviews the promotional messages prepared by checkoffs. As David Robinson Simon writes in his book “Meatonomics”: “It may say it’s the National Pork Board, but the background sounds you’re hearing are the imposing bass tones of the U.S. government .. a lack of government involvement would likely lead to the decline—or maybe the end—of checkoffs.”

Although the American poultry industry doesn’t have a checkoff program, it still works hard to increase the demand for chicken and turkey. As Bill Roenigk explained to me, leaning back in his chair in the polished conference room of the NCC, meat demand is like a large dog, just sitting there, pretty immobile. But this dog also has a rather big tail. Good promotion and advertising is like grabbing this tail and wag-wag-wagging the dog as hard as you can. “So how do chicken producers wag the dog?” I ask. Roenigk laughs. “Social media campaigns are big at the moment,” he tells me. “We are making September the ‘Eat Chicken Month,’ for example.”

Guess which ads appear most frequently on children’s Saturday morning television? Number one: McDonald’s. Number two: Burger King.

Yet generic promotion by meat producers—whether of beef, pork, or chicken—is just a part of the story of how publicity keeps us craving meat. Meat vendors, such as restaurants, also play a large part. Take McDonald’s. Although it’s not a meat company per se, McDonald’s is the largest beef buyer not only in the U.S. but in other countries, too (Ireland, for example). Selling on average about seventy-five burgers per second across the globe, McDonald’s plays a large role in our ongoing love affair with meat. In 2011 it spent a whopping $1.37 billion on advertising. There are only thirty-six companies in the U.S. that shell out upward of $1 billion a year on ads (think GM, Google, Apple). And no, veggie and fruit producers didn’t make the list, unless you count Unilever with its soups and ketchup. And guess which ads appear most frequently on children’s Saturday morning television? Number one: McDonald’s. Number two: Burger King. The only figure that American kids recognize better than Ronald McDonald is Santa Claus.

Selling meat with advertising comes with a few simple rules of thumb. “Don’t show animals” is a major one. They don’t want you to think about the animal too much or you may lose your appetite.

Selling meat with advertising comes with a few simple rules of thumb. “Don’t show animals” is a major one. A study done in Europe found out that it’s better to avoid using any photos or even drawings of cows, pigs, or chickens, no matter how cute. “Rather to make the consumer reflect about the living animal, communication should be centered on other attributes linked to the hedonic sides of meal preparation and consumption,” write the authors. And that is why you won’t see many animals in meat ads. In other words: They don’t want you to think about the animal too much or you may lose your appetite.

Lobbying and Subsidies

But advertising, no matter how successful, is not the only way to ensure that demand for meat doesn’t go down; there is lobbying, too. Just one block away from the offices of the NCC is K Street: a stately line of heavy-looking buildings, among them steak houses and banks. There is nothing frilly on K Street, nothing cute, hipster, or kiddie friendly. It’s a street of coffee-wielding suit-clad people, all in a rush. Consultants, lawyers, and, most of all, lobbyists—so many of the latter work here that K Street has been dubbed “the lobbyists’ boulevard.” Lobbying, as Roenigk tells me, is something that the NCC is now “focusing on.” It’s perfectly legal, of course, and involves arranging campaign contributions, encouraging lawsuits, and organizing public-relations campaigns—all to influence government policy. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that during the 2013 election cycle, the animal products industry contributed $17.5 million to federal candidates. And such contributions appear to work. One study confirmed that changes in contributions do change voting behavior and that you can basically “‘buy’ legislators’ votes” without breaking the law.

During the 2013 election cycle, the animal products industry contributed [an estimated] $17.5 million to federal candidates.

One thing that the meat industry would rather not lose (and would likely lobby intensely for if they were to) is government subsidies. According to Chuck Conner, deputy secretary of agriculture, producers of fresh fruits and vegetables “have traditionally been under-represented in farm bill policy.” Meanwhile, between 1995 and 2012, American taxpayers helped pay $4.1 billion in livestock subsidies. It’s a big number, but in reality what animal food producers actually receive—indirectly—is far more than that. The author of “Meatonomics” calculated that each year the U.S. spends $38 billion to subsidize meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Why is that number so much higher than the official livestock subsidies? One reason is feed grain subsidies.

From 1995 to 2012, corn producers pocketed over $84 billion, and soybean growers $27 billion—which makes it considerably cheaper to buy corn and soybeans than to grow them. Since 60 percent of the corn and almost half of the soybeans that sprout from American soil are used for feeding livestock, subsidizing these crops is, to a large extent, tantamount to subsidizing the meat industry—and encouraging meat consumption.

Between 1995 and 2012, American taxpayers helped pay $4.1 billion in livestock subsidies .. But in reality what animal food producers actually receive—indirectly—is far more than that.

If it wasn’t for subsidies, we would be paying considerably more for our steaks and drumsticks. That would quite likely dampen our love affair with meat. “NCC did a study a couple of years ago,” Roenigk tells me. “If you take the price of chicken and consumers’ income, these two factors can explain 90 percent of why we eat more or less chicken.” Imagine if beef prices were to go up 10 percent, would you buy less? Switch to chicken? Studies show that on average, a 10 percent increase in beef ’s price means about a 7.5 percent decrease in consumption. And then the demand for pork rises 3 percent and for chicken 2.4 percent—so it’s bye-bye beef stew, hello chicken fajitas. However, some consumers, when faced with a higher bill at the butcher’s, end up cutting down on meat altogether. In one NCC survey, 35 percent of shoppers said that when chicken prices increase, they just eat more veggies.

