Tom Philpott

Tom Philpott was previously Grist's food writer. He now writes for Mother Jones.

Industrial Agriculture

Cheap food: Not what’s for dinner anymore?

Cheap food might go the way of cheap gas.Photo: Eddie SCross-posted from Mother Jones. Remember when gas was a dollar a gallon? The era of the fast-food “dollar menu” may be going the same way. Cheap food has been with us for a while. After World War II, global grain prices fell steadily for decades. U.S. and European farms scaled up, resorted to synthetic and mined fertilizers and pesticides, invested in massive planting and harvesting machines as well as novel seed varieties. All of this pushed crop yields into the stratosphere — and crop prices into the dirt. The era …

Food

It’s the McEconomy, stupid

As American as Baked Apple Pie.Photo: Keoni 101Cross-posted from Mother Jones. Up to 30,000 of the 54,000 jobs created in May were the result of a hiring spree by the hamburger chain, analysts at Morgan Stanley told Market Watch on Friday. So hiring at McDonald’s accounted for about half of the nation’s job growth in May. What lessons can we draw from this? One, obviously, is that the economy is anemic and lurching toward a “double dip” — which isn’t some new dessert concoction at McDonald’s. While unemployment hovers at 9 percent, job creation has slowed to a trickle — …

Sustainable Food

Great places, great food (and beer): part two

You can’t have a great place without great beer.In part one of my musings on food and “great places,” I painted a bleak picture of the U.S. food landscape: one in which a handful of companies churn out mountains of low-quality food, competing not to see who can put out the best product, but rather to see who can most deftly and deeply slash costs. The fixation on cost-cutting gives rise to all manner of dysfunctions, including the erasure of skilled food trades like that of the butcher and the rise of a vast, low-wage, low-skill army of food-system workers. …

Sustainable Food

Great places, great food: part one

Is this your idea of a great place? Didn’t think so.Photo: Robert TerrellDavid Roberts has been sketching out a positive, unifying agenda for progressives under the banner of what he calls “great places.” It isn’t enough, David argues, to rail against the snarling philistinism of Sarah Palin or engage endlessly in the “decrepit political arguments that dominate U.S. politics.” Instead, he urges us to: see things with fresh eyes, to think anew about the unique challenges and opportunities of our historical moment. We’re in a time of profound, rapid change and we need an agenda that looks to the future …

Scary Food

Now that the FDA itself has found BPA in canned foods, will it regulate the poison?

Oh, yes we can: It’s time for the FDA to act on its own information regarding canned foods and BPA.The next time an FDA panel convenes to discuss whether to ban BPA, the endocrine-disrupting industrial chemical used in can liners, it will have new data to consider — a study by the agency’s own scientists. In a just-released report, they tested a range of commonly used canned foods, from peas to chili, and found “detectable” levels of BPA in 71 of 78 samples. Given that millions of Americans consume these foods daily and that the dangers of BPA have been …

Food

Small bites from the Big Apple: delicious eats in New York City

I recently visited New York City to attend the ceremony for the James Beard Awards in food journalism. I had been nominated for one in the category of column writing. I didn’t bring home a Beard in the end, but I did notch a few victories in the field of the palate. Here are the top food experiences of my brief and memorable trip. You don’t have to go to Italy for a great pork sandwich.Photo: PorchettaPorchetta Years ago, I spent a spell working on a farm in Le Marche, a state along Italy’s Adriatic Coast. The farm was a …