What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
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 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 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.
Posted on Wed, January 16, 2008 by Website Administrator
Regarding Joel Stein's Time Magazine article "Extreme Eating" - while Mr. Stein is of course free to eat whatever type of food he chooses, I must take exception to his contention that "Dodd was basically telling the Iowans that every night they should decide whether to accompany their pork with creamed corn, corn on the cob, corn fritters or corn bread. For dessert, they could have any flavor they wanted of fake ice cream made from soy, provided that flavor was corn."
I am forced to question whether Mr. Stein has actually been to Iowa (outside of a presidential candidate's rally). While there is indeed a large amount of corn, soy and pork grown here (more than anywhere in the world in fact), to say that this is all we can eat when we choose to eat locally is blindly absurd and typical of a bicoastal mentality that considers America's great Heartland to be little more than "fly-over states."
In fact Iowa farmers can and do grow anything that can be grown outside the tropics. Our support for local, sustainable agriculture is evident in the hundreds of farmers' markets we have, many of them year-round affairs, and the dozens of organizations that support the so-called "locavore movement." The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is at Iowa State University. Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa Farmers Union enjoy tremendous growth and prestige here and around the country. The Iowa Network for Community Agriculture supports local food resources statewide. There are five Slow Food Convivia here, and eight "Buy fresh, Buy Local" campaigns organized statewide. Edible Iowa River Valley, a member of the Edible Communities family of magazines, boasts a quarterly readership over 36,000.
My restaurant alone provides our guests with all its meat and roughly 60% of everything else (year-round) from more than 30 "Devotay Local Farm Partners," and not to belabor the point, but there is no corn on our menu.
Mr. Stein concludes by saying "I'm going to keep buying food from my foreign neighbors. Because it's the only way we Americans learn about other countries, other than by bombing them." While this may or may not be true, I suggest he spend a little more time learning about his own country first. He can start here, I'll have a table waiting for him.
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 Fri, January 04, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Here in NYC from 1989 to 2000, we had a large billboard right near Times Square that was a "debt clock." Up top was a running tally of our national debt, and down below was a second digital clock–moving at a frighteningly fast pace–that showed each US citizen's portion of that dollar amount.
It was an amazing tool–a scare tactic, sure, but an unavoidable beacon, casting its beam of light on the country's increasingly debt-ful future.
Here's another clock for you; it has two parallel clocks, one of which shows the world population (guess what! it goes up really really fast), and the one below showing the amount of productive–i.e. arable– land (guess what! it goes down really really fast). There's power in seeing an inverse proportion move with that kind of speed–hard not to see what's coming.
Posted on Thu, December 27, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Many of you probably carry your Seafood Watch cards in your wallet, for those moments at the fish market or in a restaurant when you're unsure what's sustainable.
For those of you without a card or without a wallet, let's say, here comes fishphone.org. Text 30644 with the message FISH and then a variety of fish, e.g.: "salmon." Fishphone will text you back immediately with a complete explanation of the fish and its warning level. It will even make suggestions for a more sustainable choice.
It's a smart little tool–for those of you with fast thumbs and a desire to go paperless, it might be your new best friend.
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.