WIC Benefits Expanded & Extra $8 Billion Nutrition Program

Bad News: Your Organic Milk Might Not Be Organic


By Cooking Panda

What would you say if I told you that if you buy and consume lots of “organic” milk, the chances may be slim that your dairy is actually organic?

Unfortunately, it’s true. Because the U.S. organic market is so gargantuan (it rakes in more than $40 billion in annual sales, which includes imported products from roughly 100 other countries), the USDA allows farmers to actually hire and pay their very own inspectors to certify them as “USDA Organic.” 

Basically, many dairy complexes, such as the High Plains dairy in Greeley, Colorado (a main facility of Aurora Organic Dairy), are so large, it’s difficult to make sure that every complex is abiding by all the strict rules and regulations to meet the USDA organic regulations.

The Washington Post reports that when it comes to milk, organic dairies are required to allow their cows to grass-feed throughout the growing season, rather than get their nourishment in barns and via feedlots.

However, apparently even though companies like Aurora Organic Dairy, which supplies milk to Walmart, Costco and other big retailers, claim that their cows are always grazing, when the Washington Post visited Aurora, that didn’t appear to be the case.

“The requirements of the USDA National Organic Program allow for an extremely wide range of grazing practices that comply with the rule,” Sonja Tuitele, an Aurora spokeswoman said in an e-mail, in defense of this observation.

“We take these assertions very seriously, as we are a 100% certified organic producer, and our organic practices are the cornerstone of our operations,” she continued.

Most consumers pay up to two times as much money for organic milk; in fact, the Washington Post reports that organic dairy sales actually amounted to a hefty $6 billion last year in America alone.

How does this make you feel about shelling out your cash for allegedly organic dairy products? Is it enough to make you want to switch over to a plant-based alternative?

Source: Washington Post / Photo Credit: Pexels

Tags: dairy, grass fed, milk, organic, usda
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Almost 2 Million Pounds Of Chicken Have Been Recalled


By Cooking Panda

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Dec. 4 that almost 2 million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken are subject to a new recall due to their potential of being undercooked. The recall affects products sold by the Oklahoma-based National Steak and Poultry business, which are often sent nationwide to restaurants and various food service locations.

Yikes, ya’ll.

The recall includes ready-to-eat chicken products that were produced between Aug. 20 through Nov. 30, 2016, and that were shipped across the country to food service locations, or else sold directly to consumers like you and me at National Steak and Poultry’s annual dock sale.

As it happens, the first recall was actually issued on Nov. 23, for an already staggering 17,439 pounds of product. But when a food service customer complained to the establishment that product appeared to be undercooked on Nov. 28, the recall grew to include a whopping 1,993,528 pounds.

Here are the details of the recalled products, courtesy of the USDA.

  • On Nov. 23, 2016 — National Steak and Poultry recalled approximately 17,439 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products produced Oct. 4, 2016. The products were packaged on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:
  • 5 lb. bags packed 2 bags per case; product labeled “Distributed by National Steak and Poultry, Owasso, OK Fully Cooked, Diced, Grilled Boneless Chicken Breast Meat with Rib Meat” with Lot code 100416, and Case Code: 70020.
  • 5 lb. bags packed 2 bags per case; product labeled “Hormel Natural Choice 100% Natural No Preservatives Fully Cooked Roasted Chicken Breast Strips with Rib Meat Natural Smoke Flavor Added” with Lot code 100416, and Case code 702113.
  • The cases containing the products subject to recall bear establishment number “P-6010T” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to food service locations nationwide and should not be in consumers’ possession. No other Hormel product is impacted. The original problem was discovered on Nov. 14, 2016, when a food service customer complained to the establishment that product appeared to be undercooked. 

As of now, no confirmed reports of illnesses or adverse health effects have been reported due to consumption of any recalled products, but consumers who have purchased these items should nevertheless not consume them; they should throw out the products or return them for a full refund at the site of purchase.

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Photo Credit: Saschas Silkies/Instagram

Tags: chicken recall, Congressional and Public Affairs, recall, steak and poultry, usda
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Turns Out Your Pumpkin In A Can Is Not What It Seems


By Cooking Panda

Halloween may be over, but the holiday season is now upon is, which means pumpkins are still very, very much a trend.

You can bake them in a pie; you can roast their seeds; you can spice them up and shove them in a Starbucks drink to start a mania.

However, BuzzFeed has recently reported that all that canned pumpkin you’ve been picking up at the stores lately? Yeah — apparently it’s not necessarily pumpkin. In fact, in many cases, it’s actually butternut squash.

The horror!

As we know, pumpkins are gourds; however, not all gourds are our beloved, spooky, delicious and iconic pumpkins. 

According to BuzzFeed, even if your can of pumpkin’s label literally says that it is made with 100% authentic Halloween-pumpkin goodness (can you tell we’re still mourning the end of our favorite holiday?) that doesn’t mean it is actually made with that round, orange gourd you so know and love.

The pumpkin puree that you purchase in the grocery store is often made of squash instead.

It turns out that claiming that the cans of pumpkin are 100% pumpkin when they aren’t is actually something that’s been going on for a long time — in fact, it’s written about in a 1957 USDA document.

The text reads, “Canned pumpkin and canned squash is the canned product prepared from clean, sound, properly matured, golden fleshed, firm shelled, sweet varieties of either pumpkins or squashes by washing, stemming, cutting, steaming and reducing to a pulp.”

Yikes, ya’ll.

