Hi, everyone.Here’s a fine statement from Rosemary Fifield, Director, Education and Member Services Co-op Food Stores, Hanover and Lebanon, NH. It expresses very clearly the challenge we’re all facing–as grocers and consumers–in our efforts to secure only reliably safe and wholesome foods.
“Where Does that Food Come From”
Every day, adulterated animal food (pet food, commercial feed for fish andshrimp, feed for hogs and poultry) is making the news. Medicines in other countries have been found to contain a deadly chemical knowingly sold as a cheap alternative to glycerin. The American public is now aware that many food products and ingredients are imported into this country without sufficient government oversight. As a result, many Co-op customers are worried about the safety and origin of the food they buy.Some members and shoppers have asked “What is the Co-op doing to ensure that the products it sells are safe?” and “Why doesn’t the Co-op label every product with information on where it comes from?”
Just wanted to bring you up to date on the Farm Bill. The House of Representatives today passed its version of the bill, one that no one seems to like. The $286 billion package, which contains about $42 billion in subsidies, ends subsidies to farmers with an income of over $1 million, down from $2.5 million. Some Democrats want to lower that cap further, and others worry that the bill doesn’t contain enough funding for conservation and nutrition. Republicans are upset about a proposed tax on the American holdings of overseas ag companies, which would fund food stamps and other programs. And the White House has threatened a veto over the failure to reform the subsidy system.
The Senate is expected to debate its version in September.
Here’s the report from the Congressional Quarterly.Cheers,
Here’s a very insightful essay on the Farm Bill, just passed by the House and soon to be debated in the Senate. The House version pretty much preserves the status quo, with very little support for programs that encourage research on sustainable agriculture, promote conservation of land and natural resources, or help farmers convert to organic production methods or crops that are really good for us to eat. To make your voice heard in this matter, email or call (202-224-5623) Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar (202-224-4814).
Help make this a “food” bill as well as a mere “farm” bill.
By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published: November 4, 2007
FOR Americans who have been looking to Congress to reform the food system, these past few weeks have been, well, the best of times and the worst of times. A new politics has sprouted up around the farm bill, traditionally a parochial piece of legislation thrashed out in private between the various agricultural interests (wheat growers versus corn growers; meatpackers versus ranchers) without a whole lot of input or attention from mere eaters.
Not this year. The eaters have spoken, much to the consternation of farm-state legislators who have fought hard and at least so far with success to preserve the status quo.
Americans have begun to ask why the farm bill is subsidizing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils at a time when rates of diabetes and obesity among children are soaring, or why the farm bill is underwriting factory farming (with subsidized grain) when feedlot wastes are polluting the countryside and, all too often, the meat supply.
Tyson managed to convince the USDA that feeding chickens an antimicrobial drug was not the same thing as an antibiotic. So for months now Tyson has been labeling their drugged up chickens ‘antibiotic free’ and folks have been eating it up.
Let’s give the USDA a little credit though - “Now the USDA says it made a mistake in approving the label” and they are asking Tyson to help them think about this a little more carefully. “Our consistent position is if you’re going to make a raised-without-antibiotics claim that there will be no antibiotics that were included in the feed during the life of the animal,” is what an official at the USDA office that oversees labeling decisions said about it.
Logic at work here folks. Watch in amazement at the USDA using common sense and telling it like it is.
Tyson alleges that most consumers are concerned about antibiotic resistance and “Ionophores are not used in human medicine and do not contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance to important human drugs. They remain in the intestinal tract of the animal and do not carry over into the meat consumed by humans,” so we don’t have to worry. . . because Tyson says we don’t have to worry, and I am supposed to believe them because. . . .
Really - I want drug free chicken and so that is what I will buy. It will be interesting to watch how the USDA handles this and other labeling concerns that will certainly arise as the market for cleaner product grows.
