kottke.org posts about Nicholas Kristof

Arsenic and old poultryApr 05 2012

Nicholas Kristof on factory farmed chicken...farmers load the birds up with caffeine, Tylenol, Benadryl, Prozac, and arsenic. Yes, arsenic. The poison.

Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose.

Researchers found that most feather-meal samples contained caffeine. It turns out that chickens are sometimes fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so that they can spend more time eating. (Is that why they need the Benadryl, to calm them down?)

And yet foie gras is the big problem. Right. Sadly, I imagine that hogs aren't treated any differently.

Update: The National Chicken Council has released a statement about this study.

Chickens in the United States produced for meat are not given "arsenic" as an additive in chicken feed, or any of the other compounds mentioned in this study. Some flocks used to be given feed that contained a product called Roxarsone, which is a molecule that includes organic (carbon-rich, pentavalent) arsenic - not the inorganic, trivalent form that is considered a poison. This product was removed from the market last year, it is no longer manufactured and it is no longer used in raising chickens in the United States. Regardless, as the study's authors point out: "There's no evidence that such low levels of arsenic harm either chickens or the people eating them."

In fact, organic arsenic is a naturally occurring element in our environment that is widely distributed within the earth's crust. It is not surprising that in this study arsenic was detected on bird's feathers because it is naturally present in the air, soil and water.

I'll just quickly note a couple of things about this. This bit -- "the top priority for America's chicken farmers and processors is to raise healthy, top quality birds" -- is pretty hilarious. But it's the National Chicken Council...what are they gonna say? Also note they did not specifically deny giving chickens caffeine and the active ingredients in Prozac, Tylenol, and Benadryl.

Our lefty militaryJun 22 2011

The US military is often thought of by many Americans as being identified with conservative politics, making it an unlikely blueprint for progressive reform. But a recent pair of articles demonstrates that the US as a whole might have something to learn about the US Armed Forces' liberal leanings. In the NY Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that the US military's universal healthcare and focus on education is worth looking at as a model:

The military is innately hierarchical, yet it nurtures a camaraderie in part because the military looks after its employees. This is a rare enclave of single-payer universal health care, and it continues with a veterans' health care system that has much lower costs than the American system as a whole.

Perhaps the most impressive achievement of the American military isn't its aircraft carriers, stunning as they are. Rather, it's the military day care system for working parents.

While one of America's greatest failings is underinvestment in early childhood education (which seems to be one of the best ways to break cycles of poverty from replicating), the military manages to provide superb child care. The cost depends on family income and starts at $44 per week.

And the WSJ recently covered remarks made by Sgt. Maj. Micheal Barrett, the top non-commissioned officer in the Marine Corps and general all-around hardass, about gays in the military:

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is pretty simple, It says, 'Raise an army.' It says absolutely nothing about race, color, creed, sexual orientation. You all joined for a reason: to serve. To protect our nation, right? How dare we, then, exclude a group of people who want to do the same thing you do right now, something that is honorable and noble? ... Get over it. We're magnificent, we're going to continue to be. ... Let's just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let's be Marines.

Now that's some semper fi I can get behind. (thx, meg)

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