Friday, May 16, 2014

Chipotle's “Cultivated Thought”

Oh my! So many things I like all in the same place:

Jonathan Safran Foer. Chipotle. Short stories. Literature.

Chipotle will now be printing small pieces of writing from great writers on its cups and bags, based on an idea proposed by Jonathan Safran Foer.

As he describes in this Vanity Fair piece:

“...I got to know quite a bit about the company, not in the process of doing this, but in the process of Eating Animals,” he continued. “Chipotle was pointed to quite often, as a model of what scaling good practices might look like. The truth is, that’s not really why I did this. I mean, I wouldn’t have done it if it was for another company like a McDonald’s, but what interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.”

There will be stories by Foer himself, by Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, George Saunders, and many others!

Some are available here for reading. Or go to your local Chipotle and check it out! (even though, when I go to Chipotle, I tend to forego a bag for my burrito and have my own water bottle with me, so I'm not sure I'd encounter the cup or bag if I didn't know to look out for them).

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Sourcing Meat" From the Backyard

Below is a little story my college roommate Deepani wrote to me for my birthday. She lives in Tanzania, and writes evocatively about her first experience "sourcing" her own meat. Enjoy! 

Kim and Deepani

The first story I have is about our little farm that lives in the backyard garden. It's getting harder and harder to keep track now, but I think we have something like 2 hens, 3 cockerels, 6 ducks, 3 ducklings, a dog called Kim, and a cat called Mini. After many weeks of confident talking but with little action, a couple of weekends ago, Gary and I screwed up the nerve and sourced our own meat from our own backyard, all by ourselves. In more graphic terms, we caught, slaughtered, plucked, butchered, cooked, and ate a duck from our backyard flock. As meat eaters, we thought that it appropriate the we should involve ourselves in the process of what it means for an animal to become the food that we eat, and as caretakers of a flock of fowl, we finally had the chance. Still, it ranks among one of the most difficult things we've ever done together. Using only a sharp knife puts you very close to the deed, and in fact, it was rather an emotional act, and Gary wasn't able to hold back tears as he cut the throat. It was raining at the time, and I remember feeling the mixture of cool rain and warm blood on my hands.

After, we plucked all the feathers off the bird, which is a much more painstaking process than I realized, and once that was done, I had to stick my arm inside to remove the entrails. It was amazing seeing how small the parts are that keep a being alive.

By the time I cooked the duck the next evening, it was almost--but not quite--easy to forget that it had been a living creature the day before, because by then, it looked exactly like what you can get from a supermarket--a whole duck, covered only by its own skin.

Eating it was a kind of celebration: here is food that gives us life, though we took a life in order to eat. One of us mentioned what slaughtering a cow for beef would look like, done this same way, by ourselves, and we sat there in awed silence thinking of the sheer immensity of such an undertaking with our own hands. How could we possibly! And yet, people do it, every single day. And we, we eat these creature every single day too.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

On the Austrian Vegetarian Study

 Researchers at the Medical University of Graz, in Austria, recently published a study that included an analysis of vegetarian diets (available in PDF here). Lots of European papers (and a few in the U.S. as well) are reporting on the study with titles like, "Vegetarians are 'less healthy' and have a poorer quality of life than meat-eaters". Frequent D&O reader and my husband, JH, responds to the study: 

. . . It's worth noting that this study has some pretty significant limitations: it only followed 330 vegetarians, all of them Austrian, and apparently didn't attain a representative sample, as over 75% of the subjects for the study were women.

So, I think we should take this one with a pretty big grain of salt (while of course open-mindedly waiting to see if any of these findings are replicated), especially given the fact that the general consensus among folks who study nutrition goes sharply in the opposite direction.  So, for example, the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics (the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the world) published a position paper on this a few years ago and found, based on a huge meta-analysis of the relevant science, that vegetarians were healthier than nonvegetarians in a number of areas, including lower rates of heart disease and cancer. Their official position is that "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes."

An independent meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Health Nutrition in 2012 concluded that "vegetarian diets have not shown any adverse effects on health" though they do note that "restrictive and monotonous vegetarian diets may result in nutrient deficiencies with deleterious effects on health."  So, vegetarians do of course have to be smart about what they eat.  But then, so does everyone else.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Help stop antibiotic misuse on factory farms!

Food and Water Watch recently launched their Healthy Farms, Healthy Families campaign to end antibiotic misuse. They are calling on specific cities to pass city-wide resolutions urging Congress to take action on this issue. Madison is the latest city in which they're working.

You can help by signing the online petition to support this work in Madison. Ask the city council to pass the resolution urging Congress to ban the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms!

What's the issue?

