Local food marketing growing
Farmers selling their production through farmers markets, roadside stands or other local outlets account for a small but growing segment of U.S. agriculture as consumer demand for locally produced food is also increasing, according to researchers Sarah A. Low and Stephen Vogel at the U.S. Economic Research Service (ERS).
Farmers also sell their production through "intermediated" channels such as restaurants and retail stores, creating a $4.8 billion market for direct-to-consumer and intermediated local food sales, Low and Vogel said in an article in the November ERS Amber Waves.
Local marketing channel use varies with farm size, they said. Small and modest-sized farms (sales of less than $250,000) use direct-to-consumer channels more than large farms do, accounting for 73% of direct-to-consumer sales, while large farms account for 92% of intermediated sales.
Smaller farms favor farmers markets and roadside stands the most -- 35% and 34%. Large farms market through restaurants and retail stores the most but also use farmers markets and roadside stands.
Healthy food costs compared
Diets normally are a diverse makeup of foods -- some that are more healthful and some that are not as healthful -- and if the less-healthful foods are less expensive, individuals may have an economic incentive to consume the latter, according to Jessica Todd, Ephraim Leibtag and Corttney Penberthy at the U.S. Economic Research Service (ERS).
Using a unique price database, the three economists explored whether healthful foods cost more than less-healthful foods and if price differences vary across the country.
Their examination looked at several food groups: (1) whole grains versus refined grains, (2) dark-green vegetables and orange vegetables versus starchy vegetables, (3) whole fruits versus commercially prepared fruit snacks, (4) 1% and skim milk versus 2% and whole milk, (5) fruit juices versus fruit drinks and (6) bottled water versus carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages. They then compared prices per 3.5 oz. serving.
As expected, some healthful foods were more expensive than less-healthful choices, but in other cases, healthful foods were less expensive, the economists said.
In particular, whole grains were more expensive than refined grains across the country, from 23% higher in San Francisco, Cal., to more than 60% higher in non-metro New York and Pennsylvania. However, whole grains decreased in price between 1998 and 2006 by, on average, 5%.
Pain relief at castration merited in calves
Researchers from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine completed a study demonstrating for the first time that providing pain relief to calves before castration reduces the incidence of disease for the subsequent 28 days after the procedure.
Castration of bulls intended for beef production is a common livestock management procedure in the U.S., which the announcement said amounts to approximately 7 million procedures per year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.
While the benefits of castration include improved meat quality and fewer injuries in feedlots, castration of weaned calves is painful and stressful, which increases their susceptibility to diseases such as bovine respiratory disease, the announcement said.
Currently, in the U.S., there are no products approved specifically for pain relief in cattle. Available products may not be practical or economical for routine use because they require intravenous injection, and the cost of providing pain relief is not offset by improved health or performance, according to Dr. Hans Coetzee, an associate professor with the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.
The findings of the study suggest that using pain relievers prior to castration in weaned calves is cost effective because the number of calves that will require antibiotics for pneumonia after castration decreases, Coetzee said. Thus, the impact of bovine respiratory disease in livestock production systems is lessened.
The findings of the study, "Effect of Oral Meloxicam on Health & Performance of Beef Steers Relative to Bulls Castrated upon Arrival at the Feedlot," was published online in the Journal of Animal Science.
In Our Opinion...
Not buying what secretary's selling
By Andy Vance
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is commonly referred to as "the people's department."
President Abraham Lincoln declared it as such in his final address to Congress, and in many ways, the moniker is still apt.
Yet, the casual observer might think that USDA has become the federal government's public relations department in recent years.
Case in point: the recent efforts by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to whitewash the Obama Administration's numerous forays into more heavily regulating agriculture and rural America.
The first and perhaps most egregious example came last Tuesday, when Vilsack posted, via the USDA blog, a screed condemning Congress for attempting to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency regarding its efforts to regulate dust.
Career politicians may just need private-sector work
By Mark Klaus
As the Republican presidential candidates continue to debate the issues and essentially assess their ability to succeed the man currently holding the title, it is almost becoming a tedious process of focusing on the debates themselves and then the even greater commentary that follows.
Most readers have probably been present at some agriculture venue that features a politician of some sort who comes fully prepared with a prewritten speech praising agriculture. Their introductions generally include the ways they have supported agriculture in the past.
