Today’s chickens are not your grandpa’s chickens

MultiChickensAccording to a recent study, chickens today are four times larger than they were 60 years ago but contrary to popular belief, it’s not steroids, hormones or artificial enlargers that are not to blame. Instead, it’s our eating habits that have resulted in the breeding of larger birds.

Published in the Journal Poultry Science and summarized in a recent article, this study compared three types of chickens. One that hasn’t been changed by breeding since 1957, a second that has been the same since 1978, and a third, modern commercial chicken, called the Ross 308 Broiler, which has been bred for selective traits over the past few decades.

The study states that these chickens were fed identical diets for 56 days and resulted in the 1957 breed weighing an average of 905 grams, the 1978 breed averaged 1,808 grams and the 2005 breed tipped the scales at a whopping 4,202 grams — about double the size of the 1978 breed. [ More ... ]

Grain storage bags raise mycotoxin concerns

CornHarvestTruck_12RF20487255_blogWith corn harvest now underway, several factors including low crop prices and a shortage of storage space, are contributing to more and more farmers turning to polyethylene bags, or “bag silos,” as a crop storage solution instead of traditional storage bins and silos.

While these bags, which are also being used for soybeans and wheat, offer a temporary solution that allows farmers to hold on to their crops until prices rebound and also eliminates the need to wait in line to deliver grain at elevators, factors including mycotoxin growth in these bags is an issue farmers need to take proper precautions to avoid.

According to a recent article in the AgriNews, “although these bags are hermetically sealed, they can leak, especially if there are tears or punctures in the flexible plastic lining or if the bags are placed on wet ground.” Moisture in these bags can then lead to mycotoxin growth. [ More ... ]

Farmers debate value of proposed organic checkoffs

Carrots_FreshPicked_blogAccording to the article “Organic Checkoff: Is it What’s for Dinner?” The United States Department of Agriculture is currently proposing a redirection of funds from general checkoff programs to instead be used for promotion and research in organic foods.

Checkoffs are defined as a percentage of farmer’s income that is then used by the USDA for promotion and research in the farmer’s industry. For example, previous campaigns such as, “Got Milk?,” “Pork. The Other White Meat,” and “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” were all checkoff programs.

Those in favor of creating this new checkoff believe that it would both encourage other American farmers to use organic practices as well as increase consumer consumption. Laura Batcha, Executive Director at the Organic Trade Association agrees that an organic checkoff program could increase the production of organic foods in the U.S. [ More ... ]

Tox Tuesday: Smart Drugs

Brain-Waves-Bigstock10453853_blogPrescribed to millions each year, “smart drugs,” such as Adderall and Ritalin, are used to treat those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. These drugs work by combating the symptoms of the disorder allowing users to feel more focused, productive, and attentive toward everyday tasks.

However, it’s not just those diagnosed with ADHD that are seeking the feeling commonly associated with taking these types of medication. Rather, a growing number of high school and college students around the world are turning to these drugs as a way to help them stay on top of their growing list of academic and social demands. According to one article, studies indicate that as many as one in three students on major college campuses have used ADHD medications illicitly, most commonly as a study aid. In addition to the health concerns brought up by the recreational use of these drugs, another debate is ongoing: Can these drugs actually make someone smarter? [ More ... ]

Monday Mycotoxin Report — October 20, 2014

Each week, we are happy to present to you the weekly Monday Mycotoxin Report, sharing data and statistics from the agriculture industry. To learn more about drought, crop yields and mycotoxin levels, please watch the video below.

Monday links

Pizza-in-Box_123RF11882996_blogDon’t have time to scour the interwebs for all of the big news stories? No worries — we have you covered in this edition of Monday links!

Food Safety

Teal pumpkins will signal a safe Halloween stop for kids with food allergies – The Week
Little ghouls and goblins are preparing to hit the neighborhoods in just two weeks, trick-or-treat bags at the ready. But for children with food allergies, Halloween can be a depressing — not to mention dangerous — time.

FDA Asked to Ban Certain Chemicals Used in Pizza Boxes, Other Packaging – Food Safety News
Nine consumer and environmental health groups petitioned the Food and Drug Administration this week seeking a ban on the use of certain chemicals in food packaging. [ More ... ]

Safety is key when dining with a food allergy

Allergenic food isolated on whiteFor those with food allergies, dining out at a restaurant or at someone else’s home can bring on a slew of risks that can turn what is intended to be a relaxing experience into one filled with hidden dangers and risk. An article published by Mayo Clinic summarizes several tips that can help keep you safe.

  • Check restaurant menus online ahead of time to see if they offer allergen-free foods or to ask for a list of ingredients.
  • Ask at a restaurant if they’re willing to prepare dishes differently to accommodate food allergies, or ask your host how the food being served is prepared. Remember even if accommodations are made, cross-contamination is still possible.
  • Carry an epinephrinepen pen or other medication in case there’s an emergency.
  • Avoid eating at buffets, bakeries, potlucks or at parties with several homemade dishes where you cannot be sure of all the ingredients or how a dish was prepared.

[ More ... ]

Report: Ag production increases falling behind future demand

For the first time in several years, the annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP report) is showing agricultural production around the world is not growing fast enough to meet the expected food demand by 2050.

As reported by Agri-Pulse, if these trends continue food prices will raise thus impacting the global population, but in particular food-deficit countries and their consumers who will no longer be able to afford to import sufficient food to meet the nutritional needs of their citizens. The lack of productivity growth can also lead to less sustainable production, as growers expand farmland, potentially endangering fragile tropical forest zones and placing greater demands on existing water resources. [ More ... ]

Report: Number chronically hungry down, but still substantial

Hands-holding-an-empty-bowl_shutterstock_68377594_blogApproximately 26 million less people around the world suffered from chronic hunger from 2011-2013 compared to those from 2010-2012, according to an article by the World Food Program.

Defined as “not getting enough food to lead active and healthy lives,” the article states that chronic hunger affected roughly 842 million people between 2011 and 2013, down from 868 million reported for the 2010-12 period. While the majority of chronically hungry people live in developing regions, 15.7 million are living in developed countries. These statistics were part of a report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programe (WFP).

“Continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability. In addition, in some countries remittances from migrants are playing a role in reducing poverty, leading to better diets and progress in food security. They can also contribute towards boosting productive investments by smallholder farmers,” the article states. [ More ... ]

Confirmed: NYC rats carry nasty pathogens

Referred to as a “recipe for a public health nightmare,” researchers from Columbia University recently discovered that some rats studied in New York City contain a variety of viruses and other pathogens— including those that cause foodborne illness in humans, others never seen before in New York, and some that are new toscience altogether.

According to an article in the New York Times, this is the first attempt to use DNA to catalog pathogens in any animal species in New York City. The initial results come from a study involving 133 of Manhattan’s rats and were recently published in the journal, mBio.

Over the years it has become obvious that the health of the human population is intimately linked to the health of animals. However, according to Ian Lipkin, a professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia, “everybody’s looking all over the world, in all sorts of exotic places, including us,” said “But nobody’s looking right under our noses.” [ More ... ]