Direct health-care costs attributable to meat eating in the U.S. were over $61 billion—from hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on .. External costs of the animal food industry add up to at least $414 billion yearly—not only in health care but also in environmental costs such as pollution.

But the government is not the only entity subsidizing the meat industry. There are hidden costs to meat production that, instead of being paid by producers, are paid by taxpayers as part of what some call “subsidies by omission,” and these costs are quite substantial. Neal Barnard, professor of medicine at George Washington University, calculated that, in 1992, direct health-care costs attributable to meat eating in the U.S. were over $61 billion—from hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on. In “Meatonomics,” Simon estimates that external costs of the animal food industry add up to at least $414 billion yearly—not only in health care but also in environmental costs such as pollution. For every dollar of beef or chicken sold, Simon argues, the industry imposes $1.70 of externalities on us. (In economics, an externality is a cost that affects a party that did not choose to incur that cost and which is not reflected in the cost of the goods.)

So the next time you buy $10 worth of steak think about this: you are in reality paying $27 for it, just in installments—part at the checkout counter, part with your taxes, part with your health insurance.

Pushback and Control

What all such meat subsidies mean in practice is that for many Americans who struggle to make ends meet, buying a few burgers at McDonald’s is often a cheaper way to feed the family than serving them lentil dal and a fresh salad. They may be eating meat simply because it’s relatively low cost and readily available. As far as the meat industry goes, that’s perfectly fine, of course. They want to keep the subsidies flowing and the externalities external. What they don’t want is for the government to promote a plant-based diet.

On June 3, 2013, a seemingly trivial sign appeared at one of the food stations in the white expanse of the Longworth cafeteria—the bright, open space located in the same building as the offices of the House Agriculture Committee in Washington, D.C. It’s here on workdays around noon that a long line of staffers forms: members of Congress and lobbyists await their turn to grab lunch. On that particular Monday, many of them spotted a new sign advertising one of the food options. The sign, supposedly placed by one of the cafeteria’s employees, simply said: “Meatless Monday.” That was enough for the meat industry to raise an outcry.

As far as the meat industry goes .. what they don’t want is for the government to promote a plant-based diet.

On June 7, the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, a group that includes some of the nation’s largest farm and ranch organizations, issued a statement to the House Administration Committee, protesting the appearance of the sign. In their letter, they wrote: “‘Meatless Mondays’ is an acknowledged tool of animal rights and environmental organizations who seek to publicly denigrate U.S. livestock and poultry production.” On the following Monday, June 10, the “Meatless Monday” sign at the Longworth cafeteria was gone. It has never appeared again.

There is much more to the meat industry’s pressure on the government than a disappearing “Meatless Monday” sign, of course. As Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, has stressed, the meat industry has, in recent years, won the major battles. One of those battles has been over the Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines, according to the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which jointly publish them every five years, “provide authoritative advice .. about consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices .. to promote overall health.” Nestle has a different definition of the Dietary Guidelines, though.

Among the words and phrases that the meat industry doesn’t like are “eat less,” as in, “eat less meat.”

In her book “Food Politics,” she writes: “Dietary guidelines are political compromises between what science tells us about nutrition and what is good for the food industry.” Among the words and phrases that the meat industry doesn’t like are “eat less,” as in, “eat less meat.” Over the years the standard word used by the Dietary Guidelines has been choose (“choose lean meat”) instead of “eat less.” Choose doesn’t bother the industry as much because it encourages people to go out and buy more chicken or less fatty beef. Another standard tactic is to point a finger at particular nutrients but not the foods that contain them. So it’s “no” to cholesterol and fat but silence about fatty meats. On the first day of her job working on the editorial production of the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health, back in the 1980s, Nestle was given clear rules. She recalls:

No matter what the research indicated, the report could not recommend ‘eat less meat’ as a way to reduce intake of saturated fat. .. When released in 1988, the Surgeon General’s Report recommended ‘choose lean meats.’

The Conflicted USDA and Funded Scientific Studies

How is the meat industry able to put so much pressure on the Dietary Guidelines committees and the USDA? The first issue lies with the function of the USDA itself—and goes back to the establishment of the department in 1862. Since its very beginnings, the USDA has had two roles: one was to help the industry achieve a reliable food supply and sell more products and the second was to advise Americans on their diets. And here is the problem. Today—as opposed to the nineteenth century when undernutrition was the challenge—those two roles just don’t fit together well. The USDA has a conflict of interest at its very core.

Since its very beginnings, the USDA has had two roles [and now] the USDA has a conflict of interest at its very core.

The second issue also concerns conflicts of interest, but this time among members of the committees drafting dietary recommendations. Over the years, some guidelines committee members received grant supports from the National Live Stock and Meat Board, served on the grant review committee for the American Meat Institute, or had their research supported by the National Dairy Council—to name but a few. And then there is the phenomenon of revolving doors: industry people changing careers to become government people, and vice versa. Examples? Dale Moore, chief of staff to Ann Veneman, the secretary of agriculture, was formerly the executive director for legislative affairs of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Deputy Secretary James Moseley co-owned a large factory farm in Indiana. USDA director of communications Alisa Harrison used to be NCBA’s executive director of public relations, while NCBA’s former president, JoAnn Smith, got appointed as chief of USDA’s Food Marketing and Inspection Division. The list goes on.

