Senate Agriculture Committee approves Vilsack confirmation for USDA
- There was bipartisan support on Tuesday as the Senate Agriculture Committee voted unanimously to recommend Tom Vilsack be confirmed as USDA Secretary of Agriculture to the full Senate.
- Vilsack served as USDA secretary all eight years while Barack Obama was president.
- During the hearing, Vilsack addressed many issues from coronavirus to climate change to Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and biofuels.
Vilsack says he’s open to COOL
- During Tom Vilsack’s Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, he said he is willing to consider reimplementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations for meat products.
- Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer asked him if he believes that the current labeling policy adequately informs consumers, Vilsack responded saying, “If it’s the same policy as it was four years ago when I left, the answer is no.”
- Vilsack said that while he was Agriculture Secretary under President Obama, the USDA made every possible effort to try to create better transparency and better information for consumers, because consumers want to know where their food comes from.
- He stated that the Obama Administration attempted to strengthen COOL on three separate occasions, but failed because of Canadian challenges to the law through the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- South Dakota Senator John Thune asked Vilsack about the extreme volatility in the cattle markets and what changes he plans to make to strengthen the integrity of the cattle market.
- Vilsack responded saying that through the USDA, he would make sure the cattle markets are open, fair and transparent.
- Vilsack also expressed the need for more processing capacity so that our food system isn’t so reliant on a small number of processors.
Impossible Foods cuts faux meat prices by 20% at grocery stores
- On Tuesday, Impossible Foods reported that it would cut prices on its fake meat patties by 20 percent at U.S. grocery stores.
- The decrease in prices arrives as the plant-based protein maker increases production with a larger plan to ultimately undercut ground beef prices.
- Impossible Foods, along with Beyond Meat have seen respectable growth over the last year as consumers make the shift away from chicken, pork and beef based diets over concerns about their health, their environmental impact and animal welfare.
- The Impossible Burger will now be priced at $5.49 per burger in about 17,000 U.S. grocery stores.
- Impossible Foods also plans to implement these price cuts at retail stores in Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Lawsuit challenges FDA approval of additive in Impossible Burgers
- On January 28, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), filed a legal brief challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval in 2019 of soy leghemoglobin (“heme”), a color additive used to make Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger appear to bleed like real meat.
- Soy leghemoglobin is produced in genetically engineered yeast and is modeled on a protein found in the roots of soybean.
- Bill Freese, science policy analyst at CFS, said in the release that the FDA approved the color additive without conducting any of the long-term animal studies that are needed to determine whether or not the product harms human health.
- Freese and the CFS find this worrisome since a number of potential adverse effects were detected in a short-term rat trial: disruption of reproductive cycles and reduced uterine weights in females, biomarkers of anemia, reduced clotting ability and kidney problems.
- According to the CFS, the enthusiasm around meatless products cannot be used for an excuse to skirt food safety laws. This introduction of Impossible Foods’ products highlights a troubling deregulatory trend that prioritizes corporate profits over public health and safety, CFS stated.
Ranchers split on need for traceability system
- A recent Drovers Pulse Poll has discovered that ranchers are spilt on the topic of a nationwide traceability system in the cattle industry.
- Forty-nine percent believe the industry needs a nationwide system.
- Fifty-one percent are against a nationwide system.
- A total of 214 individuals responded to the poll, mostly from the Midwest, but the East Coast was also represented well.
Boxed beef prices
- Choice boxed beef: $236.76 (+1.08)
- Select boxed beef: $225.04 (-0.55)