Food labeling in 2006

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2006 Food Forecast

The good news:

More allergy information will be included on labels, which is not only good for people with severe food allergies, but for vegans since dairy and eggs are common allergens. The best parts:

  • “If there are any egg, peanut, nut, fish, shellfish, wheat or soy in a product, the label will have to say so.”
  • ” Goodbye to non-descriptive words such as “artificial” or “natural” flavors, colors or additives. Labels with those ingredients also will have to specify which allergens they contain.” Whether this means that any animal-derived products in the natural flavoring will need to be labeled is not clear.
  • “If “casein” is included, “milk” would be listed after it.”

Also good: trans-fat will appear on labels. As a result of having to add this to the label, many food companies have cut back significantly or eliminated trans-fat from their products.

The bad news:

There’s still no universally accepted “Vegan” symbol on food packages. This may actually be a good thing, because really there hasn’t been enough discussion on the issue. For instance, if something is produced on equipment that is also used for dairy, should it be labeled vegan? If a product is made by a company that also makes meat products, is that product vegan? There are some tricky issues.

Also bad/stupid: well, I’ll let the article do the talking:

[F]ood forecasters are predicting some provocative trends, including such possibilities as Christian-raised chicken…

Trend expert Faith Popcorn, keynote speaker at the Future of Food conference last month in Washington, and the person who predicted the “cocooning” craze of the 1990s, sees faith-friendly food showing up in the marketplace, an outgrowth of what her company calls “clanning,” or the desire to belong to groups with common ideas.

Tyson Foods, which makes chicken, beef and pork products, already has begun offering free downloadable prayer booklets on its Web site. The booklets provide mealtime prayers in a variety of faiths.

Before I comment, I love the fact that the food trend expert’s name is “Faith Popcorn.” I would have killed to be born with that name.

I hadn’t heard of the idea of “Christian-raised chicken” before, and predictably, it strikes me as pretty stupid. If you’re that concerned about how your religious beliefs coincide with how your food is raised, shouldn’t you consider just, you know, not eating meat? I suspect that this kind of falls into the same category as halal meats, but without the long-standing tradition.

And does anyone else find it hilarious — and at the same time, deeply troubling — that Tyson Foods is producing prayer booklets?

Feel free to suggest prayers in the comments that Tyson could include on their web site.

Bravo! Hooray for crap!

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Via Paul comes one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen:

Slammers: wow in a bottle.

That’s not “WOW” as in the Olestra-filled chips, but “wow” as in :”Wow, I can’t believe they’re actually marketing this crap.

What crap? Oh, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, and Starburst milk. Did you hear me wretch as I typed that? That’s nothing… check this out:

Moon Pie milk. Now, back in the day, I liked a Moon Pie as much as the next guy, but the idea of Moon Pies in liquid form is beyond disgusting… it’s reprehensible. Especially when they’re marketing it as being healthy (“Excellent source of calcium and protein!”). You’ll be happy to know that Moon Pie milk also “delivers Moon Pie® awareness and brand loyalty” and is available in chocolate and banana flavors.

If you haven’t had enough of the insanity, read the about page where the marketing speak spews like a giant fountain of disgusting crossbranded milk products (emphasis mine):

“Bravo! Foods International Corp. has become a leading brand development company by bringing to market products that are a surprising, nourishing experience.

“Future opportunities are leading Bravo! into additional market segments with innovative branded products. The Bravo! success story is built upon a shared creative vision to focus fiercely on delivering highly competitive products to markets that deliver retail excitement, inspire brand loyalty and deliver an enviable return on shareholder investment.”

I’ve got to quote the entire “Our Slammers Brand” section because it provides more marketing speak-per-breath than anything I’ve ever read. I’m not making any of this up, just adding some more emphasis to the especially amusing phrases:

Slammers® is milk with an attitude. It combines all the goodness of Mother Nature’s perfect food marketed with a unique, fun and edgy brand personality. By segmenting the market demographically and psychographically, Slammers® is the first milk product positioned as a beverage rather than a commodity.

Just as they love Super HeroTM comic books, TV shows and movies, kids love the Marvel® Super HeroesTM that represent Ultimate Slammers®. They discover that each flavor is fortified to match the super power of the hero on its bottle, making the product even more fun to drink.

Teens and Tweens are drawn to the extreme athletes who represent Pro SlammersTM. Whether they like skateboarding, in-line skating, BMX biking or the attitude these sports embody, Pro SlammersTM is their badge of belonging, and the double slam of protein helps keep them energized and ready-to-go.

Teens go for the edgy attitude of Slammers® Starburst® fruit & crème smoothies and their four juicy fruit flavors just like Starburst® fruit chews. 3 Musketeers® Slammers® low fat chocolate milk gives young women a light and fluffy refresher while Milky Way® Slammers® reduced fat chocolate milk is a great taste all can agree upon.

Finally, banana and chocolate Moon Pie® Slammers® complete the brand family with its loyal Moon Pie® following that has been a United States phenomenon for generations.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Dairy Foods Magazine (oh my God, it’s a real magazine!) says, “For all its innovative efforts in the single-serve flavored milk arena, Dairy Foods says ‘hats off’ to Bravo! Foods.” (Do read this article on soy milk production within dairy plants if you get a chance.)

And, lastly, “Bravo!” is the name of the company that makes this crap? That’s almost as stupid of a name as “Yum!

Milk and meat from clones is A-OK, says FDA

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Clone-Generated Milk, Meat May Be Approved: Favorable FDA Ruling Seen as Imminent

Yikes. I’m happier than ever to be a vegan.