There is one more place where meat-industry-related conflicts of interest pop up: scientific research. If you scroll down to the author disclosure sections of research papers published in peer-reviewed journals, in some of them you may discover that the scientists behind the study received funding from the meat industry. For example, the author of one 2012 analysis, which praises beef as a great source of protein, “has been paid by the Beef Checkoff .. to provide consulting services.” The author of yet another research paper, published in 2014, and claiming that lean beef has benefits for cardiovascular health, “received grant funds from the Beef Checkoff Program.” Sometimes the connections may be pretty obscure. A Swedish study, which is often quoted as proof that vegetarian diets are unhealthy, was supported by a grant from the benign-sounding Swedish Nutrition Foundation. But if you go to the foundation’s website, you may find out that there are several meat and dairy businesses among its “member companies,” including McDonald’s. Besides sponsoring scientists directly, the meat industry sponsors organizations promoting good nutrition. Tyson Foods, the California Beef Council, and the Texas Beef Council, among others, give money to the American Heart Association. The American Dietetic Association Foundation receives funds from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and so does the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.

Scroll down to the author disclosure sections of research papers published in peer-reviewed journals, in some of them you may discover that the scientists behind the study received funding from the meat industry.

Of course, the fact that someone receives funding from the meat industry doesn’t automatically mean that his or her research will be skewed to cheer the consumption of meat. But it may. In 2013 editors of several scientific journals, including the prestigious BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), announced that they will no longer accept studies funded by the tobacco industry. The editors wrote that although some may say that funding doesn’t equal endorsement, such a view “ignores the growing body of evidence that biases and research misconduct are often impossible to detect.”

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Vegetarian Diet Could Kill You: More Headline Lies /nutrition/vegetarian-diet-could-kill-you-more-headline-lies/ /nutrition/vegetarian-diet-could-kill-you-more-headline-lies/#comments Sat, 02 Apr 2016 05:30:43 +0000 /?p=12998 The post Vegetarian Diet Could Kill You: More Headline Lies appeared first on Shellethics.


The sensationalism from the media, especially around one of the hottest debate topics of our time—animal protein vs. plant-based diets—never fails to disappoint. It could have even been construed as an amusing April Fools; the headlines were that ridiculous. That’s right, plastered across social media yesterday was a study informing us that a long-term vegetarian diet could kill you because of a genetic mutation that puts people at high risk for colon cancer and heart disease.

“Long-term vegetarian diet changes human DNA raising risk of cancer and heart disease,” the Telegram warned. “Being a long-term vegetarian changes your DNA and increases your risk of cancer” according to Cosmo UK. “Being a vegetarian could kill you, science warns,” the New York Post proclaimed. Certainly, hold onto your arm chairs. Brace yourself. We’re all screwed, apparently and meat-eaters are validated yet again … at least according to mainstream media, who cannot analyse and report accurately on a study if scratching their own rear-end depended on it.

Vegetarian Diet Could Kill You..? Huh?

If the reporters of the stupefying “news” headlines had any brain cells remaining or an ethical bone left in their bodies, they’d quite clearly see that the study didn’t say that. Not even close. Not at all.

What researchers from Cornell University actually identified was an insertion allele—a gene variant where DNA bases are added to a genome—in some people whose ancestors maintained a primarily vegetarian diet. This allele allows these individuals to produce synthetic versions of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid, which are essential for brain function, but can sometimes be lacking from vegetarian diets (depending on how individuals eat).

This speculation that human beings, over hundreds of generations, might show genetic variants that make them more efficient at processing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into chemicals for early brain development and controlling inflammation is quite interesting. It turned out that people who relied more on plants for food had this allele in higher numbers than people who ate meat. The authors also found that among those adapted to the oils and foods of a traditional vegetarian diet, the imbalances of the modern diet might be especially harmful.

In the beginning, we were pretty happy to see our research getting so much attention, but over the last few days I have found that most of the news coming out right now [on our study] is wrong. It’s kind of frustrating.

This allele was more commonly found in individuals from more vegetarian cultures. While about 70% of South Asians had it, only 17% of Europeans (whose ancestors ate meat) did. The researchers compared genetic markers in a population of 234 primarily vegetarian Indians, to those in 311 Americans with fairly typical diets, and found, indeed, that the Indians had a higher frequency of genetic mutations that make them good at producing the fats their diet doesn’t provide.

But in amongst the battle for news headlines and sensationalist media who love to blatantly lie and create a stir, this study about a gene variant that means some people might be better off eating a vegetarian diet was misinterpreted to mean that eating vegetarian will cause your genes to mutate and lead to a higher risk of colon cancer and heart disease.

The study never suggested that vegetarian diets were harmful.

The study never suggested that vegetarian diets were harmful. Rather, it showed that traditional vegetarian populations might be especially prone to the harms of the modern diet. This might help explain, for example, why ethnic Indians seem so prone to type 2 diabetes when they transition to a diet of burgers, fries, and soda.

Mainstream Media Does it Again

It’s not the first time something this has happened, either. During 2015, mainstream media bastardised another study and misreported that vegetarian diets are worse for the environment than meat-centric diets. The researchers themselves came out in defence, again, and announced that news headlines stating that vegetarianism is more harmful to the environment than eating meat is a total mischaracterisation of what they found. The misleading news headlines were quickly debunked, but meat-eaters generally aren’t interested in any kind of response to something so inflammatory if it suits their purpose.

