Tag: food politics

Weekly Link Roundup: Eating Maps, Grass-Fed Beef, Aquaponics and More.

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week. Lots of good stuff.

Most Fast-Food Per Person and Other Food Facts [Daily Yonder] – some cool maps of eating habits across the U.S.

How Eating Grass-Fed Beef Could Help Fight Climate Change [TIME] – that’s as self-explanatory a title as you can get.

Behind the Organic Pasture Rule at the USDA [Chewswise]  – a blog by the author of Organic, Inc.

The Great Grocery Smackdown [The Atlantic] – on buying organic at…Walmart? Plus a blind cookoff between Walmart and Whole Foods. Some interesting results…

The Spotless Garden [New York Times]  – a great article about backyard and basement aquaponics systems and the ‘otherworldly yields’ from this type of growing.   ‘It is either a glimpse into the future of food growing or a very strange hobby — possibly both.’

More photos and cool stuff here. All credits to NYTimes.

Read This Now: Introducing the Weekly Link Roundup

After spending an unprecendented 3+ weeks in each other’s company, Irene Bean and I have come up with some exciting plans and goals to make this FamilyStyles blog a more delicious, useful, educational, entertaining and altogether excellent place to spend your time.

I’m in the process of migrating the blog over to another server, so apologies for any missing pages, weird links, and other bad things caused by my lack of coding skills and demonstrable inability to follow step-by-step instructions.

More importantly – we want to start a weekly link roundup of good articles, essays, ideas, and generally interesting and thought-provoking links from around the interwebs. Because other people are smart and do good work and write excellent pieces and we think they’re worth reading.

Thus. What I read this morning in bed and yesterday when I should have been working:

1. Food writer Corby Kummer in The Atlantic on the value of school gardens, rebutting another Atlantic writer who decries schoolyeard gardens as cruel, elitist, oppressive, and plain out wrong -  without bothering to speak to any educators, parents, children, or community members who have experienced such a program. Corby, on the other hand, actually makes the effort.

2. A GOOD article on aquaponics and making urban farming sustainable. You know how we love Will Allen of Growing Power and his vertically integrated closed loop sustainable urban farm programs. This article talks more about urban agriculture and introduced me to a fantastic San Francisco-based company called Cityscape Farms seeking to develop local food economies and transform the urban landscape by creating urban greenhouses.  I truly think that it’s these types of thoughtful, sustainable yet also business-minded approaches that are going to change America’s food system for the better.

3. Another GOOD article – yeah, I like them – on how Better Meat Requires Better Butchers. So true and so needs to be said. We pay so much attention to the bucolic ideal of small farmers with excellent animal husbandry over factory-farmed meat. But if the pasture-grazed cow is still sent to an industrial slaughterhouse because there are no small licensed facilities available, we’re very likely still losing out in terms of food safety, animal welfare transportation efficiencies, environmental pollutants, and numerous other problems associated with these industrial systems. So we need more butchers. Better for the animals, better for the eaters, better for the planet.

Plus, butchers are badass. Looks like it’s time for a new hobby. Way to begin the fight, Irene.

4. Lastly, a final GOOD article (I know it’s been 3 articles from them, it’s just…they’re really…don’t make me say it…you get the picture…) on the Slow Money Alliance, which is trying to be the Slow Food of the financial world by promoting value-added investment into local and regional farming enterprises. Can you imagine the impact it would have if more and more people directed their money towards small business rather than big business, companies that prioritize local production over international destruction, people rather than profits? (Note, this isn’t just some money-draining, feel-good hippie operation – the goal is to provide a return on your investment while supporting these ideals).  I’m interested to research this further myself.

UPDATE: Another interesting article called Who Will Grow Your Food? Part 1: The Coming Demographic Crisis in Agriculture by the author of A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil.  What will happen as farmers grow old or can’t afford to keep their land if no one is being trained to replace them? How will this affect our food system and the way we eat?

