Amidst the noise and news a few weeks back when the largest meat recall in the history of the United States was taking place, the good news was overlooked, and we want to hold it up here today to ensure more folks see Corporate Accountability in action. You’ll recall downer cows were filmed at a California meat packing plant – now closed – raising the ire of consumers and school administrators (many customers were school systems).
In the midst of those news reports some good news was overlooked. Harris Teeter, a subsidiary of Ruddick Corporation (NYSE:RDK; HQs Charlotte, NC), with 200 stores in 7 states and $3.6 billion in annual revenues, has a plan to dramatically improve conditions for food animals sold in its retail outlets. Here’s what the Company says it will do: (1) give purchasing preference to suppliers using controlled-atmosphere systems; (2) and preference to suppliers phasing out “gestation crates” (metal enclosures for pregnant pigs); (3) introduce a new line of branded eggs for “cage-free” products, along with purchasing preference for suppliers.
The Company’s plans were hailed by PETA, the activist organization, who negotiated with the retailer and publicly applauded the firm’s response — and then reminded folks of its own vegetarian preferences: We wish people would stick to vegetarian options, but commend Harris-Teeter for improving living and dying conditions for animals sold in its stores. Oh, well – at least those of us who continue to eat meat products have some good news to cheer. So congratulations to the accountability- and responsibility-minded management at Harris Teeter!
And our tip of the hat to Safeway, the nation’s #3 supermarket chain, which announced similar steps in cooperation with the Humane Society a few days before the PETA-Ruddick agreement. Safeway’s plan follows shareholder activism on the issue – the Company will increase its purchase of chickens and turkeys killed for table by “controlled-atmosphere killing,” or CAK – the least cruel method of slaughter (it’s electrical-immobilization). Safer for humans, easier on the food animals we depend on for nutrition. Pay attention to CAK – this should be the gold standard for processing of food animals – ask your supermarket or fast food outlet if they use CAK-processed product. (You may get a “huh?” – but it’s worth asking.)
And, let’s not overlook the good news about other retailers using CAK-processed products – Burger King, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and Popeye’s, all are CAK leaders in fast food. McDonald’s has a detailed report out on CAK and finds that its suppliers using CAK have experienced great improvements in meat yield and quality. Cheers to these community-minded retailers. Lagging behind: Krogers and Supervalu, two firms PETA is encouraging to follow Safeway’s lead by giving purchasing preferences to suppliers using CAK.
And now for the new threat to us in supermarkets and our food products: Nanotechnology! At least that’s what Friends of the Earth are saying. The activist organization said its research shows Miller Light (beer), Cadbury (chocolate) and well-known brand marketers are posing “toxic risks” to the rest of us by using “untested nanotechnology” in more than 100 products. The report — “Out of the Laboratory and onto our Plates: Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture” — details the FoE findings. Even Whole Foods supermarket is singled out: FoE says its ToddlerHealth nutritional drink powder for infants poses threats. Wow! The group wants labeling of supermarket products employing nanotech for food processing and packaging, and has named the companies doing so – Heinz, Nestle, Unilever and Kraft among the leaders. This is but one part of the public dialogue on nano-tech safety that you will see rapidly expanding in the months ahead. You can find out more at: www.foe.org
There’ll be much, much more to come on all of the issues here and we will offer our views and perspective on food and related issues in the weeks ahead. What’s in your pantry and refrig today?