Covering Our Food System

Using CRISPR technology, researchers at the University of Missouri and Kansas State University developed pigs that are resistant to a deadly virus.
Courtesy of the University of Missouri

With GMO Struggle In Mind, Food Industry Vying For Public Trust With CRISPR Discussion

There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases. And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

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Lou Nelms, a retired biologist, stands next to an oak tree in Atlanta, Illinois, that may have been damaged by herbicide drift.
Darrell Hoemann / The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Weed Killer Dicamba Eyed In Oak Tree Damage Across Iowa, Illinois And Tennessee

Special Series: Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat

The human toll of our meat habit

Special Series: Watching Our Water

The challenge to keep it clean

While the third and final presidential debate set for Wednesday evening will surely be marked by the candidates’ disagreements, a forum debating their positions on food and farm issues Wednesday morning was notable for showcasing where the nominees agree.

A guy who covers agriculture in the West who’s never put a skinned, sliced, battered, deep-fried bull testicle into a cup of cocktail sauce and then into his mouth? I couldn’t let it stand.

They’re known by many names: lamb fries, bull fries, Montana tenders, huevos de toro, cowboy caviar. In my corner of Colorado, they’re Rocky Mountain oysters and I somehow coaxed myself into thinking I needed to try them to be more a part of the place I live, to be a true blue Coloradan.

In the 1930s, rural electric cooperatives brought electricity to the country’s most far-flung communities, transforming rural economies. In Western Colorado, one of these co-ops is again trying to spur economic development, partly by generating more of their electricity locally from renewable resources, like water in irrigation ditches and the sun.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

When farmers put nitrogen fertilizer on their fields it soaks down into the soil and turns into nitrates that feed crops. But when there are too many nitrates, water from rain or irrigation carries those extra nutrients past the point where roots can reach and eventually to the aquifer below.

For the cities and towns that depend on the underground aquifer or surface water for their drinking water, that can be a big problem.

Marshalltown, Iowa, has been home to a slaughterhouse since at least 1880 when the original plant that is now JBS Marshalltown Pork was built.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

When I walked onto the floor of the JBS Marshalltown Pork Plant in central Iowa, I expected the sensory assault to hit my nose first. But turns out it was my ears that first felt the most severe impact. The processing line is noisy. It’s also chilly, to protect the meat. That also prevents the sort of noxious smell I had anticipated. Instead of an animal stench, my nose mostly registered cleaning products and a raw meat smell as if I just opened a package of pork chops in my own kitchen.

File Photo / Stephanie Paige Ogburn/KUNC

Hundreds of thousands of people go to work each day preparing the beef, pork and poultry that ends up on our dinner tables. Their workplace is among the most dangerous in the United States.

Joe McMullen / Harvest Public Media

Meatpacking workers call it “the chain.” Sometimes “the line,” or “la linea.” It sets the pace for all work done at meat processing plants, production rates that force workers to make in the tens of thousands of cuts, slices and other movements for hours at a time.

Those repetitions affect workers’ muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves, causing what is called musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, and resulting in sprains, strains, pains, or inflammation. 

Cody-Kilgore Superintendant Todd Chessmore helps students check inventory at the store.
Mike Tobias / For Harvest Public Media

The tiny Nebraska town of Cody sits atop Cherry County, a sparsely populated chunk of Sandhills ranchland larger than the entire state of Connecticut. Cody’s population of just 156 people means it’s not a prime location for any retail business.

There is no grocery store in town, the previous grocery store closed more than a decade ago.

Enter: Students from the Cody-Kilgore school system.

As part of their education, local students run the Circle C grocery store. The store does about $250,000 of business a year and stocks about 1,500 items.

Watch: What Does It Take To Replant The Prairie?

Jan 25, 2016
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The prairie grasslands of the U.S. are victims of the intense agricultural development that occurred after the Civil War. Today, experts say that nearly 99 percent of the original prairie has been plowed under.

Birds, insects and other wildlife that need a prairie ecosystem to survive have less room to roam.

Now, several environmental groups are working in the Midwest to turn back the dial of history.

Leigh Paterson / Harvest Public Media

To make or not to make a homemade pie?  That is a classic holiday dilemma. Do you take the easy way out and buy a fairly decent frozen pie, or do you risk making your own, resulting in a potentially burnt and lumpy version?

While there is something special about that homemade option, every cook knows that it takes a lot of your own time and energy.

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