So. Hope you enjoy the articles. I sometimes find it overwhelming  trying to ingest just a few valuable drops of the tidal wave of information crashing towards me every day online and it’s nice to have things carefully picked out for you every once in a while. These pieces make me start copying and pasting links into various emails with the heading ‘YOU HAVE TO READ THIS ARTICLE NOW’, so this is just my lazy way of putting them all in one place. We’re going to try to do this weekly at least, so keep your eyes open…

Two Excellent Articles On Improving American Food (and my relationship to childhood obesity)

Some seriously excellent articles I’ve just encountered:

1. Avoiding Factory Farms: An Eater’s Guide, by Nicolette Hahn Niman

2. Good Food Nation, by Peter Dizikes of the MIT News Office

Seriously, go read them. Or if you just want me to summarize, click after the jump for brief overviews, some additional thoughts, and an amusing childhood connection…

Read the full article »

Michael Pollan and Will Allen on Good Food at PopTech

Sometimes you get really lucky when you’re randomly screwing around online. Exciting things are happening all over the world and every so often you happen to be there at the perfect moment to observe them. And by ‘there’ I mean ‘a very large ocean away’ from the PopTech conference in Camden, Maine, a yearly event that brings together ‘world changing people, projects and ideas.’ But thanks to live streamed video, timely Twitter updates, and the Miracle of the Internet, on Saturday I was able to watch, in real-time from 3,000 miles away, the inspiring talks of two of my favorite sustainable and good eating visionaries: Michael Pollan and Will Allen.

I’m psyched I managed to catch part of both their talks live because the full videos don’t appear to be online. However, you can see a brief minute-and-a-half recap of several speeches on PopTech 2009: Saturday Highlights and read well-written, comprehensive overviews on the PopTech blog as well. If you’re interested in food and don’t know about either of these guys, start reading now…

Read about ‘Michael Pollan’s Gospel of Sustainable Food’. His talk was full of great quotes – like how a vegan in a Hummer uses less energy than a meat eater in a Prius and how our generation in America will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than our parents. Below, he grins next to a double Quarter Pounder and the equivalent 26 ounces of oil needed to produce the burger.  This is right before he dips a finger into the viscous black liquid in the glasses, sticks it in his mouth..and then tells the shocked audience that it’s actually chocolate syrup.

michael pollan at poptech

Read about ‘Will Allen and the Urban Farming Revolution’

Will Allen at PopTech

And while I’m busy linking, read about the talk given by Marije Vogelzang – a Dutch designer who does edible art projects and installations. I like that she got vegetable-hating preschoolers to eat their greens by gnawing fun shapes into their vegetables using their teeth. Play + Food = Fun and Delicious.  And it’s given me some good ideas for Rambling Restaurant…

You can read about the rest of the America Reimagined conference and watch some more videos here. And the PopTech website has tons of other amazing videos, blog posts, useful links, profiles of fascinating people and projects and companies, and an inspiring social innovation fellows program.  Click around the site and you’ll almost get overwhelmed with all the interesting material. So go check it out – you don’t even need to be in the right place at the right time. You could be in your underwear in your closet in the middle of the night and still learn about world-changing ideas at PopTech – now that’s the Miracle of the Internet.

UPDATE:  Apparently the quote on the vegan in the Hummer is not statistically accurate. Pollan acknowledges and chooses to refocus on the general message of the environmental concerns against industrialized meat. It’s basically just a pithy soundbite anyway…but too bad cause it was a good one.

To Free-Range or Not to Free-Range? The Transatlantic Egg Comparison

things have been pretty busy lately (everyday i’m hustling) so here’s a post i wrote a while ago for the sustainable food blog  eat.drink.better. interesting, if you care about chicken welfare, where your eggs are coming from, and bad egg puns. and if you don’t, you should! cluck cluck.

How do you like your eggs? The answer to that question used to be sunny side up, scrambled, or over easy. Now, it’s cage-free and organic, thank you very much.  Since I moved to London recently, I’ve noticed a greater level of public awareness regarding egg production and chicken welfare as compared to the United States.  Most supermarkets and chain restaurants, and even some giant multinational corporations, sell or use exclusively free-range eggs and prominently advertise doing so.

It’s certainly a big change from the United States, where cage-free eggs are generally available but are not as widespread in popularity as in the United Kingdom. It appears to be a slowly growing movement back at home, and it’s great news that some states have begun to pass laws improving living conditions for chickens. Unfortunately, we’ve still got a long way to go before reaching the level of public demand and corporate response for the right kind of eggs that can be found here in the UK.

