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Global warming and empty calories

High CO2 crops could be low on nutrition

One of the silver linings of climate change, some have argued, is that high carbon dioxide levels will mean increased crop yields, which will, in turn, be good for combating global hunger (the logic, I suppose, being that if we're frying fifty years from now, at least we won't be hot and hungry). But some underpublicized studies, reported this month in Nature, cast a long shadow on this sunny assertion. (Sorry! It looks like the the article is subscription only, so I'll be as descriptive as possible.) In the 1980s, Bruce Kimball, a soil physicist with the USDA in Arizona, …

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Farm Bill: The 'delicate balance' the House left intact

But key Senators are making noise about rocking the boat

When Mark Udall (D-Colo.) proposed shaving two-thirds of a cent from just one of the subsidies that go to cotton farmers, Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) said, "it is absolutely unfair, once we have reached this very delicate balance within the bill, to reach in and single out one commodity." That amendment -- to cut less than a penny from cotton subsidies and use the savings to protect more than 200,000 acres from sprawl and development -- failed by a vote of 175-251. So what was that very delicate balance that the House of Representatives preserved? Last week, they approved a bill …

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Cage-free eggs: the iPhone of food

Yolk, yolk, yolk …

From the NYT: The toy industry had its Tickle Me Elmo, the automakers the Prius and technology its iPhone. Now, the food world has its latest have-to-have-it product: the cage-free egg. What the cluck, you ask? According to the story, dozens of vendors -- ranging from universities to hotel chains, Whole Foods to Burger King -- are scrambling to get their share of the (somewhat more) humanely raised hen-product. Some companies may have even counted their eggs before they hatched: last fall, Ben and Jerry's laid out a plan to put all their eggs in a cage-free basket, but said …

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Chickens coming home to roost

Hope they don’t want any corn

What? A sharply hotter climate and abundant CO2 aren't good for field crops? But, but ... the coal lobby Greening Earth Society said they would be! Fitting: the photo accompanying this story in The Detroit News shows a huge trailer of corn being deposited at an ethanol plant. Michigan corn may have been knee-high by July, but a scorching summer has made the harvest one of the worst in the nation, federal statistics show. Early hopes for a fruitful harvest have given way to predictions of a 24 percent decrease in corn production in 2006 and low levels of field …

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Cane: the cellulosic Godfather

A new series pivots around ethanol

Randomly, last night I caught the debut episode of the new CBS series Cane. It's about the Duque family, a Cuban-American clan in both the sugar and rum businesses in South Florida. At the outset of the show, the Duque's long-time rivals, the Samuels -- a drawling family of white Southerners -- offer to buy up their sugar fields, claiming that the sugar business is slow and the real action is on the rum side. "We'll do sugar; you do rum." Family patriarch Pancho (Hector Elizondo) turns them down. Why? Because his adopted son and heir to the business Alex …

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Umbra on sustainable meat

Dear Umbra, My wife and I recently began changing the way we eat. We located several free-range/pastured farms here in the area, and found that some local restaurants buy meat from these farms. We plan on supporting these establishments. My question is, are there any major food chains that use good meat? Rich Brantner Fair Grove, Mo. Dearest Rich, Vegetarians may wish to skip today's column. Meet your meat. Photo: iStockphoto Let's define "good" meat as pasture-raised by small-scale farms, just for the purpose of this small-scale article. I'm not quite sure which are the chain restaurants in Missouri (the …

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A mile in my shoes

Debunking the notion that walking is bad for the planet

Sheesh. Wouldn't you know it, the "walking is bad for the planet" meme has reared its head yet again, this time in a British newspaper: Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk ... than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. This made its way to the top of Digg over the weekend, and it's little wonder. It's got all the characteristics of a "sticky idea": it's simple, it's memorable, it seems credible, …

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Hats off to Hannaford

This store takes its green role seriously

Last month, we reported on a few regional grocery chains that are earning organic certification. I went to one of them, a Hannaford, the other night, and have been meaning to publicly praise them ever since. Not only do they have huge, clearly marked organic sections (none of this shy, tucked-away business), they also had a prominently displayed easel in the produce section listing the fruits and veggies that were locally grown. Old hat for Whole Foods, maybe, but this is big doings for a mainstream grocery. Plus, their home page is all healthy and fruity and colorful -- what's …

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Sausage fest

NYT dating advice: Eat more flesh

This makes me want to barf, on so many levels: Martha Flach mentioned meat twice in her Match.com profile: "I love architecture, The New Yorker, dogs ... steak for two and the Sunday puzzle." She was seeking, she added, "a smart, funny, kind man who owns a suit (but isn't one) ... and loves red wine and a big steak." The repetition worked. On her first date with Austin Wilkie, they ate steak frites. A year later, after burgers at the Corner Bistro in Greenwich Village, he proposed. This March, the rehearsal dinner was at Keens Steakhouse on West 36th …

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On blueberries, zucchini, and dragon slime

A few years ago, a friend served me some blueberry-studded gingerbread that she had bought at a local bakery. It was fine, but the spices in the gingerbread really obscured the flavor of the blueberries. On the other hand, I find plain blueberry muffins boring and bland. While I've had delicious lime-blueberry muffins and lemon-blueberry pound cake, sometimes I want something more substantial -- so I decided that someday I would create a recipe that was more flavorful and heartier than a muffin, but which would still let the blueberry flavor shine through. It must be summer. Photo: iStockphoto I …

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