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Milking sustainability

Sustainability goals for the U.S. dairy industry

Last week, we witnessed the dairy industry hold their first ever Sustainability Summit for U.S. Dairy. The week long conference culminated in the announcement of an industry-wide commitment and action plan to reduce milk's "carbon footprint" while simultaneously increasing business value (translation: profit) from farm to consumer. But how truly "green" are their efforts? Sustainability -- ah, it sounds so good doesn't it? In recent years it has become the buzz word among businesses. Most large corporations have sustainability officers and are taking huge strides to become "greener." In part, these initiatives are driven by consumer and public demand for …

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30,000 farmed salmon escape off B.C. coast, endangering wild stocks

Some 30,000 farmed Atlantic salmon have escaped from their pen off the coast of British Columbia into the Pacific Ocean. Farmed salmon can harm wild salmon stocks -- which are already declining on the west coast -- by competing with them for food as well as spreading disease. In this case, the escaped salmon are also a different species which is not native to the area. A spokesperson for the company that owns the fish farm explains what happened. "One of the anchor lines ... apparently slipped to a low spot on the ocean floor and in so doing pulled …

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Wal-Mart gobbles up local produce

You thought you took home a haul at the farmers market last week, but you've got nothin' on Wal-Mart. The big-box retailer has become the nation's largest buyer of local produce, planning to purchase and sell $400 million worth of locally grown fruits and veggies this year. Wal-Mart says it works with "hundreds" of individual farmers, and has 50 percent more partnerships with local growers than it did in 2006. During the summer months, says the company, one-fifth of available produce in Wal-Mart stores is sourced locally. An emphasis on local produce -- which Wal-Mart defines as grown and sold …

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Crisis and opportunity in the farm belt

Sen. Grassley: Screw conservation, let’s grow more corn!

Here in the U.S., our grocery bills are rising faster than they have since Gerald Ford bumbled about the Oval Office. Across the globe, the recent surge in crop prices is putting sufficient food out of reach of millions of people. The dismal human dimension of the food crisis has been amply (if sporadically) covered by the media. But its budding ecological component has gotten short shrift. The price surge has inspired a virtual tsunami of agrichemicals to be spilled onto farmland globally, not least the U.S. heartland, as farmers scramble to take advantage of high prices by boosting yields. …

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More use of growth hormones would boost sustainability of dairy industry, says study

Shooting up cows with artificial growth hormones increases the sustainability of the dairy industry, claims a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Giving rbST to 1 million cows would enable the same amount of milk to be produced using 157,000 fewer cows," says the study, thus easing the impact that giant dairy-cow operations have on the land, water, and air. "Supplementing cows with rbST on an industry-wide scale," says researcher Judith Capper, would "reduce the dairy industry's contribution to water acidification, algal growth, and global warming." So would getting rid of CAFOs altogether, but maybe …

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Response from Alton Brown

Celeb chef clarifies his relationship with Greenpeace

A couple of weeks ago, we ran an interview with Food Network chef Alton Brown about his new sustainability efforts. In the course of the piece, Roz Cummins asked him if he'd be willing to crew on a Greenpeace boat, and he said yes -- an answer that's apparently been repeated and miscontextualized all over the place. Brown dropped us a note to clarify his position. Here's what he has to say: Dear Editor, Just to set the record straight: Although I would be very interested in spending time on a Greenpeace vessel in order to learn more about the …

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What I saw at the Summit

Thoughts from the big organic confab in Boulder

Attending last week's Organic Summit, held within the tasteful confines of the St. Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder, was a very, well, organic experience. It started with the hotel itself. The St. Julien, a human-scale building right in downtown Boulder, exudes calm. The lobby, a light, airy space overlooking a sun-dappled garden with mountain views behind, practically echoes with a low and relaxing ohhhmmm. As far as accommodations, I get drowsy just thinking about the sheets, whose thread count approaches infinity. Walk out into the rich-but-not-too-hot sun, and you find eminently walkable, liveable downtown Boulder, not the brutalist food-and-coffee …

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Three guidebooks for a dream vacation at your dining-room table

Eat your way around the world, without leaving home. If you had to choose one place in the world to go for a summer break, where would it be? For me, it would be a place I stayed once in Puglia, at the heel of Italy's boot. In 2003, my friends and I spent a week at an agriturismo operation -- a working organic olive farm that doubled as a kind of low-key rural hotel. Our quarters were in the cellar of a 17th century farmhouse, so during a heat wave that turned even the night into a cauldron, we …

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How the organic movement can regain its relevance

Buying organic makes you feel good ... but does it make you think? On June 25, I spoke at the Organic Summit in Boulder, Colo., to an audience consisting largely of people who work in the organic food industry. This column is an adapted version of my talk. In his wildly popular satirical blog Stuff White People Like, the Canadian writer Christian Lander recently made some tart observations about the place of organic food in North American culture. "White people need organic food to survive," he declared. "Where they purchase this food is as important as what they purchase. In …

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Fish and pigs and chickens, oh my!

Farm animals consume 17 percent of wild-caught fish

Here's a guest post from Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us Project and the UBC Fisheries Centre in Vancouver, B.C. ----- It is one thing to grind up wild fish to feed to farmed fish, but it is quite another to grind up these perfectly edible fish to feed factory-farmed pigs and poultry. After all, when is the last time you saw a chicken catch a fish? In the not-so-distant past, pigs and chickens ate grass, some grains, and food scraps. Today, in the throes of a perverse industrial food system that favors cheap protein and quick growth (with …

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