Nicholas Kristof on the chemicals fed to chicken Following the "pink slime" scandal, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof turns his attention to another irksome substance in our food: arsenic in chicken. Citing a pair of new studies testing for chemicals found in chicken feathers, he runs down a list of seemingly unnatural chemicals being fed to the birds we eat. Often these substances are added for reasons other than human or chicken health. The active ingredient of Benadryl is given to reduce chickens' anxiety; caffeine, to keep them wake to eat more; and arsenic, to make meat a pleasant pink color. While no unsafe levels of these chemicals have been found in the meat itself, Kristof is concerned. "To me, this underscores the pitfalls of industrial farming," he writes. "When I was growing up on our hopelessly inefficient family farm, we didn’t routinely drug animals." Update, 3:17 PM EST: The National Chicken Council posted a response to the John Hopkins Center study that reads, in part, "Chickens in the United States produced for meat are not given 'arsenic' as an additive in chicken feed, or any of the other compounds mentioned in this study."
Slate on what Cuba teaches us about green farming The online magazine's Raj Patel describes how Cuba has become an unlikely incubator for inventing and testing ecologically friendly farming practices after the fall of the USSR. During the 1990s, with the Soviet government no longer around for financial support, Cuban farmers couldn't afford the fertilizers and pesticides that make modern factory-farming possible. Accordingly, they turned to nature for help: "Nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of inorganic fertilizer; flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests; weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting." Patel argues that as fertilizer costs rise and weather patterns become more erratic with climate change, Cuba's heartier "agro-ecology" approach to farming should be a model for another countries.