Sustainable Food


Hope Butter churns out the good stuff in rural Minnesota [VIDEO]

One of the only independent creameries in Minnesota, Hope Butter, is a century-old business that continues to make butter the old-fashioned way. There have been strong years and slow years, but the last 10 have been increasingly successful. Featured at many of the top restaurants, at the Co-ops as well as in regular grocery stores, Hope is often the go-to butter in Minnesota. I took the drive down to Hope last spring. It’s a tiny town with not much more than a post office and a bar (or two). Owner Victor Mrotz walked me through the churning process. As the …

Like the desert mouse, PepsiCo’s factory to survive on the water in the food it consumes

Some animals don't drink water — and now some factories might not, either. The potatoes that PepsiCo turns into Walker's Crisps — those sinisterly addictive potato chips that people in the UK can't seem to get enough of — arrive at the factory containing as much as 80% water by weight. So why not harvest it rather than sending it up the chimney as steam? PepsiCo's new efforts aren't motivated solely by a desire to spruce up its corporate image: Water, an increasingly scarce resource, costs real money. The company believes it can save up to $1 million a year by …

Sustainable Food

The food movement’s multiple-personality disorder: Let’s move beyond foodies and localists

It’s time for people who care about food to quit navel-gazing.Photo: Jared WongThe food movement has a case of multiple-personality disorder. One of its personalities is the foodie, who approaches the movement as a vehicle to increase sensual-aesthetic pleasure. Another of its personalities is the localizer, who views the movement through the lens of the foodshed radius and food miles. Another is small-is-beautiful — small farms, small artisan processors, small distributors. Two more of its personalities are the food-justice advocate and the broadener, who want the movement to expand to a robust, durable, fair, and deeply embedded system that really challenges …

Sustainable Food

Why the sustainable food movement should learn to love Nathan Myhrvold’s ‘Modernist Cuisine’

The most expensive cookbook you’ll (n)ever buyNathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine — in all of its six-volume, 2,438-page splendor — explicitly aims to “reinvent cooking.” Maybe it will; and it will almost surely reinvent a certain kind of high-end book retailing. It sells for a cool $625, and its initial 6,000-copy print run has already sold out. Perhaps not surprisingly, Myhrvold and his vast project have not been warmly received by the sustainable food movement. Alice Waters, the influential Berkeley restaurateur, dismissed the high-tech cooking championed by Myhrvold as a “kind of scientific experiment,” adding that “it’s not a kind of …


Faces of death (and flavor) [VIDEO]

WARNING: Video contains images that some may consider disturbing. Close to 10 billion animals are killed every year in the U.S. (100+ million are pigs). With that statistic in mind, only six pigs died during the making of this video … but it was tough. Killing animals is heavy business. After the deeds were done, the folks at Duskwind Farm gave me the heads. With these faces full of flavor, I made a number of dishes, including tete de cochon. Watch this video to see the process from living pig to decadent dish:


Hungry kids and the environment hit hard by USDA budget cuts

             Hungry kids may be getting less cheddar.The House Appropriations Committee has released a detailed list of budget cuts as part of the deal to avoid a government shutdown, and it looks like agriculture and food programs are getting hit pretty hard. The USDA budget will be cut by $2.6 billion, down from the $108 billion the department had been expected to spend this year. One of the largest cuts comes from nutrition and food programs — in particular WIC, the program for low-income women and children — since, as we know, rising food prices and a struggling economy mean that …

Urban Agriculture

Coming soon, to a city near you: open-source agriculture

Sharing the bounty of knowledge.Most people attempting to build a viable urban agriculture business are acutely aware of the enormously challenging and time-consuming process of navigating zoning regulations. Having worked in this sector, I can personally testify that the process is tedious and time-sucking. Over the past couple of years, a number of cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago have begun enacting, or at the very least exploring, new regulations. One of the major challenges facing policymakers, however, is identifying effective policies and best practices. Which is why I got excited when I learned about Washington, D.C.-based John …


Medium is beautiful: why we need more mid-sized farms

Let’s fill meat counters with ethical, sustainable cuts.Photo: Anthony AlbrightRecently, I have made the argument in a couple of different articles (here and here) that in order to make local-regional meat broadly affordable and accessible, we should make a shift from the direct markets (farmers markets, CSAs, on-farm sales) to the existing indirect, arms length markets of supermarkets (and mom and pop groceries and butcher shops). Coming from me, if you know my politics and you know the history of my writings, this is a shocking claim. Nevertheless, I have been thinking about it very hard over the last few …

When locally sourced food isn’t available, the tough grow it anyway

Ruben and Kristin Hernandez are bakers in Baltimore, Maryland, who wanted to use locally-sourced wheat in their bread. Only problem is, no one grows the required “hard” wheat in Maryland, because the relatively humid climate leads to disease. (Hard wheats are rich in gluten, the protein that gives bread its elasticity and structure.) Ruben briefly considered growing the wheat himself, on the roof of his bakery, but ditched the idea when he found Aaron Cooper, the one farmer on the Eastern Shore willing to give it a shot. The secret to growing organic hard wheat in a place no one …

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