Here are a few of the differences I’ve noticed with regard to egg production and marketing in the UK and the States.

Read the full article »

Eat Sustainable Meat From Farmers Markets: More Delicious, Less Deadly!

sup peeps. this post was originally published at eat.drink.better a few weeks ago and i want to share it with you now. reading it, you will notice that a) i  do understand punctuation and that excessive hyphenization is not normal, b) i know how to capitalize, and c) i actually can prevent my filthy mouth from spilling out onto the page if necessary. however, on my (our) blog, i just choose not to. okay? anyway, enjoy.

Meat Menu at the Farmers Market

For those of us who love a crispy slice of bacon but also care about the impact of our food choices, eating meat can be a very complex issue. Just for starters, there’s the environmental aspects of meat production, the safety concerns with industrial processing (read this frightening article in the NYTimes about ‘anthrax sausages’) and the thorny ethical questions of animal welfare to consider. It’s a difficult question: how can we have our steak and eat it too?

My current solution? Buy locally and sustainably raised meat from farmers markets. I went to the bustling Union Square Greenmarket in New York City last weekend to explore my meat purchasing options and do some research. And by ‘research,’ I mean ‘eating.’ Here are photos and some reasons why farmers markets are a great place to get your meat fix.

Read the full article »

making friends, talking food politics, and sharing a meal at the sunday supper eat-in

i went to an absolutely fantastic event called the ’sunday supper’ eat-in at the yerba buena center gallery space over the weekend. an eat-in, as you can see on the eat-ins website, is a shared group meal, a public potluck, a community food event designed to get people together to share real food and conversation.  in addition, eat-ins are meant to get people talking and thinking about ”good, clean, fair food’ and hopefully using that dialogue as a catalyst for action. there’s so much that needs to be done to make sure it’s a right and not a privilege to have food that is just and healthy and sustainable. it was great to have this event to get people reflecting on all the complex issues inextricably tied to the food we put in our mouths on a daily basis.

about 100 people showed up bearing overflowing bowls of salad, fresh-baked bread and arugula pesto, pie pans full of corn fritters, chocolate bread and olive oil cake, spicy cabbage rice, prosciutto and dates, olive and onion tarts, and even a huge bucket full of sweet hibiscus tea, plus so much more.  there were a lot of regular people interested in food, as well as a number of invited food activists, authors, chef, and organizers who were there to spark conversation around their work. we all sat around the long table like a family reunion, piled our plates high, and chatted with our neighbors about all things food. irene, you would have loved it.

sunday-supper-eat-in

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incanto, sustainability, and the connection between foie gras and self-determinism

for me, an important part of this blog is to consider the idea of ’sustainability’ in food. sustainable is a word i use often, despite the complexity of issues surrounding the idea of sustainable eating and the difficulty of even defining the word as used to describe food and food production. the owners of incanto, where i ate last week,  address this topic and much more in a lengthy letter on their website entitled Shock and Foie: The War Against Dietary Self-Determinism.

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beaded lizards, carbon cafes, and sex advice at the academy of sciences

i just got back from the super radtastic nightlife event at the phenomenal new california academy of sciences museum in golden gate park. every thursday night, they open up the museum at night for people to drink wine, poke starfish, drink beer, ogle anacondas, drink cocktails, stare at jellyfish, dance awkwardly a bit while a dj spins, and generally do their best not to fall into a tank full of rare white alligators.  this is pretty much my idea of the perfect evening, assuming no alligator incidents. i’m kind of a nerd. science museums rock.

bar-and-aquarium

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anthrax sausages! (aka why i don't eat industrially processed meat anymore)

i just read a fascinating yet terrifying article in the new york times on food safety problems.  it’s shocking and disgusting how many health issues are found during private inspections of food processing plants and then completely ignored. a stomach-churning excerpt:

“The only thing that matters is productivity,” said Robert A. LaBudde, a food safety expert who has consulted with food companies for 30 years, adding that “you only get in trouble if someone in the media traces it back to you, and that’s rare, like a meteor strike.”

Dr. LaBudde said a sausage plant hired him five years ago to determine the species of bacillus plaguing its meat. But the owner then refused to complete the testing. “I called them ‘anthrax sausages,’ and said they could be killing older people in the state, and still they wouldn’t do it,” he said, declining to name the company.

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