Digest – Features: A+ for bee-minus story, cattlemen no supertasters, farming is poisoning our drinking water

starstarQueen of the bees: Colony collapse disorder in U.S. bees "may have many contributing causes," writes Gina Covina in this terrific Ecology Center Terrain article posted on AlterNet, "but it comes down to bees hitting the biological limits of our agricultural system. It's not so much a bee crisis as a pollination crisis. And we may end up calling it agricultural collapse disorder."

Jack, this one's for you: Members of the Southwest Missouri Cattlemen's Association had a blind taste test between grass-finished beef and corn-fed conventional beef. They couldn't tell the difference. (News-Leader.com; story has mysteriously disappeared, here's Google-cached version)

star"They don't call it the Big Muddy for nothing": The Mississippi River basin, which provides drinking water to more than 18 million people, receives not only the effluent of all those humans, but also that of their crops and cows. Of the many threats to drinking water in this region, reports "Garbage Land" author Elizabeth Royte, farming is by far the worst. It's enough to send you back to bottled water — the industry that's the subject of her next book. (Grist)

Net interests: Marian Burros untangles the kerfuffle over news that the fishing industry had funded research that led a recommendation that women of childbearing age eat more fish, in contradiction of government warnings about mercury contamination. (New York Times)

Alice has an iPhone?: Shadowing Alice Waters on three days of her book tour in Chicago, where no one has heard of her and an audience member wants her to try out a nearby Hawaiian-based chain restaurant. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Big Red-Tape Apple: Getting local carrots into the meals served at New York City schools seemed like a no-brainer — the project would help farmers diversify, and the veggies would be fresher, tastier and take less fuel to ship. As you can imagine, it turned out to be more complicated than that. One thing that bugged us "food purists": Why take it for granted that a school system shouldn't even try to handle fresh carrots, instead distributing a plastic package of dip-vehicle "coins" instead? (New York Times; thanks Possum 225)

starAnd in a parallel universe...: An in-depth look at school lunches in the Puget Sound area. The challenges are the same as those facing NYC schools (see above). Some Washington districts, however, like Olympia, have managed to make significant improvements. One of the principals sums it up: "It's really adult work. It's our job to provide choices that nourish our children and then that becomes part of what they understand about the world." (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Deer prudence: New Zealand venison farmers are trying to break into the untapped U.S. market. With an estimated 2 million red deer stocked on more than 3,500 farms, New Zealand has the world's largest deer-farming industry. (Washington Post)

"White tablecloth trickle-down": Chef Michael Nischan and Paul Newman have not just opened a hot farm-totable restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, they've also launched a nonprofit called Wholesome Wave that is running a farmers market and soon, maybe, a farm. (Plenty Magazine)

American pie sampler: An interview with Diane Hatz, founder of Sustainable Table, the nonprofit behind the Meatrix videos and the Eat Well Guide. (Grist)

The lost art of home-curing olives — without lye (New York Times)

5 Responsesto “Digest – Features: A+ for bee-minus story, cattlemen no supertasters, farming is poisoning our drinking water”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Somewhat related to the local-produce-in-schools stories: a charity in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Food Gatherers (www.foodgatherers.org) not only "rescues" literally tons of food from restaurants, bakeries, and the like, they also accept surplus from individual gardeners. I think donating to food banks is a noble cause, but it makes me crazy that all I am generally allowed to give is soaked in salt and entombed in a can. But this group has set up a distribution system so individuals and emergency food kitchens can take the odd 100-lb bag of fresh carrots and either distribute it raw, cook and serve it, or even process and freeze it for later use.

  2. Emily says:

    School lunchroom staff are being cut so far in some places near me that the entire staff consists of two people who hand out styrofoam boxes with pre-made lunches. The schools have no working oven or stove; everything is made (or heated) in one central location and trucked to the schools in the district. They definitely don't have the people to wash, peel, and cut carrots...though they might have someone who can open a box let the kids pick up a packet of carrot coins. *sigh*

  3. Jack says:

    For me: "had a blind taste test between grass-finished beef and corn-fed conventional beef. They couldn’t tell the difference" Assuming it wasn't because they dowsed both heavily with HFCS-laden steak sauce (making anything taste the same), this is pretty surprising. Too bad that newspaper link on this on reveals the first 30 words of the column.

  4. I find it highly ironic and inappropriate that the next generation -- the "green generation" -- is being given lunches on foam trays entombed within plastic wrap, all of which is sent to the landfill (or to some pathetic recycling operation, which might send it all to China for all we know).

    So while we're trying to teach green ethics to this generation, we show them the exact opposite every day at lunch time.

  5. Emily says:

    "So while we’re trying to teach green ethics to this generation, we show them the exact opposite every day at lunch time."

    Marc - You said it. And not just about green ethics - it's about teaching them what to eat, and that all food should be "instant." It's kind of hard to believe I'd look back on my school lunches (of 20 years ago) with fondness - but honestly, I wouldn't feed most of what I saw in school lunches when I worked in the schools in 2002 to a dog. But no, we give them this crap because "that's what kids want." Frankly, I think American kids generally get what they want a little *too* much...and if we teach them what good food is, and give them no "out" of pizza and chips every day, their tastes would change.

    I think improving school lunches to include "Food, made from real ingredients, and not too much of it" might be the single largest environmental and ethicurean impact that could be made, because we'd also be educating 95% of the population for at least one meal a day.