Antibiotics are for saving lives, not for saving factory farm profits

Antibiotic resistance is coming to be a serious public health crisis right now in the U.S. Last fall, the Center for Disease Control reported that two million Americans contact antibiotic resistant infections, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result. Antibiotics are a foundation of modern medicine that we all take for granted, but it's clear that if don’t act now, antibiotics may not work for us the next time we get sick.

There are several different reasons why these lifesaving drugs are losing their effectiveness, and a major one is overuse. While most people are aware that antibiotics are over-prescribed in humans, few realize that the vast majority of antibiotics in the U.S. are used in industrial agriculture.

Right now, 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used for raising livestock. These drugs are routinely fed to animals that aren’t even sick to make them grow faster and to compensate for filthy living conditions. This type of routine use of these drugs creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, many of which are the same drugs we rely on to treat infections in people. The antibiotic-resistant bacteria that develop on factory farms can spread throughout our environment and the food supply, putting us all at risk whether or not we eat meat, and regardless of where we live.

To make matters worse, regulators don’t even collect basic data about antibiotics used on factory farms, let alone effectively regulate how these critical drugs are used. This lack of information and monitoring is a serious threat to the usefulness of antibiotics in the treatment of infections, and the Food and Drug Administration’s voluntary efforts are simply not enough to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics in human medicine.

The fact that nothing is being done to protect antibiotics, despite scientific consensus about the severity of the problem, is a political issue, which is why we need legislation to save antibiotics and stop their misuse on factory farms now. There are two bills in Congress that would ensure antibiotics are only given to animals when they’re sick: Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA,  S. 1256) in the Senate, and Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA, H.R. 1150) in the House.

But we know that we have to demonstrate overwhelming public support for them to be passed.

That’s why Food and Water Watch launched their Healthy Farms, Healthy Families campaign in cities across the country this spring, with the goal of passing the first seven city-wide resolutions urging Congress to take action on this important issue. In February, Providence, Rhode Island became the first city to pass this historic resolution, with several other cities poised to follow close behind.

In Madison, Wisconsin, the movement is clearly gaining momentum and making significant steps toward landing on the desk of our city council. With over 500 petitions, 75 photo petitions, and a growing coalition that 22 local health professionals, farmers, and organizations have already signed on to, it’s clear that Madison citizens want our elected officials to step up to the plate for our public health and ban the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. The campaign, comprised of dedicated community members, is planning big steps in the upcoming months, including presenting the resolution to the city council and hosting a large public forum on public health and our food system. Though we are making progress, we cannot win without demonstrating the overwhelming public support.

You can help!

Sign the online petition asking the Madison city council to pass the resolution urging Congress to ban the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Foodie Valentines

Now, for something a little lighter, check out these food-inspired valentine cards:

Find, and send, the whole spread here.

Which are your favorite?

UPDATED: Even more foodie valentines here, at the Kitchn!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Walmart Supports Coalition of Immokalee Workers

There's big news in the [agricultural] justice world, as Walmart signed on to the Fair Food Program, which protects laborers and human rights in the US produce industry. 

Walmart representatives John Amaya and Tom Leech, and CIW’s Lucas Benitez and Gerardo Reyes Chavez [plus Nely Rodriguez, not pictured] sign historic agreement at a Lipman Produce farm outside of Immokalee, FL.

The Fair Food Program was initiated by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. According to its website, CIW is a "worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of corporate social responsibility, community organizing, and sustainable food. The CIW is also a leader in the growing movement to end human trafficking due to its groundbreaking work to combat modern-day slavery and other labor abuses common in agriculture."

Several other retailers have reached agreements with the CIW in the past, but Walmart's participation is huge, given the retailer's enormous market power. There is significant hope that this move will help expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida and beyond the tomatoes that have been the primary focus of the CIW so far.

I'm very happy to hear this news.

Read more of the responses to this move from Michael Pollan and others, here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Debate: Don't Eat Anything With A Face

Recently, a friend shared this Intelligence Squared debate on the motion: "Don't Eat Anything With A Face". Four experts debated the pros and cons of vegetarianism from a variety of perspectives.

The whole video is worth watching, for sure:

I liked the opening comments from the moderator, in which he highlighted the oft-cited (but still oft-ignored) reason that many people are comfortable with meat-eating: they just avoid thinking about it. 

He said, "The simple act of eating a hamburger is, when you really think about it, one of the great
acts of human denial, because what is a burger? It's edible protein in the shape of a disk every single time. And you can order it rare, you can order it well done, you can dress it up in ketchup, you can put a little onion hat on top of it, you can push it around on your plate, you can leave half of it behind, and never once have the thought cross your mind, as you're chomping away, I wonder what she looked like, the cow this burger came from. I wonder where she lived. I wonder how she died. Our thoughts just don't go there..."

This debate encourages us to think about those questions, to engage with the ethical, environmental, nutritional, aesthetic issues involved in our daily acts of consumption.

Watch, and let me know what you think!