It’s Plants’ Time in the Sun

How many times have you checked a food package to see where it was produced, wondering about all the energy it took to get from the farm to your fork? Once an issue that few people pondered, the “eat local” movement has inspired conscientious consumers all over the country to contemplate how we can each do better by the planet at meal-time. The issue’s gone so mainstream that even TIME magazine published a cover story a few years ago entitled, “Forget Organic—Eat Local.”

Well, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, we would be wiser to reconsider the amount of meat products on our grocery list rather than merely looking for how many miles our food may have traveled.

How much more concerned should we be? A lot. Read more

Eating Liberally & Kitchen Table Talks NYC Present: What’s the Matter with Mass-Produced Meat?

More Americans are demanding higher quality meat–animals fed appropriate, antibiotic-free diets on small farms and slaughtered humanely–and they are choosing to eat less of it, too. Whether turned off by endless recalls, or turned on by the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat, growth in campaigns like Meatless Monday show a powerful shift in the Zeitgeist.

Meanwhile Big Meat is taking on the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain its right to let manure run into our waterways, as it defends the excess antibiotic use (80 percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to livestock), inhumane practices, and consolidation of the industry as the only way to feed the world. The beef industry has even invested in a communications degree that aims to revitalize the consumer image of industrial beef.

The conversation around how we bring meat to the table is multifaceted and is the subject of a lively discussion on April 14 at New York University entitled “What’s the Matter With Mass-Produced Meat?” Read more

Leading U.S. Food Service Provider Introduces Meatless Monday to Potentially Millions of Customers

The national non-profit Meatless Monday campaign is proving to be “The Little Engine That Could” in the environmental public health world. In just the last two years national awareness of Meatless Monday more than doubled. According to a commissioned survey by FGI Research more than 30 percent of Americans are aware of the public health campaign, compared to 15 percent awareness in 2008. No doubt the announcement last week that Sodexo, a food service company which serves more than ten million North American customers a day, has adopted the campaign will only help to increase Meatless Monday’s popularity. Read more

New Livestock Rules Cause House Ag Committee, Industry to Blow a Fuse

On Tuesday, a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a meeting in the lead up to the 2012 Farm Bill that descended into a contentious complaint session by Democrats and Republicans alike over the new rules proposed by the USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). Many Ag Committee members take campaign donations from the industries that would be affected (in the 2010 cycle, House Agriculture Committee members have taken a combined $236,500 from the poultry and egg industry, and $281,611 from the livestock industry), and their reaction makes clear then that these rules could hold the potential for real reform. Read more

Moby Gets to the Gristle of the Matter

What do most of us know about Moby (not the whale, but the music artist)? I, for one, know that he makes good dance music, he likes tea, and he’s an outspoken vegan.  So how did he end up editing a book with a contribution by Paul Willis, Mr. sustainable hog farmer? And did they drink not-too-sweet organic peach tea to seal the deal? It seems like food politics may have made some super strange bedfellows here. Read more

Eating Animals: Debunking our Pastoral Myth

Jonathan Safran Foer speaks with the reasoning of a vegetarian, the skepticism of an investigative journalist and the concern of a parent in Eating Animals. This persuasive narrative forces us to ask why we have ignored the issues associated with factory-farmed meat and fish for so long. We’ve done so, Foer argues, by telling ourselves a fable about our relation to the animals we eat. Read more

Giving up the Bird on Thanksgiving

When we moved into our renovated house in late October 2005 I said to my husband, “We should host Thanksgiving this year.” We finally had a real dining room after living in our shoebox on the Upper West Side.

“No one will come,” he said.

I knew he was right. No one wants a turkey-less Thanksgiving. I resigned myself to a meal at someone else’s house, cringing at the sight of a gravy-dripping bird proudly displayed in the center of a dining room table.

It was either that or dinner for three, which my husband, daughter and I did one year.

This year there’s a twist in the family drama. Various dysfunctions among siblings, parents and even a friend prevent others from hosting. My dining room will be christened for Thanksgiving. What I’m most grateful for is the chance to gather nearly a dozen people for a meat-less harvest meal. Read more

An Interview with Nicolette Hahn Niman

Nicolette Hahn Niman has been thinking about livestock for nearly a decade. Before she married (and began ranching with) Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch*, Nicolette worked as a senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance where she was in charge of the organization’s campaign to reform the concentrated livestock and poultry industry. Nicolette spoke with CUESA recently about greenhouse gas emissions, the sustainable livestock tipping point, and her book Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms (HarperCollins, 2009). She also authored a New York Times op-ed on Saturday called The Carnivore’s Dilemma. Read more

A Julia Child for the 21st Century: Meet Lorna Sass

Nora Ephron’s effervescent Julie & Julia has evidently sparked a mad dash to snap up Child’s epic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Butter’s back, and margarine’s been marginalized. Three cheers for real food! After all, as Joan Gussow says, “I trust cows more than chemists.”

Any film (or book) that gets Americans psyched about cooking real food can only be a good thing, of course. But when Julie Powell hatched the Julie & Julia Project, latching on to Child’s old-school continental cuisine to lift her out of a dreary day job, she hitched her blogger bandwagon to a diet dominated by meat, eggs, and dairy.

Back in the day, that was OK: in Child’s era, phrases like “manure lagoon,” “gestation crate,” “battery cage,” or “bovine growth hormone” would have sounded even more foreign than “boeuf bourguignon” or “sauce béarnaise.”

But a half century or so later, I’m less excited about dishes that require preheating the oven to 350 degrees than I am about recipes for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to 350 parts per million (ppm). That’s the level of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere that scientist James Hansen and Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agree that we need to achieve to avert catastrophic climate change. We’re at nearly 390 ppm now.

We won’t get back to 350 on a diet of denial and duckfat; a better blueprint for eating green would be meals centered around foods grown through photosynthesis, not fossil fuels–i.e., fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains. But before you can say “Bittman, ” I’d like to nominate someone less well-known, but uniquely–and supremely–qualified to be this century’s Julia Child. Read more