Food

Dispatches From the Fields: My ride in a combine

How commodity grain farmers have sown the seeds of their demise

In “Dispatches From the Fields,” Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America’s agro-industrial landscape. —– A field of dried soybeans ready to be combined. Although “that time of year” in corn and soybean country is a few weeks late, it has finally arrived. Whether starting up their new $300,000 capital investment for the first time or pulling out their trusted and infinitely tinkered-with machine, farmers are taking to the fields in one of industrial agriculture’s greatest creations: the …

How to turn black walnuts into a delicious dish

When I was growing up in central Ohio, school began right after Labor Day. This was advantageous compared to today’s August start, and not just because of the longer summer break. The extra time also allowed the black walnuts to ripen just in time to give us something to hurl at each other as we walked to school that first morning. Front-yard bounty. They littered the ground all through the streets on my route to elementary school. It was customary to announce your approach behind fellow students by pelting them with the large green orbs. The nuts seemed to have …

Trick or treat?

As Halloween nears, beware of the ‘fat-free’ candy corn

It’s the beginning of October and as the cooler temperatures and colorful leaves start to make an appearance, every retailer in America is switching storefronts to include pumpkins and of course, Halloween candy. The orange and black packages are cropping up in drugstores and supermarkets nationwide, and the glycemic high that lasts from Halloween through Easter has certainly begun. Since the lipid-phobia of the late 80s, high-sugar candies like gummy bears, gum drops, and candy corn have marketed themselves as “fat-free,” but, because most candy contains high-fructose corn syrup, recent research might make you reconsider those “fat-free” claims. In June, …

Sour milk

The Environment Report naively pushes Monsanto-related study praising rBGH

I don’t know much about Environment Report, a non-profit producer of radio reports about, uh, the environment. But I can’t say I’m impressed by its recent piece on recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), the genetically modified "feed enhancer" for dairy cows that Monsanto recently sold to Eli Lilly. In it (transcript here), reporter Shawn Allee sets up a contrast between a Chicago health-food store owner and a Cornell scientist. The health food guy cites the precautionary principle for his opposition to rBGH: People have been drinking milk for thousands of years from animals that didn’t have have rgbh in them, …

Erring on the side of 'heirloom'

Greenwashing our vegetable modifiers

A few weeks ago, I was having dinner at a renowned restaurant in San Francisco, when I noticed something a bit troubling on the menu. According to the description, the “Heirloom Tomato Salad” was made with a mix of Sweet 100 and Sungold tomatoes — both of which are hybrid varieties. OK, big deal, they made a mistake. Well, two weeks later, I stopped at a farm stand advertising heirloom tomatoes, and sure enough, the alleged heirlooms were hybrids. All this falsity in advertising has me wondering if the term “heirloom” is becoming just another one of those previously meaningful …

Cutting meat and milk consumption cuts CO2 emissions, study says

Happy World Vegetarian Day! Just in time for the festivities, a new study from the Food Climate Research Network finds that cutting down on meat and milk consumption can help cut greenhouse-gas emissions. The four-year study focused mainly on the U.K., concluding that dramatically cutting the average Briton’s weekly meat and milk intake could help reduce emissions since about 8 percent of the country’s greenhouse gases come from meat and dairy production. The study also boldly recommends citizens cut alcohol from their diet — which has little nutritional value but contributes some 1.5 percent of overall emissions — as well …

Meat Wagon: House of fools

While antibiotic-resistant bugs flourish, a House subcommittee buries its head

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. As the fruits of three decades of financial-market deregulation and lax oversight ripen on Wall Street, now is a fitting time to mull over our government’s efforts to regulate the food industry. Let’s think specifically about its actions regarding antibiotics in livestock production. In industrial meat production, you stuff animals together in close contact with their own waste, essentially ruining their immune systems. To keep them alive until slaughter weight, you dose them liberally with antibiotics. Not surprisingly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains have begun to rise …

Amazon deforestation soars, Brazil blames its own land-reform agency

The 100 individuals or companies most responsible for Amazon deforestation since 2005 were listed Monday by Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc, and Brazil’s own land-reform agency took the top spot. The Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform was said to be culpable for the deforestation of 850 square miles of Amazon rainforest in the last three years. Everyone on the list, most of whom are Brazilian farmers and ranchers, will face criminal charges, according to Minc. Satellite data show that Amazon deforestation is up sharply after a few years of decline: At least 300 square miles was destroyed in August …

Like lambs to slaughter?

Smithfield, Pilgrim’s Pride, and other meat giants get credit-crunched

As I’ve written so many times before, a very few companies essentially control U.S. meat production. Their business model is crude, but for years has been effective: You place lots of animals in a tight space (or "contract" with farmers to do so), stuff them with corn and soy (made cheap chronic overproduction mandated by U.S. farm policy), boost their growth with all manner of hormones and antibiotics, and move these unhappy creatures to vast factory-like slaughterhouses, to be done in by some of the lowest-paid, least-protected workers in the U.S. All down the line, the model relies on the …