Digest: Locavoreanism gets corporate, world aquaculture, Cooper confab, Food Freedom Day

Cafeterias cozy up to farmers: A pretty good overview on how food-service giants — like Bon Appetit Management, with which we were familiar, and Sodexho and Aramark, which we weren't — are embracing the "eat local" idea, sometimes to the bemusement of their customers (students, corporate employees). There are some rather cool substitutions for far-off ingredients made by the chefs to get the flavors they want, like arugula for pepper in a salad. The article's main question is whether the corporate attention will "give a boost to sustainable agriculture, or defuse the grassroots revolution." A cookie if you can guess the answer. Not to nitpick, but there are a few factual inaccuracies: UC Berkeley does have an organic salad bar, but it doesn't source the ingredients from local or small farmers, unless you're counting the Salinas Valley, which supplies most of the country, as local. Also, Google and YouTube may have signed their deal in a Denny's, as scornfully reported, but Google is light-years ahead of any corporation, including Yahoo, on the SOLE food train. Salon (Thanks Rachel and Aunt B.!)

Stop, you're making our ethical heads hurt: A contrarian view about when eating locally is actually less sustainable, based on the concept of "fair miles" instead of "food miles." Scotsman News

Lives aquatic: A basic look at the pros and cons of aquaculture, accompanied by some interesting charts about what kinds of fish are farmed in which U.S. states and foreign countries. Who knew Iran farms sturgeon for caviar? USA Today

Ms. Cooper goes to Washington?: Tom Philpott devotes his Victual Reality column to Ann Cooper, familiar to many readers as Berkeley's "Lunch Lady" — the chef Alice Waters helped hire to singlehandedly revamp a broken school-lunch system. Cooper has a new book that we'd like to read, as well as ambitious plans to overhaul the national school-lunch program, if a Democrat gets in office in 2008. Grist

Free to eat crap: The Virginia Farm Bureau is celebrating Feb. 6 as USA Food Freedom Day — because by that date, the average American will have earned enough money to pay for their food for the year. No word on whether there will be a subsequent celebration planned for when the average American earns enough to cover the damage to our water, land, oceans, atmosphere, and public health system incurred by that miraculously cheap food. VA Farm Bureau

The big liver lover?: New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will likely block the state's proposed ban on foie gras. New York Sun

Royale with cheese, please: McDonald's is enjoying unprecedented sales growth in Europe. The Independent

EU shrugs off clones: EU member states have agreed not to enact any special measures to cover food products from cloned animals in the EU, following news that the offspring of a cloned cow was growing up in the UK. Hmm. We predict they'll be hearing from the public about this. Food Quality News

What, you want

Just label it: California State Senator Carole Migden (representing part of San Francisco, all of Marin County, and portions of Sonoma County) says labels should be required for dairy and meat products derived from cloned animals. California Progress Report

Behind the tortilla curtain: Ron Steenblik has a good round-up of the discussion about why prices for tortillas have risen by more than 60% in some parts of Mexico in recent weeks, as U.S. ethanol production sucks up more and more corn. Gristmill

Proactive research: Lettuce processor Fresh Express, which was not implicated in the E. coli outbreaks, says it will pay up to $2 million for research to improve produce safety and prevent future outbreaks. Its parent company Chiquita Brands blames $96 million in third-quarter losses to consumer fears of leafy greens. Washington Post

Dept. of the Obvious: OK, this is only peripherally related, but this article on jobs that Americans supposedly won't do mentions that when a chicken processing plant raised pay by over a dollar per hour and offered better benefits following an immigration bust, it suddenly had plenty of legal residents applying. Slate

Signs that the apocalypse may yet be averted: Environmentalists are dancing with joy over the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, introduced in Congress on Friday, which would repeal billions in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and steer the resulting funds toward energy efficiency and renewable energy. But will it pass? Grist

