Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Only Food I Consume Today Will Be Raw Milk

Today, the only food that I consume will be raw milk.


A man named Michael Schmidt is on day 25 of a hunger strike in Ontario, Canada. His demands are simple: a meeting with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to discuss the legal status of raw milk.

An Ontario court recently found that Schmidt's raw milk was legal--only to have the Ontario government appeal the decision, and win the appeal.

Really, Ontario, you are going to spend a lot of taxpayers' money outlawing a food that people have been consuming for millenia, and that they will keep consuming regardless? Is this the best role of government? Do you not have real problems to address?

For more information and perspective, click here.

I am fortunate to be in a place right now (California) where I can buy raw milk at a store. I am grateful for that. Most people are not so fortunate.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rossotti Goat Ranch in Petaluma California

I just had a great visit to Rossotti Ranch in Petaluma, California. It was a clear hot day in Northern California, perfect for a farm visit.

On the farm they have a store where they sell grass-fed goat meat, pasture-raised veal, grass-fed beef, fruit preserves, porcini mushrooms, herbs, and other goodies. You can get everything goat, from goat sausages (I got merguez) to goat chops to whole goats, cut and wrapped. Some beautiful goat skin rugs, too.

They also sell at the San Rafael farmers' market on Sundays.

Meat Of Known Origin, for sure.

They are very fortunate to have a USDA slaughterhouse within a short drive of their ranch. Many farmers have to drive hours each way if they want their animals slaughtered in a way that makes the meat legal for retail sale.

Here's a video of me talking to the goats, taken by my friend Justin:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Important Documentary Farmageddon Opening In Boston Tomorrow Night

Kristin Canty, a Concord, MA native and friend of mine, has made an important documentary film called Farmageddon. It is about small farmers and individuals who raise animals and make food according to their beliefs about what is healthy and right, and it is also about state and federal authorities who try to stop them.

It is amazing and horrifying to watch guns-drawn SWAT-style raids, property seizures and destructions, and expensive long-term surveillance on people who have committed no crimes--at most, they are doing things that are not covered by existing regulations.

Trailer, national screening schedule, etc. here.

Boston opening night is tomorrow, with events to follow:


Saturday event


Monday event

Please spread the word.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nature Magazine: Antibiotics’ Impact On Gut Flora May Be Permanent

Mainstream science publications are talking about the importance of gut flora. This has only really been happening for the last year or so. It is heartening.

Nature published this article about antibiotic overuse. Unfortunately, Nature wants $32 to let you read the article. Fortunately, Wired magazine published this excellent post summarizing the Nature article.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Genetically-Modified Corn Coming To A Farmers' Market Near You

A few items on genetically-modified corn:

In the US, two-thirds of the corn we grow is genetically modified. Some countries, however, have banned the import or use of GM seeds of any kind. Hungary is one of them. This article tells of the Hungarian government ploughing under GM corn that had found its way within its borders.

And this article indicates that GM corn is losing its pest resistance in the US. Crops are losing their battle to the beetle that they were supposed to poison.

Most disturbing is the news that Monsanto is marketing GM sweet corn seed this fall. Sweet corn is the kind that humans eat, as opposed to the other sorts of corn that are eaten by animals or turned into ethanol, corn syrup, food additives, etc.

What this means is that you may find GM corn at your favorite farmers' market next year. Needless to say, you will also continue to find more and more GM corn products in your supermarket.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Genetically-Modified Lawns

Coming to a lawn near you: Scotts Roundup-Ready Kentucky Bluegrass, courtesy of Monsanto.

Do we really want to see our neighbors growing genetically-modified plants, and dousing them with Roundup?

Some background: Roundup is an herbicide (plant-killer) manufactured by Monsanto.

Historically, herbicides been used on small, concentrated areas of weeds on farms, in gardens, and in yards, and for clearing out larger areas that might be overgrown with weeds. They have also been used in wars for destroying forests and other natural features, sometimes with little concern for other environmental effects.

In recent decades, Monsanto has genetically engineered varieties of plants that are immune to Roundup. So, for instance, you can grow a field of Monsanto canola and spray the WHOLE THING with Roundup, not just the weeds. This is much quicker than mechanical weeding, or than selective use of herbicides, and of course it is much more profitable for Monsanto.

The news now is that you can now have a genetically-modified, Roundup-resistant lawn. You can soak the whole thing in herbicide, kill all the weeds, and it will be perfect and weed-free.

Great! What's the problem?

First of all, many scientists say that GMO plants are dangerous to humans, animals, and the environment. Jeffrey Smith's excellent website gives an overview of the issues.

