Friday, April 30, 2010

Massachusetts Raw Milk/Food Freedom Hearing In Boston, May 10

If you are in favor of
  • the right to decide for yourself what foods are healthy for you, and not have it decided by corporations; and
  • the continued existence of small dairy farms in Massachusetts
then it's vital that you come to this public hearing and make your presence felt and your voice heard.

What: Mass Department of Agricultural Resources hearing regarding proposed changes to raw milk regulations which would make it illegal for me to give raw milk to someone. 

When: Monday, May 10, 2010, 10AM

Where: 100 Cambridge Street second floor, Boston MA 

Why: There's no law against drinking it (yet), so there should be no law against buying it and giving it to someone who is themselves qualified to buy it.

For more details, read on.

    Raw milk regulations in the US vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, where I live, farmers can be licensed to sell raw milk, and they sell it on their farms.

    This is a huge boon to small dairy farmers in Massachusetts. By adhering to stricter production and sanitation standards, farmers are able to sell their milk raw, direct to consumers for anywhere from $6-$12 per gallon. Their only alternative is to sell it to big distributors for between $1 and $2 per gallon, or occasionally as much as $2.50.

    For years, much of this milk has been sold through buying clubs, informal or formal, anything ranging from a small group of friends who take turns going to the farm, to a small business that charges delivery fees. For years, no one has become sick in Massachusetts from raw milk. Small farms have relied on these buying clubs to help them get raw milk to the folks who want to drink it—especially folks who might live far away from the farm, or might not be able to drive themselves to the farm for whatever reason.

    The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has proposed new regulations that would outlaw buying clubs of any kind, by making it illegal for me to go to a farm, buy raw milk, and give it to someone else. So I could not buy some for my neighbor, or for someone who doesn't drive, or is disabled. Or even give a glass of it to someone who stops by my house. The proposed regs are here. Paragraph 27.08A says:
    No person shall sell, distribute, provide or offer for consumption to the public any raw milk elsewhere than on a dairy farm where that raw milk was produced provided that to such farm a Certificate of Raw Milk for Retail Sale has been issued by the Commissioner. For the purposes of these Regulations the term “offer for consumption” shall include any sampling of milk by the public or offering of samples to the public.
    Think about it for a minute: What other products in this country are governed by similarly contextual regulations? Not alcohol or cigarettes; I can buy alcohol and cigarettes and give them to anyone who is qualified to buy them—no matter if they are diabetic, emphysemic, whatever—even though alcohol and cigarettes are clearly some of today's biggest killers. I can buy all the supermarket cakes I want, too, and give them to my diabetic grandmother, even though these cakes contain significant amounts of trans-fats, sugar, and food coloring.

    I know…guns! Actually, no, not really. I am free to sell or give my guns to others, so long as everyone involved is qualified to own them, and so long as all relevant paperwork is filed.

    Can anyone think of an example of a product with similar regs surrounding it?

    Is raw milk more dangerous, and more deserving of regulation, than guns?

    There has been no sign of tainted raw milk in Massachusetts for over a decade (or longer, depending how you count). Can the same be said for pasteurized milk? Tomatoes? Peanuts? Spinach? Ground beef? (Hint: The answer is no.) Are there regulations restricting me from giving my friend a hamburger with a slice of tomatoes on it?

    Scott Soares, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, has historically been an ally of small farms in Massachusetts. In fact, in a recent hearing regarding the granting of a raw milk license to a farm in Framingham, Soares went to the trouble of writing a letter in support of the license. He could instead have chosen to do nothing, or he could have written a letter in opposition; but he wrote a letter in support. He understands as well as anyone the economics of raw milk sales on small dairy farms—he discussed these economics in his letter.

    Why has he changed his tune?

    It could be due to pressure from the dairy industry. David Gumpert presents evidence and makes a good case for this theory in his blog, here, raising some questions about the transparency of Soares' dealings. Gumpert's account is worth a read; and if I were in Soares' shoes, I would respond to it as quickly and as plainly as possible.

    Why is the dairy industry anti-raw milk? Because the more the public and the press discuss and debate the virtues of raw milk, the more the severe shortcomings of pasteurized-homogenized milk become visible. And raw milk is a product that large dairies cannot produce because their herding and sanitation practices are inadequate, a fact that I'm sure they'd rather not have everyone discussing. In short, raw milk is a public relations disaster for Big Dairy.

