In less than one year from now we could be reading the food review of the world’s first in vitro hamburger. Yes, you read that right.
As an answer to our globe’s growing population and increasing meat consumption, scientists in the Netherlands are very close to debuting their meat grown from stem cells of healthy cows. The scientists have been working to grow muscle tissue from a small number of stem cells they’ve extracted from the cattle.
As awkward as this process sounds, the researchers believe it’s going to be beneficial for the world. As the trends lead us to believe that the world’s meat consumption is expected to double by the year 2050, this man-made meat will be able to be produced without the need for livestock.
In our fifty nifty states, some are shining above others in the area of sustainability and organic food production.
When a food is titled organic, that means that it was produced using methods that avoided synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The food does not contain genetically modified organisms and it was not involved in radiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives while being processed. If livestock or meat products are labeled organic that means the animal was raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Obviously this is how farming used to always take place. Synthetic inputs are a creation of more modern times. All of these organic practices have been linked to sustainability in that they foster the cycling of resources, contribute to ecological balance, and protect biodiversity.
The health benefits of eating organic products come from the simple fact that one is consuming food, not chemicals. While the jury is still out on what impact these chemicals and artificial elements exactly cause, if you’re like me, I’d prefer not to eat a bug spray or an artificial flavor if I can avoid it. Even if it may not be “that bad” for me.
The McRib sandwich from McDonald’s is a strange product of the food science world: fake “ribs” molded out of mystery pork and drowning in sauce. First McDonald’s created the “Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America” spoof. Now, the fast food chain is running a campaign to get customers to submit a video with a “legendary” creation story of the McRib sandwich. The winner will receive $10,000 dollars and a trip to Germany. The fact that McDonald’s is making fun of the nebulous origins of its food is borderline offensive to anyone who would like there to be some transparency in our food chain.
Well, OK, McDonald’s, we’ll tell you where the McRib comes from: an enormous factory farm. A giant shed with a floor covered in feces, where tens of thousands of pigs will be born without ever having enough space to turn around in and most will never see daylight. Let’s remember that, unlike a chicken, a pig has fairly advanced mental capacities, much like your pet dog. Because these pigs live in such tight quarters, they tend to develop bizarre behaviors due to stress. The animals, taken away from their mothers shortly after birth, nibble on each other’s tails because they are not allowed to wean. The pig having its tail nibbled is too apathetic to fight or object, but the chewed tails are likely to be infected. The solution? All the pigs get their tails cut off at birth. I’ll spare you a description of a slaughter. A typical slaughterhouse kills up to 1,100 pigs per hour, according to PETA.
While much attention is paid to the environmental benefits of organic produce, the local food movement is starting to also make real headway. No matter how your food is grown, if it’s shipped from across the U.S. or even from another country, that’s a long way for your food to travel.
Locally grown foods are fresher because they don’t have to be picked before they’re ripe for shipping, and are less likely to be subjected to different means of preserving freshness. Many fruits and vegetables must stay in refrigerated trucks, which increases the amount of energy the trucks consume.
While there are some extreme locavores out there, introducing more local food into your diet isn’t as hard as it seems. Plus, eating locally puts more emphasis on eating fresh, non-processed foods that will benefit anyone trying to lose weight. When you eat locally, you’re also supporting the local economy. Here are a few simple ways to eat local.
For veterans of the organic food debate, the cover story of Time Magazine offers few new insights into the question of eating cleanly and sustainably. Any general discussion of the food industry in America is rife with rhetorical potholes, and the debate is as massive and complex as our food production systems themselves.
The Time article, written by Jefferey Kluger, makes a judicious attempt at outlining some of the biggest points of contention in the great food debate: cost, nutritional value of organics vs. conventional food, treatment of livestock, fertilizers and pesticides. He also oddly tries to extricate himself from the debate in which he is participating, referring to “food purists” and “the shouting of the food partisans.” If Kluger is trying to mount a non-partisan argument, he ends by leap-frogging from issue to issue without settling for a conclusion. While Kluger ultimately appears to be in support of organic food and the consumption of less meat, he seems dismissive of the practicality of feeding the nation with organic food. (more…)
There’s a lot of great stuff about this time of year. One of the best, and maybe the least known, is the availability of the Pick Your Own Farm. Also called U-Pick or PYO, these farms are wonderful places to take your family. In some cities, these businesses are referred to as agri-business, basically business that occurs on a farm.
In the United States, picking your own berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), apples, and vegetables is most common. Pumpkin patches, often with associated corn mazes, hay rides and wagon rides are common in the fall. Urban legend has it that You Pick Farms started after WWI, when labor was hard to come by and farmers were short on workers.
Farmer’s markets are markets that allow customers to purchase locally grown, flavorful, farm-fresh, organic produce. This type of market is great because it comes straight from the ground to your hands. This type of market allows farmers to develop personal relationships with the buyers and the consumers can show their loyalty with the farmers. The setup to the market varies, but typically it takes place once or twice a week at a designated public place. Some markets even make it more of a social get-together by providing live entertainment. (more…)
The internet has been a buzz with talk of conspiracy, genetically-modified foods, contamination, restrictions on organic farming, and backyard gardens being banned. Recent recalls and contamination of peanut butter, pistachios, spinach, and tomatoes and concerns about outbreaks of bird flu and mad cow disease seem to be driving three pieces of legislation that have been proposed and referred to committees. It has been suggested that these contamination events were stunts to ease the way for these freedom-restricting bills. Others suggest that the terminology used for organic products and food labels do need some clarification. The fear and outcry seem to result from the vague and confusing nature of the legislation.
With names like the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere Act, the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act, the Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act, and the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 it’s no wonder there is confusion about what is and is not being regulated, to what extent, and by who. After reading through HR 875, the proposed bill most likely to come to a vote, I can testify that there is not much more clarity to be found in the actual legislation than there is in all the alarmist blogs and email forwarding. (more…)