Food

The Root of the Matter

A tasting of nine “natural” root beers yields surprising results

Nothing hits the spot on a hot day like an icy glass of all-American root beer. (Okay, if you want to split hairs: Nothing hits the spot on a hot day like an icy glass of all-American root beer when you must stay sober.) The problem is that when you take your wilting self to the cool respite of the beverage aisle, you discover that nothing in this life is simple. Perhaps, like me, you go with the simple criterion of avoiding anything produced by Big Soda and loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. Ha! If only it were this straightforward. …

Meat wagon

E. coli and Campylobacteriosis: Why Obama’s USDA food-safety pick is so important

Side of E. coli with that burger?In Meat Wagon, we look at the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. —————————– As I reported Friday, a man with a Big Ag background has emerged as the frontrunner for a still-empty USDA post called “undersecretary of food safety.” The holder of this position oversees the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which has the nearly impossible task of ensuring that our gigantic, factory-scale slaughterhouses produce safe meat. (The USDA handles safety issues around meat; FDA oversees safety for all other foods.) An excellent piece by Bill Tomson in Friday’s Wall …

Scales of justice

Privatize the seas? If only solving overfishing were so easy

School of hard knocksIn this month’s Atlantic, Gregg Easterbrook writes that privatizing the seas through use of individualized transferrable quotas (ITQs) is the solution to the grave problem of overfishing. Recently, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco came out strongly (PDF) in favor of ITQs (which the agency is calling “catch shares”), and has committed her agency to “transitioning to catch shares” as a solution to overfishing. Would that the solution to overfishing were so easy! Today, fisheries managers set a “total allowable catch” (TAC) for open-access fisheries. A fishery is open until that TAC is reached. Not surprisingly, there is often …

HAVEN'T GONE COUNTRY

Farm City author cuts the foodie-elite snobbery from urban farming

Food writer and urban farmer Novella Carpenter is everything the elitist, foodie stereotype is not: she squat-farms near downtown Oakland, Calif., dumpster-dives to feed her rabbits, and offers to show anyone who still thinks otherwise exactly “what urban farming smells like.” Novella Carpenter and cute baby animals today, dinner tomorrow.Photo: Courtesy of Novella CarpenterIn Seattle while touring for her new book Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Carpenter took a few minutes to give Grist the low-down-and-dirty on the up-and-coming trend of urban farming. From roof-top gardens to city chickens, an increasing number of city slickers are becoming …

Gates swinging in new direction?

Worldwatch gets $1.3 million Gates grant to look at sustainable ag in Africa

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been roundly criticized in sustainable-ag circles for throwing its considerable girth behind a “New Green Revolution for Africa.” According to critics (including me), the “green revolution” approach promotes high-tech, expensive solutions to Africa’s agriculture woes — ones more suited to the interests of a few agribusiness giants than millions of smallholder African farmers. In a move that may be a response to such criticisms, the Gates Foundation recently announced it was awarding a $1.3 million, two-year grant to Worldwatch to look at low-cost, low-tech techniques for improving ag productivity in Africa. From the …

Wolff guarding the henhouse?

Rumor: Obama pondering big-ag man for key USDA meat-safety role [UPDATED]

Safe enough for ya?UPDATE at bottom of story. ———————————— I normally don’t write about rumors or inside information. I aspire to be like the late journalist I.F. Stone, who scorned the dubious allure of insider “access” and kept his nose in government documents, where useful information leaks out. Today — as in its own time — Stone’s work makes much more worthwhile reading than that of his contemporaries who chummed up to insiders. But I just got hold of a rumor that’s so weird, and from such a credible source, that I can’t resist writing about it. I am given …

Urban Gardens

San Francisco to get more urban gardens.  Thanks, Gavin. And here’s a how-to that I look forward to reading.

Berry delightful

Cobbling together a delicious and easy summer dessert

Life’s a big container of cherries.All photos by April McGreger I’m bored by chocoholics. Don’t get me wrong; I very much appreciate good chocolate. But after attending four cookouts in the past month without a fruit-based dessert in sight I have had enough. Had the scent of perfectly ripe peaches somehow escaped my hosts? Are they unaware of the painfully short cherry season–whose end is near? What about all the bramble berries that line the ditches and roadsides this time of year? What sort of person does not delight in these things? Please, hold the chocolate cupcakes. It’s summer–the season …

Swing low, revolving door

Monsanto’s man Taylor returns to FDA in food-czar role

Michael TaylorIn a Tuesday afternoon press release, the FDA announced that Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive, had joined the agency as “senior advisor to the commissioner.” If the title is vague, the portfolio (pasted from the press release) is substantial–a kind of food czar of the Food and Drug Administration: • Assess current food program challenges and opportunities• Identify capacity needs and regulatory priorities• Develop plans for allocating fiscal year 2010 resources• Develop the FDA’s budget request for fiscal year 2011• Plan implementation of new food safety legislation Taylor’s new position isn’t his first in government. He’s a veteran …

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