The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

USDA Secretary to Organic Farmers: Get the Hell Out!

July 11th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: That’s a real public servant! Bring legitimate complaints about cheating in organics to the USDA, and the Secretary of the agency suggests that you are a crybaby-socialist and should move out of the country.

– Mark A. Kastel

Trump’s USDA Is Killing Rules That Organic Food Makers Want
by Andrew Martin and Shruti Singh

The organic industry has sought out government oversight to reassure consumers. Now some worry that deregulation could chip away at that confidence.

Regulation isn’t a dirty word to makers of organic food.

Sec. of Ag. Sonny Perdue:
“If you believe in socialism, you probably
ought to export your operation somewhere.”
Image source: USDA

So they’re pushing back against the Trump administration, which has killed off a slate of proposed regulatory changes for raising and manufacturing organic products after coming to power promising to remove “job-killing regulations.” In recent months, shelved proposals have included those covering animal welfare, the manufacture of pet food and beekeeping.

Stringent regulations are crucial to maintaining consumer confidence in the organic label that the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees, according to many producers. They also help manufacturers command premium prices. Even some traditional food giants, including Perdue Farms and General Mills, have made the case for certain new regulations.

The egg business—already rife with consumer confusion over marketing claims such as “pasture-raised” and “cage-free”—may feel a particular impact from the administration’s actions. Read Full Article »

Trader Joe’s to Change Misleading Images on Cage-Free Eggs

July 11th, 2018

Earlier this year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed suit against Trader Joe’s for misleading images on cartons of cage-free eggs. The images show chickens roaming freely in an idyllic barnyard setting. However, “cage-free” means only that the laying hens do not live in battery cages. In reality, these chickens spend their lives, wing-to-wing, jam packed in industrial hen houses without ever going outside.

In Trader Joe’s recent settlement with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, they agreed to remove the misleading images from their egg cartons. This is one small victory for consumers bombarded with feel-good advertising for eggs.

Cornucopia has deciphered the meanings of labels on egg cartons for buyers.

To help organic consumers determine which brands of organic eggs comply with their ethical expectations, The Cornucopia Institute developed the Organic Egg Scorecard. Ratings are based on producers’ answers to a comprehensive questionnaire about production practices, unannounced site inspections, aerial photography, satellite imagery, and extensive industry interviews.

Whenever possible, Cornucopia recommends buyers get to know their farmer. Small egg producers may not be certified organic for practical reasons, so we created a DIY Certification Guide to help buyers ask farmers the kinds of insightful questions that an organic certifying agent would ask when inspecting an organic farm. But your first choice should be local, certified organic eggs that are highly rated on our scorecard. Read Full Article »

Cornucopia De-Codes Egg Labels

July 11th, 2018

Egg cartons are increasingly cluttered with third-party certification claims and a myriad of potentially misleading statements. Some of these are meaningful to egg buyers, and some of them are nothing more than marketing gimmicks.

Source: polaristest

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency responsible for ensuring the truthfulness and accuracy in labeling of poultry products. You can find their explanations for labeling terms on their website. However, many successful lawsuits claiming misrepresentation and consumer fraud illustrate that the FSIS is not really on guard.

Cornucopia has de-coded the labels below to help you find the best eggs for your family.

All Natural

Battery Cages
Source: Farm Sanctuary

This label is entirely meaningless. The hens can be housed in battery cages with each bird allowed floor space less than the size of a standard sheet of copy paper. The hens are generally fed GMO corn and feed which may include animal byproducts, and they may be packed into giant industrial barns housing over a million birds. This is how the vast majority of laying hens are raised in the U.S. These horrendous conditions produce a very cheap egg in the market. Cornucopia notes that you get what you pay for in terms of flavor, nutrition, environmental impact, and quality of life for both birds and farmers.


Source: Naim Alel

This label means there are no battery cages and the hens have an average of one to 1.2 square foot of space per bird. They are likely eating the same low-quality feed noted above, but they are able to perch, spread their wings, and walk around a bit more than if caged. This still leaves them more vulnerable to being injured or even pecked to death by other hens, and the air quality in these massive buildings is miserable. They spend their entire short lives indoors. Some of these operations have “floor birds” while others use aviary systems with multiple tiers, packing birds in every possible square foot, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling. Read Full Article »

U.S. Delegation Puts Infant Formula Interests Ahead of Children’s Health

July 10th, 2018

Why would a farm policy research group report on infant formula???

Prior to 2011, Martek Biosciences had been selling—illegally—their algae-based DHA oil for use in “organic” infant formula and Horizon milk. After a legal complaint it was determined that the material was not on the National List of substances approved for use in organics. Miles McEvoy, then-NOP director, said he would publish a guidance in terms of how to remove the illegal organic products from the marketplace …. But he never did (big favor to the industry/big surprise).

In a very corrupt process, DHA was added to the list at the fall 2011 NOSB meeting by a one-vote margin. See  our white paper, The Organic Watergate, for more on this.

Even though the rule permitting the use of DHA oil was passed by the NOSB, it has never been published in the Federal Register.  Thus the use continues to be illegal. Why? To our knowledge the only GRAS-approved algal oil for use in infant formula is extracted with the volatile solvent hexane, a byproduct of gasoline refinement. Solvent extraction is explicitly prohibited in the organic standards. So if they published the NOSB recommendation to allow algae-based oil as long as it is not extracted with hexane, they would have to remove the material from their products. Years have gone by. This further illustrates the corruption at the USDA organic program.

Not surprisingly, despite the fact that there is no comparison to breast milk, the industry saw sales increase after it promoted DHA-enhanced formula as “the closest thing to breast milk.” If you have an interest in this issue, you can read the report we produced, Replacing Mother, on our website.

Read the article below, and further information from the Associated Press below that, for more on infant formula interests in the U.S.

Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution by U.S. Stuns World Health Officials
The New York Times
by Andrew Jacobs

Source: Ambernectar 13

A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children. Read Full Article »

Organic Industry Watchdog Asks Federal Antitrust Regulators to Monitor the Sale of Hain Pure Protein

July 10th, 2018

[Read Cornucopia’s formal request for scrutiny of the sale of HPP]

Poultry Industry Giant Pilgrim’s Pride Makes Preliminary Bid to Acquire Hain Celestial Poultry Processing Interests

The New York Post reported recently that the prominent organic industry conglomerate, The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., said it plans to divest its interests in Hain Pure Protein (HPP). The operating division sells organic and “natural” chicken and turkey products under its Plainville Farms and Freebird brands. The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, sent a formal request to antitrust regulators asking them to scrutinize the sale of HPP, claiming that, depending on who acquires it, the effect would be to harm competition in the already highly concentrated organic poultry  sector.

According to the Post story, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation put in a bid for HPP in June 2018. Pilgrim’s Pride is currently the nation’s largest organic poultry producer. They entered USDA certified organic chicken production in 2016 with the purchase of the parent company of the “Just Bare” chicken brand, GNP Co. Organic chicken comprises 4% of Pilgrim’s chicken production, but with that they control a huge portion of the rapidly growing organic poultry market.

“It is essential that this sale is closely scrutinized,” said Marie Burcham, a farm policy analyst who specializes in looking at livestock issues for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. “As Pilgrim’s Pride is the current industry leader, its potential purchase of Hain Pure Protein raises serious antitrust and anticompetitive concerns.” Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000