Eat With Your Head

US Helps Domino’s push Cheese Sales
November 7, 2010, 10:23 am
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Great article in the New York Times that points to structural problems in the USDA. As I learned in school, the USDA is designed to help agriculture businesses, in addition to regulating them. The consequence of this is laid out beautifully in this article.

I’ve also blogged before about federal dollars helping companies like McDonald’s promote their food, abroad.

Jamie Oliver Plays Food Missionary to Pukka Perfection
April 4, 2010, 5:10 pm
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Credit: Jamie Oliver on Facebook

Jamie Oliver says “food revolution” way too many times on his new reality show. Note to Jamie: Say something enough times and it loses its meaning. It’s too easy to make fun of his exaggerated accent and the show’s embrace of all things cheesy, so instead I’ll admit I’m a huge fan and believe he will make a huge positive difference for Americans. Just the other day, I chose unsweetened ice tea over the soda once I heard the sound of his shrill Cockney voice telling me how much corn syrup and chemicals is in one can of coke.

It’s getting huge ratings, which likely means parents are watching, alarmed at the chicken nuggets, french fries and pizza kids are eating at school (and the junk food they’re eating outside, which to me is probably the bigger problem.)

Unsurprisingly, the show shies away from political issues, even though huge corn and soy subsidies have led to these problems, both in and out of school. Jamie does adorably moan about arbitrary USDA regulations, and the enclosed bureaucracy it creates, which to me is better than nothing.

If anything, it motivates me to avoid buying junk food, and I’m sure it does for many others too. I call that a success.

When a Catfish Isn’t a Catfish
March 30, 2010, 8:54 pm
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Interesting article from the Washington Post: People are mad as hell about “food fraud” and they’re not taking it anymore. That is, diluting honey with corn syrup but selling it as 100% pure, selling cheese made from cow’s milk as sheep’s milk cheese and so on. I’ve heard of instances of cosmetic altering to make foods look more desirable, but here are some instances of outright lies on the part of food manufacturers.

March 19, 2010, 4:50 am
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From Colony: Beekeepers, 'the ugly stepchildren of agriculture'

Today I saw Colony at DC’s Environmental Film Festival, about beekeepers struggling with bees disappearing due to colony collapse disorder. Though the causes are unknown, many  speculate the use of a pesticide that are killing off the bees.

This is important because bees are key pollinators of our food supply. I’ve read this before and it didn’t mean much to me before this documentary.

Beekeepers’ real money comes not from producing honey, but by pollinating crops around the country. Beekeepers travel from Maine to Florida to California every year, unleashing their bees onto almond, orange or blueberry crops. They are crucial to the process we’ve set up to produce and distribute food, which is why their deaths are so disturbing.

If you’re interested, the Sierra  Club is calling for a moratorium on neonicotinoids, the pesticide thought by  many to be the cause of colony collapse disorder. I took action, and you can too.

Monsanto seeds: Genetically modified to demand high prices despite Recession
March 13, 2010, 12:46 am
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Corn seed prices rose 32 percent this year, at a time when everything has become cheaper. According to the New York Times, this is due to “advent of genetically engineered crops and the rapid concentration in the seed industry that accompanied it.”

Cows to get grass…for real this time
March 11, 2010, 12:23 am
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Here’s an update on an issue I reported on way  back when: Organic producers must give real access to pasture — 120 days — to cows whose milk they sell. This will make buying organic milk over conventional all the more meaningful. (I got this from The Atlantic’s delightfully entertaining and informative Food Channel.)

Cows with access to grassland is better for the cows and more ethically sound for humans. There’s also the environmental impacts of these factory farms — like farmers finding ways to generate  energy from giant manure ponds they don’t know what else to do with. (Or the New York Times citing this as a sign of environmental progress.)

On another note, the USDA’s National Organic Program is apparently a marketing program. This means that the organic standards in this country are judged not by their health and environmental impacts but by their effectiveness in generating profit.

Stop with the Antioxidants
March 5, 2010, 7:00 pm
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And the food labeling saga continues. European agencies denied claims of foods containing “antioxidants,” says Marion Nestle at the Atlantic. We need a new “washing term” for this. Healthwashing maybe?