Organic Food

Pastured paradoxes

I raise pigs on annual pasture crops. Am I farming sustainably?

Bob Comis with his porkers. Will they leave the land more productive than they found it? Photo: Zach Phillips The concept of sustainability isn’t very useful as a critique of industrial agriculture — all you have to do is create a friendly definition of “sustainable,” and the critique is turned on its head. However, sustainability does interest me as it relates to my own farm. Am I farming sustainably? That is, am I farming in such a way that the land I work will be as, or even more, productive for future generations? Or, am I farming unsustainably — that …

Playing chicken

Study: Organic chicken carries significantly lower salmonella risk

Want it free of drug-resistant salmonella? Make it organic.Photo: sierravalleygirlThis study from the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety came out in November and has bounced around the internet, but for some reason I’m just now noticing it. It’s worth a look. The researchers looked at broilers — chickens raised for meat — from “three organic and four conventional broiler farms from the same company in North Carolina,” and tested their manure for salmonella. They also tested samples of their feed. Here’s what they found: 38.8 percent of the conventional birds were carrying salmonella, versus 5.6 percent for the …

Getting sappy

What’s the season between winter and spring? Maple time! [VIDEO]

Spring doesn’t seem like it would be maple syrup time (based on the pictures on Vermont syrup bottles), but so it is. At the cusp of freezing and melting snow is when the sap is running. And while the rest of the country is praying for warmth, the maple farmers are wishing for cold. The longer it stays cold, the longer the syruping season lasts. Last year, the season here in Minnesota was short, but I made it out just in time to spend the day with Chris Ransom. His operation is based on his backyard trees as well as …

Chomping at the Bittman

Live chat with New York Times food columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman

New York Times food-politics columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman dropped by for a live chat on March 22. The chat was hosted by Grist’s own Tom Philpott, who says he’s been cooking under Bittman’s wing since the early 1990s when Bittman wrote for Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Check out a transcript of the chat: Tom Philpott: Hi everyone, and welcome, Mark Philpott: How are things in NYC — you guys get some snow? Mark Bittman: Hey Tom. Hey everyone. Here we go. Philpott: hey there Philpott: Welcome to the chat! Philpott: Don’t mind the tech glitches Bittman: Forgive the chatter …

Choice nuggets

Radiation-tainted milk in Japan, Pollan on food movement elitism, and more

When my info-larder gets too packed, it’s time to serve up some choice nuggets from around the web. ——— Nuke disaster hits Japan’s food supply Note to planners: Don’t plunk highly volatile industrial projects onto rich farmland. Doing so ensures that industrial disasters will quickly cascade into food crises. Tragically, Japan’s Fukushima region isn’t just a source of nuclear-derived electricity. It’s also a major source of milk and vegetables — and its farmland has already been impacted by the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. From Saturday’s The New York Times: As Japan edged forward in its battle to …

Just like how granny didn't do it

Forget farmers markets — I want to sell my pastured meat at Price Chopper

This pastured piggy went to Price Chopper.Photo: Kevin SteeleIt is time to make local passe. It is time to make regional the new local. Enough of farmers markets, CSAs, and direct on-farm sales. Yes, they are exciting — they feel like they are getting us somewhere. And, to be honest and give them their due, they have gotten us somewhere. The reality, however, is that they will never get us there, whither goest we must if we want to make a change — real change. I will say it as straight as I can: I want to see my pork …

Co-oped, but not co-opted

Fed-up college kids take food buying into their own hands

Someone’s forming a co-op, my lord: college students organize to create the food system they want. Photo: Kitty BolteSay you’re a college student ready to eschew the standard pizza-burrito-pretzels-beer diet and start eating more whole, sustainably produced foods. Say you want to take it a step further and work to make healthy and ethical food widely available on your campus — without having to pay gourmet grocery store prices. Well, you might consider starting a co-op. “There are so many students learning the theory behind food systems who are itching to put it into practice, and co-ops are the way …

brand news

Your healthy alternative food may just be the same crap in different packaging [SLIDESHOW]

Looking to lower your impact? Here’s your cheat sheet. GoodGuide offers greenness and social responsibility ratings, via web or app, for tens of thousands of products, including food, clothing, toys, and cleaning supplies. Obviously, it’s massively useful to be able to look up a brand on your phone and see its health and environment score before you buy. But there’s another interesting side effect of the GoodGuide website: Because it scores companies and not just products, you can use it to find out who owns your favorite brands. Even if you don’t trace your meal all the way back to …

Organic matters

The Economist dismisses organic ag, while also making the case for it

This isn’t the only way.I’ve been reading The Economist’s “Special Report on Feeding the World” (intro here). So far, it’s typical Economist: compellingly written and impressively broad in scope — but largely uncritical of the status quo. The report doesn’t bring much new to the table, especially to those of us who follow the gloomy macro-analyses of thinkers like Lester Brown. Predictably enough, The Economist’s perspective on the “feed the world” question is guided by the assumption, never much examined, that only high-tech, massive-scale farming can tackle the task of feeding the 9 billion people expected to be on Earth …