Tuesday, August 24, 2010

380,000 Pounds Of "Luncheon Meats" Recalled (Reason #487 To Avoid Meat Of Unknown Origin)

When I was in cooking school, I took a food safety class. At the end of the class, I passed a test, and received a ServSafe food safety certification.

The class was quite fun. Our teacher was hilarious. She gave us clever ways to remember the things we'd need to know for the test. You could get staph infections when the staff didn't wash their hands. And you could get listeria from luncheon meats.

I thought of her when I learned that Zemco Industries is recalling 380,000 pounds of luncheon meats due to concerns about contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. For the whole story, click here. According to the USDA, "Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease"

What can we do to avoid risks like this one, and like the problem with eggs a few days ago?

Simple, really: Know where your food is from. And avoid especially Meat Of Unknown Origin and Eggs Of Unknown Origin.

For more on Meat Of Known Origin, see here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eat Real Eggs (Eggs Of Known Origin)

Salmonella outbreaks, probably affecting 1,300 people, have put eggs in the news recently. 550 million eggs have been recalled from Wright County Egg and from Hillandale Farms in Iowa.

550 million eggs. From two farms.

A large egg is about 2.25 inches long. If you laid 550 million eggs end to end, it would reach more than 3/4 of the way around the earth.

That's a lot of eggs.

Both of these farms are linked to a certain Austin "Jack" DeCoster, a "habitual violator" of environmental regulations, according to the state of Iowa.

What can YOU do to avoid getting sick because of a "business man" like DeCoster, and to increase the safety of our food system?

Here's what you can do: buy eggs from a small farm, at a farmers' market, or at a market selling local food.

Why will that help?

First of all, small, independent farmers are far more likely to raise their chickens under sanitary and humane conditions. The kinds of massive, crowded chicken houses that cause sanitary problems don't even make sense for small farmers.

Second of all, if you buy your eggs from someone who actually played some role in their production, you can ask questions about farming techniques, safety records, and so on. And, more than likely, they're eating the eggs themselves.

Third of all, if for some reason there is a contamination problem on a small farm, it might affect hundreds or perhaps thousands of eggs—not half a billion.

Fourth of all, small farms that are selling under their own names rely on their reputation much more than agribusinesses whose products end up sold under tens or hundreds of brands. So a small farm with repeated problems would not last very long. Furthermore, regulatory agencies tend to deal with small farms more quickly and harshly than they deal with large agribusinesses.

Even at $3, $4, or $5 a dozen, which is what you might pay at a farmers' market in Boston, eggs are still a bargain. Especially when you compare them to the price of going out to eat. Or the cost of going to the hospital with salmonella.

As reported in:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Local Food Matters: A Response to "Math Lessons For Locavores"

Many people have emailed me about a New York Times Op-Ed from August 19, 2010: Math Lessons for Locavores, by Stephen Budiansky. I've started to feel a little silly continually cutting-and-pasting my response, so I decided to blog it!


Budiansky's blog is called liberalcurmudgeon.com, a name which may reflect his wish to be seen as controversial or contrary—and what better liberal sacred cow to assail than local food? Budiansky's main point in his piece is that food miles don't matter, because food transportation is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to food-related energy usage. This is a similar argument to the one that James McWilliams made in his book Just Food; in fact I suspect that Budiansky has read McWilliams book recently.

Budiansky's argument is rich in facts and figures but devoid of footnotes and references. While this may be the nature of an Op-Ed, it does make it hard for a critical reader to explore the facts. Regardless, even if we take all of his facts and figures to be accurate and contextually appropriate, his piece is flawed in may of the same ways as McWilliams' book (ways which I explored here).

Both he and McWilliams neglect or discount the value of a strong local economy.

Buying local helps to build the local economy, and helps to support small businesses.

Why is that important?

Supporting small businesses rather than large corporations is likely to result in a more uniform distribution of wealth—money to the middle-class rather than to the kingpins.

Also, if we keep money in the hands of the middle-class in our local economy, then the place where we live will perhaps be a nicer place to live.

Also, more local food production leaves us better in the face of some sort of infrastructure breakdown that might make food transportation more difficult.

What do I mean by infrastructure breakdown? Fuel shortage…natural disaster…human-made disaster…war…political crisis…strike…

So while transportation fuel is interesting (or maybe not), it is only one piece of the puzzle. That, at least, we can all agree on.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Am Doing A Spicy Cole Slaw Demo Wednesday At 1PM

I'm doing a demo for how2heroes at 1PM on Wednesday at the Cambridge Center Farmer's Market, located at 5 Cambridge Center right next to the Kendall Square T stop.

(Click here for interactive map.)

If you haven't seen the how2heroes website, check it out! It's full of awesome cooking videos.

I'm making a fermented spicy cole slaw that I have dubbed "Cortido Americano". It is a clean, tangy mix of shredded vegetables that is a great accompaniment for meats and fish, and is perfect in sandwiches or wraps.

There will be samples for tasting.