Apparently, companies have been substituting squash for pumpkins because even though everybody loves the look of a jack-o-lantern on Halloween night, or enjoys the idea of the squat, orange gourds transforming into functional carriages in fairytales, their flavor profile is allegedly more dull and less sweet compared to squash. Also, pumpkins aren’t the easiest thing to handle in the kitchen.

Oh well — as long as you stuff our pies full of all the correct spices, we suppose we can live with this reveal.

Source: BuzzFeed / Photo credits: Junior Master Gardener, USDA via BuzzFeed

Tags: butternut squash, canned pumpkin, gourds, pumpkin, usda
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Tyson Foods Has Just Recalled Its Popular Chicken Nuggets


By Cooking Panda

Tyson Foods has announced a recall of more than 130,000 pounds of two of its chicken nugget products after learning some may be contaminated with extraneous pieces of hard plastic materials.

The recalled products include a five-pound bag of Tyson Fully Cooked Panko Chicken Nuggets and a 20-pound package of Spare Time brand Fully Cooked, Panko Chicken Nuggets, Nugget Shaped Chicken Breast Pattie Fritters With Rib Meat.

Both products have a production date of July 18. The Fully Cooked Panko Chicken Nuggets items have a “Best If Used By” date of July 18, 2017.

The recall is the result of customers reporting “foreign material” in a chicken nugget product.

“According to Tyson Foods, the plastic material ranged in size from 21mm in length and 6.5mm in diameter and may have come from a round, hard plastic rod used to connect a plastic transfer belt,” the USDA said in a statement. “The firm said the products pass through a metal detector, but the plastic is not detectable to this technology.”

Tyson urges customers to throw out potentially affected boxes or return them to their place of purchase for a full refund.

Tyson also urges anybody with additional concerns or questions to reach out to the company directly at 866-328-3156 or email comments@tyson.com.

Source: USDA / Photo credit: USDA

Tags: chicken nuggets, food recall, Tyson, usda
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Um, OK: Gatorade Is Now Slinging ‘Organic’ Versions Of Its Neon Sugar Water


By Cooking Panda

What comes to mind when you think of the product called Gatorade?

For many people, images of neon colors, sugary flavor profiles, the word “electrolytes,” and those commercials of athletes sweating acidic-colored droplets are immediately conjured.

Apparently, however, the sports-drink would like for you to associate it with the word “organic.”

After two years of research, PepsiCo Inc. is now rolling out a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic version of Gatorade, which will be sold in strawberry, lemon, and mixed berry G Organic flavors. 

Per Bloomberg, Brett O’Brien, Gatorade’s senior vice president and general manager, says that while right now the product is available in some Kroger Co. supermarkets, Gatorade plans to expand the rollout to select grocery, natural and convenience stores in the coming weeks. For now, the suggested retail price is $1.69 for a 16.9-ounce bottle, which is 50 cents more than Gatorade Thirst Quencher, the nonorganic equivalent, will run you.

When I was growing up, if you referred to something as a sports-drink, you were almost surely talking about Gatorade; indeed, it controls 70-percent of the sports-drink market even today, per Bloomberg.

However, with competition like coconut water on the rise, and with organic food industry sales in the U.S. reaching $43.3 billion in 2015, consumers are clearly attracted to drinks comprised of more healthful and whole ingredients.

“We heard pretty loud through the locker rooms, through our work with nutritionists, that there is an interest and a desire among athletes to go organic,” O’Brien said in an interview, per Bloomberg. “Somewhere around 10 to 12 percent of athletes are saying they’re interested in purchasing organic products.”

“In as much as they can focus on the potential to change ingredients without changing the taste, that’s sort of a win-win,” said Adam Fleck, a beverage analyst at Morningstar Inc., per Bloomberg. “But you have to be very careful about alienating your current customers in a bid to attract lapsed customers or new customers.”

Source: Bloomberg / Photo credits: Bloomberg, Gatorade

Tags: gatorade, organic, sports drink, usda
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Say Cheese: Feds Just Bought $20 Million Of Surplus Cheese For Food Banks


By Cooking Panda

You may think America has more important things to worry about than a bunch of cheese sitting around waiting to be bought (and devoured), but it turns out you’d be wrong.

Apparently, America’s dairy industry is actually on the brink of total disaster — more than one billion pounds of surplus cheese (did you even think having leftover cheese was possible?) are waiting to be bought, as the result of too much milk and too few buyers, particularly overseas. 

According to Munchies, this is the largest cheese surplus America has seen in 30 whole years, causing American cheesemakers to watch as their revenues have depleted 35-percent while the cheese stocks have grown.

Luckily, cheese has a dairy-loving savior. On August 23, the USDA announced it will swoop in and purchased 11 million pounds of extra cheese for a cool $20 million. It plans to donate the cheese to food banks and pantries country-wide.

“We understand that the nation’s dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. The purchase “will help reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of those most in need.”

In the end, he even hints that perhaps this is a win-win situation, because “food banks continue to see strong demand for assistance.”

Here’s the thing though, Americans: Grub Street reports that producers in the U.S. actually originally requested a staggering $150 million from the government for their cheesy woes. That’s more than a micro-nation’s GDP, which means that even after the USDA receives its $20 million worth, there is still a lot of cheese that needs to be consumed — and pronto.

Do your duty, America, and get cheesy.

Sources: Munchies, USDA, Grub Street / Photo credit: Paul Jill/Flickr via Modern Farmer

Tags: cheese, dairy, Surplus, usda
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