The following article is from GRAIN, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people’s control over genetic resources and local knowledge.

Mexico is in the midst of a hellish repeat of Asia’s bird flu experience, though on a more deadly scale. Once again, the official response from public authorities has come too late and bungled in cover-ups. And once again, the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows. Just five years after the start of the H5N1 bird flu crisis, and after as many years of a global strategy against influenza pandemics coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world is now reeling from a swine flu disaster. The global strategy has failed and needs to be replaced with a public health system that the public can trust.

What we know about the situation in Mexico is that, officially speaking, more than 150 people have died from a new strain of swine flu that is, in fact, a genetic cocktail of pig, bird and human influenza strains. It has evolved to a form that is easily spread from human to human and is capable of killing perfectly healthy people. We do not know where exactly this genetic recombination and evolution took place, but the obvious place to start looking is in the factory farms of Mexico and the US. [1] Experts have been warning for years that the rise of large-scale factory farms in North America has created the perfect breeding grounds for the emergence and spread of new highly-virulent strains of influenza. “Because concentrated animal feeding operations tend to concentrate large numbers of animals close together, they facilitate rapid transmission and mixing of viruses,” said scientists from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2006. [2] Three years earlier, Science Magazine warned that swine flu was on a new evolutionary “fast track” due to the increasing size of factory farms and the widespread use of vaccines in these operations. [3] It’s the same story with bird flu. The crowded and unsanitary conditions of the farms make it possible for the virus to recombine and take on new forms very easily. Once this happens, the centralised nature of the industry ensures that the disease gets carried far and wide, whether by feces, feed, water or even the boots of workers. [4] Yet, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “no formal national surveillance system exists to determine what viruses are prevalent in the US swine population.” [5] The same is true of Mexico. Read the rest of this entry »

More bad meat

July 8, 2008

The USDA’s monthly Livestock Slaughter report shows May was another record-setting month for meat production. U.S. commercial meat production totaled 4.22 billion pounds in May, up 4 percent from the 4.08 billion pounds produced in 2007.

Pork production totaled 1.82 billion pounds, up 3 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 9.06 million head, up 3 percent from May 2007. The average live weight was down 1 pound from the previous year, at 268 pounds. Beef production, at 2.38 billion pounds, was 4 percent higher than last year. Cattle slaughter totaled 3.14 million head, up 3 percent from May 2007.

From January to May, commercial meat production was 21.0 billion pounds, up 7 percent from 2007. Accumulated pork production was up 11 percent, and beef production was up 4 percent.

Cows, pigs and chickens aren’t raised in pretty green meadows. They’re raised in crowded, unfavorable conditions and, especially in the case with dairy cows, are injected with growth hormones. Read the rest of this entry »


Update: For information on May 3, 2008 recall go to

USDA News Release, Class I Recall,  Health Risk High

(Class 1 USDA recalls are the most serious and involve a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death.)

Gourmet Boutique, L.L.C., a Jamaica, N.Y., firm, is voluntarily recalling approximately 6,970 pounds of meat and poultry products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today.

The following products are subject to recall: Read the rest of this entry »

In case you missed it, please read Diseased Meat in Our Sick Sytem. It’s a shocking expose about sick “downer” cattle being tortured and, against regulations, their meat being entered into our food system (and our National School Lunch Program).

Martha Rosenberg provides an excellent follow up today in Downer Recall: Take Two.

In a deep and compelling New York Times piece, Rethinking the Meat Guzzler, columnist Mark Bittman compares the production and consumption of meat to that of oil. It’s not a pretty picture.

 The world’s meat supply has quadrupled since 1961 to 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled in that time and is expected to double again by 2050. Americans consume an average of nearly 200 pounds of meat (including poultry and fish) per year, which is roughly twice the global average. While some 800,000,000 people suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of the world’s corn and soy are used as feed for cattle, chickens and pigs. Read the rest of this entry »