Friday, July 31, 2009

Let Them Eat Meat

Today, I am simply going to re-post an article by Dan Shapley from TheDailyGreen, entitled "4 Reasons Why Grass-Fed Beef Is Better." Enjoy. Thanks to Kim for sending this my way...

7.27.2009 4:32 pm

4 Reasons Why Grass-Fed Beef Is Better

For the health of the animals, the environment and you (not to mention your taste buds) grass-fed beef is a good option for meat-eaters.

Anyone who's seen Food Inc.or felt startled at the prospect ofE. colifinding its way into your hamburger should care about the origins of your beef.

Beef, as we most often raise it today, is a high-impact food -- about as high-impact as you can get. Food is one of theleading contributors to global warming, primarily because of livestock -- thefossil fuelsused to fertilize grain crops and make pesticides, thedeforestationto make way for grazing or feedlots and everyone's favorite:cow belches.

Grass-fed beef is a lower-impact option for those who are concerned about the environmental or health consequences of a meaty diet, but who can'tgive up meat.

We asked Brian Kenny, manager of theHearst Ranch, to flesh out the details about why grass-fed beef is better. Is there a conflict of interest here? Sure, but I wouldn't put it on the scale of an "agribusiness in the back pocket of Midwest Congressmen" conflict: Both the Hearst Ranch and The Daily Green are owned by the same company (and the meat-eaters on staff have enjoyed Hearst Ranch beef in our office cafe). Kenny came to us with information just like many other companies do, and we told him what we tell a lot of companies: We're interested, and if you can prove it to us, we'll tell our audience. Well, here you go:

Grass-Fed Beef Is More Nutritious
Most beef cows in America are raised for a short time on grass and then "finished" in confined feeding areas with a diet of grain that is unnatural to them, which boostsE. colicounts in their guts, and which encourages the spread of disease. Grass-fed beef cows eat grass their entire lives, as cowsevolved to do. Because their lifecycle isn't accelerated with hormones, animals mature in the spring when forage is bursting with new growth, seeds and nutrients. Those nutrients end up in the meat and result in a healthy and delicious product.

Some research suggests grass-fed beef has more nutrients as a result -- as much as 10 times more beta-carotene, three times more Vitamin E and three-times more omega-3 fatty acids.

Grass-fed Beef Is More Humane
Scientists haven't quantified the benefits of clean water, fresh air and freedom to roam in terms of human health, but it adds up to a happier, healthier herd.

There is an old cowboy saying that we abide by at the Hearst Ranches: "go slow, get there faster."

This means that if you don’t push cows too hard, but rather allow them to find their natural way at their natural pace you’ll be more successful. Forcing them to go your way and at your pace will sometimes cause fatigue for the cattle and always make more work for the cowboy, his horses and his dogs.

Grass-fed Beef Is More Tasty
This is the way beef is supposed to taste. In the wine industry, the wordterroirrefers to the flavor imparted to the wine by the entirety of the property upon which the grapes are grown. Same goes for beef, which takes on distinct flavors based on the terrain, weather, soil and water. Our cattle literally eat the terroir, therefore, they are the ultimate expression of the terroir of our ranches.

Grass-fed Beef Is Less Wasteful
It takes a lot of land to raise beef naturally. The vast grasslands of the Hearst ranches host an unusually complex mosaic of vegetation. By rotating the animals through various pastures through the seasons, we preserve native biodiversity, improve soil fertility and eliminate the waste-management issues associated with confined animal feedlots (a major source of water pollution at conventional farms).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Report: Health Is Unhealthy!

Came across an unbelievable story in Reuters today, "Organic food is no healthier, study finds." Clearly run by government subsidized organizations and "nutritionists," this study is truly worthless. Here's what I mean.

The study completely ignores any kind of externalities, of which there are countless. Like genetic modification, pesticide run-off, worker mistreatment, unfair and unethical government subsidies, massive water and fertilizer requirements, and desertification due to gigantic monocultures robbing the land of everything it once was. Those are just the start of it. Tally these into the "health" value of organic vs. industrial, and things start to look a little fishy.

