What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, January 31, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The NRDC, along with several other organizations has apparently brought a lawsuit against the EPA, challenging the EPA rule that allows pesticides to be tested on people (pregnant women and children included).
They argue that this kind of testing is unethical because of problems in the past when subjects misled about what they were being given (!), and also because the poeple likely attracted to being guinea pigs would be low-income people.
This might make some of you New Yorker magazine readers out there think about the recent disturbing article on people who earn their livelihoods as serial medical test subjects.
All of this says nothing, of course, about the ethics of testing on animals. A conversation/lawsuit for another day?
Posted on Thu, January 31, 2008 by Website Administrator
By Jack Everitt, Fork & Bottle
Mark Bittman in Sunday's New York Times has a major article titled, "Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler".
In just two online pages, he covers a lot of ground. It is very well written and easy-to-read. Dive in, it is worth your time.
In general, it is about the cost of meat (not just $), and, makes a strong case for cutting down on your consumption of meat.
One sentence quite surprised me, "Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago."
Posted on Wed, January 30, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
We've noticed a trend lately, and one that we're pretty pleased with: food and ag stories are creeping out of the food sections and onto the front page, into the business section, etc. A quick look at the New York Times in recent weeks provides an interesting case study:
Last week we blogged about Marion Burros' tuna sushi/mercury story which was front page (if below the fold). The week before that had an article on the cover of the business section about how our tax dollars are going towards paying industrial meat farmers to deal with their waste lagoons. Then, this past weekend, cookbook author Mark Bittman had a Week in Review story on industrially farmed meat and its rise as a global commodity.
Please let us know if you're seeing the same thing–we'd love more examples.
Posted on Mon, January 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Today is the final day to submit your comments to the USDA regarding their proposed label standard for meat as "naturally raised." We've all been marveling for a long time now at the emptiness of a phrase like "natural." When informed shoppers see that on food packaging they know that by this point it pretty much means nothing: a big zero.
The USDA label promises to be similarly hollow, referring only to the animals being hormone and antibiotic free. So, I guess if you think it's "natural" for animals to be industrially farmed, then great! If not, please take the next few hours to register your disapproval.
Please Note: All Comments Must Reference "Docket No. LS-07-16" by writing at the top of the letter or email "Re: Docket No. LS-07-16"
Posted on Fri, January 25, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Elizabeth Bird
Last week, an article caught our eyes in the Washington Post about the recent trend of restaurants who are seeking "Green Certification." These "green certified" restaurants are looking beyond the food they serve and whether it's organic, or even locally grown. They are seeking to be green businesses, creating efficiencies where there were inefficiencies, cutting waste, even striving to achieve "zero waste" through composting and using renewable energy sources or biodegradable products.
According to the Green Restaurant Association, a Boston-based non-profit, the restaurant industry accounts for a third of all energy used by retail businesses. Their research of the restaurant industry shows that the average restaurant meal served produces a pound and a half of trash, half of which is compostable food waste.
So what does it take to become green certified? The GRA, whose mission is to "create an ecologically sustainable restaurant industry," functions as a consultant to restaurant owners to help make the certification process more convenient and efficient. Covering everything from energy and water efficiency and conservation to using sustainable food products, composting methods, and incorporating green building design, the GRA's 12-step environmental guidelines give a systematic approach to redefining a restaurant as "green." The GRA will also do a cost-benefit analysis for the restaurant to help determine which areas of improvement will be most beneficial in the long-run for that restaurant, as well as linking member restaurants to manufacturers, distributors, waste collection companies and government agencies who also provide environmentally suitable products and services.
And the benefits? The Washington Post article quotes a report by the GRA that a quarter of restaurants surveyed plan to spend more on going green this year. Why? "Besides the environmental benefits, restaurant owners hope that such efforts can in the long run help them deal with increased energy and waste-management costs." Another tip sheet that might be helpful comes from the City of Irvine website on their Zero Waste initiative for the food service industry.
