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  • Burger King announced its intentions to purchase exclusively cage-free eggs and pork by 2017. Conventional eggs are laid by hens who live in cramped cages; pregnant sows are typically forced into gestation crates for the entirety of their pregnancies. Cage-free animals can still be housed indoors, though with less physical restriction. McDonald's and Wendy's are among other large food service companies to set similar goals in the past six months. The Humane Society of the United States applauds the efforts of these fast-food companies.
  • The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry approved a draft of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, otherwise known as the Farm Bill. The bill includes $23 billion in savings over ten years. These savings primarily stem from elimination of direct payment subsidies, and the closing of loopholes that allowed individual farms to collect multiple payments each year. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition applauded the draft, but noted that some conservation and disadvantaged farmer assistance programs should be better funded. The bill now moves to the full Senate for approval.
  • The Department of Labor withdrew a proposed rule that would have more strictly regulated farm labor among children under 16. The rule angered rural communities who value familiar participation in farm labor from a young age. The Obama Administration released a statement indicating their support for rural livelihoods and commitment to listening and responding to the needs of those communities. Advocates of the rule insist that young children can be more easily injured and are more susceptible to weather conditions than adults.
  • A case of mad cow disease was found in California, creating a meat safety scare across the country. Fortunately, this case of the disease resulted from spontaneous protein mutation, unlike the outbreaks in the 1980s and 90s that were caused by the presence of infected animal parts in cow feed. The cow in question poses no food safety risk, according to the USDA. The Salt has a nice Q&A to address your most pressing concerns about the risks of mad cow disease.
  • The city of Washington, D.C. unveiled its 20-year sustainability plan last week. The plan includes cutting emissions, planting new trees, cleaning up nearby rivers, and creating rain-water catchment systems. The plan also calls for the installation of 1.5 million square feet of green roofs across the city. One developer is working with the city to use that space for food production. Rooftop farms require a thicker soil layer than grass roofs, but could prove incredibly productive and efficient for the city. The first stages of this plan are set to begin next year.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.

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