Writers may report on a single preliminary study that is unverified by additional research, or highlight a study because it contradicts current health recommendations—the goal being an attention-grabbing headline.

The Cornell University study being portrayed as finding that a long-term vegetarian diet could kill you is nothing but appalling. “Long-term” isn’t even in reference to a single lifetime, though news reporters knew that’s how it would be inferred. The Cornell University researchers were referring to many, many generations over, which the allele which can boost the expression of the enzymes FADS1 and FADS2 that convert omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, can mutate to eventually favour either vegetarians or heavy marine meat-eaters. One could easily conclude that traditional, balanced vegetarian diets are an excellent, healthful choice for anyone so inclined, but may be especially important for people from populations that have made that choice for a long time as they have a higher likelihood of being specifically adapted to it. The study doesn’t look at heart disease, cancer, or death. It only looked at gene frequencies.

Nathaniel Comfort is the Baruch Blumberg professor of astrobiology at the Library of Congress and NASA blogs about hype and misconceptions in genetic research. Comfort advised that, “There was a cascade of misinformation. The way this happened is through a kind of informational entropy.” and that there were a number of elements that made this particular study ripe for misunderstanding.

Genetics often gets oversimplified due to a general misunderstanding of how genes affect traits. One single gene does not cause one single trait, and the relationship between the genes and the traits they impact is complicated, but that doesn’t always make for the most exciting headline, so these kind of studies often get boiled down to labels like “the vegetarian gene.”

Prof. Nathaniel Comfort

We already know with a large growing body of scientific evidence that plant-based diets have shown to reduce heart disease and cancer risks, that a vegan world could prevent 8.1 million deaths per year (among other benefits), and a large-study body of evidence shows that type 2 diabetes is completely preventable for at least 93% of people today by adhering to healthy dietary principles involving fruits, vegetables, wholefoods and regular physical activity. Vegans are also known to live longer.

Meanwhile, animal protein is known to be inflammatory to the human bod. The Neu5Gc sugar in red meat sparks a toxic immune response which can lead to the progression of cancer. We also now know that fat in animal meat and dairy can cause insulin resistance and the progression of type 2 diabetes.

Heck, when you eat meat, you take in heme iron, which has been shown to be very oxidising and has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. There’s actually a gigantic amount of things that occur upon the ingestion of animal protein involving Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs), Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), the stimulation of the growth hormone IGF-1, and it was known 40 years ago that N-Nitroso Compounds are present in food treated with sodium nitrite (salted, cured, processed meats like bacon, prosciutto, etc) are strongly associated with colon cancer. The World Health Organisation marked red meat as a carcinogen.

Sorry meat eaters, but sharing an article completely misreporting a study titled a “vegetarian diet could kill you” is nothing near true, nothing near factual, and nothing short of a pathetic attempt to derail.

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The “Complementary Protein” Myth /nutrition/complementary-protein-myth/ /nutrition/complementary-protein-myth/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 06:09:49 +0000 /?p=12965 The post The “Complementary Protein” Myth appeared first on Shellethics.


There are a lot of misconceptions and myths when it comes to plant-based diets, and one that never seems to die down is “complementary protein” myth, where it’s said that vegetarians and vegans can end up protein deficient because plant foods don’t contain all the essential amino acids that humans need. That to be healthy we must either eat animal protein or combine certain plant foods with others in order to ensure that we get “complete proteins”.

The “incomplete protein” myth is actually one of the oldest myths relating to vegetarianism, veganism, and plant-based diets, which was disproved a very long time ago.

Where Does the “Complementary Protein” Myth Come From?

Jump back to 1971 and a book called Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé, was the first major book to critique the impact of meat production. The groundbreaking book sold over 3 million copies and described the environmental impact of meat production as wasteful and a major contributor to global food scarcity. Lappé argued in favour of environmental vegetarianism as being what’s best for our bodies and the Earth, while informing the world that global hunger is not caused by a lack of food, but inefficient food policy.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her argument given the extreme damage animal agriculture is having on the environment, she did make one error that she later openly retracted. Lappé realised there was a lot of waste in converting vegetable protein into animal protein, and she calculated that if people just ate the plant protein directly, many more people could be fed. As a sociologist trying to end world hunger, and not a nutritionist, physiologist, or medical doctor, Lappé stated that that plant foods are deficient in some of the essential amino acids so in order to be a healthy vegetarian, you needed to eat a combination of certain plant foods at the same time in order to get all of the essential amino acids in the right amounts. It was called the theory of “protein complementing”.

This is when and where the myth of plant-based diets being inherently difficult and inferior to animal protein began.

In the 1991 20th anniversary edition of her book, she retracted her statement. Lappé basically said that in trying to end one myth—the unsolvable inevitability of world hunger, she created a second one—the myth of the need for “protein complementing.” Humans don’t need every single of the nine essential amino acids in every bite of food in every meal we eat; we only need a sufficient amount of each amino acid every day.

In 1971, I stressed protein complementarity because I assumed that the only way to get enough protein … was to create a protein as usable by the body as animal protein. In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth. I gave the impression that in order to get enough protein without meat, considerable care was needed in choosing foods. Actually, it is much easier than I thought.

In these later editions, she corrects her earlier mistake and clearly states that all plant foods typically consumed as sources of protein contain all the essential amino acids, and that humans are virtually certain of getting enough protein from plant sources if they consume sufficient calories.