What do you think? Are you a "Certified Green" restaurant? Any inclination to go green in the future? We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Posted on Wed, January 23, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Milk can't seem to stay out of the news these past few weeks. The big stories?
Starbucks, after recently agreeing to use only rbGH-free milk, has discontinued offering organic milk. Apparently once there was no more rbGH in the milk, the primary reason for their customers to order organic had been eliminated.
Pennsylvania citizens succeeded in securing that local milk labels can identify the product as "hormone free." After Pennsylvania's October ban on letting consumers know what's what in their milk, the public spoke up. The governor ultimately had this to say: "The public has a right to complete information about how the milk they buy is produced." And based on Starbucks' feedback from customers (rbGH is gross), seems like a good idea.
California raw milk producers are upset about legislation being pushed through that puts strict — and unnecessary, they say– limits on the number of coliform per milleliter in raw milk. Likely an attempt on the part of the legislature, some think, to work towards outlawing raw milk.
Posted on Wed, January 23, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Yes, tuna troubles–but for whom? For a few years now, conservation groups have been sounding the alarum bell about the collapse of bluefin tuna populations. The increasing demand for the beautiful reddish pink flesh of raw tuna in sushi bars around the world (but most notably in Japan and the U.S.) has severely depleted tuna stocks to the point that last August, the U.S. called for a complete ban on bluefin tuna fishing.
You wouldn't know it, of course, to go into any high end sushi bar; front and center you'll always find large slabs of the shiny raw fish. Restaurants seem to have no problem flagrantly defying the cries of the E.U., the U.S. government, and conservation groups.
A report on the front page of the New York Times today reveals there might finally be something to curb people's appetite for the bluefin–their own personal safety. A survey of several of NYC's sushi restaurants (most of them quite high end) revealed unhealthily high levels of mercury in the fish, above the FDA's "action level" (which means they could have cause to pull the dangerous food off the market).
As of right now the article is the number one most-emailed article on the Times' website. Are diners finally ready to cut out tuna? Will the bluefin's high mercury levels be the thing that saves it from extinction? Perhaps the "tuna troubles" no longer belong to the tuna, but to the eater.
Posted on Tue, January 22, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Continuing our series begun in last month's Snail (Slow Food USA's quarterly magazine), Slow Food Northeast Regional Governor Rosemary Melli shares her childhood food heritage as an Italian American growing up in New Jersey:
In the 1950s it was all about being American if you were 10 years old and desperately wanted to fit in with your peer group. All my friends, especially my next-door neighbor Karen Lupson, ate American cheese sandwiches for lunch and always had their mothers' homemade pies and cakes for dessert. We in our second-generation Italian-American family ate gorgonzola and provolone. My grandfather would bitterly complain if the provolone wasn't sharp enough, stating that it tasted like "potatoes" and not cheese.
We lived in rural New Jersey, which was very pastoral in those days, with an abundance of chicken and dairy farms. During our first six months of life, my sister and I were fed on my mother's milk, unlike our peers and even some cousins, who were mostly bottle- and pabulum-fed, that being the new modern way to nourish a baby. As we were growing up, we ate pasta every Sunday and Wednesday and NEVER drank milk with supper. My grandfather, who we lived with, was outraged at the thought of tomato sauce and milk entering the stomach at the same time. Sunday dinners were always elaborate and filled with visiting relatives, goumpattas and goumattas, bearing Italian pastries and candies from across the river in NY. When on occasion we traveled to Great-Uncle Vincent's house in south Jersey, the aromas of fresh basil and tomato sauce coming from Great-Aunt Mary's kitchen were enough to awaken our appetites for the Sunday bowl of macaroni, followed by braciole, meatballs, and sausage. The concepts of hors d'oeuvres, aperitivo, and antipasto were well known to us, but completely foreign to our more 'Americanized' friends. We weren't crazy about those sharp and smelly cheeses, but you can bet we scarfed down the lasagne, ravioli, eggplant parmigiana, veal cutlets, spaghetti, and rigatoni.
