About “Better” Supermarkets

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Tony Naylor, from the Guardian, writes here about rethinking his relationship to Waitrose, the UK’s principled (and generally upscale) supermarket chain that puts Whole Foods to shame.

We should unquestionably support good supermarkets, but we should also be pushing them to:

-          carry sustainable seafood exclusively

-          carry ethically raised meat and poultry whenever possible

-          carry organic and/or local fruits and vegetables whenever possible

-          buy from suppliers who themselves have a conscience whenever possible

-          pay their own staff a living wage, with benefits

-          think about their energy usage, their waste, their community service

And so on. All of which will, yes, make food more expensive. It has to: crap is cheaper than real food, and treating your employees like indentured servants or worse saves employers (and consumers) money, as does treating the environment as a dumping ground and the oceans as if they were inexhaustible. Reversing these policies will raise food costs. (Though there is an argument that reducing food waste will allow us to raise quality while raising prices less.) Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Meat Politics and the CAFO: An Interview with Daniel Imhoff

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By Paula Crossfield of Civil Eats

[I can’t help but notice in this fascinating interview by Paula, Daniel Imhoff describes himself as a “less-meatarian” – a word-phrase I coined. Maybe it’s starting to gain traction. – mb]

A Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, is an Environmental Protection Agency designation for a farming facility that keeps numerous animals raised for food in close confinement, with the potential to pollute. These facilities often produce extreme amounts of waste, which ends up in toxic lagoons, sprayed on the land, and eventually in the watershed; require the use of high doses of antibiotics, thereby adding to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria; and are exempt from most animal cruelty laws. I spoke with Daniel Imhoff, editor of The CAFO Reader – a new book featuring essays by farmers Wendell Berry, Becky Weed, and Fred Kirschenmann, religious conservative Matthew Scully, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, and journalist Michael Pollan, among many others – about recent legislation and the future of the CAFO. 

Our last interview was before Obama was elected. How do you feel now that there is Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, and a Secretary of Agriculture that is actually discussing making changes in agriculture?  Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Convenience Food that Makes Sense

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I like Bob’s Red Mill, and I’m glad they’ve made inroads into mainstream supermarkets. I sometimes think they go a bit too far (what won’t they grind?) but so what?

I mean, I found myself with this so-called soup mix – which contains, as you see, beans, lentils, and whole grains. I have most of the things listed here – maybe not kamut, certainly not triticale or whole oat groats, but a fair approximation. (Of course finding them is another story, but we’re not going to discuss the state of my cabinets.) The stuff sat on the counter for a few days, with me scorning it: “What do I need a soup mix for?” Continue reading

Posted in American

Why Whole Foods’ Shoppers Are Thin and Albertsons’ Aren’t

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By Tom Laskawy

A recent University of Washington study showed Seattle-area shoppers at Whole Foods are much less likely to be obese, on average, than shoppers at the less expensive chain Albertsons.

I shrugged when I read this. From what I can tell, the study didn’t control for income: it’s well established that Whole Foods shoppers have higher incomes, which has always been correlated with low obesity rates. Indeed, some public health experts will tell you that we don’t have an obesity epidemic so much as we have a poverty epidemic.

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Posted in Food Politics

Who the Hell Uses Onion Juice?

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By John Thorne (http://www.outlawcook.com/)

The other day I was leafing through a vintage edition of The Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook looking for American chop suey (a story for another time), when my eye fell on a recipe with an ingredient list that included a “few drops onion juice” — and suddenly I was a child again, poking around in my grandmother’s kitchen.

It was an odd little room. The family lived on the bottom floor of a large duplex, built by my grandfather in the 1920s in Wollaston, on Boston’s South Shore. Long before I came along, my grandmother purchased a piano and turned the dining room into the piano room. Thus, the kitchen became the dining room and the adjoining pantry became the kitchen. It was just wide enough to hold the kitchen sink at one end and the gas stove at the other. (The refrigerator sat in the dining room.) Between them ran a narrow counter and, above and below it, storage shelves for cookware and food. This was the kitchen in which Nana prepared meals for a family of five children (my mother the only girl).
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Posted in American

Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook

Organic Economic Indicators

Looking for tangible signs that the recession is loosening its grip? Last week, major organic food producers, wholesalers, and retailers—who had taken hits during the meltdown as consumers lost their appetites for their pricey fare—announced heartening financial news.

A rundown:

United Natural Foods, Inc., a wholesaler of natural and organic foods, saw its share price hit its highest level in more than three years.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. reported that its earnings were the best “in several years” as sales for the quarter came in at more than twice what they were during the same period last year. Its stock is trading at nearly five times the 2008 low. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Produce

Abundance in Berlin

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By Laura Virginia Anderson

There is an open-air Turkish market every Tuesday and Friday just across the canal from my apartment in Berlin. Today I went there, with 12 euros in my pocket. I came home with two small loaves of whole grain-sunflower seed bread, five organic bananas, three organic apples, six organic eggs, two fat bunches of radishes, a bundle of white asparagus, two kohlrabi, and 16 euro-cents.

It’s not my intention to gloat, nor do I expect anyone to be particularly surprised by this bargain bounty—Berlin’s low cost of living is hardly a well-kept secret. But I’m still in that dreamy, delirious first phase of being an American in Europe, when every discovery feels like a miracle.

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Posted in Produce

This #$!% Has Got to Stop: Part Two

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[Ideas welcome, and we will credit you: mark@markbittman.com]

Hard to believe: McCormick, who’s brought us spices since its inception in the late 19th century (though I suspect the quality was considerably higher then) has a new bad idea: Recipe Inspirations.

What is this? A recipe card with a not-especially-great-sounding recipe – like Shrimp Pasta Primavera – with ¼ ounce of spices, pre-measured and bubble-packed individually, so that you can be “inspired” to cook dinner, and not bother to buy or store or measure spices. For a mere two bucks. Of course, you probably have at least three of these spices already – in this case garlic, onion, and black pepper – and you can buy what’s probably a year’s supply of higher quality versions of the other two for less than four dollars at someplace like Penzey’s. Or a supermarket.

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Posted in Spices