The other gigantic problem with this study, is the relevant data measured. The "nutrient content" was compared between conventional and organic "foodstuffs." This is classic "nutritionism." Dissect a food into some measurable units, count them, and call it a day. Other than the countless studies I've seen that point to organic food actually possessing a much more nutritionally dense array of components, "nutrition content" is truly an incomplete picture of a food's value. There are many immeasurable components synthesized from natural organic matter that contribute the overall nutrition content, that conventionally grown plants cannot produce.

This is marketing, masquerading around as "news." Sad.


In response to the challenge I received, noting that I didn't cite the "countless studies", I looked to one of my unknowing gudes: Marion Nestle. Sure enough, on her blog today, she discussedthis exact story, and, I happily note, made many of the same points.

"...these authors did not compare amounts of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, irradiation, genetic modification, or sewage sludge. They did not look at any of those things. They only looked at nutrients. This is an example of nutritionism in action: looking at foods as if their nutrient content is all that matters - not production methods, not effects on the environment, and not even taste"

For anyone needing a citation, here are some of Marion Nestle's credentials:

• Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health (the department she chaired from 1988-2003) and Professor of Sociology at New York University.
• Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, University of California, Berkeley.
•From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health.
•Member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee and Science Board, the USDA/DHHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and American Cancer Society committees that issue dietary guidelines for cancer prevention.

One thing I must add, is that one does not purchase organic foods to maximize nutritional content (whatever that means anyway). Organically produced food most importantly LACKS much of what conventionally produced food contains: pesticides, chemicals, unnatural ripening processes, as well as the externalities mentioned at the beginning of this post. One could reasonably post a headline such as, "NEW STUDY FINDS JAPANESE CARS HAVE NO MORE SEATS THAN GERMAN." Great.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zippity Doo Dah

It's been a little bit since I posted (thanks for the last entry, Beth! I actually froze some nectarines yesterday and put them in a drink. Mmmm....) and I admit, I've gotten a bit off topic. While the last few entries were cooking-based, and I firmly believe that cooking is one of the best first steps to becoming more aware of the origins of ones food, I think it's time to get serious again.

So on that note, I'm going to talk about bags.

While this blog is food-based, it's really about the externalities associated with the entire food industry, our relationship with the food we eat, and the way in which it makes it's way to our plates. But before it gets to your plate, it has to get to your kitchen. And most food makes the trip in a disposable plastic bag. According to the Wall Street Journal, 100 billion (yes BILLION) plastic bags are thrown away every year in the US. I don't really need to explain why this is a bad thing (12 million barrels of oil, to start).

Awareness of the issue is becoming more widespread, which is good news. In New York City, for example, it's required by law for grocery stores to accept plastic bags for recycling, and sell reusable ones as well. So maybe it's catching on. Habits, however, are very very hard to change. I have purchased several of these nifty little bags and given them to my friends and family, but I know that they tend to sit unused in glove compartments, on counters, and in drawers. Once the habit has been changed, however, it's an empowering feeling to go to the store and refuse "paper or plastic."

Another often-wasted resource is the ubiquitious ziplock bag. In the disposable-bag world in which we live, these are often considered one-use items. But there's absolutely no reason for this to be the case. We buy sturdy freezer bags for storing produce and leftovers in the fridge, and then simply wash them and use them again. The process is simple:

1. Turn it inside out
2. Wash/Rinse
3. Dry

Not only does this save money (probably upwards of $100/yr), but again, plastic is being saved.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Favorite Use of Peaches

- Beth Brandon

Based on the newsletter I just got this week from my local farmstand, it is time to go stock up on tree fruits: apricots, peaches, plums, and nectarines. Why? Well, not only to can them in light syrup or make pies or jams or, well, to eat them, quite sloppily, with juice dripping down my chin... but to FREEZE THEM, in chunks, making what I like to call the most delicious ice cubes ever for a winter whiskey drink.

If you want to keep it all close to home (those of you in the New York area), go get yourself some Tuthilltown Spirits Hudson Baby Bourbon.