Amino Acids

The term “complete protein” refers to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein, and nine that the body can’t synthesise on its own. These are called essential amino acids—we need to eat them because we can’t make them ourselves. In 1952, William Rose and his team completed research that determined the human requirements for the nine essential amino acids that must come from our diet.

Today, if you calculate the amount of each essential amino acid provided by unprocessed plant foods and compare these values with those determined by William Rose, you will find that any single one, or combination, of these whole natural plant foods provides all of the essential amino acids. Furthermore, these whole natural plant foods provide not just the “minimum requirements” but provide amounts far greater than the “recommended requirements.”

With three important exceptions, there is little danger of protein deficiency in a plant food diet. The exceptions are diets very heavily dependent on fruit or on some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein.

Modern researchers know that it is virtually impossible to design a calorie-sufficient diet based on unprocessed whole plant foods that is deficient in any of the essential amino acids (the only possible exception could be a diet based solely on fruit). There has been a growing amount of scientific data that supports that a well-balanced, plant-based diet will provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids and prevent protein deficiency. Government bodies and health organisations around the globe recommend plant-based diets as a viable option for individuals of all ages.


The “incomplete protein” myth just won’t die despite evidence to the contrary. Commonly quoted by meat eaters and anti-vegan individuals or groups is the 2001 medical journal article on the hazards of high-protein diets where the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association wrote, “Although plant proteins form a large part of the human diet, most are deficient in one or more essential amino acids and are therefore regarded as incomplete proteins.”

This article is now referenced as some apparent irrefutable proof that plant-based diets are inferior and that those consuming such a diet will waste away or become inevitably ill. This is literally false information.

However, medical doctor and writer John McDougall wrote to the editor pointing out the mistake. But in a stunning example of avoiding science for convenience or perhaps a more sinister reason, instead of acknowledging their mistake, Barbara Howard, Ph.D., head of the Nutrition Committee, replied on the 25 June 2002 to Dr. McDougall’s letter and stated (without a single scientific reference) that the committee was right and “most (plant foods) are deficient in one or more essential amino acids.”

Without a single scientific reference, the so called Nutrition Committee refused to acknowledge their mistake out of pure laziness, ego, or because they were in favour of pushing this misconception into the medical and nutrition world.

Research Properly, Don’t Spread the Myth

Even a 2002 article in the Vegetarian Times made the same mistake. The author, Susan Belsinger, incorrectly stated, “Incomplete proteins, which contain some but not all of the EAAs [essential amino acids], can be found in beans, legumes, grains, nuts and green leafy vegetables…. But because these foods do not contain all of the EAAs, vegetarians have to be smart about what they eat, consuming a combination of foods from the different food groups. This is called food combining.”

Unfortunately, this example yet again perpetuated false information among the vegetarian community that had already been retracted and disproved.

Always Correct a Myth

It’s critical that the “incomplete protein” and “complementary protein” myth is corrected and expelled anytime it is referenced or quoted. Many people are afraid to follow a healthy plant-based diet because they stress and worry about “incomplete proteins” and becoming ill. A plant-based diet based on any single one or combination of these unprocessed starches (e.g. rice, corn, potatoes, beans), with the addition of vegetables and fruits, and some fortified foods such as plant milks, supplies all the protein, amino acids, essential fats, minerals, and vitamins necessary for excellent health.

To wrongly suggest that people need to eat animal protein for nutrients will encourage them to eat foods that are known to contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many forms of cancer, to name just a few common problems.

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Study: Vegan World Would be Healthier, Cooler, and Richer /nutrition/study-vegan-world-healthier-cooler-richer/ /nutrition/study-vegan-world-healthier-cooler-richer/#respond Wed, 23 Mar 2016 02:24:53 +0000 /?p=12922 The post Study: Vegan World Would be Healthier, Cooler, and Richer appeared first on Shellethics.


A landmark study from the University of Oxford has declared that by consuming plant-based foods, instead of animal-based food products, the world could prevent 8.1 million deaths per year and substantially mitigate the expected food-related greenhouse gas emissions growth by 2050, while saving between $708–1,426 billion USD in diet related “cost-of-illness” health burdens.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, created a region-specific global health model to link the health and environmental consequences of changing diets, while making an estimate the economic value of different dietary choices through their affects on health and the environment, and also built a comparative risk assessment to estimate age and region-specific mortality associated with changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors.

The researchers modelled the affects of four different diets by mid-century:

  • A “business as usual” scenario where nothing changes;
  • One that follows global guidelines, including minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables, limits on red meat, sugar, and total calories;
  • A vegetarian diet; and,
  • A vegan diet.

The Results: A Vegan World Kicks Ass

Adopting a diet inline with global guidelines seems like it could do a decent amount of improvement. Adopting global guidelines diet could avert 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050, a cut to food-related global emissions by 29%, save $735 billion USD per year on healthcare, unpaid care, and lost working days, while creating a monetised environmental benefit from reduced climate change emissions of $234 billion USD.

However, a plant-based or vegan diet would see the greatest of all benefits and improvements across all scenarios. A vegan diet would secure 8.1 million fewer deaths per year by 2050, cut 70% of food-related global greenhouse gas emissions, save up to $1,426 billion USD in diet related health burdens, and also create an economic environmental benefit of $570 billion USD with reduced climate change emissions.

