The birth of an organic calf on Dec. 12 wouldn't be news, except for the fact that it was the first organic calf born on the nation's first organic dairy research farm at the University of New Hampshire. Now, for a price, you can name the cute little heifer -- a worthwhile expense, if you follow the research money in organic ag.
I didn't catch this two-day-old story until now, but it's causing me to reheat my homemade chicken broth to boiling. Consumer Reports found a stunning 83 percent of all chickens it tested harbored campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease. And that was up from 49 percent of chickens tested just three years ago. Even more troubling, it found much of the bacteria was resistant to antibiotics. Why is this an issue? Because the Centers for Disease Control estimates 40,000 people get sick and 600 die each year from salmonella. Campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 1 million persons every year, or 0.5% of the general population.
Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation and a longtime presence in the world of California -- and national -- organic farming, published a provocative essay recently on where organic came from and where it's headed. He discusses the hidden history that brought organic regulations into the USDA (which I also talk about in Organic Inc.) and suggests where organic needs to go. Most of all, he provides a much-needed perspective on the debates engulfing the organic world right now, which are leading some consumers to question its worth:
In a truly bizarre story, laying hens who have survived euthanasia have walked out alive from compost piles. Neighbors in Sonoma County dubbed them "zombie chickens."
ABC World News is running a three-part series on organic food that concludes tonight. It's worth viewing, if only to see the messages the "mainstream" is getting.
Success breeds imitation breeds competition, and Whole Foods is feeling the heat: its stock dropped more than 20 percent on news of slowing sales. Said CEO John Mackey on his blog: There has been an explosion in interest from our supermarket competitors in virtually everything we are doing, from copying many aspects in the design of our stores to selling more organic foods of all types, other supermarkets are studying and emulating us in dozens of different ways in their attempt to compete more aggressively against us.
Michael Ruhlman, a food writer who has penned books with the likes of Thomas Keller (The French Laundry), has an interesting thread on his blog about cooking balls (yes, the ones between legs). I haven't put a lot of thought into the ethics of eating balls, or castrating for that matter, or whether these bits demand their own particular consideration vis-a-vis the rest of the animal. But the recipe-intensive discussion is amusing, so click ahead (as long as you're not a vegetarian).
Slow Food recently wrapped up its biennial event, Terra Madre, in Turin, Italy. The conference gathers food producers from around the world to share information, stories, and food. Slow Food had a running blog of the event, with pictures and audio. We are the voices of Terra Madre. We believe in good, clean and fair food. These are our stories, our pictures, our questions and answers, our problems, concerns, fears, failures and successes. So mangiati il fegato (eat your heart out).
Sir Robert McCarrison is not a household name, but in the 1920s this honorary physician to the King, head of post-graduate medical education at Oxford and proponent of nutrition, played an influential role in the birth of the organic food movement in Britain -- and perhaps in contemporary nutrition research as well.