Second of all, the approval process for the GMO grass was, well, not existent. The USDA claimed that it did not have the authority to regulate the grass. The approval process for GMO foods has been inadequate, too, but at least there has been an effort to preserve appearances.

Third of all, regardless of the above, we are now going to see our neighborhoods sprayed with way more Roundup than ever before. And even though Roundup is approved for use in the US, there is a lot of evidence that it is toxic (and here)—enough that it is banned in many other countries.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bottled Water Versus Tap Water

When we buy bottled water, we create incentive for corporations to make plastic bottles; rob people of their water rights; ship large quantities of water all over the world, with the fuel consumption that entails; and paint bottled water as a status symbol and "healthy lifestyle" marker (which is, ironically, quite unsustainable).

When we drink tap water, we create incentive for the maintenance of infrastructure that provides safe drinking water to populations as cheaply as possible.

In this I see parallels to the "industrial/away food" vs. "local food" situation.

Bottled water sends profits to corporations to support an unsustainable, economically unjust product. Tap water creates local infrastructure that is valuable now, but will become even more valuable if there is a discontinuity in our transportation system.

Bottled water, like factory organic food, may have fewer impurities in it than tap water—or it may not. It is important to consider, however, that bottled water has generally sat for months or longer in its bottle, almost always plastic, often in conditions of extreme heat. Is this safe? Unclear.

Bottled water is a luxury and convenience item, and ought to be viewed as such. There are times when it is very nice to have.

But for everyday use, tap water fills the bill. Filtered tap water can be at least as pure as any bottled water, for less money, and with less waste.

I've come across some restaurants, yoga studios, etc. that eschew bottled water in favor of filtered water, even though by doing this they are giving some profits.

I hope this trend continues.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't Believe What Dietitians Tell You About Diet

In just the past year, I've seen a lot of articles in mainstream publications refuting long-cherished dietary doctrine, and supporting many of the ideas put forward by "alternative" health systems. Here are a few.

First, according to Scientific American: "It's Time to End the War on Salt. The zealous drive by politicians to limit our salt intake has little basis in science." They cite articles in the American Journal of Hypertension and the Journal of the American Medical Association pointing to this, and go on to say that "the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous".

Next, the LA Times comes around to the idea that carbs are the problem, not fat: "A reversal on carbs. Fat was once the devil. Now more nutritionists are pointing accusingly at sugar and refined grains… 'The country's big low-fat message backfired,' says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health… Some…would argue that we haven't evolved to adapt to a diet of refined foods and mass agriculture—and that maybe we shouldn't try."

The New York Times brings us an article arguing that counting calorie intake is not an effective way to lose weight. It matters more what we eat than how much we eat. "'There are good foods and bad foods, and the advice should be to eat the good foods more and the bad foods less,' (a cited doctor) said. 'The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.'". The "worst" food, by their measure, was french fries; the "best" was yogurt, with nuts close behind. (I guess I can keep eating yogurt with nuts for breakfast!)

Finally, a study showing that bacterial imbalance in the large intestine may affect the brain. "For the first time, researchers at McMaster University have conclusive evidence that bacteria residing in the gut influence brain chemistry and behaviour." (Citation.) Of course, Natasha Campbell-McBride has been saying this for years. (For much more on this subject, check out this post on Food Renegade's blog.)

Here are my (perhaps rhetorical) questions:

1. In the case of salt, how and why was the salt-hypertension connection elevated from a tenuously-supported hypothesis to a "fact"? And in the case of fat and carbs, what led to the promotion of the low-fat, high-carb diet? What went wrong with our scientific process?

2. How long will it take for the above-cited research to affect, say, the low-fat, high-carb food that patients are given in hospitals? The french fries and bread that kids are given in schools? How long will it be before educators, dietitians, and regulators catch up to the true best practices in the field of nutrition?

I am not asking these questions to be negative or show how clever and cynical I can be—I am asking them to open the door to questioning dietary authorities like the USDA and the various medical guilds. "Alternative" nutrition movements, while by no means perfect, are sometimes way ahead of the mainstream on important issues.

(This post is part of Health Home Economist's Monday Mania blog carnival. Please visit her great blog!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Boston Public Market Association: Pig, Beer, and Ice Cream, June 26

The Boston Public Market Association's goal is to create a year-round, indoor public market selling local food in the Boston area.

I have been on its board of directors for a few years.

Please join us from 4PM to 8PM on Sunday, June 26 at the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, for a summer party.

Our event will feature Meat Of Known Origin from Stillman's Farm, and other food from other local producers.