    Sadly, it is no longer surprising when industry and government are cozy. To anyone who is still shocked by this, I'd recommend watching Food, Inc. For an excellent summary of the movie, check here.

    To read "Why this raw milk debate matters", including an interesting question about just exactly what the current regs and laws DO permit and restrict, visit my friends the boston localvores here on their blog.

    To read what the Northeast Organic Farming Association has to say about the reg change and hearing, click here.

    The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has as their purpose "[d]efending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient dense foods. ". Here's what they say.

    Again, Gumpert's blog on the subject is here.

    And here is a link to the MDAR website, the proposed regs, and the Notice of Public Hearing.

    See you on May 10.

    (This post is entered in Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade)

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    The Case Against Dogmatic Veganism: A Short Reading List

    I do not condemn vegans. As far as I'm concerned, people can eat what they want, and what they believe works for them.

    But if someone tells me that they are vegan and I'm a bad person because I am not, I will ask them to consider some of the following:
    • The Ethics of Eating Meat, by Charles Eisenstein [UPDATED: outdated link fixed]

      Charles Eisenstein, author of The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self, explains why he eats meat in a short and beautiful essay.

    • The Vegetarian Myth, by Lierre Keith

      With lyrical and heartfelt prose, the author, who was vegan for 20 years, methodically deconstructs the notion of vegan virtue. Eisenstein's essay probably influenced her book, directly or indirectly. (I don't have the book handy to check the bibliography.) See my review of The Vegetarian Myth here, in which I explore her arguments. Some book excerpts on her website here.

    • Eating Animals, by Jonathan Saffron Foer

      A nuanced and flowing exploration of some of the ethical issues around eating meat, and how some people navigate them.

    • Twenty Two Reasons Not to Go Vegetarian, by Sally Fallon Morell

      Sally Fallon Morell is eloquent and prepared, as usual. Among other things, she points out the impossibility of living in industrial society without benefiting from the slaughter of animals. For instance:
      Not only the steak on your plate, but a myriad of other products come from slaughtered cows, including components used in the manufacture of cosmetics, plastics, waxes (in crayons and candles), soaps, cleansers, shampoos, modern building materials and hydraulic brake fluid for airplanes. The membrane that vibrates to make a telephone work is made from beef gelatin. Epinephrine, a widely used drug for asthma and allergic reactions, is made from beef adrenal glands.
      She includes an excerpt from a letter that Rich Latimer of Falmouth, Massachusetts, had in the January 7, 2008 New Yorker, reminding us of the animal slaughter involved in growing plant foods (even organic ones):
      Countless millions of wee furry beasties, mice, moles and voles, as well as ground-nesting birds, are killed outright or die off from habitat destruction annually, when vast acreages are tilled by huge, mindless machines to grow “ethical” grains and vegetables. More are killed during the growing season by rodenticide grain baits, including zinc phosphide. Small mammals and birds are killed by machinery again at harvest time, and even more are killed by pest-control practices in granaries and processing plants before vegetables get to market. There’s no such thing as a guilt-free lunch.

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Saturated Fat Does Not Cause Cardiovascular Disease?

    "A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD," says a piece recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Click here to read the abstract.

    This directly contradicts the mainstream nutrition "party line" of the last 30-some years.

    There's so much I want to say about this. I'm not sure where to start. Except to say that I'm not surprised.

    And I'll offer this thought:

    When you are trying to understand anything about food and nutrition especially, or about human beings in general, it is important to understand the mainstream party line, but it is also important to understand the "alternative" positions. When one of the alternative positions make WAY more sense than all other explanations, that's probably because it's right and the others are wrong.

    The articles about fats that make the most sense to me are on the Weston A. Price Foundation web site. Click here if you'd like to take a look.

    Organic Doesn't Always Mean Organic

    Prominent Brands Using “Organic” in Their Name When Products Don’t Qualify

    If you went into a store and saw products from Oskri Organics, Organic Bistro, or Newman’s Own Organics, would you assume that the products were organic?

    If you assumed this, you could be wrong. Currently, there's nothing to stop companies from using the words “Organic” and “Organics” in their brands, even if their products are not certified organic. All three of the brands I mentioned above do sell non-organic foods.

    Unfortunately, it is a case of "let the buyer beware", at least for now. 

    For more, see this story from the Cornucopia Institute. The Cornucopia Institute is a fantastic organization whose tag line is "Promoting Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming". They are a David against the Goliath of agribusiness. Let's hope things turn out the same way.

