Meat consumption in China has been on a dramatic rise for the last three decades, with one-third of the world’s meat now produced in the country and more than half the world’s pork. Most of it comes from factory-style systems of farming, with large numbers of confined animals fed on grain. A lot of grains.

“We’re heading towards a new era…as the majority of the world’s feed crops are destined for China’s pigs,” predicts Mindi Schneider, an agribusiness researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands. Read more

“Occupy, Resist, and Grow!” I found myself shouting into the human microphone at Occupy Wall Street just the other Sunday. I was translating for Janaina Stronzake, a member of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement–one of the most prominent peasant agriculture movements in the fight for food sovereignty. The crowd repeated, looking to Janaina and then to the depiction of Brazil on her organization’s flag, connecting the dots from there to Wall Street.

The Landless Workers Movement, or Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), is a social movement based on the right to land and human dignity. Founded in 1985, the movement seeks to connect landless rural families with land not in production. The ultimate goal is agrarian reform: Brazil has alarmingly high levels of land concentration, and a simultaneous abundance of latifúndios–large land holdings–sitting unused, almost forgotten. On paper, the Brazilian government is opposed to the hoarding of potentially productive land, and reserves the right to expropriate land deemed not to be fulfilling its “social function”: creating food and livelihoods for the country’s people. But in practice, the status quo is strong. The MST was founded as a call to action. Read more

On Monday, domestic policy wonk Ezra Klein published a short piece over at his Washington Post blog entitled “Industrial Farms are the Future,” in which he challenged the idea that the local food movement is doing anything but informing the big players in their marketing strategy. Further, he wondered aloud whether there was ever a major industry that “went from small, decentralized production methods to large, scaled industrial production–and then back again.”

Tom Philpott over at Grist took down the evidence Klein quotes in the piece, and which inspired its title. Klein bit back, addressing the issue again and pointing to the growth of industrial agriculture in China, India, and particularly Brazil as a case in point about the inevitability of growth in agriculture. I thought I would attempt to challenge Klein’s assumptions once again. Read more

“Observe,” Chef Beto Pimentel said as he held the cacau fruit up for a moment of quiet admiration before slamming it against a cement wall. A popping noise brought a thin crack through the shell, we coaxed it open, and there it was, the science of cacau.

This was no ordinary cacau. Carved out in the heart of Salvador, Brazil’s third largest city and the capital of the state of Bahia, lives a refuge of native species. Some are rare and almost forgotten, others are more normally seen on large plantations. The guardian of this tropical orchard is Beto Pimentel, and guard he does – with zeal and dedication. Read more

Belo Horizonte is the stuff of food security legend. BH (pronounced beh-agah), as it is known by locals, has been on the radar of food systems folks since their innovative programming began in the early 90s, and their recognition has only grown over time. Attention has come in the form of shoutouts by the Lappe mother-daughter team in Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, the Huffington Post and Yes! Magazine and the 2009 Future Policy Award from the World Future Council, to name a few. As topics relating to food security and the future of agriculture rise on the government priority lists and health-related NGOs, more and more eyes turn towards BH for best practices. So it was with nearly four years of built-up anticipation that I arrived in BH for a whirlwind tour of all things food and ag. Read more

This is the first in a series of posts from our new Foodshed Nomad column.

January 29, 2010
It’s difficult to explain, and I’m certainly aware that I’m still in a phase of first impressions rather than any sort of intimate. But in short, I find this city absolutely magnificent. There’s a phrase in Brazilian Portuguese that has no literal translation: saudade. It connotes a sense of longing, a deep yearning and nostalgia for a person or place, and is often used when expressing your love for something or someone while you are still with it or them (perhaps the sentiment Toni Morrison was trying to express when she wrote, “It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody before you leave them” in her book Sula). I’ve been here just a week, but it already feels like much longer. Rio’s languorous pace draws you in very quickly, and running around Brooklyn packing up and saying goodbyes already seems months behind me. One of my new friends and I were just discussing the intoxication that comes from being in Rio, the sense that you are living in Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a place with no life or time outside its limits. Here we all move as one, and even those of us who move at the quickest pace in our outside lives are forced to give up the hurry here. It is as giving in to love. Read more

This is the first in series of posts about food systems issues in and around Brazil. Sara will contribute to a new column called The Foodshed Nomad. Look for her updates regularly.

I’m on the floor of my father’s Manhattan apartment, surrounded by luggage, paperwork, books and a sprawl of clothes and toiletries. It is a mere two days from my departure for Brazil, and it feels like there are mountains of tasks to complete before I get on the plane. Sitting here, pounding away at my keyboard, catching up on emails and typing up loose ends, I finally forced myself to find a moment to write.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sara Franklin. I have worked in food systems for several years now in a variety of capacities— I have studied nutrition and agriculture; I have farmed; I have worked for anti-hunger organizations dealing with a lack of healthy, accessible food in urban areas; I have worked to build capacity among community-based groups across the U.S. using agriculture as a tool of empowerment to work towards eliminating hunger and poverty; I have been a restaurant critic, a freelance writer, and consultant for various organizations; and I have built gardens in cities and the countryside. But what has, perhaps, taught me most about food systems issues and their pervasiveness is travel. In visiting farmers and activist groups working in food and agriculture in the U.S. and abroad, I have learned that the issues related to food systems are a universal language. Read more