Archive for Hormel

Business as Unusual

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by rgwallace

Chicken in a business suit

John Huston told me he and [Orson] Welles were always trying to stick each other with the tab and once faked simultaneous heart attacks at a restaurant in Paris. –Jim Harrison (1988)

Some of you here in the Twin Cities may have noticed this past year the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis paper, has published almost its entire run of articles on the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 in its business section.

The placement is telling. It reminds us the paper, owned by agribusinessman Glen Taylor, views the virus, killing 50 million poultry across 21 states, as a matter for food companies and investors. It seems the ecologies and epidemiologies in which we are all embedded are to be treated as mere externalities to the matter at hand–the trade in commodities.

An update last week, published–where else?–in the business section, reprinted unsupported declarations about the origins of the outbreak, claims the newspaper turned into facts by year-long repetition. The virus originated in Asia. Migratory waterfowl brought it here and spread it. Farmer error is to blame for the outbreak. Anything but the poultry sector itself.

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Eating the Brown Acid

Posted in Ecological resilience, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2015 by rgwallace

paintingThe surrealism packed in Stephanie Strom’s piece on a new ractopamine-free label the USDA approved turns the newsprint into blotting paper.

Ractopamine hydrochloride, developed under the Dickensian proprietary name of Paylean, is a beta-agonist given to up to 80% of U.S. hogs. It mimics stress hormones, adding muscle weight on less feed.

Greenwashing amok, Eli Lilly, which originally developed the drug as an asthma treatment for humans, argues in reducing the feed used, ractopamine lowers the carbon footprint of the livestock industry.

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Poultry of Minerva

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2015 by rgwallace

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Peter Shea, the Bill Moyers of the Twin Cities, for The Bat of Minerva show.

What began as a kind of intellectual portraiture, in which we explored how I got studying the evolution of infectious disease, spiraled into about as broad a thesis on the nature of disease and agriculture and prospects for a just future as I have compiled in one place to date.

The reason–and there is a reason–we talked in such a noisy place is revealed halfway through the interview.

For those night owls out there–or nocturnal bats or poultry off their counter-seasonal photoperiods–the show will be broadcasted locally Sunday midnight (Saturday night) on Metro Cable Network/Channel 6

Made in Minnesota

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2015 by rgwallace

This photo provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows chickens in a trench on a farm in northwest Iowa. Millions of dead chickens and turkeys are decomposing in fly-swarmed piles near dozens of Iowa farms, culled because of a bird flu virus that swept through the state's large poultry operations. (Iowa Department of Natural Resources via AP)

From the outside, the headquarters of the Cankor Health Group resembles a garage. The interior is modeled after an industrial poultry factory. The lobby is a dank, low-ceilinged concrete chamber. Upon entering, employees and visitors are asked to ingest a small capsule…The fast-acting drug produces a series of vivid hallucinations. –Ben Katchor (2013)

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

The epizootic began with a soft opening, hitting a handful of backyard farms and wild birds in December in Washington and Oregon before spreading east. Suddenly in early March, H5N2 wiped out 15,000 turkeys on an industrial farm in Pope County, Minnesota, the first of what would be nearly 9 million birds and counting killed or culled across 108 farms over 23 counties.

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H5N2 Much

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by rgwallace

John Gaps III AP Rose Acre Farms, IowaA week from Thursday, June 11, I’ll be talking about the H5N2 bird flu outbreak here in the Midwest at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. Find out the details here. All are welcome.

Midwest bird flu: A diseconomy of industrial poultry

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

In its efforts to protect a $265.6-billion-a-year industry, the poultry sector has laid blame upon farm workers and wild waterfowl. In actuality, H5N2 demonstrates poultry production is defined by inherent diseconomies of scale it survives solely by externalizing the resulting damage to consumers, workers, governments and the environment. In a market economy, such costs, moved back onto company margins, would end the industry as we know it.

We will review the mechanisms by which poultry’s bioeconomics is thought sooner than later to select a deadly disease with the potential for killing millions of people worldwide. We will also address what an alternate food landscape might look like.

You can find a video of the half-hour talk here.

Lipstick on a Pig

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2014 by rgwallace

I have discovered that I cannot burn the candle at one end and write…with the other. –Katherine Mansfield (1919)

By casuistry as uproarious as it is dismal, a Minnesota hog farmer claims ‘factory farms’ no such thing.

Why yes, our barns, equipped with automatic feeders and temperature and air controls, look like factories. Why yes, hog genetics reducing diversity and fat content limit the animals’ toleration for weather and, left unsaid, disease.

But on the heels of bad publicity around vile abuse at a Pipestone farm damning piglets as so many uncooperative widgets–see the video above–Wanda Patsche tells us don’t call them factories. They’re owned by “my neighbors, my friends, fellow church members…,” who, in actuality, are caught in Big Ag contracts that, as we described here last month, hold the farmers to all the value chain’s liabilities and allows them none of its control.

Y’know, like factory workers. Continue reading