    And for a good discussion of why organic processed foods are only slightly better than processed foods anyway, and definitely do not qualify as "real foods", see Agriculture Society's post here.

    (This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.)

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Max Kane, Raw Milk Activist, Wins Important Victory

    Justice was served yesterday in Wisconsin—or at least it will be allowed to run its course.

    Max Kane, a raw milk activist, was served a court order to provide information about private trade in which he had been involved, trade which is not regulated by the law. He filed a Motion of Appeal, and a Motion for Stay of Order Pending Appeal. The purpose of these orders was to have a higher court consider the case. The state, realizing that Max was not going to roll over for them, decided that Max was an "immediate danger to the public" and filed a Motion to Compel, which would have put him in jail before his appeal could be heard. This is quite unusual for a man whose purported crime was nonviolent had to do with food.

    To make things worse, he has two children, his wife is pregnant, they don't have a lot of financial security, and they could all become homeless if he goes to jail.

    Yesterday morning, the Court denied the State's Motion to Compel, and granted Max's Motion for Stay of Order Pending Appeal. This doesn't mean that he is off the hook; it merely means that he doesn't have to go to jail while he is appealing his case.

    Check out Max's website here, and hear it straight from Max here.

    Read what Kimbery Hartke had to say about it here.

    Max Kane was interviewed yesterday on the Doug Stephan show. To listen to it, click here, then click on "Doug Stephan's Good Day - 4-20-10 H2". The interview is broken into parts. The parts run from 11:30-14:10, 17:50-21:20, 27:00-43:05.

    For previous coverage of Max on this blog, click here.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Raw Milk In Massachusetts, April 14, 2010

    Here's what's new in raw milk in Massachusetts, as of today:

    Buying Clubs In Peril

    The State of Massachusetts is considering a regulation change that would make raw milk buying clubs illegal. Depending how the regulation is interpreted, it might even become illegal for me to go to the farm, buy raw milk for myself, and bring some back for my friend. For more information, see here. Please consider contacting your senators and representatives at the statehouse if you have feelings about this issue.

    Whole Foods

    Whole Foods has permanently discontinued the sale of raw milk nationwide, even in states where raw milk can be sold in stores. It is ironic, because the milk they will continue to sell, pasteurized milk, is not a "whole food". It has typically been centrifuged, separated, re-blended, pasteurized, homogenized, and fortified…at least!

    This action by Whole Foods doesn't affect Massachusetts per se, because raw milk can't be sold in stores in Mass. And it's a federal crime to transport raw milk across state lines, so I know that none of you would ever do that, right? For instance, you would never visit Maine or Connecticut for the weekend, stop in a store on the way home, and buy some raw milk. (But if you did, I might recommend Golden Harvest Market, in Kittery, Maine, just off I-95 right over the New Hampshire border.)

    Whole Foods said they say they were having trouble with their insurers, and that this affected their decision. There may be other, more political reasons for their change as well. For more commentary, check out what Cheese Slave had to say here.

    Eastleigh Farm

    And now for the good news: As of quite recently, raw milk is available at Eastleigh Farm in Framingham, Massachusetts. This is the closest raw milk farm to Boston.

    For more information about how to get raw milk in Massachusetts, visit my blog post here or NOFA's Raw Milk Network.

    For all of my previous posts on the subject of raw milk, click here.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    down:2:earth, Boston's Sustainable Living Expo

    I just did a fermentation demo at down:2:earth, Boston's Sustainable Living Expo. My demo was arranged by Ilene Bezahler, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Edible Boston, d:2:e Advisory Board member, and powerful force for real food in the Boston area.

    I had 20 or 30 people in the audience (give or take), and as usual, the time was much too short! I told them I would put together a list of fermentation resources for them. Here's what I have so far: . I'll update it, so come back and visit.

    After I finished my demo, I visited the exhibitions.

    d:2:e had a real local and sustainable feeling to it that some of the larger natural products expos are missing.

    A company was demoing their barbeque sauce on some grilled chicken. I asked them where the chickens were from; they told me that they were from a farm near their house, and we talked a little bit about it. I was impressed.

    I would love to help create a world in which chickens live on farms.

    Taza chocolate was in attendance, and as usual, I ate slightly more of their chocolate than strictly necessary.

