News for June 9, 2010
New federal food program generates local controversy
A new federal push to reinvigorate regional food systems and reconnect people to food has generated heat from three prominent U.S. Senators, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who say the “feel-good” program is detached from reality.
Meanwhile, local residents have also led efforts to increase access to local food and promote knowledge of food’s source.
[ READ MORE (Payson Roundup) ]
Local food, local sales
Shanna Berry walked into an Asheville, N.C., Whole Foods Market three years ago and stopped short in the meat aisle, astounded at the price on grass-finished beef.
“When I saw the prices of beef at the health food store, I saw a business opportunity,” Berry said.
[ READ MORE (SWVA Today) ]
Guster Challenges Fans to Eat Local, Organic Food
Reverb has been helping musicians green their tours for quite some time. They’ve worked to help all manner of bands like Phish, the Beastie Boys, and Maroon 5 lighten their tours’ eco-footprints.
The company focuses on all aspects of touring, and their efforts on the food front are impressive. From reusable water bottles and local food to composting kitchen waste, Reverb does quite a bit to help bands reduce the impact of their eats. Now, one band is working with them to take things a step further and engage the fans in eating well!
[ READ MORE (Eat Drink Better) ]
Social Entrepreneurs Must Drop the Balancing Act
For-profit social entrepreneurs try to blend profits with public benefits. As business expands, the goal is to create value for shareholders as well as the environment, the local community, or other stakeholders. In his new book, Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize-winning founder of microlender Grameen Bank, challenges the "not only for-profit" model that many social entrepreneurs embrace. Instead, he argues, businesses should be dedicated strictly to social causes such as helping the poor—without owners or investors taking a profit. Unlike charities, the companies he calls "social businesses" sustain themselves with earned income that proceeds to further the company's mission.
When you mix profit and social benefit and say that your company will pursue both goals, you are making life complicated for the chief executive officer. His thinking process gets clouded. He does not see clearly. In a particular situation where profit and social benefit need to be balanced, which way should the scales be tipped? What if it is possible to increase profit greatly by cutting social benefits just a little—is that all right? How should one judge? What about in times of economic stress, such as a recession—is it all right to eliminate social benefits altogether in hopes of helping the company to survive? Why or why not? The idea of a "mixed" company offers no clear guidance on questions like these.
[ READ MORE (Businessweek) ]
New Film Takes on Organic Food Critics and Kicks Ass
Surely you've heard the arguments: "organic isn't any healthier," "organic food is too expensive," "organic doesn't mean anything," or maybe you've seen Penn and Teller's take-down of the "Organic tastes better argument." During the last 12 months, a slew of anti-organic messages have been promulgated in the media. Good thing filmmaker Shelley Rogers has spent the past five years of her life putting together a movie that not only refutes most of these bogus talking points, but gives us an up-close look at what organic agriculture really is (as well as addressing some of the criticisms brought against it).
Rogers' conclusion, after years of work and research, is that organic isn't just a question of personal health, and that standards really do make a difference. But rather than telling us this, she lets the experts -- farmers, scientists, activists, doctors, and ecopreneurs -- explain from their knowledgeable and frontline perspectives.
[ READ MORE (Huffington Post) ]
Raw Milk, Tomatoes and Salt, Sniffing Seafood
A couple of recent stories show give present and advance warnings that some issues won't be going away, raw milk chief among them. My recent post on the battle in Massachusetts, a state that does certify raw-milk dairies, to allow off-farm sales elicited heated opinion on both sides of the issue. Anne Mendelson, author of Milk, one of my favorite books of the past few years, points out that there's a spectrum of pasteurization, I assume referring to the longer, low-temperature process that leaves in much more flavor—something I've written about in the past and strongly advocate, as I do buying her book. She's opinionated! And rightly in favor of flavor:
To be blunt: Every time I hear or read any discussion of raw milk in any public forum, I know I can look forward to endless repetitions of a few misleading, simpleminded claims on both sides, with either no attention to or no technical understanding of taste factors (which are my preformed agenda) ... Rawness and pasteurization have nothing to do with the plain fact that milk produced by farmers with sane breeding-and-feeding priorities tastes better than milk cranked out with an eye only to volume. Some of the best milk I've tasted has been raw, and so has some of the worst.
[ READ MORE (The Atlantic) ]
Maine Organic Dairy Farmers Question Raw Milk Ban
Some organic dairy farmers in Maine are unhappy with a recent decision by the Organic Valley cooperative to ban the sale of unpasteurized, or raw milk. Twenty-two years after it was established to help save small family diaries and promote the consumption of more "natural" dairy products, Organic Valley is now telling its farmers they may no longer sell raw milk.
Speaking from company headquarters in Wisconsin, Chief Executive George Siemon says there are strong opinions on both sides of the raw milk debate and it was a difficult decision. "At the end of the day, the membership was fairly split 50-50 for and against and the board finally made a decision to prohibit having raw milk businesses inside of our members farms."
[ READ MORE (Maine Public Broadcasting Network) ]
FDA urged to be proactive, not reactive, in preventing food safety problems
The Food and Drug Administration, the nation's chief watchdog on food safety, is too often caught flat-footed when problems arise, a health advisory panel said Tuesday, urging the agency to focus more on preventing outbreaks of illness by targeting facilities and products most likely to make people sick.
The panel said the FDA is trying to apply so-called risk-based management in food safety in piecemeal fashion and does not have an overall plan, or the money, to implement it effectively. The assessment came in a report from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academies.
[ READ MORE (LA Times) ]
Economic slump stirs up homemade preserves industry
Boutique businesses find a niche in offering small batches of jams and jellies. Sellers are using the Internet, food festivals and trade shows to reach consumers.
[ READ MORE (LA Times) ]
Raw milk debate, alive in the North Country
New restrictions on raw milk sales in Wisconsin and Massachusetts are returning one of America’s fiercest food debates to the headlines. More people are seeking out unpasteurized milk. They cite a broad range of health benefits and support for local dairies. But health officials and many scientists insist drinking raw milk is too risky. Even Locavore-in-Chief Michael Pollan cautions raw milk drinkers “not to turn a blind eye to the food safety concerns.” In New York, about 30 dairies are licensed to sell direct from the farm, including five in the North Country. The law requires consumers to bring their own containers and actually watch as the milk is poured from the bulk tank. David Sommerstein got an up-close look at the raw milk debate at a farm in St. Lawrence County and has our story.
[ READ MORE (North Country Publci Radio) ]