I warmed the hearts of many guests in the cold weather months with this simple, wholesome victual. Let the fruit melt in your drink until you're done and then eat the slippery, liquor-soaked peach that's left in your glass. Heaven.

When freezing these fruits, choose fruit at the peak of ripeness and discard any bad spots. Cut out the pit, cut fruit into chunks (whatever size you like), and fill new freezer bags, pushing out air as much as possible before sealing.

You can also freeze fruits (and any foods, for that matter) in glass or plastic containers. As much as I love my glass mason jars, though, it is much easier to disengage the frozen-together chunks of fruit when they are in a plastic bag than in a container. Rather than stabbing into a container with a knife and risking bodily harm, you can take the sealed bag and hit it against a hard surface like your counter top to break it up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dunnie's Din

Originally uploaded by Utter Brandomonium

Got home from the gym and Dunnie was choppin' away. I chipped in minimally, and we had a wonderful, fresh, veggie-based dinner:

Salad of mixed organic greens from the farmers market, corn, kaniwa (quinoa-like grain from Peru), beets, radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, and red peppers, with lemon-parsley-shallot vinagrette

Garlic, ancho, cumin shrimp on wilted kale with garlic scapes and red onion

No recipes today!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another Repice (no, not a typo)

This is one of my summer favorites. It's a simple recipe (or "rep-uh-see" as my mother calls it) that features one of my favorite summer ingredients: the squash blossom. Their sweet, delicate earthiness, paired with acidic tomatoes, spicy Italian sausage, and finished with Parmesan Reggiano cheese make for a balanced, delicious, light summery pasta dish.

Orecchiete with Sausage, Heirloom Tomatoes and Squash Blossoms
1 lb orecchiette (or rotini if unavailable)
1 medium yellow onion, rough chop
5 cloves garlic, minced
8-10 crimini mushrooms, thick slices
1 lb grape or cherry tomatoes (I used an heirloom variety)
1 1/2 lbs hot italian sausage (or 1/2 hot, 1/2 sweet), casing removed, chopped
12-15 squash blossoms, cleaned and de-stemmed, with pistle removed
1 medium zucchini, 1/4 in thick coins
12 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1 tbsp red chili flakes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper

In large, heavy-bottomed 5-quart saucepan, brown sausage in 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Don't worry too much if it sticks to the bottom - these tasty goodies will be deglazed later. Just make sure the sausage doesn't burn. After 8-10 minutes, or when sausage is browned and cooked through, remove from pan and set aside.
Deglaze the pan with a small splash of water (1-2 tbsp) and scrape up browned bits. Once water is gone, add remaining oil, garlic and onions, and sweat 2-3 minutes, until softened but not browned. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper at this point. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes have wrinkled and some have burst. If pan is dry, add a bit more water.
At this point, cook pasta. Most dried orecchiete takes 9-12 minutes. Cook for 90 seconds less than recommended, as the pasta will be cooked a bit more in the final stage.
Next, add the zucchini and mushrooms to the onions and tomatoes, and cook 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Finally add squash blossoms, sausage, hot pepper, and re-season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium-low and toss until blossoms have wilted. If pasta is not done, remove pan from heat.
Drain pasta, reserving a bit of the pasta water, and immediately add to the pan with the sausage and vegetables. Add parsley and basil, and a bit of pasta water if needed, and finish with 3/4 of the Parmesan. Finish with fresh black pepper and a good, grassy extra virgin olive oil.

A New, Long-Term Relationship

Many people have asked me how I got "into the whole food thing", as it pertains to this blog. Sustainability, local food, slow food, anti-industrial food, food politics (a la Marion Nestle), and what not. It was actually inevitable, when I think about it. I have been an environmentalist of sorts for as long as I can remember, and have been brought up with core values that stress justice, truth, open-mindedness and acceptance. I thank my parents, grandma Gloria, and the particularly progressive brand of Judaism at my temple (and Mike Robinson, my first rabbi). These formed the base.

As a child, I was quite the "tinkerer", ever diving into mountains of Legos, Lincoln Logs, building blocks, train sets, or anything else that could be used as raw building materials for the project at hand. I liked the process, and felt great pride with the results. When I left for college, I was dead-set on engineering. You may be wondering how this has anything to do with food or cooking. It didn't, yet.