The results, while theoretical in nature, certainly make a strong case for treating the food system, and animal agriculture in particular, as a key part of the climate change issue.

The world adopting a vegan diet absolutely kicks the pants off the other three scenarios and would create the most sustainable future possibility that exists to us. “Business as usual”, however, involving animal agriculture will continue us on a path to increasing global greenhouse gas emissions, warmer and acidifying oceans, record growing deforestation devastation, climbing past the global surface anthropogenic temperature rise of 2C, and mass ecosystem collapse.

A well planned plant-based or vegan diet is suitable for people of all ages, as well as being delicious.

But the study itself acknowledges that the research in some ways represents an idealised experiment because changing our food system—as dramatically as envisioned in the study—would be a momentous task. It certainly doesn’t make it impossible, though, and it certainly couldn’t happen soon enough.

A new global energy tracker model developed by researchers at the University of Queensland and Griffith University has shown that alarmingly, the world is now on track to reach dangerous levels of global warming much sooner than expected. It predicts the average world temperatures could climb 2C above pre-industrial levels by 2030. The UN conference on climate change in Paris last year agreed to a 1.5C rise as the preferred limit to protect vulnerable island states, and a 2C rise as the absolute limit.

We’ve got to act now and we don’t have much time.

To our credit, the human species has demonstrated many times before that we are capable of turning away from a practice, even a practice that made us a lot of money and created many jobs, because it was detrimental, unethical, or problematic in some large way.

Consider the shift away from child labourleaded petrolnuclear power, or whaling. Our dependence on fossil fuels has meant a shift away where the alternative is actually more expensive, but we’re doing it regardless because there is a clear acceptance that it is unsustainable and very damaging to the world.

Our next step shouldn’t be backwards, or to avoid the truth—it should be a bold stride forward with an embrace of the difficulty that looms because doing nothing, going about business as usual, will be our biggest undoing as a species who claims to be evolved and intelligent.

It’s clear what the least damaging path is forward, so when are we going to evolve to it?

The future is ours,
As are our choices.

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Cow Truth: The Heartbreaking Story Behind Dairy /animal-activism/cow-truth-heartbreaking-story-behind-dairy/ /animal-activism/cow-truth-heartbreaking-story-behind-dairy/#respond Thu, 17 Mar 2016 01:39:32 +0000 /?p=12879 The post Cow Truth: The Heartbreaking Story Behind Dairy appeared first on Shellethics.


This morning thirty Animal Liberation Victoria activists have begun peacefully protesting at the Dairy Australia headquarters demanding an end to death row for baby calves who are seen as “waste products” of the dairy industry. The activism today coincides with the release of never before seen footage of baby cows being slaughtered in Australia.

Nursing human mothers are delivering milk cartons filled with “blood” to the Dairy Australia director, symbolising the 800,000 baby cows killed by the Australian dairy industry each year. Last year Animal Liberation Victoria released what was described as damning undercover footage of the how pigs are killed in gas chambers under extreme stress, which sent shock waves throughout the country, providing a growing body of evidence that farmed animals are undergoing horrifically brutal treatment.

Warning: This video is likely to be distressing to most viewers.

Cow Truth

Today, the actions of Animal Liberation Victoria activists is paired again with their release of their Cow Truth undercover footage gathered over the last year and it is nothing but stomach churning. Like other mammals, a mother cow must give birth in order to produce milk and as a direct result, the separation of cow and calf shortly after birth is an integral yet distressing part of modern commercial dairying.

The mother-calf separation is one of the most psychologically damaging aspects of dairy farming, though it remains largely unknown to the public and is notably absent in the “feel good” marketing of dairy products. The early removal of hundreds of thousands of calves denies the mother cows their natural expressions of maternal and nurturing instincts. While the calves must only suffer the stress of separation once, mother cows are forced to endure repeated pregnancies and separations until their bodies no longer produce a productive amount of milk. These mother cows are sent to slaughter and end up as cheap, hamburger meat.

Mother cows have no way of protecting their calves when humans dominate and control them inflicting enormous amounts of stress and anxiety.

Blunt Force Trauma

Calves who are not transported to farms, sale-yards, or slaughterhouses are either sold for dairy or beef rearing, or killed on-farm. It is estimated that over 65,740 calves are slaughtered on-farm each year, their carcasses either immediately disposed of or processed at local knackeries.

In Australia the recommended way to kill ‘weak’ newborn calves is with blunt force trauma to the head, that is, sledgehammering them to death. Every year thousands of calves are killed in this manner with blunt instruments such as hammers. Horrifyingly, you can find instructions on how to do this on the Dairy Australia website.

Manually applied blunt trauma to the skull has been found by veterinary experts to be a cruel, imprecise and inhumane method of slaughter that cannot and should not be justified on economic grounds. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) deems it an unacceptable method of euthanasia for calves because their skulls are too hard to achieve immediate unconsciousness or death.

Activist Bonnie Brown and nursing mother Karla Evans are showing the footage to Mark Pearce Media Manager of Dairy Australia.

We Don’t Need Dairy

Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk and is an evolutionarily recent addition to our diet. Adequate dietary calcium for bone health, often cited as the primary rationale for high intakes of milk, can be obtained from many other sources.

Cow’s milk has been found to contain trans-fats, saturated fats, cholesterol and mercury. Cow milk consumption is known to increase serum concentrations of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, an anabolic hormone linked to prostate and other cancers. The industrialised dairy milk supply also results in high levels of female reproductive hormones being consumed by humans. Various studies show that dairy milk is the number one cause of osteoporosis, that high milk intake is associated with higher mortality, and higher fracture incidence in women.

