I have added several links to the blog. On the right you can find them all. Here is a rundown of some of the new pages:
Monday, June 30, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Finally, some concrete information on Salt in the Diet. a massive federal study was published a month ago. The conclusions?
Monday, June 23, 2008
It is a beautiful time for farms and for food. Tomatoes are almost upon us, strawberries are ripe and sweet, there are terrific cherries, greens, peaches and beets all ready to be eaten, but for me, the best part about early summer is the Chickens. Those that were chicks in the spring have grown to processing size, and it is time to eat them.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
What the fuck am I talking about?
In response to his interview with the Missoula Independent, I felt the need to write to the man, here is what I wrote to the distinguished Senator of Illinois:
I am a long time supporter, and I am deeply excited at the prospect of your presidency. I recognize that you will not wave a magic wand and perform to the expectations of every american, yet I feel the need to write to you about our food and the american farm system. Having just read your interview for the Missoula Independent, I would like to ask some questions and propose to you some ideas.
1. Meat and factory farms.
You mentioned that you are in support of our ranchers and farmers. Yet the industry consistently finds ways to reduce their viability in meat production.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations are a scourge to these farmers and ranchers, not to mention to our food quality, to land value, to public health and to the environment. Yet they continue, massively subsidized. For detailed and well researched information, please go to the website for the Union of Concerned Scientists and read their article on CAFO's. Here is the link:
You mentioned that more environmental regulation is required to clean up factory farms, yet, as the article above shows, this is nearly impossible. Additionally, and this is the most vital element I hope you will understand: Small rotating pasture farms that have NONE of the problems of large farms have still to deal with the ALL the strict USDA policies designed for large farms. For example, a small farmer of chickens who processes the birds in an open air facility can be shut down for not having enough windows on the facility. Seriously, this has happened. Of course the USDA regulations have no conception of a slaughterhouse with no walls.
What this means is that factory farms receive both the benefits of subsidies and free run of a market that will not allow (through USDA regulations that make sense for large businesses but close down small ones) small business to operate at a profit. This is the opposite of a free market, and it is anathema to the concept of successful small business.
The bottom line is this: Meat produced on rotating pasture land is antibiotic free, GMO free, 100% ambulatory and healthy meat, that produces no pollution/environmental degredation, instead improving on its environment. Meat produced on factory farms is generally full of chemical feeds and antibiotics, even if organic, and produces so much environmentally destructive waste that it cannot be maintained without heavy subsidies to manage the waste. This is corporate welfare, pure and simple. The hidden costs of CAFO's that the taxpayers assume amount to over $350/year for every taxpayer. (see UCS article)
If you can take a few minutes to look over the UCS paper on the subject I am confident it will open your eyes to this major problem.
Now here is where I ask you to think like a revolutionary:
What needs to happen is quite simple really - and can only be accomplished by a massively powerful and influential leader, who is not cowed by special interests and who has a mandate for change. You are the only man in a generation that will have that power, and I urge you to consider, even if just for a moment, my suggestion:
Return our midwestern corridor to intensively rotated pasture land. Farming beyond the corn belt is not economically or agriculturally viable (growing corn in the corn belt is not either, but that is a different story), so we should return, slowly and carefully our land in the midwest to pasture. This will create a huge number of jobs in the country, that are safer then the terrible CAFO jobs. It will require significantly less natural resources and corn and soy products to feed the animals, who will eat over 70% grass instead of 100% corn/soy/cow brains and spinal cords/antibiotics/whatever else. And it will restore the viability of the small/mid-sized american pasture farmer.
But why should you care? In a conversation with John Bongaarts, Vice President and Distinguished Scholar at the Population Council, he told me that the US is to food what Saudi Arabia is to oil. Global food shortages can be exacerbated or subdued by our international food policies. A fine example is our recent move to ethanol, which has decreased the amount of food bearing acreage in the US, and combined with several other factors to make the international food crisis more devestating.
Imagine this then: What if 70% of the grain acreage earmarked for CAFO's was not needed anymore? What if that 70% of acreage could be returned to human food production? The US could use this valuable and massive acreage for any imaginable purposes, restoring the value of our topsoil, growing varied and healthy crops, supporting destitute countries in the midst of food crisis. Bridging the trade deficit.
2. This leads to your other major point in the article: Obesity. Obesity in america is largely based not on sedentary lifestyle or the consumption of fats, but on the consumption of refined grains and sugar. Yet we subsidize ABOVE ALL OTHERS corn, soy, and wheat - the very grains that become refined carbs/sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, the products that have given americans no end of expensive health care problems, draining our system, and for too long operated at a net loss, destroying small farm after small farm. The vertically integrated model has destroyed farming and families, while it has lined the pockets of a select few. (like Monsanto - who genetically alter 90% of their Soy products)
My solution - kill the subsidies, return our farms to multiple polycultures and animal husbandry. Monocultures have knocked out half of Iowa's beautiful topsoil (as well as illinois and indiana and missouri's) in the last 30 years. Where will this soil be in another 30 years? What then will we do when we cannot grow anything at all?
