Sustainable Food

gleaning your plate

Ask Umbra on how much food Americans waste, and what to do about it

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Do you have a reliable source/figure for the total amount of food wasted by Americans?  I read somewhere that up to 40 percent of the food we buy may be thrown away. That means people spend an additional 66 percent on food products they don’t/can’t actually consume. Most of this “subsidy” goes to food processors, not to mention packaging, transporting, fertilizer, and, of course, agro-corps like Monsanto. Do you know if those figures are accurate? Professor IkeWichita, Kan. Someone has too much food on their plate …Photo: jbloomA. Dearest Ike, It’s true …

panda burgers

World Wildlife Fund gets in bed with McDonald’s, gives birth to darling sustainability program

McDonald’s is going to be less bad for the future of life on Earth, it promises. With the help of the World Wildlife Fund, the 32,000-store chain has pledged to do the following to improve its sourcing of raw materials: Ban beef that comes from within the “Amazon Biome,” aka Brazil’s rainforest. No more soy from the deforested remnants Amazon Rainforest, either. Soy is used in chicken feed. (The bad news is, we’ll still be eating chicken nuggets that were originally soybeans.) “Coffee and wood fibers for product packaging will also be sourced from third-party certified, sustainable sources.” Switch from …

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 …

Chewing the scenery

Dairy cows frolic in meadow to celebrate spring [VIDEO]

Still trying to keep it positive! One thing that that makes it easier is that spring really has arrived up here in the North Carolina mountains — it must be 70 degrees, and the arugula we planted a few weeks ago in cold frames is taking off. Evidently, it’s spring-time in England, too. I dare you to watch this video and not share the delight of these dairy cows getting their first taste of fresh grass after a long winter being cooped up and eating hay:

meals to go

Here’s why you can’t afford food anymore

Food prices jumped 3.9 percent in February, the largest one-month increase since November 1974. It’s turtles all the way down: Grocery prices are up, wholesale food prices are up, prices for staples like corn and grain are up. Here’s a few things you won’t be affording in the future: Bacon. The retail price for bacon went up 17 percent. Will this make Etsy sellers shut up about it? Maybe we can engineer a drastic price increase for mustaches. Bananas: Is that a banana in your pocket, or is it NOTHING? Before bananas go extinct they’re going to make us go …

Greener pastures

Forget the gloom — new ways of living and organizing our economy are flourishing

Despite a flurry of bad news recently, good things are spouting up.Photo: Judy Merrill-SmithThe last couple of days have been gloomy ones. I kept checking in with the vague and dire reports from the nuclear-power bleeding edge in Japan. For part of the time I was also immersed in a post about truly awful things going on in the U.S. poultry industry. While digging into the industry’s routine abuse of farmers and reckless endangering of public health, I was haunted by the thought that these were the folks on whom we’re supposed to be counting  to “feed the world” going …

Hole in the Middle

To make local food more accessible, time to revive mid-sized farms

Today is National Agriculture Day. Have you hugged your farmer yet? To celebrate this special day, I’ve dug this column out of the archives, originally published three years ago this spring. It’s a tribute to mid-size farms, which don’t make nearly as much cash as their industrial-scale brethren and don’t get nearly the love lavished on small farms. I argue that reviving the health of mid-sized farms is a critical task if we’re going to create a just, fair, and green food system. ——– Most people probably don’t think of Carrboro, North Carolina — a bustling town just outside of …

Small is ornery

Maine towns reject one-size-fits-all regulation, declare ‘food sovereignty’

Photo: Chewonki Semester SchoolIn 2009, Maine farmer Heather Retberg learned that new regulations prohibited her from bringing her chickens to a neighbor’s approved slaughtering facility. She’d have to invest some $30,000 she didn’t have to build her own facility. So Retberg shifted her focus to raw dairy instead, selling directly to local neighbors. When she received a notice last year from the Maine Department of Agriculture that she needed a permit, requiring investment way above what she could ever hope to justify with her minimal sales, she’d had enough. She got together with four neighbors similarly upset with the new …

a good way to get head

Irish scientists help Guinness go green

Photo: Simon HuckoJust in time for St. Patrick’s Day, scientists at the University of Limerick have developed a biodegradable alternative to that plastic widget that keeps Guinness foamy. It turns out that coating the inside of the can with biodegradable, natural cellulose would do an even better job of putting nitrogen into the beer (which is what the plastic balls are for — nitrogen is used to make stout bubbly). So on some future St. Patrick’s Day, even your beer could be wearing green. Read more: “New Technology Creates a More Eco-Friendly Head on Your Guinness,” GOOD