A world who claims to be and continuously works towards being civilised cannot justify with any valid morality or logic the brutalisation of non-human animals anymore. It’s time to stop this violence, it’s time to stop being selfish, it’s time to evolve and go vegan. We are able to live healthy, nutritionally balanced lives without consuming animal products—the only excuse for consuming them is out of pure selfishness.

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Massive Algae Bloom in Chile Kills Millions of Salmon /environment/massive-algae-bloom-in-chile-kills-millions-salmon/ /environment/massive-algae-bloom-in-chile-kills-millions-salmon/#respond Wed, 16 Mar 2016 05:21:47 +0000 /?p=12864 The post Massive Algae Bloom in Chile Kills Millions of Salmon appeared first on Shellethics.


23 million Salmon have been killed in a massive ocean algae bloom in Chile. The perennial Pacific phenomenon, which has been one of the strongest on record this past season, is marked by higher-than-normal water temperatures and the devastating consequence of agriculture runoff.

The El Niño weather phenomenon has helped create ocean temperatures 2 to 4 degrees celsius above average for this time of the year, combined with agriculture runoff from farms to near by streams and rivers that empty into the Pacific Ocean, the algae bloom has affected 37 of the nearly 415 salmon farms operating in southern Chile. Aquaculture is similar to factory farming but involves ocean enclosures or estuaries where fish are breed, kept in small areas, and killed for human consumption.

Liesbeth van der Meer, who heads the environmental group Oceana in Chile, has said that the algae bloom problem has been exacerbated by the nitrate-rich runoff from animal agriculture farms from nearby land around the salmon farms. The runoff from neighbouring animal farms creates concentrations of nitrogen that when mixed with the above-normal temperatures, create the ideal scenario for the algae to grow. As climate change worsens and global atmospheric temperatures continue to climb, ocean temperatures will also rise and algae blooms will become common place.


How is the Algae Bloom in Chile Caused?

There are over 550 ocean dead zones around the globe today. Also known as hypoxic zones, these lifeless areas can occur naturally at smaller levels, but primarily they occur near areas where heavy agricultural and industrial activity spill nutrients into the water and compromise its quality accordingly.

As the excess nutrients from land, sewage, agriculture fertiliser, pesticide, and manure runoff are piped as wastewater into the network of rivers and streams, it eventually hits the ocean coasts. Phytoplankton are attracted and appear in mass numbers around these nutrient dense areas. The excess nutrients fertilise the rapid growth of the phytoplankton in a process known as eutrophication. When the phytoplankton use up all the nutrients, they die and sink to the bottom as organic matter, where they are decomposed by bacteria. This kind of massive algae bloom is then consumed by microbes that also consume oxygen in the process.

More algae means more oxygen-burning, and thereby less oxygen in the water, resulting in a massive flight by those fish, crustaceans, and other ocean-dwellers able to relocate as well as the mass death of immobile creatures, such as clams or other bottom-dwellers. This is when the microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments take over, forming vast bacterial mats that produce hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas, and form ocean dead zones.

There are so many dead fish, they could easily fill 14 olympic-size swimming pools.

Jose Miguel Burgos, National Service of Fisheries and Aquaculture

However, fish who are held prisoner in aquaculture have no way of escaping and saving their lives. They, instead, suffocate due to the lack of oxygen in the water and die painfully. 23 million suffocating fish because of the algae bloom in Chile and the only thing the news headlines report is a loss of 100,000 tonnes of fish carcass valued at around $800 million and future job losses in the sector. But when you only value animal life in form of dollars, you could care less about their suffering and the damage done to the ocean that sustains our very lives.

Recognising that industries such as aqua and animal agriculture are inherently cruel and ultimately very damaging to the environment is long overdue. It’s time to evolve and revolutionise the systems that time and time again prove to be inefficient and problematic.

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Tyson Foods — The Vertically Integrated Powerhouse of America /ethics/tyson-foods-vertically-integrated-powerhouse-america/ /ethics/tyson-foods-vertically-integrated-powerhouse-america/#respond Fri, 04 Mar 2016 09:44:31 +0000 /?p=12836 The post Tyson Foods — The Vertically Integrated Powerhouse of America appeared first on Shellethics.


By industrialising animal production, Tyson Foods’ system rewrote the stubborn biological equations that once constrained the meat industry, fooled the average shopper into the lie of choice abundance in the shopping aisle, and cloaked its own existence all the way from its roots in rural America to the grocery store shelves and restaurant menus where its products finally reach consumers.

There is an unseen power structure between the hidden territory of America’s remote, rural farms and the final point of contact where consumers buy Tyson’s meat. Just a handful of companies produce nearly all of the meat consumed in the United States, and Tyson is the king among them.

Vertical Integration of Tyson Foods

When companies gain power over a market, they use it. Back in the early 1900s, a similar oligarchy of meat companies controlled the industry and earned the nickname the Meat Trust. They depressed prices they paid farmers for meat, while raising the prices they charged consumers—just like Tyson Foods is doing today.

