Viewpoint: Improving the marketplace for consumers

This page highlights efforts by Consumers Union and others to improve the marketplace

Published: October 2014

Heroes & Watchdogs: Kinder, gentler meat from two next-generation cowboys

White Oak Pastures has been in Will Harris’ family for five generations, during which time the Georgia farmer has witnessed the agricultural industry come full circle: His dad’s decision to industrialize the business was for practical and financial reasons, but Harris says, “there were unintended consequences, most felt by the animals we raised and to our land, water, and air resources.” That’s why he and his children have returned White Oak to the environmentally sustainable, high animal-­welfare model used by his great-grandfather 150 years ago. The overhaul meant five years when the farm was “just hemorrhaging money,” he says. Today, though, White Oak has hit its stride: It has zero-waste red meat and poultry processing plants, and it even powers its tractors with biodiesel from its on-farm restaurant’s cooking grease.

Will Witherspoon’s resume doesn’t look like the typical farmer’s, but the former St. Louis Rams linebacker says the inspiration for Shire Gate Farm—his 700-acre, Animal Welfare Approved cattle business—was a clause in his NFL contract. “It says that we’re ultimately responsible for what we put in our bodies,” he says. So he educated himself about sustainable farming techniques and hung out his shingle in 2007. “One of our big goals is to eliminate the elitist factor that comes with ‘grass-fed,’ ” he says. “We may live in a fast-food world, but more and more, educated consumers are proving that the value of high quality is up their alley.”


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Actions you can take in December

Photo: Paul Sahre

Push for a national 911 system upgrade

A cell phone seems like a good bet in an emergency, but 911 dispatchers can’t always pinpoint a mobile caller’s exact location indoors—especially in buildings with several floors. Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, supports the FCC’s proposal to raise standards for wireless carriers and the federal emergency system. Learn more at

Watch for kill-switch laws to deter cell-phone theft

Last year more than 3 million smart phones were stolen in the U.S. But starting next summer a California law will ensure that all new devices sold in the state come with “kill switches,” which let the owner of a stolen phone remotely disable it. Laws like that dissuade thieves, so we’re pushing Congress to require kill switches nationwide.

The win: A ban on unsafe magnets

Tiny, high-powered magnet sets are hazardous to children. If ingested, those magnets can tear holes through a child’s stomach or intestine. Consumers Union has long pushed to get those unsafe products off the market. Now, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has approved a national safety standard that effectively bans them. Read more about the dangers and the new standard at

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the December 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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