These are massively important issues which you may have the power to influence and improve. Public Health, current and future food crisis, and economic viability of the american farm are all involved in the equation. But the problem is this: big business will suffer if you consider/implement anything I have suggested. But ordinary americans will have a chance to build their lives in a sustainable, healthy way.
I know who's side you are on, and I believe you will consider carefully what I have written.
For references on these subjects -
and the UCS link above, for just a few. See Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" for some more on corn, and go to
to see a real pasture farm in action.
Thanks for your time, I and so many others are glowing with pride at your accomplishments,
Sincerely, your humble servant,
Ari Levaux of the Missoula Independent Newspaper has been trying for months to get his questions answered by the political Candidates for President of the US. Barack Obama was the only candidate to return email responses to the questions.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
well, it turns out Save the Children a bastion of truly effective charitable work has turned some of its attentions (about $60 million worth this year) to Childhood Obesity. Why is this a problem? Well, the organization is traditionally focused on global malnutrition and hunger. But our national self-obsession has taken hold, and this organization cannot escape the dietetic vanity of our nation.
here is a long article on the subject from Sandy Szwarc over at Junkfoodscience.
Monday, June 9, 2008
i have been having long, sometimes contentious conversations with a friend of mine about health and nutrition. She is a Nurse Practitioner here in NYC, and our conversations are stimulating and fruitful, for the most part (it is usually my fault if they go off!).
The last was especially lively, as we argued the Fat = bad bit like two cats holed up in a 200sf studio apartment.
Gary Taubes has written a book entitled Good Calories, Bad Calories that goes into quite a bit of detail on the subject.
I have just been dipping into his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories". It is a massively researched indictment of the "fat is bad" prevailing attitudes. His primary enemy: refined sugars and grains.
here is a quote:
"From the inception of the diet-heart hypothesis in the early 1950s, those who argued that dietary fat caused heart disease accumulated the evidential equivalent of a mythology to support their belief. These myths are still passed on faithfully to the present day."
I am not a lonely zealot that hates the western dietetic and medical establishment. I actually see myself, in contrast, as a member of a small club of folks that must look more closely at everything around them, that take nothing for granted, that trust no large organization, particularly one with complex and large scale vested interests.
Everything I know that is Good and helpful to people fits into two categories:
1. Relies most heavily on personal interactions and partnerships. i.e. - in the medical world: nursing and acupuncture. in the personal/religious world: individual self-cultivation/spirituality (i hate that word, but it is right for the concept) OR
2. Relies on a small group of reasonable people working together. the important part is "small". The moment our standards of excellence fall is the moment our organization gets too big. Perhaps you can illuminate this point: in your experience what hospitals are the most effective? Do the larger hospitals have sufficient autonomy of smaller departments to keep these smaller departments effective, or do they get bogged down in whole building beaurocracy? etc. etc.
I believe in the small, smart, responsive, flexible group. I also believe that as our population and mass-culture take hold, most people are separated from that small group. Their standards fall, their ability to parse opposing arguments is reduced to ambivalence or worse, apathy. I do not believe that the medical establishment has the market cornered on the brightest, best, most remarkably caring people in the world. I believe though it may be better then some professional communities it is prone to stumbles in judgment, standards and ethics, as all others are. I was a teacher for 8 years, and I can tell you that most teachers care deeply about the welfare of their children. The definition of what that welfare is however is a vast and confusing affair. With the confusion comes disparity in the deliverance of education to children. Some in education think that the german model of strict discipline and tacit memorization is of the greatest service to students, others think that a grade-less progressive model of collaboration is best. The definition of standards is muddied by such things.
When you tell me that your professional world is immune to such confusion of values all my skeptical bells start ringing loudly.
I also want you to know, that I cared deeply for the children i saw each day. But I never ceased in my descrying of the educational establishment where I perceived its failings. The reason I say this is that I do not descry you, or your (obviously valuable and caring and vital) work when I descry certain arms of the medical establishment. I believe that a community can be both forward looking and intelligent in one instance and blind and stupid in another. You seem to think I will always throw your baby out with the medical establishment bathwater. This is not the case. What I am trying to do is - find the good stuff, wherever it is, and combine all that i find into a new tapestry, one devoid of lines between communities, but full of lines between good sense and stupidity.
I hope this helps you understand where I come from, when I sound strident and dismissive. I am sorry for the tone at times, I assure you, it is better then it was, and will be better then it is in time.
Friday, June 6, 2008
The Union of Concerned Scientists has a food and environment section. Currently on the website they have some chefs who have given recipes. In terms of recipes, for those of us that cook at home, more is always better. So bookmark this one away.
It turns out that the greased wheels of processed food have even effected Wine.
Pierre Jancou an importer of fine "morethenorganic" french wine, has this to say about modern Winemaking:
He has a Map of Paris that shows all "morethenorganic" locations. Read more about his philosophy here.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
So Karina and I went back to New Hampshire for Memorial Day weekend. It was a nearly perfect trip but for two snags. The first was Connecticut, a state I have despised since I was a child when my parents used the threat of sending me to the constitution state as a punishment for poor behavior. The second was a visit from a NH state policeman, 2 miles from the border of Vermont, and that is the last I will say about that.
Monday, June 2, 2008
so, the last post was a bit...vitriolic. Forgive me. Or don't, whatever, it was fun.