As milk prices hover at record highs, dairy farmers are hard-pressed to squeeze every drop of milk out of every available udder. Cows need energy, and one popular way to power their rampant milk-making is to feed them tallow—recycled fat from other cows.
Not only can melting some fat into cow feed increase milk production, improve fertility, and reduce the dustiness of all that grain, but feeding cows the greasy remnants of their butchered brothers actually upsets their stomachs less than vegetarian options like sunflower seeds or cottonseed, which can bother their delicate ruminant innards with their unsaturated fats.
Modern dairy farmers constantly sort through the prices of different feeds to improve their bottom line, and tallow is an old favorite. If a famer is buying fat, what he’s really buying is energy, said Dr. Kevin Harvatine, assistant professor of nutritional physiology at Penn State. It can come in the form of corn, byproduct from bakeries, or a barrel of congealed cow fat, but each choice has its own economic logic and its own health effects, he said.
“It can be a cup of corn or a cup of fat,” said David Meeker, vice president of the National Renderers Association (the other, lesser-known NRA). “The spike in feed prices and pressure on productivity because of milk prices have sent them back to the books and looking at all the alternatives.”
Two inches long, packed full of fluorescent protein and not particularly resilient outside an aquarium, the first genetically-engineered pet was as friendly a poster animal as pet stores were likely to find. But the GloFish and its jellyfish genes weren’t really what worried its most vocal opponents – they were scared of what might come next.
Lawyers argued that the precedent would “open the dams” for a flood of other genetically modified (GM) pets, damaging the environment or endangering human health. Consultants pointed to America’s thriving luxury pet market and advised companies to prepare for labs “as a source for the perfect pet.” Enthusiasts talked about a world with designer dogs, allergen-free cats and “glowing” animals of all kinds.
But, more than a decade later, no bioluminescent bunnies nibble at our gardens and no strange cat-dog chimeras greet us when we get home. Pet stores still stock the same selection of species as they did before the GloFish began its portentous glow. Peter Jenkins, a lawyer who helped lead the charge against the fish in 2004, said he is baffled. “Honestly,” he said. “I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t seen more bad things.”
In the war over how far genetic engineering will be allowed into our lives, long lost on American farms and in American salads, the battle lines have held around our doghouses, fortified by the special relationships we have with our pets.
Beneath the intersection of Lexington and East 51st Street, rush-hour commuters waited shoulder-to-shoulder as three No. 6 subway trains stopped at the station with completely packed cars.
“I’ve never been on a line that’s so sardine-like,” said Mary Ann Fitzgerald, 52, as she waited after work on a rainy day. “People start to get frustrated and upset.”
Fitzgerald, an investment banker, said that on nice evenings she skips the ordeal entirely, walking from her Park Avenue office to Grand Central Station to catch her Metro North train to Westchester.
Plans to rezone Midtown East and build new skyscrapers there will only make things worse for commuters at East 51st Street. But the challenge is city-wide: as the population of New York City has expanded over the last six years, the boom in subway ridership has strained the system. In 2007, nearly one in three subway lines was already exceeding capacity during peak hours. Annual ridership has increased by more than 145 million rides since then, topping out at 1.71 billion last year – the highest ridership since 1949. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority predicts that the city will add another 1 million residents by 2035.
As the class of 2014 prepares to leave colleges across the country and seek positions in the job market, the economic value of all those degrees may come into question.
The labor market has, by some measures, returned to pre-recession levels, and the unemployment rate for Americans with bachelor’s degrees last month was 3.4 percent, nearly half the overall rate. But that doesn’t mean that graduates are going to be finding jobs that are commensurate with their education level, according to economists.
“Public policy has led people to believe that they have to go to college if they want to be successful in life,” said Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and an economist at Ohio University. “As a consequence we have too many Americans going to college every year for the number of jobs they can expect.”
More than 30 percent of Americans will have bachelor’s degrees next year, but according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project, the majority of jobs gained since the recession have been low-wage positions. The lop-sided recovery will exacerbate a long-time gap between the number of college-educated people the U.S. produces and the number of skilled jobs available.
The soaring dairy prices that have sustained dairy farmers and dismayed consumers over the last year are showing signs of easing.
American milk and cheese prices reached record highs in the first quarter of 2014, driven by strong demand from China, Southeast Asia and Mexico. The boost has made dairy farming profitable again after half a decade of barely break-even prices, but it has also brought the price of a gallon of milk to $3.89, the highest in over two years.
“I can’t believe it’s going to stay this good,” said David Wood, who operates a dairy farm with more than 900 cows in Saratoga County, New York. “It never has, so I don’t think it will this time either.”