EPA Seeks Nominations for the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler is announcing a solicitation for 20-30 nominees to serve on the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC). Established in 2008, the FRRCC provides independent policy advice, information, and recommendations to EPA’s Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities. Applications must be received by EPA by December 31, 2019.

Full details are available on the committee’s website at: www.epa.gov/faca/frrcc.

Questions: FRRCC@epa.gov

In the newsroom: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-seeks-nominations-farm-ranch-and-rural-communities-federal-advisory-committee

What is in ‘fake’ meat?

Consumers have fickle tastes. They are always changing their minds about what they consider healthy. A lot of this is due to conflicting research results covered in the news. Carbs are good one day and then bad the next. One day eggs are not good for you the next they are an important part of a healthy diet, providing low cost, good quality protein as well as vitamin D (eggs are one of the few foods naturally containing vitamin D) and lutein (which is good at preventing macular degeneration). High-protein diets are now becoming popular.

To supply this growing market for protein, ‘fake’ meat is becoming popular. Meat lovers like the sensory properties of meat, but don’t like that they come from dead animals. The result is plant-based proteins.  But what is in these plant-based burgers on the market today? The burgers are made of soy, peameal, nuts, and leghemoglobin. But what is leghemoglobin? Leghemoglobin is also known as legoglobin) is from nitrogen-fixing root nodules of leguminous plants. It is important in carrying nitrogen in such plants, but the compound interacts in a similar fashion with naturally occurring oxygen and nitrogen.

Is that what you would include meat? Some states are considering legislation that will prevent producers from using the name meat for meatless products or milk for dairy-less products. Interesting ideas. What are your opinions?

Are eggs good or bad for you?

You may have read about some recently publicized research that says eggs are linked to a higher risk of heart disease and death. The article from the Journal of the American Medical Association is titled “Association of dietary cholesterol or egg consumption with incidence of cardiovascular disease and death.” Despite numerous published, peer-reviewed articles, the authors concluded “Among US adults, higher consumption of dietary cholesterol or eggs was significantly associated with higher risk of incidence of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner. These results should be considered  in the development of dietary guidelines and updates.” The research was reported on by USANews.


While the research may cause some egg eaters to be considered, it must be remembered that there are many limitations to the research, as was reported on by other news agencies such as USAToday and Time.

The data used in the research was from six studies in the Lifetime Risk Pooling Project. This project followed 29,000+ people for about 17.5 years. During that period of time, there were a total of 5,400 incidences of cardiovascular disease, which could have been fatal or nonfatal. What the study showed was an association and not a cause and effect relationship. It is impossible to account for changes to people’s diets over that long of a time period.

There are also factors that they may not have taken into consideration. Many other foods may accompany eggs in a traditional American breakfast. These include bacon, sausage and hams which can have lots of sodium, and the saturated fat or oils with trans fats used to fry the eggs and the hash browns.

Lifestyle, not egg consumption, has often been shown to be related to increased incidences of heart disease.

Who will regulate cell-based proteins in the United States?

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have come to an agreement on how the growing cell-based meat industry will be regulated in the United States.

FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. The oversight will transfer from FDA to FSIS during the cell harvest stage. FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products that are made from the cells of livestock and poultry. The shared oversight is to ensure that food products derived from cell-cultures are produced safely and are accurately labeled. You can read the whole agreement, and all it’s legal jargon, here. The Meat Institute, National Turkey Federation, and the Good Food Institute have indicated their support for the joint oversight, although the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reiterated their position that the term ‘meat’ should not be used. Specifically, their position is that the term ‘beef’ should refer only to “products derived exclusively from the flesh of a bovine animal harvested in the traditional manner.” Under this joint agreement between FSIS and FDA, a USDA meat inspection stamp will be used on cell-based products, which they oppose. They feel a new stamp should be created specifically for cell-based products using a different format and color of ink.

As shown in the graphic below, cultured ‘meat’ is produced from stem cells derived from the animal, the cow in this case, are placed in growth serum to produce myotube fibers of meat. these are then combined to form muscle tissue. The finished product can then be used in meat products, such as hamburgers.

Grahics for showing the processing for developoing cultured 'meat'
Graphics showing the process for developing cultured ‘meat’ (Image by Lilkin from Shutterstock.com)

Rules and regulations with regards to treating backyard poultry flocks

There is a website put out by the Food Animal Residue Appearance and Depletion Species Pages (FARAD) discussing the rules and regulations with regards to the use of medications with backyard poultry.  The discussion is with Federal regulations.

The question becomes are chickens pets or food animals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, considers all chickens to be food animals regardless of how the owner feels about the chicken. As a result, the regulations require that all regulations related to the treatment of food animals will be applicable to backyard poultry.

If you have a particular question regarding the use of a particular medication you can submit a request for more information.

See http://www.usfarad.org/poultry.html

Virulent Newcastle Disease continues in southern California

The new cases of virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) continue to be found in southern California. Since May 18, when the first case was identified, USDA has confirmed 388 cases of vND in California. Of these, 116 were found in San Bernardino County, 229 in Riverside County, 42 in Los Angeles County, and 1 in Ventura County. USDA has also confirmed 1 case in Utah County, Utah.

