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Meat politics

(article, Culinate staff)

Meat is heavy with issues. Here's a roundup of recent articles about some of the weightiest.

Animal welfare: Barry Estabrook profiles a pig farmer who abandoned conventional livestock production in favor of the cozy, sustainable hog husbandry he grew up doing — and is actually making a living at it. Modern Farmer looks at efforts to make slaughter more humane. And a Kickstarter project,, aims to produce an app that will help shoppers figure out what all the various meat labels really mean.

Antibiotics and drugs: Tom Philpott has a new report on the toxic dangers of manure overload on hog farms — a literally explosive problem that, it turns out, may be treatable with antibiotics. (The drugs are given not to the already-drugged pigs but to the manure itself.) The nonprofit Food & Water Watch is suing the FDA for concealing records on arsenic use in poultry feed. And pork-industry observers are curious about the recent Chinese purchase of Smithfield — China, like Europe and Russia, bans ractopamine, a controversial growth-promoting drug widely used in U.S. livestock. Will the Chinese takeover mean a ractopamine phaseout?

Human health: Red meat and even cured meats, while still vilified by many, may not be as bad for you as you might think. But Mark Bittman is hopeful that Americans will eventually eat less and less meat, and other food writers have noted a cultural shift: we're not only eating more vegetarian meals, but we're doing it because they're tasty, not just politically righteous.