Food News Update: Organic Milk Healthier Than Regular

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Greener Pastures: Study Shows Organic Milk Healthier than Conventional

A recent study published in the Journal of Dairy Science by a group of British scientists showed that organic milk had higher percentages of heart-healthy fatty acids than the regular stuff. Gillian Butler of Newcastle University, who led the study, told Sustainable Food News that by choosing organic, consumers in the U.K. can reduce artery-clogging saturated fats in their milk by 30 to 50 percent and still get the same level of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Confirming a study undertaken in the United States in 2006 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Butler's team found that low levels of "good" fats were attributable to the cows' conventional diet, which typically is low in fresh grass. In Britain (and in the United States beginning one year ago) organic milk cows get a significant amount of their nutrition from fresh pasture. In the United States, the vast majority of conventional cows are kept in confinement and fed hay, silage, and grain rations. Most never feel grass under their hooves.

As Tom Philpott at Grist wrote, "One way to sum up the study is this: by switching away from grass as the chief feed for lactating cows, we've stripped vital nutrients out of our diets."

Genetically Modified Chicken Flutters into the Bioengineered Barnyard

EnviroPig, a swine developed by researchers at Canada's Guelph University to produce less stinky manure, which is also less damaging to the environment, may no longer feel like such a misfit down on the farm. Researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh have just unveiled a GM chicken that they say cannot transmit avian flu to other chickens.

It will be some time before the brave new chickens receive regulatory approval to be allowed out of the laboratory—if ever.

The study's leader, the University of Cambridge's Laurence Tiley, described his new fowl as "a significant first step along the path to developing chickens that are completely resistant to bird flu."

Sounds good. After all, flu can mutate and spread from poultry to humans, causing epidemics. To prevent the spread of the disease, millions of afflicted birds have been destroyed over the past decade.

It will be some time before the brave new chickens receive regulatory approval to be allowed out of the laboratory—if ever. A concern is that flu-resistant super-viruses would evolve in the same manner that herbicide-resistant super-weeds have evolved as a result of widespread use of GM crops in the United States. And when it comes to evolving, few organisms on earth can match the dexterity and speed of viruses. The end result could be super-strains of flu—foul play at its worst.

Fourteen States Flunk Foodborne Illness Tests

In Oregon, there are nine reported cases of foodborne illness per million people per year. Mississippi reports only one case per million annually. You might assume that eating in Mississippi is nine times as safe as in Oregon.

Wrong.

The ever-feisty Center for Science in the Public Interest has just sent home a nationwide report card grading the 50 states and District of Columbia on how well they detect, investigate, and report food poisoning outbreaks. As counterintuitive as it may appear, higher rates of reported outbreaks indicated that a state was doing a thorough job of detecting them, isolating their sources, and taking steps to stop their spread.

So where does your state rank? Take a look at TheAtlantic.com's summary of the results to find out.

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Barry Estabrook is a former contributing editor at Gourmet magazine. He is the author of the recently released Tomatoland, a book about industrial tomato agriculture. He blogs at politicsoftheplate.com. More

Barry Estabrook was formerly a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine. Stints working on a dairy farm and commercial fishing boat as a young man convinced him that writing about how food was produced was a lot easier than actually producing it. He is the author of the recently released Tomatoland, a book about industrial tomato agriculture. He lives on a 30-acre tract in Vermont, where he gardens and tends a dozen laying hens, and his work also appears at politicsoftheplate.com.
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