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Protein: An invitation to sink your teeth in

Lucy.

Today on Grist we're launching a series of articles about protein. What made me want to focus on protein? Well, let's just say it started with my dog, Lucy. (That's her over on the right.)

I’d been abstractly aware of Lucy’s meat intake when, a few years back, she started developing allergies. Like the slightly-obsessive home cook that I am, I started cooking for Lucy.

Clueless at first, I fed her portions that were around the same size as the kibble she’d been getting in her bowl for years. (At first it was chicken and rice, but I quickly replaced the rice with sweet potatoes just in case it was the grains she’d been allergic to.) And then -- when Lucy growled and grumbled and harumphed -- I realized my mistake: Now that her food wasn’t dehydrated, she’d need twice as much. I grimaced and pictured the astronaut food that my sixth grade classmates had passed around after returning from Space Camp in the late '80s.

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The little county that could get California to rethink methyl iodide

A group protesting methyl iodide last year. Photo: Pesticide WatchIt's been a little over a year since methyl iodide -- a known carcinogen that's been made to work as a fumigant on industrial-scale conventional farms, and is especially likely to be used on strawberry farms -- was approved for use in California.   Methyl iodide is being seen as a replacement for the ozone-depleting methyl bromide, which will be phased out of use in the state by 2015. And while farmers appear to be holding off on using this highly toxic chemical (only a handful of applications have been recorded …

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A fork in the road for Slow Food

The SFUSA Ark of Taste has provided a way for enthusiastic chapters to catalogue and protect forgotten and neglected heirloom fruit and vegetable varieties (like these Hauer Pippen apples). Photo: Slow Food USA The biodiversity issue Tooker has long been involved in the North American chapter of the Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, the national portion of an international effort to catalogue, bring attention to, and therefore preserve endangered heirloom and place-based foods. Earlier this year, she says the Ark of Taste committee was "given a stop work order," and Tooker worries about the future of the effort. One …

Read more: Food, Sustainable Food

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Bourbon of proof: Is Kentucky’s heritage spirit compromised by GMO corn?

Aging bourbon at the Wild Turkey distillery.Photo: Michael KellstrandIn 2007, Grist writer David Roberts wrote about his less-than-successful hunt for an organic bourbon. Five years of boom-like growth in the organic sector later and -- go figure -- there's still no organic bourbon on the U.S. market. In fact, finding any bourbon free of genetically engineered corn (as all certified organic products must be) has become increasingly difficult. Bourbon gives us an interesting window into GMO grain, because the spirit must by definition be made with at least 51 percent corn. Consider the fact that 85 percent of the corn …

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Is your all-you-can-eat shrimp killing the mangroves?

Kennedy Warne in a mangrove tree.For his new book Let Them Eat Shrimp: The Tragic Disappearance of the Rainforests of the Sea, Kennedy Warne traveled the world -- from Bangladesh to Brazil to the Gulf Coast -- documenting the complex relationship between the growing shrimp farming industry and the world's mangroves. (Up to 70 percent of the these aquatic forests have disappeared in the last 40 years.) The former editor of New Zealand Geographic spoke to Grist recently about what he found. Q. Can you start by describing the relationship between mangroves and shrimp? A. Mangrove forests are nurseries for …

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The bad food news of 2011

We continue digesting this year's food politics coverage below -- only this time we take account of the things that didn't go so well. (Tired of bad news? See the year's good food news instead.) 1.  Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families The fact that 46 million people -- about a seventh of the U.S. population -- now receive food stamps (i.e. help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with America's food system. But thanks to the way public food assistance is …

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The good food news of 2011

2011 was a big year for food politics. In case you dozed off anywhere along the way, I've collected the year's most important stories below. (Want something lighter? See my Sustainable Food Trends story from last week. Want something heavier? Here's the bad food news.) 1. Urban farming is flourishing. An urban farm in Chicago.Photo: Piush DahalWhile the renewed interest in growing food within city limits is nothing new, 2011 was the year urban farming went legit. Despite several low points involving criminal charges for gardeners in Michigan and Tennessee (charges were dropped in both cases after word spread around …

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2011: Sustainable food trends

A good year-end trend list should do two things simultaneously: confirm the conscientious reader's suspicions while providing a few surprise nuggets. Sustainable food is a vast category with many opportunities for interpretation, so what I offer up here is an entirely subjective list of favorites. In other words: These are just a few of the things that have caught my attention and held it for longer than usual this year. You'll notice I've left urban gardening and foraging off the list (sacrilege!). That's not because they're not very popular; in fact, it's precisely because they're so popular. To me, not …

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Hacking the Farm Bill

A slide from the winning entry. Rebecca Klein wasn't expecting a lot when she signed up to attend last week's Farm Bill Hackathon. This public health expert from the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University had never heard of a hackathon -- a gathering of computer programmers who lock themselves in a room to tackle epic projects with unrestricted creativity -- until around two weeks before the event. While the idea of bringing together other sustainable food advocates with computer programmers interested in helping them build tools appealed to her, it also seemed a little ambitious. The …

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Fair trade lite: Fair Trade USA moves away from worker co-ops

Maya Vinic Co-op in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo: Courtesy of Peace CoffeeCompared to so many other purchasing decisions -- like which humane meat label to trust, for instance -- the "Certified Fair Trade" logo has made buying ethically produced coffee a relatively simple choice. Most of us either buy fair trade or we don't.   But that's all about to change. As The New York Times reported earlier this month, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) is breaking away from Fair Trade International, its global parent, and creating new, less stringent standards. For American coffee drinkers, this will soon mean two fair trade …

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