I would rhetorically ask readers how many times such politicians come prepared with copies of their full resume, including work outside of the political arena. If it has happened, let me know.
I can't believe you want to kill my horse
By Dr. Nevil C. Speer, PHD, MBA
One of my columns last summer focused on a stop at Starbucks while on vacation. You might recall that our young clerk explained to the customer in front of us she wouldn't eat the marshmallow snack offerings - she was vegetarian. In fun, I questioned her about vegetarianism versus veganism.
The broader premise in her response was correct: marshmallows are derived from gelatin - a product derived from animal harvest and thus off limits to vegetarians. Her explanation, though, was incorrect: she explained that marshmallows are derived from horses' hooves (nope, hooves are keratin, not gelatin; not to mention we don't harvest horses in this country).
My intent for the column was to illustrate some of the complexities and broad misconceptions that surround the food system. Judging by the responses somehow I missed the mark. For example, one reader responded, "By insisting [horses] should be sold for meat, you drag their value down to the mere cents-per-pound meat price." Insisting horses be sold for meat - where did that come from? In fact, I never intended to delve into the horse slaughter issue.
Another respondent scolded me about including, "...a debate of vegetarians (good or bad) really has no place in a horse article." A "horse article" - are you sure? But it wasn't meant to be about vegetarianism either. And so it's probably the other way around - I should have NEVER mentioned horses in conjunction with the food system. However, given the young lady's explanation it just couldn't be avoided.
Well, so much for good intentions.
Brazil to plant more biotech crops
The crop area sown with transgenic varieties in Brazil for the 2011-12 harvest will be 20.9% greater than in the last harvest, according to the second crop biotechnology adoption monitoring report for the 2011-12 season released by Celeres, a market intelligence and consulting firm.
According to the forecast in the specialized consultation on agricultural economics, crops of transgenic soybeans, corn and cotton should add up to 31.8 million hectares during this cycle -- a new record for the adoption of biotechnology in Brazilian agriculture.
The report considers the recent favorable outlook during the period between deciding what to plant and the start of planting and even exceeds the initial forecasts of Celeres itself, which, in August, estimated the area occupied by transgenic crops in the current cycle at 30.5 million hectares.
"This increase is a reflection of a good moment for Brazilian agribusiness and of the increased confidence producers have to bank on transgenic varieties with a guarantee of profitability," explained Anderson Galvao, managing partner of Celeres and study coordinator.
Food & Farm
with Ray Bowman
Food & Farm is dedicated to providing fact-based information about your food and those that produce it.
The controversy surrounding carriage horses in New York City is another example of just how misunderstood animal welfare issues are. Veterinarian and equine educator Dr. Nena Winand joins us.
Click here to listen
Comfy cows are more productive. Jeffrey Bewley from the University of Kentucky talks with us about just that.
Click here to listen
The Washington Post announced its top cookbooks for 2011 this week and "Goat" is leading the pack.
Click here to listen
We checked in with Advocates for Agriculture Troy and Stacy Hadrick at the Alltech Global 500 about their social media message.
Click here to listen
Major gains in efficiency of livestock systems needed
By 2050, an expanded world population will be consuming two-thirds more animal protein than it does today, according to a new U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, "World Livestock 2011," published Dec. 14.
In the report, FAO said intensive production is key to feeding growing cities, but improvements in natural resource use and environmental performance are crucial.
Populations and income growth are fueling an ongoing trend towards greater per capita consumption of animal protein in developing countries, the report says. Meat consumption is projected to rise nearly 73% by 2050; dairy consumption will grow 58% over current levels.
Much of the future demand for livestock production - particularly in the world's burgeoning cities, where most population growth is occurring - will be met by large-scale, intensive animal-rearing operations, FAO said.
New egg price-fixing
Four of the largest food manufacturers in the U.S. last week filed a lawsuit charging 10 egg producers and the United Egg Producers (UEP) with conspiring to control supplies and prices in violation of U.S. antitrust laws.
The lawsuit was brought by Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co. and Nestle S.A. and was filed Dec. 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, Ill.
The lawsuit is similar to a class action brought by a law firm in Pennsylvania three years ago and a suit brought by a coalition of food wholesalers and retailers in Kansas last year.
The filing maintained that the defendants "controlled and manipulated capacity for egg production and egg products" and, therefore, artificially increased prices for eggs and egg products.