There will be a vegetarian option available as well.

$20 for adults (including one beer), $5 for under 21, and free for 7 and under. So bring your whole family.

Proceeds benefit the Boston Public Market Association!

[Update: Meat from Stillman's Farm. Ice cream from Batch. Beer from Boston Brewing Company (aka Sam Adams). Sauces from Burnin' Love. Tofu from Twenty-First Century Foods.]

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sauerkraut Michelada

A michelada is a Mexican drink made with beer, ice, salt, and something sour—depending where you are, it might be some combination of lime juice, tomato juice, clam juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or the like. It's a great drink for hot weather, like we're having here in Boston (98 and humid tomorrow!).

But here's the thing—I don't like tomato juice, I didn't have any clam juice, and I wanted something more than just preserved lime.

What to do?

I scanned the refrigerator, and it came to me: sauerkraut michelada!

Actually, michelada with mixed fermented vegetables: red cabbage, turnips, parsnips, beets. I topped it off by rimming the glass with sal de gusano (ingredients: salt, chile pepper, and roasted agave worm).

So in addition to my refreshing beer, I got some fermented vegetable probiotics (which probably survive quite a while in the mere few percent alcohol of an iced-down beer), and some minerals from the worm salt.


(And it got me thinking...kimchi michelada?)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Natural Flavors" Are Not Natural

Have you ever come across "natural flavors" on a food label? A can of soup, or a bottled sauce or dressing, or a dessert? Or perhaps a bottle of sparkling water?

"Natural"...sounds innocent enough, right?


Here's what the US Code of Federal Regulations says about "natural flavors":

the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

In English: Start with something only nominally edible (like bark), do pretty much whatever you want to it, and call it a "natural flavor".

I would claim that there's nothing natural about hydrolyzed soy protein, for instance. And I don't want it in my food.

Calling these things "natural flavors" is a deliberately misleading move on the part of food processing companies. It allows them to sell us cheap food, synthesized in a factory, not grown on a farm.

It's not always easy to make your own food from scratch, but it's always worth it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"I just killed a pig and a goat."

"I just killed a pig and a goat," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said in a Facebook post on May 4.

Bravo, Mark.

He has said publicly that for 2011, he will only eat meat that he has killed, as part of his growing interest in where food comes from.

I have every hope that his exploration of food will continue. He is in a great position to help shape the public dialog about food sustainability, because of his fame, his position as a perceived thought leader in the technology space, and his serious financial power.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Feds Versus Small Farmers In The Mainstream Media

No one has gotten sick. It's debatable whether laws have been broken. And yet the FDA has spent a year and a half's worth of time and taxpayers' money on an undercover operation to catch and prosecute Dan Allgyer, a small dairy farmer who has been providing fresh milk to co-owners of his herd of cows. US marshalls, federal agents, and state troopers were dispatched to his farm in a 5AM raid. There, they discovered "numerous portable coolers in the defendant's driveway that appeared to be milk," according to an injunction filed by the FDA.

They could have just asked him what he was doing, and he would have told them.

In the last few days, I've seen balanced pieces in both the SF Chronicle and the Boston Globe about this latest chapter in the FDA's war on raw milk and small farmers.

Unpasteurized milk is legal to buy and consume in all 50 states. It is legal to sell in some states, and illegal in others.

Is it the place of the federal government to ban the interstate sale and/or transportation of unpasteurized milk? Let's consider some goods that the feds regulate less strictly than raw milk: ground beef, raw fish and shellfish, alcohol, tobacco. Oh, and guns.

Even if such prohibitions exist, how much time, energy, and money should the feds put into enforcement? Are there more pressing issues today? Like the economy and jobs, war in Afghanistan, energy policy, hunger and poverty in the US and elsewhere, instability in Iraq and Iran, revolutions in the Arab world, Israeli borders…

Representative Ron Paul (R, Texas) has introduced a bill to legalize interstate commerce in raw milk. He believes that trade in raw milk should not be restricted by the federal government, and that "[i]f there are legitimate concerns about the safety of unpasteurized milk, those concerns should be addressed at the state and local level."

I tend to agree.

(submitted as part of Kelly's Real Food Wednesday)

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Raw Milk Spring" In Washington, DC

This past Monday, May 16, there was a demonstration for freedom of food choice on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

One of the motivations for the rally was outrage at an elaborate, expensive, year-and-a-half long sting operation mounted by the FDA against a peaceful Amish farmer who was distributing his milk to members of a private buying club.