Then learned to make my mothers Lemon Chicken.

Cooking was never the abstract, distant, scary thing to me that it is to many people these days. It's just a process, and it always made sense. I would man the BBQ, make some eggs or french toast, make sandwiches and perform some basic tasks in the kitchen, but never really had to fend for myself. The first kitchen I had was sophomore year of college, when there was a 2-burner electric range, small oven, and a sink in the lounge of my dorm. So in my first attempt to cook anything "real", I called up a few friends and declared I was making dinner. It came out pretty darn good.

From that moment on, I knew that cooking was far more than just combining some ingredients, heating most of them up, and eating the finished product. Cooking, and the sharing of a collective meal, is as old as human civilization itself. Eating is the rarest of activities that combines all the senses at once. It caters to the most basic human needs of community, nourishment and comfort.

What began that day was not just a love of food and cooking, but a long-term relationship with the ingredients provided by the earth. And as my interest, experience, and sophistication grew, so did my understanding of the fragile, beautiful gifts that make it into my fridge and pantry. This blog, and my deep interest in what we eat and where it comes from, is the culmination of my most basic values, and experience as an eater and a cook. I admit to unabashed selfishness, however. I want the best ingredients, and they happen to be local, usually organic, and always the freshest possible. A world dominated by impersonal, wasteful, industrial food challenges me on a very deep level.

With that, I will post the first of what will hopefully be many recipes. This is a simple, delicious, wholesome (and awfully wintery, excuse the lack of seasonality) dish.

My mothers Lemon Chicken (updated ever so slightly)

4 boneless free-range chicken breasts
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
2 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 large lemon, cut in half with 4 thin slices taken out of thickest part
1 tbl milk or half-and-half
1 tsp pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
1-2 cups fresh bread crumbs (any old bread in a food processor will do)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
4 tbl extra-virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tbl olive oil and garlic over medium heat. When garlic starts to pop and begins to turn a light golden color, add the bread crumbs.Toast breadcrumbs until they are light golden brown throughout. Season with salt and pepper and half the parsley. Remove from heat and set aside.

In 3 medium shallow dishes, set up your breading station, one with flour, salt, pepper and pimenton, one with beaten eggs and milk, and one with the breadcrumbs. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat in large saucepan. One oil shimmers, begin the breading and frying process. Dust chicken breasts with flour, making sure to pat most of it off, just barely coating. Then dip in egg and milk mixture, letting excess drip off. Finally dredge in bread crumbs, pressing them into the chicken to make sure they adhere. Finally place chicken in saute pan. Repeat with remaining chicken, keeping track of the order in which they went into the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, until breadcrumbs are a medium brown and a crust has formed.

Place chicken in lightly-greased baking dish. Pour a bit of chicken stock and squeeze the lemon (not the slices) all over the chicken and into the baking dish. Make sure the chicken is not swimming in liquid or the breading will become soggy. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 12-15 minutes. Next, remove foil, and sprinkle the cheese over the chicken. Bake another 5-8 minutes, or until top of chicken is crispy and the cheese has melted. Garnish with remaining parsely.

Serve with couscous or brown rice, and a simple wilted green such as kale or spinach. A bit of fresh ground nutmeg is an excellent additional seasoning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finally, a post that supports the name of this blog...

Change without changing? Looks like COMMON SENSE is finally setting in! The Obama administration is looking to restrict the use of antibiotics in HEALTHY ANIMALS. Really? We don't need to pump our healthy livestock and poultry full of drugs? Oh wait, we didn't for the last millenia, and I bet the chicken your grandfather raised tasted a heluva lot better than that Tyson meal in the frozen section.

Read the full article here


Today on the New York Times photo blog, "Lens", the photographer Susana Raab is profiled, along with her newest project, "Consumed." Of course this piqued my interest as it pertains to food AND photography. In searching for a new way to portray fast food, beyond the obvious (gluttony and obesity), she captured an honest slice of American culture. Below the horrific health and environmental impacts lie whimsy, fantasy, imagination and pure ingenuity. Don't worry, my stance on these issues hasn't budged, but it is quite remarkable how the fast food industry evoloved.