    Organic Valley was there, including a couple of their farmers. I "tasted" their drinkable plain yogurt a few times—it helped keep me going through the day. I gave them positive feedback on their cultured pasture butter, which I use a lot. They were pouring cream into mason jars, then having expo attendees shake the jars until the cream turned into butter and buttermilk. I'd forgotten about this method. Great thing to do with kids.

    LÄRABAR had a booth with bite-sized samples of some of their bars. I like their bars because they don't contain any junk. For instance, their "Cherry Pie" bar has three ingredients: dates, almonds, and unsweetened cherries. Or "Coconut Cream Pie": dates, unsweetened coconut, almonds, cashews, extra-virgin coconut oil. While almonds may be problematic, and while nuts are best when they've been soaked, LÄRABAR is way ahead of all the other bar companies. Everyone else's bars contain soy protein isolate (really bad) or agave "nectar" (similar to HFCS) or unsweetened cane juice or concentrated fruit juice (a step up from sugar, but still not great in large amounts) or sometimes plain old sugar.

    Harvest Coop, a food co-op a few blocks from my house, was at the show. I got to meet Chris Durkin, Director of Membership and Community Relations, and up until now just a name at the top of bimonthly newsletters.

    Lots of other interesting exhibitors, including green building (environmentally friendly & well-insulated), green gardening, bicycles and electric bikes, green clothing, Qi Gong, and so on.

    d:2:e is definitely worth a look when it comes back around next year. I'm sorry I couldn't have blogged about it sooner.

    Fermenting And Pickling Resource List

    I've put together a short list of fermentation-related resources. It will never be complete—I will always be updating it—so come back and visit now and then!

    If you have resources that you think I should include on my list, please comment, and I'll add them.

    My blog posts

    Web links (some serious, some silly)



    • Harsch crocks: Good for brined pickles, or for making LARGE batches of kraut. Includes weights and an airlock system. Effective, but also expensive, heavy, large, and potentially messy. If you have a root cellar and want to be able to start a big ferment and forget about it for a month, the Harsch starts to make sense.
    • Pickl-It: "Harsch-lite", in a way. A gasket jar with an airlock built into the top, and a fitted weight for keeping things submerged. I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it works well, and it looks like it's much more manageable than the Harsch. UPDATED 7/2/2010: I now own a Pickl-It, have used it, and have blogged about it. See here.

      Tuesday, April 6, 2010

      Sustainable Food Book Club

      I'm in a book club that reads books about food sustainability. Here is the list of all the books we have read, are currently reading, or are about to read, along with a sentence or two about most of them.

      This page will be updated every month, so check back periodically for the latest books.

      The current book is: The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition, by Upton Sinclair.

      Past and future books include:
      • Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price: Rather that theorizing abstractly about human nutrition, the author sought out isolated groups of healthy people around the world (this was in the 1930s, when there were still isolated groups of people), and documented their foodways. Price's book is jaw-dropping (literally). He describes group after group of people who are healthy in isolation, and become sick, miserable, and toothless when they adopt a "modern" diet. Aren't you curious what they were eating when they were healthy?

      • Goat Song, by Brad Kessler

      • Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato, by Arthur Allen

      • The Town That Food Saved, by Ben Hewitt

      • The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, by Lierre Keith: An important book for everyone to read—but especially for folks who think they know something about food sustainability. Makes a very compelling case for eating local and against eating grains. Huh? Click here for my full review.

      • Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, by Tristram Stuart: A very thorough overview of the ways in which we waste food. A discussion of the global implications of food waste. Suggestions for solutions, some more practical than others.

      • Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry, by Warren James Belasco: A great cultural chronicle, documenting the beginnings of the modern food consciousness movement in the US and its face-off with the establishment, especially in the arenas of advertising and marketing.

      • Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, by Sidney W. Mintz: A history of sugar throughout the ages, with a decided socio-political slant. (Mintz does not discuss sugar's impact on health at all.)

      • Eating Animals, by Jonathan Saffran Foer: An excellent book that treats the question of eating animals in a nuanced manner, going beyond previous books on the subject. Foer's lovely writing makes it a great read.

      • Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong And How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, by James E. McWilliams: The book presents some good ideas, but is weakened by arrogance and less-than-thorough analyses. His critique of locavorism is ultimately incomplete and flawed. Click here for my full review.

      • Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter: A post-hippie in inner-city Oakland, California raises ever-larger farm animals on a vacant lot behind her apartment. Reflections about what it means to raise animals, feed them using (mostly) available materials, and slaughter and eat them in the middle of a dense city.

      • Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz: A masterwork on the subject of fermentation, including but not limited to lactofermentation of vegetables. If you are interested in fermenting and the theory behind it, get this book. Sandor Ellix Katz's intelligence and humanity make it a joy to read.

      • The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food—Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal, by Mark Kurlansky: In the 1930s, the Federal Writers Project, part of the Works Progress Administration, initiated a project documenting American (United Statesian) foodways, with the goal of compiling the writing into a book entitled America Eats. This work was interrupted by World War II, and never completed. Kurlansky has compiled a selection of this material, and provided it some context and structure. A must-read for anyone interested in food history and/or Americana. And gosh, they ate a lot of beans back then.

      • Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, by Woody Tasch, with a foreword by Carlo Petrini

      • All New Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew: A fresh (ahem) look at how to do raised-bed container gardening at home. Mel has thought of nearly everything, and imposed some kind of order on it or created a system to regularize it. Some of the systems are insightful and some are essentially arbitrary; he leaves very little to chance, and he thinks that this orderliness will make it easier for beginners to grow things. Some gardeners will love this and some will hate it, but regardless, his approach sounds like an effective way to get a large yield from a small plot.

      • Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, by Anne Mendelson: (from sleeve) "Part cookbook—with more than 120 enticing recipes—part culinary history, part inquiry into the evolution of an industry…" I agree with the sleeve's assessment. The book is part history of milk, part how-to manual for everything you might want to do with milk. And you won't know that you want to do most of these things until you read the book! Mendelson is erudite, thorough, and amusing. Definitely recommended.

      • Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé: Mind-opening, paradigm-shifting, and wise, while at the same time very personal. A look at food issues in several places in the world; their inseparability from economic and social justice issues; and how the keys to resolving these issues lie in how we each look at the world and at our lives. I wish I had written this book!

      • Black Gold, directed by Marc Francis and Nick Francis: A documentary film providing insight into the coffee trade, and some of the lives affected by it.

      • The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop, by Gregory Dicum and Nina Luttinger: A big-picture look at the history, economics, and ethics of coffee.

      • A Cafecito Story, by Julia Alvarez, Bill Eichner, and Belkis Ramirez

      • Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, by Mark Winne: A passionate and cogent look at food justice in low-income urban areas of the US. Winne's years of experience give him a very nuanced understanding of the field, along with a healthy appreciation of the challenges facing us, as a society, going forwards.

      • Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon: This is one of two books I've read recently that has had the greatest impact on me. (The other was The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.) Fallon's first chapter is the clearest, most comprehensive, and best-documented writing about human nutrition that I've ever read. Furthermore, it disagrees with most of what the USDA and other "authorities" have been telling us for the last 30 years. And it is utterly convincing. If that weren't enough, the rest of the book is a splendid cookbook. READ THIS BOOK!

      • Manifestos on the Future of Food and Seed, edited by Vandana Shiva: An inspiring collection of essays on the subject of food justice on the global stage. If you have any doubt that we are in the midst of a world-wide culture war, fighting for our freedom to feed ourselves as we see fit, read about it here.

      • The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession, by Adam Leith Gollner: An offbeat, aptly-named book on the history of the human relationship to fruit, documenting the author's adventures as he travels around the world in search of unique fruit experiences.

      • Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, by Taras Grescoe: The best book I've seen on the subject of the health and environmental complexities of eating animals from the water. If you are interested in food sustainability, it's definitely important to read this.

      • The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan: Eye-opening case studies of the history of our relationships to four specific plants. Great to read.

      • The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements, by Sandor Ellix Katz: "The personal is political", in the context of food. A sobering and inspiring book about food movements, infused lovingly throughout with the author's feelings about food. This is one of the most powerful books I've read on any subject. It's a great book for anyone saying, "Who cares what we eat," and it's just as good a book for folks who know that they care intensely.

      • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver: A thoughtful and lyrical journal of the author's year of eating locally, including what worked and what didn't, interwoven with a turkey love story (sort of!).

      Saturday, April 3, 2010

      "7 Must-See TED Talks About Sustainable Food"

      I came across this post entitled "7 Must-See TED Talks About Sustainable Food" and thought I would share it:

      I've watched a couple so far—Jamie Oliver on school lunches and Dan Barber on foie gras. I'll probably make my way through the rest eventually.