Down With Pork? How About Cutting Down on All Meat!



Photograph: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images (and The Guardian)

Many years ago, France was so language proud that words from elsewhere were banned. Now, with le hot dog and various other ‘cross-over’ words being very much du jour, the battle for French ‘purity’ has moved to a new front: The school cafeteria.

Where for 30 or more years parents could choose an other-than-pork entrée for their children, some schools have removed that option, leaving Jewish children and, increasingly, Muslim ones, with no meat option at all when, say, roast pork, Strasbourg sausage or ham-pasta bake is on the menu.

When one parent queried at her small town’s administrative office why the change had been instituted, she was told, bluntly,  “From now on, that’s the way it is. Pork or nothing,” The Guardian reported late last year.

The issue, French officials say, is “secularity.” Parents of affected children, who often are themselves too young to understand why their families don’t eat pork, understandably view the matter as a form of discrimination – secularity be damned!

In at least two other jurisdictions – a portion of Germany, and around Houston, Texas – some schools are voluntarily opting to offer other-than-pork options.

An observer in Houston told us that, “Here, we also don’t use pork on a purely voluntary basis to accommodate religious needs. Some of our schools have significant Muslim populations.”

FoodTradeTrends.com was told by the German Embassy in Washington that, “In light of the current refugee situation, several public cafeterias and kindergartens in Germany decided voluntarily to stop or limit the serving of pork out of respect for Muslim migrants. In light of this, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union, a political party) in the state of Schleswig-Holstein submitted a proposal earlier this month to maintain the use of pork in school lunches.

“The disputed application was rejected on March 9th by all the other political parties within the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament. The consensus in the parliament is that each public cafeteria or kindergarten can decide on its own whether it wants to offer pork.

“The reduction of pork in school cafeterias is not based purely on a higher number of Muslim students, but rather on changes in nutrition standards and an overall goal to consume less meat.”

Several American organizations, the American Heart Association being prime among them, are strongly encouraging the consumption of less meat, overall, and less red meat, in particular, for health reasons. The AHA’s D.A.S.H. diet – D.A.S.H. stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension – is widely recognized as being not just a good approach to dealing with and/or preventing hypertension (high blood pressure), it also is very effective for weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and managing or preventing diabetes, U.S. News & World Report said earlier this year, when naming D.A.S.H. “the best diet” for the sixth year in a row.

There are at least two other reasons why eating less meat is a good idea. One, a major part of the mission of The Reducetarian Foundation, is to spare farm animals from cruelty. There’s also the fact that, as SustainableTable.org points out, “The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. Far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption one a week can help slow this trend.

Essentially making that same argument is the “Take Extinction Off Your Plate” initiative of the Center for Biological Diversity. Its website says, “Wild animals suffer not only the collateral damage of meat-related deforestation, drought, pollution and climate change, but also direct targeting by the meat industry.”

As a long-age advertising campaign said relative to Levy’s Jewish Rye Bread, “You don’t have to be Jewish…” or Muslim, or vegetarian … to favor pork- and even meat-free diet options!

USDA Grants To Fund At Least 80 Research Projects Concerned With Food Safety, More



The USDA has awarded $30.1 million in competitive grants to fund 80 research projects to improve food safety, reduce antibiotic resistance in food, and increase the resilience of plants in the face of climate change. The grants are made possible through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the nation’s peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences.

In addition to the awards, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Dr. John P. Holdren, President Obama’s Science and Technology Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, announced that the President’s 2017 Budget will invest a total of $700 million for AFRI, the fully authorized funding level established by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill.

In the seven years since AFRI was established, the program has led to discoveries in agriculture to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impacts of climate variability and enhance resiliency of our food systems, and ensure food safety.

“In the face of diminishing land and water resources and increasingly variable climatic conditions, food production must increase to meet the demands of world population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Funding in research to respond to these challenges should be considered as an investment in our nation’s future, an investment which will pay big dividends in the years to come.” Since its creation, AFRI has been funded at less than half the levels established in the 2008 Farm Bill, and USDA has only been able to fund one out of 10 research proposals presented.

While grants awarded to universities, non-profits, community groups, businesses, foundations, associations, and federal agency and international partnerships have led to significant achievements that address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities, thousands of innovative research proposals have been left unfunded.

“Science, technology, and innovation are essential to meeting virtually every challenge our Nation faces, which is why the Administration has consistently supported increasing Federal investments in R&D,” said Dr. Holdren. “Further strengthening our investments in agricultural research will be essential for U.S. farmers to be able to keep the Nation’s food supply abundant, healthy, reliable, and sustainable through the 21st century. That’s why the President’s forthcoming 2017 budget request doubles funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to the full authorized level of $700 million.”

AFRI grants are administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which is making the awards through funding provided in fiscal year 2015. NIFA is awarding $15.1 million to fund 35 projects in AFRI’s Food Safety area, focused on enhancing food safety through improved processing technologies, effective mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance, improving food safety, and improving food quality. $3.4 million of this funding will be used to address antimicrobial resistance throughout the food chain.

Since 2009, more than $82 million in food safety research and extension grants has been awarded through AFRI.

NIFA is also awarding $15 million to universities, laboratories, and research organizations to fund 45 projects in AFRI’s Plant Health and Production and Plant Products area. These grants focus on plant breeding for agricultural production; plant growth and development, composition, and stress tolerance; and photosynthesis and nutrient use in agricultural plants.

Since AFRI’s creation, NIFA has awarded more than $89 million to solve challenges related to plant health and production. Additional grants for studies and outreach that address plant protection against microbes, insects, and weeds will be announced later this year.