What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
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 Tue, January 15, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Elizabeth Bird and SFUSA staff
After reports last week that it was likely to happen, news reports today announced that the FDA has given yet another indication that food– that is meat and milk–from cloned animals and their offspring is safe for general consumption. This comes four years after the FDA released its original decision on the health and safety of cloned animals for food production. Uneasy with the reliability of the research on which the FDA based its original decision, both concerned consumer groups and scientists rallied on the issue. The FDA responded by issuing a request that producers heed a voluntary moratorium from selling cloned animals for food production purposes. Today's declaration effectively puts an end to the debate and sets the future of cloned food in America.
The decision is a great victory for cloning companies, which generally promote cloned animals for breeding purposes. Cloning proponents seek to upgrade an entire herd's genetics by using multiple copies of a prize-winning animal. Clones themselves, due to the high cost of the cloning procedure, are not likely bound for the slaughterhouse, but the USDA decision will surely affect the possibility that their offspring can be sold for general consumption.
The FDA's decision dismisses both concern from scientific communities regarding the risks of cloned food, but also ignores ethically questionable practices intrinsic to the cloning process. The FDA has also indicated that it will not require food from cloned animals to be labeled, so the public will have no way of knowing whether they are purchasing a cloned product.
Bonnie, over at Ethicurean, makes an excellent point: how much testing could have been done in this short time? And just because the meat had the appropriate nutrients contained within, does that answer all concerns? What if there's something there that scientists havent thought to look for?
If you have concerns about this issue and would like to express them, consider taking a look at The Center for Food Safety. Their "take action" link allows concerned individuals to write directly to their congressperson and senator to express concern over labeling food from cloned animals.
Also: check out this interesting perspective from Wired mag. The author says: "I'm particularly interested in this line of research because it seems to highlight the distinction between people who want just humane food and those who want natural food." Touches on what it means to care about the origins of your food.
Posted on Wed, January 09, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Leo Rodriguez
Trans fats: what Little Debbie snack cakes, French fries, and that delicious steak at Peter Luger all have in common.
Thanks to recent media attention, most people know that these harmful fats come from partially hydrogenated oils, but did you know that trans fats are also found in nature–specifically, in dairy products and some meat?
From this you might infer that Grandma's shortbread cookies are little
deathtraps, but natural trans fats are not necessarily identical to
industrial trans fats. Most researchers agree that our body probably handles them differently because we've been ingesting them for quite some time. Some think they might even be beneficial to us. Meaning, maybe you can enjoy that shortbread just a little more.
Though none of the research is conclusive, we get most of our trans fats
from fast and processed foods anyway. A tablespoon of butter, for example, has between 0.30 and 0.39 grams of trans fat. In 2006, an order of McDonald's French fries was found to have a whopping 8 grams, more than four times what experts recommend as a maximum.
Real food trumps laboratory potatoes. Again.
Posted on Thu, October 18, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Earlier this week, the USDA announced a Grassfed Marketing Claim Standard, one which they hoped would make things less confusing for consumers and hold producers to a more truthful, higher standard. They hope to eliminate the present issue of producers calling their meat "grassfed" when, in fact, it's finished with grain–an extremely common practice.
Sounds great, right? We looooove standards!
Well, according to our friends at the American Grassfed Association, this standard doesn't go far enough, not by a long shot. They issued a position statement in response which enumerates these shortcomings, including the fact that it's a voluntary standard (no enforcement, no requirements), that it takes no hard line on confinement (many producers allow their animals "access to pasture," which might amount only to an open door), and that it takes no stand on the use of antibiotics and synthetic hormones.
Basically, you can buy grassfed beef and think it means you are eating something very pure and delicious, when in fact, it's still a cow standing flank to flank with its neighbour, and being pumped full of chemicals. Blech! What's a consumer to do?
And to add another odd layer to this all, the Washington Post reports that due to the nationwide drought we're experiencing (officially "exceptional" in the Southeast), there ain't much grass this year for the cows chew on.
Posted on Mon, August 27, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
The folks in Florida have noticed the wisdom of eating locally:
Rat poison in pet food from China. E. coli in bagged spinach from California. Peanut butter tainted with salmonella from Nebraska. Cans of chili sauce bursting due to botulism.
Food safety recalls and warnings are undermining our confidence in the commercial food industry. The response: Buy local from small-scale, local farmers you know.
"I don't trust the U.S. government when it comes to the food supply, said Fort Pierce resident Karen Cosoy. "If it's important for you to eat healthy, there's no option but supporting local farms. You know that they're not using pesticides. The stuff you get at the supermarket, you don't know how they processed it or whether they even processed it at all. You don't know what they used to make it look so gorgeous."
Eating local also has an environmental appeal. Most produce stocked in supermarkets — and even at many roadside stands and farmer's markets — comes from wholesalers who truck food here from afar, especially during our hot summer.
People have started telling me that " 'sustainable' has gone mainstream." Sure hope they're right.
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.