Friday, April 27, 2007

Article about the FDA, hogs that ate melamine and food safety

If you haven't heard the alarming news already you should check out this article from today's Boston Globe, "Hogs that ate melamine not fit for human consumption, FDA rules".

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chico chats about food safety for dogs and humans!

My mom is pretty picky about what she eats and what she feeds me. Nonetheless, I got a little nervous when I heard about the recent pet food recall, which affected more than 100 brands of pet food that contained contaminated wheat gluten imported from China. Mom and I went to the website of the company that makes my food and were reassured to find that the food I ate contains no gluten (that’s just filler, I don’t need filler!) and all of the good ingredients it does contain are sourced from here in the U.S. Still, mom keeps checking back to be sure what I’m eating is safe, as new discoveries have been found everyday and more and more brands are at risk for recall. And now I’m worried about what Mom eats too! I mostly eat the same thing each day, with treats like natural hot dogs and beef jerky thrown in for when I’m a real good boy. But Mom eats something different at every meal, every day! How does she keep track of what she’s putting in her body?

Turns out she’s worried too. And with all the bad news lately about food scares, things are not getting better—for us four-leggers and bipods alike. A recent article in the Washington Post points out a few of those scary news items. For one, the people who are supposed to be protecting us and ensuring that our food is safe don’t really have a way to do so because they can’t track many ingredients back from all over the world that they come from. And, it turns out that those same people who are supposed to be protecting us are not really doing a good job even when they can track our food. The word is now that they knew about the salmonella in peanut butter and the E. coli in spinach way before the recent outbreaks that caused some people to die and many others to get sick and they didn’t do a thing about it. Lastly, those who think they’re safe because they don’t eat pet food should be concerned if they eat bacon. The tainted pet food was fed to pigs destined to become human food. So, what’s a dog (and his person) to do?

Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…. Grow your own! Or, find a farmer you trust and buy from them! In our global and industrialized world, where one food product might be made of lots of ingredients (including chemicals and other scary things!) that come from lots of different countries, it’s great to know that you can eat something that came from your backyard or your hometown, straight from the dirt. Of course, most of us can’t source all of our food from a farmer, so it’s important to read your labels. When you actually take the time to know what you’re eating, you’ll feel more comfortable and you’ll probably enjoy your food even more. Be picky and be proud of your pickiness—it could save your life!

In the meantime, I wish good health to all of you.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Laura reviews Michael Pollan's NY Times article "You Are What You Grow"

Michael Pollan strikes again. This past Sunday’s NY Times article “You Are What You Grow” makes a good case for tuning in to the current debate about the Farm Bill. Far from being an incomprehensible wonkish piece on policy, Pollan easily takes us through the ins and outs of how the Farm Bill effects everyone of us. Obesity, food cost, school food, immigration, global poverty and rural landscapes are all part of the package. In fact, many people, Pollan included, are talking about how this Farm Bill should really be thought of as more of a Food Bill since there is such a deep link between farm policy and what we find on our dinner plates. It is a compelling argument and one that deserves serious thought.

When referring to commodity farming (corn and soy) and subsidies, everything in this article is true. However, I wish there had been a little bit more about the history of these programs and how we have arrived at overproduction and subsidy payments. Without that context, I am afraid that readers might blame the farmers for the unbalanced system described in this article. Nitpicking aside, this is an excellent introduction to why EVERYONE should care about the Farm (aka Food) Bill.

For a full explanation of the farm subsidy program, see Pollan’s other excellent articles and books, including his latest, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Link to article about first US House hearing on organic agriculture

Today marked a milestone in American agriculture: For the first time ever, the US House of Representatives convened a hearing on organic agriculture. Organic farmers and advocates testified about how federal farm programs could do a much better job to assist farmers who want to transition their farms to organic production.

Read the testimony of Mark Lipson of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, a group long supported by Farm Aid.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Joel goes to Singles Night at Whole Foods

With four of five directors out of the office on business this week, the rest of the Farm Aid staff took it upon itself to make an executive decision about whom to send to “Singles Night” at a local Whole Foods store as part of our office quest to connect with more food and farm minded folk.

Guess who drew the assignment? I’m not sure if it’s because, with Ted and Mark away, I was the only man left in the office, or because of the persistent rumor (unsubstantiated) that I am still single, but I got “elected.” I negotiated a deal with them: I would get to leave the office early to prepare (read: primp) for the event. So I went to the gym to work off whatever excesses remained from the weekend. Then I went home to figure out what to wear. Among other hard choices, I finally decided on a leather jacket. I knew it might reduce my chances with vegans and vegetarians, but would perhaps attract the organic, grass-fed beef lovers. Not that I planned simply to hover around the meat counter.

At the entrance to Whole Foods, I found several people gathered around a table beside a hand-written “Singles Night” sign, so I took a deep breath and joined them. It seems this was hetero-singles night, since the staff were randomly assigning individual males and females to pair up for a scavenger hunt in which couples would compete for a prize. Sent off on the hunt, I made the mistake of suggesting to my partner that we split up in order to gather items more quickly. She looked at me kind of funny before striding off toward the produce section. I guess I was focused on the wrong prize. Strike one.

The list included a specific kind of wine, so I made for the wine section, passing by a musician singing and strumming her guitar--she was pretty cute, so I made a mental note to myself: “Return to hear music.” In the wine section, I dallied a bit, mainly because of the free wine samples, but I eventually found the right wine. Then I followed another scavenger hunt couple around for a while--a stern-looking blonde woman and a tall, goateed, pony-tailed man in a suit coat thinking they might lead me to the items on my list. And they did, only I picked up the wrong kind of bread, thinking the clue on my list to “find a bread with a romantic-sounding name” must be “When Pigs Fly.”

I quickly found my other items and hurried back to the scavenger hunt table to meet my partner, pausing only at the musician’s station, but all I found there was a lonely microphone. Evidently, she was now on break. Strike two.

But I found my partner and we delivered our goods, only to discover that we’d come in third place. We parted amicably. I suppose I should have asked her name, but she’d picked up the wrong kind of cheese, so I really didn’t see us as lifelong partners.

Undeterred, I returned to sample more wine, where singles seemed to be congregating. Then a stroke of luck: I was approached by a woman with a camera: “May I take your photo?” But of course. Turns out she was a Whole Foods associate documenting Singles Night, but not, so it seemed, single. Strike three.

Nonetheless, at the check out counter--yes, I did do some actually shopping--the clerk glanced at me knowingly when I told her how fun Singles Night had been. “What would you like?” she asked, smiling, and I thought seriously about telling her what I wanted. But then she said: “Paper or plastic?”

Friday, April 13, 2007

Nahreen uses the Aerogarden to take a guacamole break

Our office herbs have been growing like crazy! The basil was in the lead. Following close behind, tied for second place, were the cilantro and purple basil.

Friday afternoon, we decided it was time to Harvest! I love the smell of fresh herbs, especially when they’re being picked right here, in my office!

Jeni and I ran out and bought a few fresh ingredients to go with our aerogarden grown cilantro to surprise the office with a delicious afternoon snack!

The guacamole was fantastic. Needless to say, we devoured it in minutes!
Give our recipe a try:

1 Plum Tomato, chopped
2 avocados, mashed
half of a white onion, diced
the juice of 1 lime
1 handful of our delicious officegrown cilantro
salt to taste