Let’s take a look at this article:

Many in agriculture believe such genetic copies are the next logical step in improving the nation’s livestock.

Notice how they mention improving the livestock itself and not the conditions the livestock live in? As Erik Marcus says, animals are units.

Consumer groups counter that many Americans are likely to be revolted by the idea of serving clone milk to their children or tossing meat from the progeny of clones onto the backyard grill. This “yuck factor,” as it’s often called, has come to light repeatedly in public opinion surveys. Asked earlier this year in a poll by the International Food Information Council whether they would willingly buy meat, milk and eggs that come from clones if the FDA declared them to be safe, 63 percent of consumers said no.

Hearing things like this makes me think that Erik’s hopes for vat-grown meat as a way to reduce the amount of suffering may have trouble getting off the ground in the consumer market. Of course, to me, the “yuck factor” associated with cloned meat is on part with the “yuck factor” regular ol’, factory farmed meat.

The article also mentions how cloned animals’ milk will hit the shelves soon, but probably not the meat from the cloned animals themselves because the clones are so expensive to create. For a second I thought, “Well, at least there are no dairy cow offspring that will become veal this way, right? Maybe it’s an ever-so-slightly more compassionate glass of milk.” Turns out, not really:

[Clones would] be used as breeding stock, so the real question is whether their sexually produced offspring would be safe.

The animals don’t get cut any break here. They may be able to clone a cow, but that can’t cut out the sentience gene.

He’s a merchant of boar semen, keeping about 80 valuable animals. Rural students, usually members of 4-H clubs or the Future Farmers of America, order semen from these champion animals at $50 to $150 a vial and use it to inseminate local sows in hopes of creating a winning pig.

I really have no intelligent comment about this paragraph. I just wanted to quote “He’s a merchant of boar semen.” Wasn’t that a Shakespearean comedy, The Merchant of Boar Semen?

One recent morning, two cloned calves pranced around a field outside Austin. Their progenitors were not living animals, but rather cattle that had already been butchered and hung on a hook in a slaughterhouse. The calves were selected for cloning after receiving high grades for meat quality and yield, judgments that couldn’t have been made while the originals were still alive.

Priscilla, born in April, and Elvis, born in June, were created by ViaGen. They’re destined to be bred together in an effort to create prime stock. If it works, ViaGen will clone a large population of once-dead cattle, aiming to sell them or their offspring for breeding.

This is kind of sad. Sure, they’re “pranc[ing] around a field,” which most calves don’t get to do, but the whole idea of creating “prime stock” for breeding purposes from “once-dead” cattle comes off as a some sort of crazy zombie-cow experiment. And the cloned cows and their offspring are the only ones who suffer if something goes wrong. This doesn’t really matter to those benefitting financially, as the following quote shows:

Published research shows risks to the health of clones at all stages of their lives. But the genetic problems aren’t likely to alter the food value of clones…

“Food value.” There’s another one of those “animals are units” phrases.

As long as the industry is looking for ways to produce milk, eggs, and meat at an even cheaper cost-per-“unit,” we’ll continue to see things like this. Unfortunately, there’s no going back to family farming and the idea that we may be paying too little for our food is foreign to most people.

I have no doubt that the industry and science will continue to find ways to lower the cost of meat production. They always have. The problem is that it’s always at the expense of animal welfare. Whether it’s by cramming more hens into a cage to produce cheaper eggs or by cloning dairy cows, the animals come up on the losing end of the stick, again.

Wegmans Cruelty

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Compassionate Consumers has a new video available on DVD and for download titled Wegmans Cruelty. It focuses on the conditions at Wegmans’ egg plants and the treatment that the hens there receive. Wegmans makes use of the Animal Care Certified label, which, of course, is an industry-developed set of rules that mean absolutely nothing. Birds are still allowed to be crammed into battery cages, their beaks are still permitted to be burned off without painkiller, and they can be starved to force a new egg-laying cycle.

The video is very well-produced and while those of us that have seen all the standard factory farming videos won’t be surprised by what’s shown, it feels good to see members of Compassionate Consumers during the open rescue. They take care of some of the most neglected hens and do the job that Wegmans themselves won’t do: remove carcasses that had clearly been there for weeks from the cages.

The most powerful point in the video comes during a recorded phone conversation with a Wegmans representative that insists the company meets-and-exceeds animal care standards and that having sick or dead birds isn’t in their best financial interest. This conversation is the audio backdrop for video footage that shows exactly the opposite of everything the representative says.

So why did they target Wegmans? I imagine it’s because Wegmans is one of the companies that, when approached with this information and footage, may actually do something. They’ve been named the best place to work by Fortune and are generally considered to be good to both their employees and customers. They feature a nice selection of organic fruits and vegetables as well as fairly priced health and natural foods. Let’s just hope that they can extend their compassion and sense of fairness to their animals as well.

Knowmore.org

Knowmore.org – remember the name, as I suspect it’ll be the “MoveOn.org” of 2005.

Knowmore.org is the “corporation watch search engine,” a MediaWiki (think Wikipedia) run by a “grassroots, web-based community dedicated to chronicling and resisting corporate attacks on democracy, worker’s and human rights, fair trade, business ethics and the environment.” According to this MetaFilter thread, it is almost entirely bankrolled by Sage Francis. Good looking out!

Also of note, on the front page, our pals over at Vegan Essentials are listed, and it should be no surprise that they’re very highly rated. Now go enter the contest.