Daily Essentials | 14 September 2013

Erle Ellis | The New York Times

Trained as a biologist, I learned the classic mathematics of population growth — that populations must have their limits and must ultimately reach a balance with their environments. Not to think so would be to misunderstand physics: there is only one earth, of course!

It was only after years of research into the ecology of agriculture in China that I reached the point where my observations forced me to see beyond my biologists’s blinders. Unable to explain how populations grew for millenniums while increasing the productivity of the same land, I discovered the agricultural economist Ester Boserup, the antidote to the demographer and economist Thomas Malthus and his theory that population growth tends to outrun the food supply. Her theories of population growth as a driver of land productivity explained the data I was gathering in ways that Malthus could never do. While remaining an ecologist, I became a fellow traveler with those who directly study long-term human-environment relationships — archaeologists, geographers, environmental historians and agricultural economists.

Twilight Greenaway | Civil Eats

In considering the best meat to sell, Herminjard–who left the tech sector to start a food business just a few years ago–prioritized a GMO-free, pasture-based product. But she also stumbled on an opportunity no one else had seized: A population of organic, grassfed dairy cows being sold as conventional meat once the animals stopped producing an adequate supply of milk.

“I looked at where I could create value,” she says. Indeed, part of her goal to pay the local dairy farmers in Northern California, where the company is based, for a premium product.

When Herminjard started doing research about the possibility of selling milk cows for meat, she was told, repeatedly, it couldn’t be done. “It just doesn’t taste good enough,” many seasoned ranchers told her.

“It still just seemed like a gigantic waste that cows raised so well were being sent into the conventional stream,” she recalls. So, she decided she’s sell it ground as hamburger meat. Soon, however, Herminjard was experimenting with other cuts of meat from cows that had been treated well, and raised on pasture. She took it to several Bay Area chefs and they loved it.

Tom Philpott | Mother Jones

Last week, amid chaos over Syria and the ongoing budget fight in Washington, the General Accountability Office released a report about a project dear to the US Department of Agriculture: proposed new rules that would slash the number of federal inspectors that oversee poultry kill lines, and allow those lines to speed up.

. . . The fewer inspectors/faster line approach is the result of a long-running USDA pilot program called HACCP-based Inspection Models Project, or HIMP—one that, in a few select poultry plants, relies on antimicrobial sprays and company-paid inspections to maintain food safety, and deemphasizes the role of federal inspectors. The Bush Administration flirted with rolling out HIMP industry-wide in 2002, but pulled back. Evidently, Obama and his deregulatory-minded advisers couldn’t resist it.


Marion Nestle | Food Politics

Let’s Move! staff have stated repeatedly that they must and will work with the food industry to make progress on childhood obesity. I’m guessing this is the best they can do. Messages to “drink less soda” (or even “drink tap water”) will not go over well with Coke, Pepsi, and the ABA; sales of sugary sodas are already declining in this country.

I’m thinking that the White House must have cut a deal with the soda industry along the lines of “we won’t say one word about soda if you will help us promote water, which you bottle under lots of brands.” A win-win.

Isn’t drinking water better than drinking soda? Of course it is.

GM Watch/Doug Gurian-Sherman | GM Watch

I appreciate Pam’s willingness to edit her original statement. However, there remain several inaccuracies or points of contention in her correction.

First, she continues to refer to “the UCS reports cited by Mellon,” but her new critique focuses on only one of those reports, “Failure to Yield,” published in 2009. That report was followed by “No Sure Fix” in 2009, addressing the important environmental issue of whether GE was addressing nitrogen use and pollution, and “High and Dry,” published in 2012, about GE and drought tolerance (all linked in the “learn more” section here: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/ ).

Together, these reports show that for these important traits GE has accomplished relatively little—and has produced no commercial traits for nitrogen efficiency in the US—where GE must compete with other advanced agricultural technologies and methods. GE has no commercial traits for drought tolerance or nitrogen use efficiency globally.

Raz Godelnik | Triplepundit

The size of this wasteful phenomenon has driven a growing number of entrepreneurs and organizations to look for ways to change this unsustainable reality.

One of latest effort is the ‘ugly fruit’ campaign from three German students trying to make the case that selling ugly produce is not just about being more sustainable but also about taking advantage of a business opportunity. But are the students right? Is there really a business case for selling ugly fruit and vegetables?

The students’ campaign is aimed at getting misshapen produce back into German households, explains Der Spiegel, encouraging consumers to make more sustainable choices. Yet, they’re also looking at the supply side, not just the demand side, suggesting the idea of creating what they call “Ugly Fruits” supermarkets – trendy stores that would focus exclusively on selling misshapen produce and fruit rejected by other chains.

Sarah Sloat | Slate

While most energy drinks come with a hyper-masculine image, a few companies are adapting for their growing audience. 5-hour ENERGY, for example, has promoted a pink-lemonade flavor with sales that go toward the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade. Amp advertises itself as the boost you need for “your kid’s after-school recital.” Nielsen credits Monster Energy’s Zero Ultra as advertising to women through “feminine design elements,” which, I guess, is referring to the fact the can is white instead of black? So you know, very womanly.

Still, no energy drinks, as the report notes, have been created that moms will drink proudly in the open. A quick Google search of “women, energy drinks” shows it’s not for a lack of trying. There’s Go Girl, Pink, Damzl Fuel, and Her. There’s COUGAR, which besides being “great for hair, skin, and nails” promises to maintain hormone levels and increase “her natural libido.” And if COUGAR is not for you, but you still want to burn 100 calories by “just sitting pretty,” you can always gulp down a Perfectly Petite.

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About Marc Brazeau

Free lance cultural attaché. Writing at REALFOOD.ORG.

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