Christmas time was, of course, the height of Italian-American gastronomic indulgence. The days leading up to December 25 were filled with making stuffed pastas and a pastry made only by those who came from my grandparent's province. Called crispadella this was an intensely sweet and rich dolce, made with egg-laden dough that was fried in Crisco (an American substitute for the traditional lard used in Atena Lucana) then covered with honey and dusted with confectioner's sugar. Christmas Eve was the Seven Fishes Feast: baccala (salt cod), fried smelts, and various crustaceans, spaghetti aglio olio (which, in later years, morphed into olio, aglio, and alici (anchovies) with the addition of a Sicilian uncle), and – always the main event of our now prosperous Italian grandparents – lobster tails fra diavola. Christmas day dinner started with antipasti of cheeses, cured meats, and olives and vegetables jarred in olive oil and vinegar from the summer. The primo was always tortellini in brodo, which our grandmother, mother, and Aunt Clara had made with fresh eggs for the pasta, ground pork, fresh ricotta, and imported proscuitto. Those tortellini of my memory were yellow, not pasty white. No turkey graced the Italian-American holiday table. That was only for Thanksgiving, only after the first course of ravioli, and stuffed with Italian sausage and rice stuffing, certainly not chestnuts or oysters. In the '50s it was roast capon, the '60s stuffed, rolled veal or filet mignon with stuffed mushroom caps. As the southern-Italian-Americans prospered, so did their dinner table, and their culinary landscapes broadened.
As young children we were encouraged to try every vegetable they presented, but never forced. I think intuitively they knew that the latter would prove a gastronomic handicap later on in life, and besides, we got our vitamins from so many other sources in the Italian immigrant diet. However broccoli di rape, bitter cipollini, and radicchio were the three things we wouldn't touch back then. Of course, now I can't get enough. My dear mother was big on protein and made sure we had plenty of meat. Every week's menus included loin lamb chops (eat the marrow, it's good for you), fried veal cutlets (my brother's favorite, he could eat three or four at a single meal), and sirloin steak on Saturday – grilled by my father in the backyard during the summer. We hardly ever had soda, although I envied my NJ cousins their actual soda delivery man who brought them cases of Coke and orange soda every week. My grandfather would always insist that we have either water or water mixed with a little wine at dinner. As we grew older the water gradually became less and the wine more, until we arrived at age 16 or 17 and were allowed a full glass of Chianti or Soave and of course Asti spumanti on birthdays and holidays.
No one was more surprised than I when, in the 1970s and beyond, these foods became not only more popular, but positively the height of great cuisine in America. Thank God those immigrants paid no attention to hot dogs and Velveeta and persistently but gently pushed the arugula.
Posted on Mon, January 21, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
You have read, in this space among many others, of the sinister nature of genetic modification and the patenting of seeds. I have ranted endlessly about the dangers of the food system being in the hands of just a few corporate land barons. No reason to stop now.
For about five years now the USDA and many large corporate interests have been pushing a program called the National Animal Identification System. NAIS is touted as an effective tool in battling the spread of livestock diseases such as cattle tuberculosis and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow. It provides methods for tagging livestock of any kind with RFID, the same sort of microchip that many people have put on their pets in hopes of recovering poor Fido if he ever gets lost. The thinking is that if a side of beef in a Greeley, Colorado meatpacking plant tests positive for mad cow, authorities can quickly and easily identify said cow, trace it back through the system, and discover other animals with which it may have made contact.
Currently, at the federal level, NAIS is a voluntary program overseen by the USDA and administered by the several states with help from organizations like the Future Farmers of America and the Farm Bureau. Farms, feedlots, and confined animal feeding operations apply for and receive a formal numerical designation that is then applied to microchips injected into or ear-tagged onto each animal. According to the USDA, in 2007 the state of Iowa went from 11,000 registered sites to more than 20,000, an increase of over 80 percent. All this despite a lack of any sort of government funding to participants for the program. Farmers must buy in if they choose to participate.
