The Next Step in Animal Welfare? Breed a Better Chicken

A little-noticed program that was announced last week by the Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit that works with farmers and retailers to improve animal welfare, asks chicken farmers to change the breeds of the birds they are raising to a more hardy, slower-growing breed. And it may just have the potential to remake the market for chicken in the United States.

If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this: About a decade ago, the same group persuaded one retailer to buy only cage-free eggs, at a time when keeping laying hens in ranks of small, stacked cages was the only way of doing business. Today, 10 states and 35 major food ...

In a Warmer World, There May Be Fewer Fruits and Vegetables

Concerns about climate change have caused researchers to warn that rising global temperatures will reduce crop yields and create food insecurity, the inability to get enough calories to survive. Now, scholars from the United Kingdom and the United States have revealed another possible result: an increase in deaths not just from hunger, but from chronic diseases that would be made worse as diets change.

Writing in the medical journal The Lancet, the researchers from Oxford University and the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. predict that by 2050, more than a half-million people will die not just because not enough food will be available, but because the composition of ...

Should Citrus Farmers Use Antibiotics to Combat Greening Disease?

When you hear about antibiotic use in agriculture, it is almost always about the kind of routine everyday use in livestock that the Food and Drug Administration is trying to eliminate. But there's another type of antibiotic use in agriculture. It may be less known, but it's poised to generate just as much controversy: spraying the drugs on citrus trees.

Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for permission to spray 2.23 million pounds of antibiotics on its orange groves as a protection against a devastating disease. But the drugs the state is asking to use are also important human antibiotics, so campaigners concerned ...

Farmers and Producers Not Ready for Big Antibiotic Changes in 2016

The most significant changes in U.S. food-animal production in decades are coming by the end of this year, and farmers and producers aren't prepared. That's the warning of the nonpartisan Farm Foundation, based in Oak Brook, Ill., in a report called Stewardship of Antimicrobial Drug Use in Food-Producing Animals, released Wednesday morning.

The changes will make giving animals low doses of antibiotics to promote growth illegal, and new federal rules will require large-animal veterinarians to start approving antibiotic use. And a shortage of these veterinarians may make implementing the new changes even more challenging, Farm Foundation says.

The foundation released the report during the opening of a two-day summit on livestock antibiotic use Wednesday and Thursday ...

Big Food Makers Launch an Image Makeover for 2016

It's the new year, and we're all just a few days into efforts to reframe our lives. That goes for parts of the food industry, too. As 2016 approached, two heavyweight agricultural organizations—the National Chicken Council, representing the poultry industry, and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, an umbrella of 80 producer organizations—quietly launched a transparency initiative intended to reframe consumers' understanding of where their food comes from.

The cattle-hog-produce side of the initiative is housed in a set of videos produced by USFRA's Food Dialogues in a collaboration with the cooking site Food52. They show a "day on a" pig farm, dairy farm, and a cattle ranch ...

Is More Cattle Grazing the Solution to Saving Our Soil?

In a scrubby pasture in deep southwest Georgia, reclaimed from growing pesticide-drenched cotton, Allan Savory—ecologist, philosopher, TED speaker—stoops to pluck a blade of grass.

"What can we do to increase productivity, make this pasture more diverse, get more species of grasses to return here?" he asks the 50 people clustered around him in paddock boots and seed-company caps. They look at him raptly, and he gives them the answer they drove hours to hear: "We can use livestock. Livestock is the most powerful tool we have."

Savory, 80, is the originator of a compelling—and in some quarters deeply controversial—theory that argues that that everything we know about maintaining natural ...

Planting New Farmers for the Future of Food

There are more than two million farmers in the United States, but most of our food is produced by fewer than one in 10—and their average age, according to federal statistics, is 57. The proportion of farmers over 75 is rising, and one-fourth of all farmers plan to retire within 20 years. Who will grow America's food?

If the buzzing, humming crowd I met recently outside New York City is an indication, the answer is: People younger than 30 who are coming to farming out of a desire to remake agriculture into smaller-scaled, regionally balanced, tech-friendly, and diverse—both the crops being grown and the people growing them.

I was at the Young Farmers ...

Growth Promoters for Farm Animals: What If They Just Don’t Work?

The practice of giving food animals small doses of antibiotics has been around since at least the 1940s. In the earliest days they were used, these so-called growth promoters conferred huge benefits, sometimes doubling the weight of animals without requiring more feed.

But what if they no longer work? That's the provocative question raised in a report by the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, a British project that has been examining the best way to control antibiotic use on farms—and the antibiotic resistance that results—for more than a year.

The main thrust of the Review report released Monday in London is a proposal to set internationally agreed-to limits on how much on-farm antibiotics any country can ...

Young Children Suffer Most, Says First Global Foodborne Illness Report

Up to 600 million people in the world—one in 10—suffer a foodborne illness every year, the World Health Organization says today in the first-ever global estimate. Up to 420,000 die—and one-third of the deaths are in children younger than 5. That's pretty significant, since kids make up less than one-tenth of the world's population.

The numbers come from the WHO's new report, Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases, released in Geneva today along with a raft of academic papers supporting its conclusions. It represents the global agency's first attempt to quantify the problem of illness, death and disability caused by bacteria and viruses, toxins and chemicals, and parasites that travel on food.

“Until ...

Clay Fragments Suggest How Long We’ve Been Relying On Honeybees

There's a lot of worry right now about the future of bees, the friendly pollinators of a third of our food supply. Populations have been vanishing thanks to a condition called colony collapse disorder, and in the past few months, United States and English regulators have taken opposing decisions about allowing a pesticide that might be contributing to the problem.

But while the future might look murky, bees' past is coming into clearer focus. Accidental discoveries made while investigating the diets of early farmers have allowed researchers to begin sketching out the long relationship between humankind and honeybees. And it may stretch back to 9,000 years ago.

Mélanie Roffet-Salque, an organic ...

Show More Stories