4 Responsesto “Digest: Locavoreanism gets corporate, world aquaculture, Cooper confab, Food Freedom Day”

  1. Lynn says:

    As a Farm Bureau member and an organic grower I would like to note that farmers are the original stewards of the land. If we do not protect our waterways, and environment we will not make a living. I speak for all farmers when I say, shame on you. Why don't you find out how much fertilizer you and your neighbors have used from your urban estates over the past ten years and how much of that has run off into the Chesapeake Bay, or our beutiful rivers throughout Virginia? I don't see the state asking the "home fix up" crowd to use best management practices to live at their homes. Maybe they should. Now... as far as problems with the public health... I, the farmer, am not forcing people to push food down their stomachs. Act responsible... farmers don't kill people... PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE!!!

  2. Chip says:

    I am new to The Ethicurean and am loving it. I hope you can help me make sense of everything. The major frustration I have as an eater (of just about everything) who's trying to do the right thing: where to settle on the spectrum of ignorance-->action.

    When is "knowing" what I'm eating enough and when am I required not just to abstain from something but to speak up on behalf of abstaining? And then, to what extent am I required to help create a solution that forms a bridge between what was the case to what I think the case should be? That's up to me and my conscience, I know, but there are just so many considerations right now that I find it very hard to keep up. So help me, Ethicurean.

    Fish: I live in the same town as the U.S. headquarters of Australis, the barramundi fish farm. Come visit. I'm headed there soon for a look. Inga Saffron's book, Caviar, while probably a little dated now, is one of the best microhistories I've read. Who knew the "Evil Empire" was such a good steward of fisheries?

    Cooking locally in winter: Bill McKibben wrote about a winter eating locally in Vermont. Part 1 is here: http://vtcommons.org/node/626

  3. DairyQueen says:

    Whoa there Lynn, I think we're on the same team! Let's not foul each other! We have nothing but RESPECT and GRATITUDE (OK, and just a little hero worship) for farmers in general, and organic farmers in particular.

    It may have been unclear from that brief Digest blurb, but what we were picking on about Cheap Food Day was about how both farmers and eaters have been screwed by the large processed food companies. How many rich farmers do you know? Not so many, I predict. How many billions to Kraft, General Mills, etc make from processing the hell out of raw ingredients and making commercials to sell them as health food?

    Cheap food has created a system in which only giant farms can prosper, consumers are obese, and corporations are massively profitable at everyone else's expense. I'm willing to pay more for my food to farmers like you because I believe in what you're doing, and because good land stewardship *has* to become the norm.

    As for the environmental impact of agriculture versus urbanism, I couldn't agree more that the "home fix up" crowd SHOULD have to use environmentally sound practices. Nothing disgusts me more than cities with acres of asphalt parking lots and housing developments paving over rich farmland.

    We're all in this together. I'm sorry I offended you with my snarking.

    Bonnie aka DQ

  4. DairyQueen says:

    Hi Chip: I've been checking out Cook Think and very much enjoyed the first issue of the Root Newsletter (Omniwhore: it's official, you can wash mushrooms if you want!).

    Looks like we're asking ourselves a lot of the same questions. The whole reason we started this blog is because we didn't have answers to the big ones, like when "knowing" enough about bad practices should become "not eating," for example.

    When to speak up on behalf of abstaining? I guess it depends on your personality and how strongly you feel about the topic. Billions of dollars are spent in this country on advertising processed "convenience" crapola, so I kind of think we have a responsibility as citizens to speak up on behalf of SOLE food. However, I hate being lectured and I *really* hate being lectured by zealots of any kind, so my worst fear is of becoming a food version of one. But when someone says, "Why aren't you eating that bacon? I thought you weren't a vegetarian anymore?" and actually seems interested, I will (without my eyes bugging out and my neck cords bulging) explain why factory pig farming is something I cannot bear to subsidize in any way. Basically, I prefer to work on gently "flipping" people who already care about something analogous (pets, global warming, family values).

    Anyway, welcome -- I look forward to reading your site as you wrestle with these thorny dilemmas, too.