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The CBC Radio program "Quirks and Quarks" recently featured the efforts of nonprofit research organization New Harvest to engineer meat cultures on a large scale for human consumption. Co-founded by doctoral student Jason Matheny of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, New Harvest harbors “the long-term goal of delivering economically competitive alternatives to conventional meat production” that are “safer, more nutritious, less polluting, and more humane.” CBC host Bob McDonald highlighted the research in his roundup of “Nine-and-Half Technologies That Could Change the World,” which also lauded developments in sustainable agriculture and clean water accessibility. See Cbc.ca, March 28, 2009. Meanwhile, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is currently holding a $1 million contest for the first firm to produce in vitro chicken meat and sell it to the public by June 30, 2012. The winning contestant must submit an entry with “a taste and texture…

Video footage of former Aviagen Turkeys, Inc. employees allegedly abusing birds has reportedly led to criminal indictments for animal abuse. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) apparently caught three turkey farm employees in the act, and 19 counts, including 11 felony charges, for cruelty to birds have been brought against them. Alabama-based Aviagen Turkeys reportedly fired all three workers for violating company policy. They could face significant jail time and fines if convicted. See meatingplace.com, February 9, 2009.

A New Jersey resident has filed a putative class action lawsuit in federal court against Perdue Farms, Inc., alleging that the company is forcing consumers to subsidize the company’s costs of disposing of extra giblet parts by “a secret practice” of inserting them into whole chickens sold by the pound to retail customers. Marin v. Perdue Farms, Inc., No. 08-001 (D.N.J., filed December 17, 2008). The plaintiff seeks relief on behalf of a “(b)(2) Injunctive Relief Class” consisting of “All persons who purchased Perdue whole chicken at retail” and a “(b)(3) Multi-State Sub-Class” consisting of those who purchased whole chickens at retail “in the states of New Jersey, California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington.” The complaint alleges violations of consumer protection acts and unjust enrichment, and seeks “a declaration that “only the proportional amount of giblets are to be packaged in a whole chicken,”…

California residents this week voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 2 (Prop. 2), an animal welfare measure banning the use of some crates for hens, pregnant pigs and veal calves that do not allow the animals to turn around, lie down or extend their limbs. In addition, the law will require farmers to build pens and cages allowing full range of motion in an effort to eliminate high-density battery cages and reduce Salmonella outbreaks. Prop. 2, which takes effect in 2015, also levies fines of $1,000 or six months in jail for violations. Because most of the state's pork and veal producers have already prohibited confined cages, some agricultural economists expect Prop. 2 to have a disproportionate impact on the $323-million egg industry. The industry-backed California for Safe Food group spent $8.5 million to oppose the measure, as egg farmers expressed concern that the cost of retrofitting their operations will…

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is seeking comments on policies that regulate whether processors can use animal raising claims in labeling for meat and poultry products. “[R]ecent experience with labeling claims related to the raising of poultry have led FSIS to initiate a review of its evaluation and approval process for labels of meat and poultry products that contain animal raising claims,” stated the agency in a recent Federal Register notice. Animal raising claims include language that describes a product as “raised without antibiotics”; “not fed animal by-products”; “free range”; “vegetarian fed diet”; and “raised with added hormones.” FSIS currently evaluates such claims “by reviewing testimonials, affidavits, animal product protocols, and other relevant documentation provided by animal producers.” The agency is soliciting public input on this approval process, which also allows meat and poultry establishments to submit certification from outside organizations or entities in support of animal raising claims.…

A poultry producers coalition has reportedly launched a campaign to end “natural” labeling claims for chickens enhanced with water, salt or binding agents such as carrageenan. Sanderson Farms, Inc., Foster Farms and Gold’n Plump Poultry have asked USDA, which is currently redrafting its rules on “natural” claims, to exclude chicken products that are mechanically injected or tumbled with a marinade solution to improve appearance and moisture retention. The current definition specifies only that products cannot contain artificial ingredients and must be “minimally processed.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) contends that “some unscrupulous poultry producers add as much as 15 percent saltwater–and then have the gall to label such pumped-up poultry products ‘natural.’” U.S. Representatives Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) and Charles Pickering (R-Miss.) claimed in a recent press release that approximately 33 percent of fresh chicken sold to consumers was altered via injection or “vacuum tumbling.” They also argued…

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