The last confirmed cases were on February 27, 2019.

So far most of the cases have been with backyard exhibition chickens. Affected flocks also include two backyard non-commercial laying chickens,  three commercial table-egg layer flock, two backyard hobby turkeys, a backyard exhibition pigeons, a backyard exhibition poultry, a live bird market, six feed stores selling adult birds, and a backyard exhibition mixed bird species flock.

Virulent Newcastle Disease is a contagious and fatal viral disease. It affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry. The disease is so virulent that many birds and poultry die without showing any clinical signs.

It is important to note that Newcastle Disease is NOT a food safety concern. No one has ever gotten Newcastle Disease from eating poultry products. In very rare instances, people working directly with sick birds can become infected with mild symptoms. The most common is conjunctivitis. These are easily prevented with personal protective equipment.

Clinical signs in chickens include:

  •  Sudden death and increased death loss in the flock
  • Sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing
  •  Greenish, watery diarrhea
  • Decreased activity, tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, circling, complete stiffness
  • Swelling around the eyes and neck

It is important for small and backyard flocks to follow good biosecurity practices to protect your birds from Newcastle and other infectious diseases. For more information on biosecurity programs, see the webinar at https://learn.extension.org/events/1995#.VNtcXS7GFMI

Poultry industry leaders of the future – where will they come from?

The American and international poultry industries have been expanding at a rapid pace to meet the ever growing demand for poultry meat and eggs. Despite this rapid growth, there is a decline in American universities with poultry science departments and/or programs. There are only six American universities with poultry science programs – Texas A&M University, University of Georgia, Auburn, North Carolina State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas. Most of the undergraduate students in these departments have jobs well before they graduate. So why aren’t more students interested in the poultry industry? In addition to the poultry majors, there is a need for many other non-agricultural degrees and vocational certificates. This includes those with management, accounting, engineering, maintenance, marketing, human resources knowledge and much more. As new poultry products are being developed, Food Science majors are also being grabbed up by the poultry industry. With the increase interest in animal welfare, animal behaviorists have found a niche. Whatever you interest of study, you most likely can find a place in the poultry industry


Hemp in animal diets ?

Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa. It is one of the fastest growing plants and in days past it was one of the first plants that was spun into usable fiber. It can also be refined into several commercial products including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, and food. Although marijuana and industrial hemp are derived from Cannabis sativa, hemp has much lower concentrations of the psychoactive component THC and higher cannabidiol (CBD) which decreases its psychoactive effects. The production of hemp has been illegal for many years because of its resemblance to marijuana. Recently it has become legal. This is leading to the development of new products.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to push the use of hemp seed oil in dog and cat foods. It is expected that hemp oil will be an approved pet food ingredient by the end of 2019, if not earlier. Many pet owners believe that hemp oil will help with anxiety and depressions. Some pet products containing hemp are already on the market, although they have not been approved at this time.

While there is no evidence that hemp oils have psychoactive or medicinal properties as many believe, there are some nutritional benefits. Hemp oil is a well-balanced blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In addition, the ground seed is gluten free and can serve as a vegetarian protein source. It is believed that the approval of hemp oil for use with hemp oil for dogs and cats will open the door to other hemp ingredients and additional species.

It is believed that poultry will be the first species to be allowed hemp feeds, followed by sheep. These feed ingredients could include hemp flour and hemp seed cake as well as hemp-derived silage and pulp.

With hemp production only just becoming legal, it is likely that demand will outstrip supply. As a result, hemp could price itself out of the inclusion in feed.

Citation: ‘First hemp-based animal feed approvals expected in 2019.” by Emma Penrod of Watt Publishing.

When is meat not meat?

January 1, 2019 a new Missouri law took affect that state that meat must be derived from harvested livestock or poultry in order to be labeled as meat. Right away the law was challenged. Turtle Island Foods under the Tofurky Company and the non-profit Good Food Institute immediately filed a lawsuit. Good Food Institute advocates for plant- and cell-based alternatives to conventional meat products. They say the law violates their constitutional rights of free speech – see https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Meatless.pdf . The attorneys involved have reached an settlement although the details have not been finalized and won’t be made public till next month. The results will have an effect on other states as well. Similar legislation has been introduced in Nebraska, Mississippi, Washington, Arizona and Arkansas. A bill in Virginia was voted down.

Twenty-four confirmed cases of Newcastle disease in the week of January 25-31, 2019

There seems to be no end to the virulent Newcastle Disease outbreak in California. There were 26 new confirmed cases in one week, most in Riverside County, California. They include backyard exhibition chickens, backyard hobby turkeys, and a retail feed store. Previous positive locations include backyard, non-commercial layer chickens, commercial table egg layers, backyard exhibition birds (which is presumably more than just chickens), commercial table egg pullets, a backyard mixed flock of exhibition birds, and a live bird market. There is no indication of which feed stores had positive chicks or where those chicks came from since no hatcheries appear to have tested positive.

For more information on virulent Newcastle disease, see the article at https://poultry.extension.org/articles/poultry-health/common-poultry-diseases/newcastle-disease-in-poultry/

For ways to protect yourself, see the article on biosecurity at https://poultry.extension.org/articles/poultry-health/biosecurity-for-small-poultry-flocks/