Setting aside for the moment that this system feels like a perfect bureaucratic method for closing the barn doors after the mad cows get out, all this seems fairly innocuous until we look a little deeper. The state of Texas has recently passed legislation requiring NAIS tagging for all dairy cattle. It goes into effect March 31. Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee now require participation for goats and sheep. In Michigan, farmer and now reluctant revolutionary Greg Niewendorp has endured visits from the sheriff reminiscent of scenes from and old Billy Jack movie.
The voluntary system is becoming perversely mandatory in many other states as well. In Colorado, according to Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, two families who refused to register their properties were kicked out of the state fair. In Idaho, the state included a NAIS premises registration form in the packets for registering one's brand (which has to be done every 5 years). The form was not clearly marked, and appeared to be simply part of the required brand documents. In Tennessee and North Carolina, where drought has made hay assistance necessary, you can't get any unless you register your property.
This has induced howls of outrage from a growing and vocal group of opponents, notably FarmAndRanchFreedom.org and NoNAIS.org, bringing together an odd-bedfellow mix of left-wing radicals and libertarian property-rights activists. They both feel that while such draconian measures may be necessary for an industrial food system that causes the very illnesses it now seems to need to track down, such procedures are overly-invasive, perhaps even Orwellian, for small family farms. The government is saying NAIS is voluntary while subsidiaries are making it mandatory. One needn't register one's guns, but goats are another matter. Seems we've met Big Brother, and he is us.
Posted on Thu, January 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Press Release, January 17, 2008
Slow Food International
The political crisis in Kenya is now turning into a food crisis. Some of the areas hit the hardest by violence — among them the Rift Valley, Coast Province, Nyanza Province, Western Province and Nairobi — are considered to be the eastern African nation's 'bread baskets'. They are also the areas in which many of Slow Food's 29 Terra Madre Food Communities are located.
Kenyan John Kariuki Mwangi, a 21-years-old student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, is one of the three newly elected vice-presidents of Slow Food International. He received an email from Slow Food's Central Rift Convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu saying that many crops ready for harvest, such as corn, potatoes and peas, are being burnt to the ground by roaming tribal militia, who are also killing livestock for food.
The Terra Madre Communities in Kenya, such as the Farmers of the Arid Areas of Kitui, Cow and Camel Breeders of Nairobi, Potato and Pea Growers of Nakuru in the Rift Valley, Taro Producers of Nairobi, Nettle Growers of the Rift Valley and Indigenous Chicken Breeders of Kilifi in Coast Province, consist of small sustainable farms made up of individual farmers and groups working to preserve local foods and traditions. The fighting is now endangering these farms, the heaviest of it taking place in the Rift Valley, mainly around Molo, Burnt Forest, Eldoret and Kitale, about a five-hour drive from Nairobi.
The fighting is mainly between President MwaiKibaki's Kikuyu tribe, opposition leader Raila Odinga's Luo tribe and the Kalenjin militia in the Rift Valley led by William Ruto. Since 1992 the latter have repeatedly carried out ethnic cleansing, and this time they are doing it under the guise of the rigged elections.
The opposition claim that the December 27 election was rigged. At least 500 people have been killed since then and, according to the International Red Cross, more than 250,000 have been displaced, many left with only the clothes on their backs (though, taking into account families from Kuresoi in Molo, the number could be even higher).
Mwangi, whose father is a small-scale farmer in Molo, in Rift Valley province, says help is needed in two areas. 'First there are the most urgent things: food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs. Schools will be re¬opening next week and children will need uniforms and books. Then, in the long term, people will need help resettling.' He went on to say that long-term aid will involve rebuilding homes, harvesting what is left of crops, replanting new crops where possible and setting up new farming systems.
Slow Food is very concerned about the events of the past days and the safety of everyone in Kenya. It is now working to find a way to help Terra Madre Communities receive the supplies they need to rebuild their lives and continue their work, which is of vital importance for the preservation of traditional foods and sustainable farming methods, as well as the provision of food to local communities.
To read Central Rift convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu's email to John, in which he gives details about Kenya's deterioriating situation, click here.