Bonnie Azab Powell

Bonnie Azab Powell was Grist's food editor until February 2011. A dot-com-bubble rider turned university refugee, Bonnie co-founded one of the first "food-politics" blogs, The Ethicurean, in May 2006 -- also coining that term to describe someone interested in sustainable, organic, local, and ethical (SOLE) food that also happens to be tasty.

Obsessed with our broken food system, she switched from writing freelance business and technology articles to SOLE food. Her work has appeared in a bunch of places printed on dead trees. She lives in the Bay Area, where she gardens half-assedly and cooks wholeheartedly while running two meat CSAs for small local farms. She loathes the word "foodie."

Poison: It's what's for dinner!

Arsenic found in Utah kids’ pee traced to their pet chickens’ feed

Backyard chickens: Fun for the entire family! That is, until your kids get arsenic poisoning from them. The Utah Department of Health tracked worrisome levels of arsenic in two kids’ urine to the family’s backyard chicken coop, reports Judy Fahys in the Salt Lake Tribune (hat tip to Cookie Jill). More specifically, to the arsenic-based additive called roxarsone that (along with others) is commonly used in animal feed, and that somehow wound up in the eggs from those chickens. The kids were eagerly eating a dozen eggs or so a week each from their hens. Used in combination with antibiotics, …

You've got that nesting feeling

Cool digs for urban chickens [SLIDESHOW]

So you’ve consulted your city’s municipal code regarding backyard poultry — or just decided, “Cluck the neighbors, I’m getting chickens!” Next you’ll need a home for your birds that offers room to roam, warmth in winter and ventilation in summer, and protection from urban thugs like dogs and raccoons. (For details on space requirements and ideal bedding options, see last week’s interview with chicken-raising expert Gail Damerow.) Ideally your feathered friends’ abode will also be easy to clean and gather eggs — and easy on the eyes. We expect Grist’s wannabe chicken keepers won’t be shelling out for the stylish-yet-pricy …

Plucky lady

Chicken expert Gail Damerow answers newbie questions

Cluck, cluck, cluck. Bwaak! These are not sounds I expect to hear on a stroll in my North Oakland, Calif. neighborhood — the usual soundtrack is more like thumping bass, sirens, and the rattle of fast-food paper bags. And yet chickens are pecking in backyards on practically every block, in converted sheds and rickety but raccoon-proof enclosures. Where I live, it’s mostly a matter of economics: chicken feed is cheap, and fresh, tasty orange-yolked eggs are expensive. Around the country, though, it’s safe to say that keeping chickens has never enjoyed as much cachet as it does now. Some cities …

Steak out!

USDA recalls 96,000 tons of beef … from one family

Yes, it’s a video from the Onion, and one of its finest. But with burger-grilling season heating up, and bacteria-friendly temperatures rising across the nation, it’s worth taking the meat of the video’s message with a grain of salt. (Gagging from my puns yet?) If you can find beef at your local farmers market, you’ll be far less likely to be eating burger ground from hundreds of thousands of cows, which ups your risk of getting sick from E. coli exponentially. Personally, I prefer tofu dogs over mystery meat.    

Not lovin' it

Farmworkers dare Americans to ‘Take Our Jobs!’

Job opportunities for agricultural workers occupations should be abundant because large numbers of workers leave these jobs due to their low wages and physical demands. -Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition Tired of being vilified as stealing jobs from unemployed American citizens, and hoping to spark realistic discussion of immigration reform, United Farm Workers is teaming up with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert for an awesome campaign called Take Our Jobs, the Associated Press reports. Martin CrookThe union has created a website where you can sign yourself up for fieldwork. Experienced field hands will train legal residents and …

Your moment of zen

They shoot unicorns, don’t they?

Grist reader Scott Hess sent in this photo in response to today’s post about Big Pork threatening legal action over the marketing copy for Canned Unicorn Meat. It immediately made me think of a concept my friends at Boing Boing long ago pioneered: a “unicorn chaser” — a mind-cleansing antidote to stories of a gross, disturbing, or depressing nature. As heaven knows we have enough of the third group around here, I thus post Scott’s glorious portrait of one of the mythical beasts, taken at sunset in Sonoma County, Calif., as balm for all that may ail you. (Scott Hess) …

Weee weee all the way home

Big Pork squeals over unicorn-meat marketing. Yes, unicorn meat.

We’ll have a rainbow roast, please!(ThinkGeek.com)One has to feel sorry for Big Pork. First there was that nasty swine flu that put everyone off pork chops, even though the industry managed to get the name changed to H1N1. Profits are down for producers like Smithfield. Despite America’s love affair with all things bacon, pork consumption also continues to drop. The industry’s hiring of a popular blogger to push pork, including sending her to a CAFO (look! Family farmers! Happy pigs on concrete! No festering manure lagoons to be seen!), stinks to high heaven to some in the blogosphere.  And now …

Bean there, done that

New Agtivist Q&A with John Scharffenberger: First wine, then chocolate, and now … tofu?

John Scharffenberger at the Hodo Soy Beanery tofu factory in Oakland, Calif.(Bart Nagel Photography) This is the first in Grist’s series of interviews with a group we’re calling the “New Agtivists” — the many people who’re working to change this country’s f’ed-up food system. Whether famous or un-, they’re a little bit country and a little bit punk rock. They’re starting urban farms, seed-saving ventures, and underground food-swapping markets. They’re fighting for better food in schools and fewer feedlots. They have one thing in common: they think food matters — and they’re taking it into their own hands to improve …

Catch in your throat

Wanna save Gulf seafood? Eat it! [SLIDESHOW]

Seafood menus are a minefield if you’re trying to eat conscientiously. Those tiger shrimp in your cocktail? So tasty — but shrimp farms are destroying Asia’s mangrove forests, along with the other creatures and people who depend on these delicate ecosystems. Is your sushi shrinkwrapped? Then you can be pretty sure it’s not sustainable. But with the BP well still hemorrhaging petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, now’s your chance to eat some seafood guilt free. As Gary Nabhan writes today for Grist, 138 place-based foods are directly affected by the Gulf oil spill, as are the mostly ethnic-minority fishers …