Silk Ilk

Ask Umbra on corn plastic

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I’ve been noticing lately a lot of “green” businesses and restaurants in my area using compostable plastics, usually made of corn, if I recall correctly. I can’t compost (I know, I know, but I live in a tiny apartment on the third floor with no porch or yard), and I was wondering if you could tell us any more about this plastic. Should I recycle it, or throw it away? What to do? Becky B.Jamaica Plain, Mass. A. Dearest Becky, Corn plastic = not fantastic.USDA.govDoes anyone find pictures of food appetizing? Right …

Nitrogen bomb

The obvious advantage of organic food over conventional

A bit of nitrogen with those veggies? A recent literature review [PDF] by the U.K. Food Standards Agency concluded that organic foods offer no nutritional advantages to ones grown with conventional chemical agriculture. The report quickly bounced around the media and the internets and has congealed into received wisdom. For example, in a recent chat with readers, Washington Post food politics columnist (and general policy writer) Ezra Klein engaged in the following exchange: Santa Fe, N.M.: I saw a report today on a study finding that organic food isn’t any healthier than conventional food. Is buying organic a waste of …

Prison Farms and the Future

Canada set to close important asset: its prison farms

In February 2009, Canada’s Public Safety Minister and the country’s Correctional Service announced a planned closure of all six of the prison farms owned by the people of Canada and operated by CORCAN – the branch of the Correctional Service that operates the farm rehabilitation programs which also provide employment training to inmates. The excellent syndicated Canadian radio show Deconstructing Dinner, which covers the local food movement, detailed all of this in its July 2nd show, and it’s a fascinating listen. The proposed closure is a move that’s spawned a national grassroots movement to block the action, Save Our Farms. …

Cooking the history books

More thoughts on cooking, Pollan, and Julia Child

Tool of oppression–or liberation? In his recent essay on cooking, which I commented on here, Michael Pollan basically argues that people need to cook–that they give up more than they gain from fleeing the kitchen. And he suggests that the current generation is really the first to shun cooking. Yet things might not be quite so neat. Fresh Air recently replayed Terry Gross’ 1989 interview with Julia Child–very much worth a listen. Child reminds us yet again what a brilliant, funny, cultured lady she was–my dream aunt. In the interview, we find out that Child herself didn’t grow up cooking. …

Notable quotable

The thread on which civilization hangs

“Number one is that it [industrial agriculture] destroys soil. Absolutely and completely. The soil is the only thread upon which civilization can exist, and it’s such a narrow strip around the globe if a person could ever realize that our existence depends on literally inches of active aerobic microbial life on terra firma, we might begin to appreciate the ecological umbilical to which we are all still attached. The food industry, I’m convinced, actually believes we don’t need soil to live. That we are more clever than that.”–Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, in an interview with Makenna Goodman for Treehugger

A farmer speaks

Debunking the meat/climate change myth

Editor’s note: Eliot Coleman is one of the most revered and influential small-scale farmers in the United States, famous for growing delicious vegetables through the Maine winter with little use of fossil fuel. Eliot sent me the following letter as a response to my recent piece on the greenhouse-gas foorprint of industrial meat. At question is a 2007 report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization called “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which claimed that 18 percent of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions stem from meat production. – Tom Philpott ——————- The problem is CAFOs, not cows.I am dismayed that so many …

Cat(fish) fight

What’s the dish on farm-raised catfish?

In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries. Lettuce know what food worries keep you up at night. ————- What’s up, cat?Dear Lou,My wife and I enjoy fish and like to eat a variety of types of fish. Living in Minnesota we have access to locally caught walleye but have to be careful not to eat too much because of mercury content in MN lakes. I’ve been a big fan of catfish (bottom feeders) and am curious as to the pros and cons of farm-raised catfish. …

Choice nuggets

From Whole (junk) Foods to Julia/Julie hype, tasty morsels from around the Web

When my info-larder gets too packed, it’s time to serve up some choice nuggets from around the Web. —————- • “Everything I’ve written is straw,” Thomas Aquinas is supposed to have lamented from his deathbed. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey seems to have come to a similar conclusion about the supermarket chain he founded decades ago. “Basically, we used to think it was enough just to sell healthy food, but we know it is not enough,” he recently told The Wall Street Journal in a blunt interview.  “We sell all kinds of candy. We sell a bunch of junk.” He …

Meat wagon: Antibiotic-resistant salmonella edition

Cargill plant recalls nearly a million pounds of tainted beef

Not-so-total recall: Cargill’s got nearly a million pounds of tainted beef circulating.  In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. ——— Remember a couple of weeks ago, when news emerged that a Colorado grocery chain had churned out 466,000 pounds of beef tainted with antibiotic-resistant salmonella, sent it out to six states, and then voluntarily recalled it–but not until  weeks after several people had fallen violently ill from it? Well, they must be having some kind of competition out west, because now a California outfit called Beef Packers, owned by Cargill, the globe’s …

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