Among her comments, she discusses a theme repeated often on this page:

"As a Peace Corps volunteer in Outer Mongolia from 1995 to 1996, Ms. Raab watched as the cow she was about to eat was killed right in front of her. She believes Americans are at too great a remove from their food, how it is created and how it is processed. “That’s unhealthy,” she said."

Whimsy, fantasy, imagination, and ingenuity have quickly been overshadowed by the ugly, irresponsible, unhealthy, dishonest truth.

On a separate note, I think I'll get back on my "Fresh Direct " photoproject.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Not-Food Breakfast, Then a Glimmer of Hope

Last weekend I traveled up to Niagara Falls, Canada for my close college friend's bachelor party. While it was great to catch up with old buddies (and pretend we were back in college - my liver disagrees with this decision, however), it was also a sad, sad look into the middle-America (and by extension, Canada) I haven't seen since graduating. (For now, i'll leave the discussion of how one of the 7 wonders of the natural world has been completely spoiled by tacky, glitzy casinos and hotels for another time)

Upstate New York and the towns near the Canadian border are decent places - rolling hills, green pastures, cornfields, and post-industrial cities struggling to find a new identity, most containing a number of quality universities. These are generally family-oriented places. But like most working-class towns in this country, eating and shopping establishments are dominated by giant, corporate-industrial chains. As a result, it was extremely difficult to find anything "edible," in the local/organic/sustainable/honest sense. Applebees, Bob Evans, Perkins, TGIFridays, and of course KFC, BK, the golden arches, and Taco Bell were all eager to sell a cheap, high energy meal. Garbage. Appropriate in a town monopolized by casinos. Breakfast was at Perkins, and was truly disgusting.

This is just further illustration of the well-known fact that Americans spend about half as much per capita on food than other westernized nations. In a society haunted by consumption and risk, we are more willing to drop a $20 chip on a blackjack table than $20 on breakfast. Ask me how that makes sense! For the first, you have a known disadvantage against the house, whereas on breakfast, you have a known advantage of eating a good meal.

But like I said in the post headline, I have also seen a few glimmers of hope. On Sunday, I returned to NYC and caught the tail end of the farmers market. I got some garlic scapes, local cherries, some late-season sugar snap peas, and some amazing andouille sausage from a farm in Putnam County that raises only grass-fed cows. There was a TV crew interviewing some of the purveyors and vendors, and an unusual buzz. Some guy was saying to the farmer at this particular stand that he "just read the Ominvores Dilemma" and was excited about the local food movement. Once he was gone and I ordered my sausages, I asked if that book has had an effect. His eyes lit up and he said plainly, "It changed everything. It changed our lives."

Now it's time to change yours.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cows are cute. Making them is not.

Cool as a cow

A few weeks ago, before Pixar's newest creation, "Up" began, there was a 10-minute animated film short entitled "Partly Cloudy." This endearing little film artfully re-invented Creationism, in a world where cloud-creatures sculpt the flora and fauna of the earth out of cloud-putty, magically bring them to life, and have them delivered via trusty, devoted storks. Among these clouds was a gray, isolated, petulant fellow who was responsible for creating all the thorny, smelly, violent, dangerous creatures of the world (think porcupines, electric eels, skunks, sharks, rhinos, etc). The stork that worked for this cloud-God was weary, beat-up, and frustrated with the (painful) job at hand. But like most endentured servants, there weren't any alternatives.

Unfortunately this cute, compartmentalized version of life, where every creature has a specific maker, is awfully close to the the truth when it comes to the industrial food system's way of "producing" life. It's just much, much uglier. Creating life, such as cows, pigs, chickens, soybeans, fish, etc, in dark, isolated factories, churning out dangerous animals (E. Coli, pollution, massive energy and water inputs) with abused workers that have no alternatives (deportation) is the norm in our current system.

