Animal Welfare Approved’s State of the Plate

Robert Kenner Kicks Off State of the Plate DC Event

State of the Plate Moves Washington, D.C. Toward a More Sustainable Future

by Kimberly Hartke

A provocative and inspiring daylong event about sustainable meat was held October 17, 2011, in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), the day brought together grass based scientists, farmers, distributors, chefs and food luminaries to report on the progress being made toward greater consumer access to humanely raised beef, pork, and chicken.


New National AWA Label for Humanely Raised Eggs

The morning started out with the Food, Inc. producer, Robert Kenner describing his latest project, Fix Food, a consumer directed web campaign to raise awareness of the eco-challenges, health impacts and unsustainability of the current food paradigm. Next, a panel of scientists and scholars detailed these sobering problems.

Dr. Robert Martin, who led a two year study of modern meat production at Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production said, “The number one public health concern is overuse of antibiotics. He estimates that nearly 80% of all antibiotics are sold for livestock use. The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, the CDC, and USDA all concur this is a problem. In his professional opinion, Dr. Martin believes all non-therapeutic use of antibiotics should be banned.


Kitty Nicholas of Hedgebrook Farms Displays Artisan Cheese Made with her Milk

Confining animals leads to disease, which necessitates antibiotic use. Drugs are mixed into the livestock feed and water. Jessica Liebler, environmental epidemiologist of the G.W. School of Public Health explained that the central reason these drugs are used is to promote faster growth, but some studies have been done that show no actual benefits to use of antibiotics in this manner.

Manure is another hazard that comes from these industrial food facilities. Untreated manure filled with disease and drug residues is often land applied or put in large lagoons. This infectious waste can contaminate farm fields and groundwater.

Shocking statistic of the day: The average size of chicken confinement facilities is 600,000 birds on the Eastern Shore Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay is being harmed by all the surplus nitrogen that ends up in the water, likely from chicken waste and soy feed. Soy was traditionally used as a cover crop, it was used in rotation with other crops to fix nitrogen in the soil. Now that it is subsidized and grown as animal and human food, it is becoming an ecological threat.


Chef Todd Gray and His Wife Ellen with Michael Curtin of DC Central Kitchen on the Chef's Panel

The rest of the afternoon hit plenty of high notes, with chefs, butchers, food service providers, food distributors and institutions like G.W. University and DC Central Kitchen sharing their successes and the challenges of moving toward a more sustainable food supply. Chefs Todd Gray, Nora Pouillon and Andy Shallal were impressive advocates for why chefs are a driving force in social change for the dinner plate.


Cathy Raymond Introduces Attendee to our Nutrition Education Non-Profit

An exhibit hall gave animal producers a chance to showcase their sustainable operations, and Cathy Raymond of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and Weston A. Price Foundation gave out information to attendees about our efforts in this arena.

Animal Welfare Approved wins this blog’s Heroesof Sustainable Agriculture award for putting together this highly educational and inspiring program. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge co-sponsors, Urban Food Task Force at G.W. University and Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Thanks, to all of you for a shot in the arm!

Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation. She blogs about green living, real food, sustainable agriculture.

Hot off the Press!

A new in-depth guide to the benefits of grassfed beef is now available from Animal Welfare Approved. The Grassfed Primer: Your Guide to the Benefits of Grassfed Beef covers the history of U.S. beef production and the rise of modern intensive farming systems, and provides a detailed description of the wide-ranging benefits that grassfed cattle systems can have for human health, the environment and animal welfare.


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