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Local authorities in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the COVID-19 virus is thought to have originally started spreading to humans, have announced a ban on eating wild animals along with a ban on hunting wild animals except for scientific research or population regulation. The city will also buy out wild animal breeders.
An amendment to guarantee that post-Brexit food imports meet the same standards required of British food producers has been dropped from the UK’s agriculture bill, to the dismay of several food, farming and nature organisations.
According to this article in the Guardian, slaughterhouses in several countries are being badly affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, with the US being particularly affected. The factors behind the outbreaks are thought to include crowded working conditions, a workforce who often live in shared houses, people working despite being ill because of economic insecurity, and the slaughterhouses not being shut down during the pandemic.
According to this article by Civil Eats, some farmers in the Great Plains of the United States are sowing “chaos gardens” - fields of mixed fruit and vegetable plants such as peas, squash, radish, okra, melons and sweet corn - as cover crops between the soy and corn that are the dominant crops in the area. The produce is harvested by volunteers and donated to food banks or other community groups.
This piece from nonprofit food media outlet The Counter explains why some farmers in the US have been dumping surplus food during the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time that food banks are struggling to source enough food.
This opinion piece by Liz Specht of the US Good Food Institute argues that taking animals out of the global food system - for example by replacing animal products with plant-based or cultivated meat products - can reduce the risk of future pandemics. Specht notes that zoonotic diseases usually pass to humans during the hunting or slaughter of wild animals or livestock.
According to this article in Quartz Africa, a new wave of desert locust swarms is forming in East Africa (including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia). Wet conditions mean that the locusts are likely to continue to breed. It is feared that many farmers could lose their newly planted crops. Efforts to control the swarms through aerial spraying have been slowed by the coronavirus crisis.
This article in the Guardian explores the links between food production and COVID-19. It points out that, while the virus is likely to have been transmitted to humans via a pangolin at a “wet” market in Wuhan, China, the virus may have come to pangolins from wild bats. Some smallholder farmers, the article suggests, began to rear “wild” animals (such as pangolins) for income when their previous livestock farming was undercut economically by industrial farming methods, and may also have been pushed onto marginal land (nearer to forests, bats and the viruses hosted by bats) by industrial agriculture’s expansion.
This piece in the UK’s Independent newspaper, by several researchers from the University of Oxford, sets out five questions that (they argue) should be considered by any policymaker or business setting a “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions target.
In this piece in The Conversation, Tim Lang (Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London) argues that the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis exposes the fragility of the UK’s food supply chain, with limited storage, a just-in-time supply model, and nearly half of the UK’s food being imported. Lang calls for a food rationing system to be introduced to ensure everyone has access to food (read Lang’s letter to the UK Prime Minister here).
This piece from Foodservice Footprint draws together the information available so far (as of mid-March 2020) about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is affecting the UK's foodservice sector. The information covers impacts on restaurant staffing and operations, the food supply chain (one distributor told Footprint that "Everyone seems to be being relatively sensible at the moment"), new hygiene standards, and issues in supporting people at risk of hunger.
Our World in Data has published this piece, which breaks down the extent to which the differences in carbon footprints of food categories can be attributed to methane, a short-lived greenhouse gas which has attracted controversy over how its climate impact is measured.
This article from Civil Eats examines how the rise of both plant-based diets and regenerative agriculture practices have encouraged more farmers in the United States to grow pulses such as lentils, peas and chickpeas. As pulses become more popular with US consumers, a smaller fraction of the US pulse harvest is exported to other countries.
This article in the San Francisco Chronicle discusses three synthetic (or “molecular”) alcoholic drinks produced by US startup Endless West: wine, whiskey and sake. The drinks are produced by mixing plain alcohol (from corn) with natural flavourings (e.g. from plants or yeasts) rather than traditional distillation methods (e.g. fermenting grapes to make wine).
In this podcast, FCRN member ffinlo Costain interviews Jenny Packwood (Director of Responsibility & Reputation for KFC UK & Ireland) and Annie Rayner and Kelly Watson (experts in broiler systems and behaviour, working at FAI Farms) to find out how the European Chicken Commitment is changing the welfare of chickens and to discuss the practical implications of delivering the requirements of the commitment.
This report by Hong Kong media platform Green Queen gives an overview of alternative protein startups in Asia, in the categories of cultivated protein (e.g. laboratory-grown meat), modern processed plant-based products, and whole-food alternatives (such as jackfruit or lion’s mane mushrooms, which are sometimes used to mimic the texture of meat despite not having the same protein content). The authors argue that Asia’s alternative protein industry is likely to overtake US and European brands because of demand from Asia’s growing middle class, relatively low production costs and products that are tailored to local tastes.
This article in the Guardian, by food writer Bee Wilson, author of The Way We Eat Now, describes the debate around so-called ultra-processed foods. Wilson describes the classification system for processed foods developed by researcher Carlos Monteiro and the research being done on the health impacts of ultra-processed foods.