Food

We like pina coladas (and getting caught in the rain)

Dole will make some tropical-fruit distribution carbon-neutral

U.S. residents have a heckuva hard time finding a local pineapple (Hawaiians respectfully excluded, of course). But now you can nosh your tropical fruit with less guilt; Dole Food has pledged to offset 100 percent of the CO2 emissions that come from growing bananas and pineapples in Costa Rica. Working with government agencies, the company plans to carbon-neutralize its entire supply chain, from growing the fruit to packing, transporting, and distributing it in North America and Europe. And those emissions are far from insignificant: Dole ships some 31 million boxes of bananas and 13 million boxes of pineapples annually from Costa Rica, which aims to be a carbon-neutral country by 2021. source: Environmental Finance

Umbra on community-supported agriculture

Umbra, Please illuminate CSAs for us, how they work, and how your readers can join one. Thanks! (And by the way, that photo of a peach in your recent column is an apricot.) Bobbe Santa Fe, N.M. Dearest Bobbe, Alas for stone-fruit misidentification. Hopefully corrected by the time this question hits the screen, but still. A fruit ignorance that community-supported agriculture might solve, if one lived where apricots and peaches grew. Learn to share. Courtesy of MACSAC CSA is a way to get the freshest food, grown right near where you live or work, and to support small-scale farmers. In …

Long-distance organic

Is it really a savior for smallholder farmers in the global south?

In the latest Victual Reality, I addressed the "eat-local backlash" — the steady trickle of media reports seeking to debunk the supposed social and environmental benefits of eating from one’s foodshed. Some of the charges are easy to refute. Hey, in Maine, it takes more energy to produce hothouse tomatoes in January than it does to ship them up from South America! Really? Try eating something besides fresh tomatoes in January in Maine. Hell, if you really want Maine tomatoes in January, organize to invest in community-scale canning infrastructure, and then capture July’s bounty for the whole year. There’s another …

Heard it through the bovine

Scientists try to reduce methane emissions by tweaking cow diets

Did you know that cows belch every 40 seconds? I did not. A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor states this fun fact, and goes on to explain how scientists are trying to manipulate bovine diets to reduce the amount of methane that they emit:

If buying locally isn’t the answer, then what is?

Is long-distance better than local? Photo: Sheila Steele Attention farmers’ market shoppers: Put that heirloom tomato down and rush to the nearest supermarket. By seeking local food, you’re wantonly spewing carbon into the atmosphere. That’s the message of a budding backlash against the eat-local movement. The Economist fired a shotgun-style opening salvo last December, peppering what it called the “ethical foods movement” with a broad-spectrum critique. Among the claims: organic agriculture consumes more energy than conventional, and food bought from nearby sources often creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than food hauled in from long distances. (Here was my response to that …

Chicago-style Mad Flavor: I heart Lula

In which the author finds his dream neighorhood restaurant

In Mad Flavor, the author describes his occasional forays from the farm in search of exceptional culinary experiences from small artisanal producers. Recently, Mad Flavor was on the ground in Chicago — the author’s ancestral home city — a veritable garden of delightful food. I’ve long dreamed of a very particular neighborhood cafe/restaurant. It would lie in the middle of a dense urban neighborhood, looking onto the chaos of the sidewalk. It would be open from early morning until late at night, and seem to transform itself with the hour of the day. It would serve multiple functions: a place …

Evian Is Just Evil Misspelled

Hatin’ on plastic water bottles is all the rage Forget SUVs and Styrofoam: hip-to-the-times green folk are directing their ire at plastic water bottles. In the last few months, the energy-intensiveness of bottled water — 1.5 million barrels of oil go into making the bottles for the U.S. market each year, and oodles more to transporting the H2O — has seeped into the public consciousness. Big-city mayors have urged residents to stop hitting the bottle, and highfalutin restaurants are serving filtered tap water. Advocates point out that water flows freely in nearly every U.S. home, while 38 billion recyclable plastic …

Umbra on organic pork

Dear Umbra, Commercial pork production is a nasty, polluting operation and inhumane to the animals. What makes organic pork different? Simply what they are fed, or does it involve more humane and less polluting production operations? Related, I have been purchasing free-range, organic chicken for several years now. However, recently the free-range, organic chicken breasts have been humongous, conjuring up images of Dolly Parton chickens toppling over in their pecking yard. What’s up? Any thoughts? Puzzling over the universe, Pat Emeryville, Calif. Dearest Pat, Another column of little interest to vegetarians. I’m afraid I don’t have the time or space …

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, began conducting scientific experiments simulating a high-CO2 environment (using a system called "free air carbon dioxide enrichment," or FACE). He found that crop yields were elevated -- plants imbibing large quantities of CO2 had more starch and more sugar in their leaves than those on a normal carbon diet. But because they also took up less nitrogen from the soil, they made less protein.

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