Here's a video in which Adam Kokesh (talk show host) interviews Elizabeth Reitzig (rally organizer) and Mark McAfee (owner, Organic Pastures, the largest commercial raw milk dairy in the country, and outspoken raw milk activist):

The video is actually a great introduction to some of the issues surrounding raw milk, including the legal ridiculousness.

For information about how to get raw milk where you live, click here.

For more details about the rally, see here and here.

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Millions Against Monsanto: How You Can Make A Difference

Monsanto is the most noxious corporation on the earth. I've been saying this for a while. Now the Organic Consumers Association has put together a brilliant, well-organized campaign to do something about it: Millions Against Monsanto.

This isn't an issue of Democrat vs. Republican, or liberal vs. conservative, or anything like that. It's human vs. corporation. Or even, the survival of our species vs. the hubris and greed of one generation.

For some background oh Monsanto, check out the Millions Against Monsanto page. I can also recommend a few documentaries: Food, Inc., The World According to Monsanto, and The Future of Food. And lots of books. And the web page of a brave man, Percy Schmeiser.

Millions Against Monsanto is starting by lobbying to require labeling of genetically-modified food. Monsanto has fought labeling so successfully that not only is labeling not required, but it is in fact against federal law for local jurisdictions to pass laws requiring labeling!

If GM foods are safe, as Monsanto claims, then why oppose labeling?

And if the FDA is indeed a government watchdog working in the interests of the people, then why are they restricting our access to information?

You may be reading this and wondering if it affects you, because you don't know whether or not you consume genetically modified foods. That's exactly the point. The truth is that if you ever eat corn, sugar, soy, canola, potatoes, or tomatoes, it does affect you, because in the US, these may be genetically modified. And if nothing changes, the list will soon expand to include wheat, alfalfa, and salmon (!). No labeling required in the US.

To put this in perspective, at least 15 countries do require labeling, including Russia. Is Russia really ahead of the US on consumer safety? In this case, yes.

Believe it or not, this is just the start of the problems with Monsanto. Read here about PCBs, Agent Orange, intimidating small farmers, taking ownership of public water resources, and so on.

I urge everyone to join the campaign, join the Facebook page, and join your local chapter. The lines of battle have been drawn, and it's time for us to defend ourselves against Monsanto's willful recklessness.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Factory Food In The News

Nationwide study finds U.S. meat and poultry is widely contaminated: Multi-drug-resistant Staph found in nearly 1 in 4 samples, review shows. According to this article from a non-profit biomedical research institute, when a survey was done of supermarket meat from five cities,
Nearly half of the meat and poultry samples — 47 percent — were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those bacteria — 52 percent — were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
So we should do something about this, right? Why don't we go inside factory farms and meat processing facilities, and shed some light on the situation? Send investigative journalists in to document things?

Unfortunately, the factory food industry is one step ahead of us. If a new Minnesota bill becomes law, anyone caught going undercover to document animal abuses at a factory farm could be sentenced to 5 years in jail.
[A]nyone who produces a recording of an image or sound occuring at an animal facility—or anyone caught possessing or distributing such content—could be charged with a gross misdemeanor. Presumably, that would include anyone who shared a video on YouTube.
So no longer would we be able to see such inspiring videos as these.

Similar laws have already passed in other states. And whose name do you think came up in the middle of all of this
? You can probably guess (from Grist):

Monsanto has more facilities in Iowa than in any other state in the country, with more than 25 offices. The company is heavily invested in the bill's outcome because "crop operations" are also covered, which would apply to Monsanto's seed houses, pesticide manufacturing plants and research facilities throughout Iowa. The biotech and crop chemical giant wouldn't want any undercover videos produced on its clock, apparently. 
That's a bit ironic, however, given the fact that Monsanto investigators are notorious for trespassing on farmers' property and going to extreme measures to produce evidence of seed patent infringement, including posing as land mappers or even joining a local Alcohol [sic] Anonymous group to gain the farmers' trust and gain video access to their fields. Talk about undercover.
Taco Bell has the answer to all of these problems: Put less meat in your meat! They were recently sued by a woman alleging that the "beef" in their beef tacos contained less than 50% beef. Au contraire, they responded, our beef contains closer to 88% beef! Hmm. Their ingredient list is not inspiring, and their explanation is weasely. But at the end of the day, it's not all that different from the worst of the processed food you can buy at the supermarket.

Bon appetit, folks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

New York Times Article Suggests That Sugar Is Toxic

This weekend's New York Times Magazine contains an article by Gary Taubes entitled Is Sugar Toxic?