I was going to commingle a bunch of statistics on how devastating cow "production" and consumption is to the planet, but Dave Tilford of the New American Dream did a great job in his paper "Biodiversity To Go: The Hidden Costs of Beef Consumption" Here's an excerpt:

Despite a certain docile charm, all those cows weigh heavily on the planet. The environmental problems associated with beef production are many and varied, but can be grouped under a common heading: inefficient use of resources. Simply put, the resources necessary to make a cow could be put to better use by some of the planet’s other inhabitants, humans included. Robert Goodland, Senior Environmental Advisor to the World Bank and author of several books on ecological economics, offered this blunt assessment:

Cattle have arguably caused or are related to the most environmental damage to the globe of any non-human species (e.g. overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, tropical deforestation for ranches).1

Cows are conspicuous consumers of water, food and space. Beckett and Oltjen (1993) estimate that 108 gallons of water is funneled into each quarter pound of beef, counting what the animal drinks and what goes into its feed. (Other estimates range much higher. Ryan and Durning (1995): 616 gallons; Pimental et al (1997): 3000 gallons.) Meanwhile, range cattle in the Western U.S. trample and pollute sensitive riparian areas, while feedlots are responsible for fouling groundwater drinking sources.

In Central and South America, where millions of acres of rainforest have been cleared to make way for pastureland, the effect on global biodiversity has been disastrous:

It is estimated that for every quarter pound hamburger that comes from a steer raised in Central and South America, it is necessary to destroy approximately 75 kilograms (165 pounds) of living matter, “including some of twenty to thirty different plant species, perhaps one hundred insect species, and dozens of bird, mammal, and reptile species.”

Cattle also represent a huge drain on the world’s grain supply. For cattle raised in feedlots, it takes roughly seven pounds of grain to add a pound of live weight to the animal.4 USDA statistics tell us that 70% of the grain produced in the U.S. and 40% of the world's supply is fed to livestock—primarily cattle. Channeled directly to humans rather than diverted to cattle, this grain would represent a huge surplus. Even if the goal is protein production, land use efficiency dictates farming for humans rather than farming for cows. One acre of cereals can produce twice to ten times as much protein as an acre devoted to beef production; one acre of legumes ten to twenty times as much.5 According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Perhaps the greatest potential for increasing food use efficiency lies in reducing consumption of meat, a grain intensive food...[R]educing consumption of [livestock], especially beef, could free up massive quantities of grain and reduce pressure on land.”

Scary stuff. My goal, really, is just to get people to think about these implications for a millisecond when they order that Big Mac. Because after enough milliseconds, it becomes a thought. And thoughts lead to actions. Or at least I hope. Otherwise, the stork is going on strike, and that's a big problem for everyone.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It is what it is, unless it isn't.

OK, 2nd post of the day. According to Marion Nestle's "Food Politics" blog, both Horizon and Silk (makers of organic milk and soy milk/soy products, and now owned by Dean Foods) have begun to market "Natural" products. Since there is no scientific or regulatory definition of "natural" this is little more than a marketing ploy, and as noted, this was done so surreptitiously:

"They made the switch to conventional soybeans, in Silk products, without lowering the price. Sheer profiteering. The likelihood is that they will create this new category and enjoy higher profits than they currently realize having to pay those pesky organic dairy farmers a livable wage."

This whole thing is disturbing on a few fronts. On one hand, there is a constant struggle between the organic producers who have "gotten big" and those who say that in doing so they are selling out and losing their initial vision of an "alternative food system." Michael Pollan and the CEO of Whole Foods
duked it out publically a few years ago and actually came to a reasonable understanding on the topic. And if you followed my directions and went out and saw Food, Inc, then you'd see that some of these people really truly believe that displacing commercial, industrial foods on the shelves of any store (even Walmart) is a good thing. Which I agree with. But on the other hand, at what point does it stop? This story illustrates my point perfectly. When the same big players are involved, the same old "foodpolitics as usual" (thanks Sarah) will be the norm.

Then again (I think I'm out of hands here) if a company manages to keep it's soul, then profits will be a good thing for the movement. Actually, that was the first hand. Hmm.