An Editorial by Bloomingfoods Members Services Director, Jean Kautt
I guess it is, if you buy out of season produce or gourmet meats and cheeses frequently. But it’s also true that in the last 25 years, American families have spent less and less of their incomes on food as a percentage of income: from 22% to 11%. Our food supply has certainly gotten cheaper as time has gone by, but the quality of most of it has gotten worse.
In my home, we don’t all have cell phones, there’s no cable TV, and no car payment, but my daughters have a horse of their own, and we eat good food. The girls are rarely ill, make good grades, and generally get along well in the world and with each other. I’ve noticed that the more I pay attention to making sure they have good food to eat, the better things seem to be all around.
I spend $500-600 a month on food for my family of four. There is no non-food in that number, such as shampoo, laundry soap, or paper products. I shop almost entirely at Bloomingfoods, buy everything I can at the Farmers Market year round, and very occasionally have to stop for one item at another store. Two of my three daughters take their lunches to school, but the amount I spend includes one daughter’s school lunches and all meals eaten away from home (often at Bloomingfoods, too).
Frankly, I think feeding my family for less than $5 a day per person is cheap! In my opinion, eating good food is the gateway to all health and well-being- it is a priority.
My food and politics students at Indiana University Bloomington arrive in the classroom puzzled. Something about the course has piqued their interest, but they are hard pressed to see what politics (which they associate, vaguely, with scandal and corruption) has to do with what they eat.
I could take a traditional approach with them, launch right into food security, the food pyramid, Congress and interest groups, and theyâd see the connections right away. But I want them to understand the relationship between power and food as I have come to do, in a deeper, more personal sense. So we hop off the intellectual superhighway for the more leisurely, scenic route.
If you are what you eat, their first assignment asks, who are you?
From the New York Timesâ series âBooks of the Timesâ comes this thoughtful, insightful review of food writer Michael Pollanâs recent work, âIn Defense of Food: An Eaterâs Manifest.â
By JANET MASLIN
New York Times
January 3, 2008
Not all scientific study of Mars is about extraterrestrial exploration. Some of it is about chocolate. Scientists at Mars Corporation have found evidence that the flavanols in cocoa have beneficial effects on the heart, thus allowing Mars to market products like its health-minded Rich Chocolate Indulgence Beverage.
In the same spirit, nutritionism has lately helped to justify vitamin-enriched Diet Coke, bread bolstered with the Omega-3 fatty acids more readily found in fish oil, and many other new improvements on what Michael Pollan calls âthe tangible material formerly known as food.â
Whatâs for dinner? Few questions are as environmentally fraught. Bad choices can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease for us, and pollution, loss of biodiversity, and climate change for our favorite planet. Unfortunately, thereâs easy money to be made in those bad choices, and so our food marketing system has made them the path of least resistance.
Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than anyone else, but it costs us dearly. . .
by Eric Schlosser
March is National Nutrition Month, created by The American Dietetic Association (ADA) more than 30 years ago âto focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habitsâ. The ADA is funded by large food conglomerates like Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup, NestlÃ© USA, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Monsanto, Nabisco, Procter & Gamble, ConAgra Foods, and others, and while their philosophy of food is generally different from the co-op view, you will be hearing about National Nutrition Month in the news this month. Iâve been thinking about it a lot latelyâ¦National Nutrition Month- what does that really mean? That we should dash about the grocery store, seeking out the boxes, cans, and wrappers proclaiming âGood Source of (fill in the blank)â, â Reduces Your Risk of (fill in the blank)â, or âHigh in (this, that, or the other)â?
Here's a splendid piece that appeared recently in the New York Times. Written by Jack Hedin, a farmer from Minnesota, it nicely describes a few of the ways that federal regulations actively discourage farmers from efficiently and economically producing food for local markets.
My Forbidden Fruits (and) Vegetables
If youâve stood in line at a farmersâ market recently, you know that the local food movement is thriving, to the point that small farmers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.
But consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmersâ markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding. And the barriers that the United States Department of Agriculture has put in place will be extended when the farm bill that House and Senate negotiators are working on now goes into effect.