At the core of Tyson’s strategy is an economic principle called vertical integration. This refers to the way companies buy up the outside firms that supply them. When a company becomes vertically integrated, it takes under its control and ownership all the independent businesses that once supported it. In Tyson’s case, the company has swallowed up all the businesses that used to make up a small-town economy. It owns the feed mill, the slaughterhouse, and the hatchery. It owns the trucking line and the food-processing plant where raw meat is packaged and cooked into read-to-eat meals. While Tyson doesn’t directly own most of the farms that supply it with animals, it controls them through the use of restrictive contracts. There is no competition among the various entities, no free market to determine the prices. It all happens within the walls of Tyson’s corporate structure.

Tyson Foods made sure there was no free market to determine prices, no competition among the various entities.

But unlike the last time around, the modern Meat Trust isn’t facing significant resistance from government officials. There is no Teddy Roosevelt in sight, no president willing to fight corporate power on behalf of consumers and farmers. The Obama administration launched a halting attempt to reform the industry in 2010, and its failure to do anything meaningful only entrenched the power of Tyson and its allies.

Middle America’s Economy

Tyson first pioneered the vertical integration model in the poultry business. Then the company expanded into raising hogs. Within two short decades America’s independent hog industry was wiped out. The amount of money spent at grocery stores went up, but the amount of money farmers received went down.

People didn’t see the transformation that was taking place on American farms, but the benefit invisibly accrued to their food budgets with each pound of Tyson chicken, beef, and pork they brought home. Essentially, consumers traded away the US farming system in order to get the up-front savings from industrial meat. Each new Tyson farm, and each new Tyson meat factory, ate away at the fabric of a profitable sector of Middle America’s economy.

Once the broad-based meat industry was traded away for a vertically integrated one, the deal could not easily be undone. The economics of scale now make it almost impossible for new competitors to enter the field and compete head-to-head with Tyson and its imitators. To compete against them, a new company would need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars up front, before the first day of business. It would need animals, of course, and Tyson has much of that supply locked down with its contracts.

Not Just Price, but Production

Not only does Tyson have control over how meat is priced, it also sets rules for how meat is produced. To take just one example: At the feedlots where cattle are raised for Tyson’s slaughterhouses, Tyson was among the first companies to aggressively use a little-known growth drug called Zilmax. The drug causes cattle to put on weight much faster than they would naturally, but it reduces the quality of the beef.

Because Tyson tightly controls production at vast feedlots, it can use such drugs on an industrial scale without most consumers ever knowing about it. Other companies started using Zilmax to keep up with Tyson, and the drug quietly became the industry standard. Tyson Foods has a similar discretion in deciding how much antibiotic drugs called ionophores it will feed to its chickens, or what kind of chemicals it will spray on chicken carcasses as its slaughterhouses to fight food-borne illness.

Industry Power

The view of Tyson looks different when you’re at the bottom, looking up. And that view provides the more accurate picture. Because Tyson doesn’t really exist on Wall Street. It doesn’t exist in the studios of CNBN or even at Tyson’s own headquarters in Springdale. Tyson exists within its footprint of slaughterhouses, feed mills, and farms. It lives in the widely dispersed network of industrial fortresses, like the Tyson complex in Waldron and other isolated rural towns like Berryville, Arkansas; Missouri, and Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Tyson Foods exists within a widely dispersed network of industrial slaughterhouses, feed mill, and farming fortresses.

In these places, Tyson is the center of economic gravity. In these places, it is revered and feared. It provides the jobs. It provides the tax base. If Tyson ever closed up shop, the town itself would evaporate.

At its heart, Tyson’s power is economic, and it has used this power to redraw the laws of wealth and income in rural America. The way the company is structured has done more than revolutionise how meat is produced. It has also fundamentally altered the way money is distributed in America’s Heartland. In 2010 alone Tyson Foods sold $28.43 billion worth of meat and cleared $780 million in pure profit. And that was during a tough year.

Political Power

Tyson’s power has become entrenched over decades, as Democratic and Republican administrations traded places in Washington. But the economic malaise of rural America caught the attention of a young presidential candidate named Barack Obama as he spent months campaigning in Iowa during 2007 and 2008. When Obama was elected, he named Iowa’s governor, Tom Vilsack, to the post of secretary of agriculture, and he told Vilsack to take action on the concentration of power among a few giant agribusiness companies.

The corporations marshalled millions of dollars and terms of lobbyists to help turn back the biggest effort to reform the meat industry since the 1930s.

The US Department of Agriculture proposed the toughest antitrust rules over meat companies since the Great Depression. The USDA has held a series of workshops with the US Department of Justice, with Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder traveling to places like Normal, Alabama, and Ankeny, Iowa, to learn more about Tysons’ power.

The series of workshops were launched with soaring rhetoric about the creation of a new food system and new rural economy. What the administration did not seem to anticipate was the organised resistance it would face from Tyson Foods and other multinational meat corporations. The corporations marshalled millions of dollars and terms of lobbyists to help turn back the biggest effort to reform the meat industry since the 1930s.

In retrospect, the Obama administration seems almost naive in the way it attempted to reform the meat industry.

Source: Various excerpts from Christopher Leonard’s book The Meat Racket, available for purchase via iBooks.

Various undercover investigations have shown the brutality that is Tyson Foods and the billions of animals who suffer and die at their hand every year. Certainly, as change comes, it is the consumers who drive the shift in production focus. Consuming a plant-based diet and adopting vegan ethics means you stop supporting the oppression of non-human animals and the stranglehold that the hand full of corporations has on the American food system, and work towards creating a better world.

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