Taubes, author of the best-selling Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, starts by citing a lecture given by UCSF professor Robert Lustig arguing that sugar is toxic in the amounts that we are consuming today in the United States, and that sugar consumption is implicated in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—the "diseases of civilization". He goes farther, saying it's not even clear that there's a "safe" level of sugar consumption, per se. Sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are similarly risky, as far as he's concerned, due to their fructose content, and because of the way the body metabolizes fructose. This also means that fruit juice is no better than soda, from a metabolic point of view at least.

It's not a new argument, but it's one that has been consistently shouted down by folks with a commercial interest in the sugar industry, or with some other sort of bias.

Let's hope the "sugar is toxic" theory gets a fair hearing this time around. Maybe, just maybe, the times are desperate enough that truth might trump profits and entrenched interests.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Book To Buy Today: Walk Out Walk On, by Deborah Frieze and Margaret Wheatley

A friend of mine has co-authored an important book. The authors are trying to make it a best-seller on Amazon by getting as many people as possible to buy it TODAY!

It's called Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now.

Sitting around fretting about the future of the human race is a favorite modern activity. Too many people, not enough food, climate change, not enough of this, too much of that. Most of the solutions being offered by development bankers, politicians, economists, and scientists merely shift problems from one place to another, postpone the day of reckoning, and/or create fragile interdependences that are certain to end badly, especially for the poor.

High-tech "silver bullets", like miraculous new sources of energy, won't solve the problems. Even if we do manage to create such new technologies, they are all too likely to perpetuate the status quo wherein the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and indigenous people lose their land.

Deborah Frieze and Margaret Wheatley have boldly created a window into something different.

Read this book to hear inspiring stories about people who step forward, people who are personally invested in the problems being solved and who work together; and about communities that exchange ideas with other communities as peers, rather than having short-sighted non-solutions handed down to them from a distance.

Using these stories as a starting point, Walk Out Walk On captures insights about change better than anything else I've read. It is like going on your own learning journey, with these two very wise guides.

I hope that by reading this book, others will be inspired, and the gears of change will start turning.

As the Zapatistas say: "Otro mundo es posible."

Buy it on Amazon today by clicking here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Food In Post-Earthquake Japan

Here's a a brief report on what's happening with food in Japan, via David O'Neil, a leading expert and consultant in the field of public markets and their local economies. The biggest issues may be (1) public perception, and (2) problems with refrigeration due to power outages. "…[F]ood from japan is still far safer & of higher quality than most products from elsewhere."

The rest of David O'Neil's blog is an excellent resource for folks interested in public markets.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Freestone Fermentation Festival: Joining Culture with Agriculture

Calling all fermentation fanciers: Check out the Freestone Fermentation Festival. It's happening on May 21 in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. Ninth-degree fermentation black belt Sandor Katz will be there (as will I).

I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fourfold Path To Healing Conference, post 1

This past weekend, I attended the Fourfold Path To Healing Conference near San Francisco.

Sally Fallon Morell quoted Schopenhauer:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
She observed that with respect to raw milk, we're well into the second stage.

Monday, January 24, 2011

_Meat: A Benign Extravagance_, by Simon Fairlie

Food miles may not be over-extravagant in their energy use, but they are thickly implicated in a centralized distribution system which multiplies our energy expenditure at every opportunity and whose impacts include excessive packaging and refrigeration, waste, traffic congestion, road-building, noise, accidents, loss of local distinctiveness, exploitation and displacement of peasants, excessive immigration, urban slums, deforestation and habitat destruction, removal of biomass from third world countries, the undermining of local communities in the UK, the collapse of UK farming and the blood which is split over oil fields. 
—from Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie
This is Simon Fairlie on the subject of "food miles". I believe that with this one paragraph, he renders irrelevant most of James McWilliams' writings on the subject of food miles.

I've just been reading Meat: A Benign Extravagance. It's a very, very thoughtfully-written book. It's not mostly about food miles, and it's not mostly about meat being an extravagance.

Reducing it to one main idea is doing it a disservice, but if I might: It is mostly about dispelling the idea that livestock are intrinsically "unsustainable". The argument is so convincing that upon reading it, George Monbiot, previously a noted promoter of veganism, changed his mind, and decided that veganism was not the answer.

I plan to do a full write-up on the book when I finish reading it. In the meantime, if you're wondering what to read next, this book would be a great choice.

(submitted as part of the Hearth And Soul blog carnival at A Moderate Life)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Queen Elizabeth Drinks Raw Milk

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth drinks raw milk?

Here's what I say: If it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me.

Ironically, selling raw milk is illegal in at least one of the countries over which Queen Elizabeth reigns (Canada).

For more, see here and here.