Moral of the story is to ALWAYS be wary of food labeling. Unless it's "certified organic" (and even that can be iffy at times) or came from a farmers market, or godforbid you grew it yourself, words like "natural" or "healthful" or pictures of perfect pastoral landscapes are probably marketing ploys.


When you go out to lunch, refuse the plastic bag. Do you really need it for your 4 block walk? Didn't think so.

On a separate note, a sad (but witty) entry on Mark Morford's column today from

"Maybe you thought it might be otherwise. Maybe you thought the tide was finally turning, given all the focus lo these past years on health and exercise, on improving the diet and buying organic and eating locally, the hot success of "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Food, Inc" and all the rest, not to mention a shiny overpriced Whole Foods on every street corner and farmer's markets flourishing in every small town and the outright command to eat well splayed across the cover of every copy of "O" magazine.

How adorable you are, with your sweet utopian naiveté. Turns out the American diet has not really improved one iota, is just as gluttonous, sugary, chemical-blasted, heart-diseased, fatty, bloated and death-inviting as ever. We have not learned a thing. Yay America!"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I'll make today's easy - right off the Food, Inc. website are 10 easy things that everyone can do to have a significant impact on their own health, while sending a real message to the companies that have us locked into the industrial food system.

The very first one is one of the most powerful:

Stop drinking sodas and other sweetened beverages.
You can lose 25 lbs in a year by replacing one 20 oz soda a day with a no calorie beverage(preferably water).

Anyone who saw the movie or read "The Omnivores Dilemma" knows the scope of corn's role in the industrial food system. Here's what he has to say:

"Take a typical fast food meal. Corn is the sweetener in the soda. It's in the corn-fed beef Big Mac patty, and in the high-fructose syrup in the bun, and in the secret sauce. Slim Jims are full of corn syrup, dextrose, cornstarch, and a great many additives. The “four different fuels” in a Lunchables meal, are all essentially corn-based. The chicken nugget—including feed for the chicken, fillers, binders, coating, and dipping sauce—is all corn. The french fries are made from potatoes, but odds are they're fried in corn oil, the source of 50 percent of their calories. Even the salads at McDonald's are full of high-fructose corn syrup and thickeners made from corn.

Corn is the keystone species of the industrial food system, along with its sidekick, soybeans, with which it shares a rotation on most of the farms in the Midwest. I'm really talking about cheap corn — overproduced, subsidized, industrial corn — the biggest legal cash crop in America. Eighty million acres — an area twice the size of New York State — is blanketed by a vast corn monoculture like a second great American lawn.

I believe very strongly that our overproduction of cheap grain in general, and corn in particular, has a lot to do with the fact that three-fifths of Americans are now overweight. The obesity crisis is complicated in some ways, but it's very simple in another way. Basically, Americans are on average eating 200 more calories a day than they were in the 1970s. If you do that and don't get correspondingly more exercise, you're going to get a lot fatter. Many demographers are predicting that this is the first generation of Americans whose life span may be shorter than their parents'. The reason for that is obesity, essentially, and diabetes specifically"

On the health problems associated w/ soda:

Monday, July 6, 2009

This won't hurt. I'm serious...

I'm back in the blogosphere. (God I hate that word.) But this time it's not for narcissistic ramblings - it has a point. I have a simple goal: convince people that living in a more honest, sustainable way is not only healthier, cheaper and more conscientious than the alternative, but will have an actual impact on their quality of life. Because talking about making hard decisions that MIGHT save some whales in 20 years won't work.

As John Vucetich, assistant professor of animal ecology at Michigan Technological University, and Michael Nelson, associate professor of environmental ethics at Michigan State University said:

"Instead of hope, we need to provide young people with reasons to live sustainably that are rational and effective. We need to lift up examples of sustainable living motivated by virtue more than by a dubious belief that such actions will avert environmental disaster."

I'm going to focus this blog on one aspect of the whole issue: Food. And my first piece of advice is this: Go see the movie "Food, Inc." Here are showtimes:

It's an easy first step in understanding how you can make a huge huge difference, three times a day.