Archive for August, 2011


Posted on August 30, 2011 - by

Life as a Restaurant Forager


Image: Scallop and roe over polenta, courtesy of Print Restaurant

Today’s guest writer is Johanna Kolodny, the forager for Print Restaurant in Manhattan, discussing the challenges of sourcing local products and seafood for restaurants.

I’m the forager at Print Restaurant located in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Print is a busy operation, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day of the year. We provide room service and catering for the adjacent Ink 48 Hotel, and we run Press Lounge, a rooftop bar with sweeping city and river views.

When most people think of a forager, they conjure up images of someone in the forest harvesting mushrooms or other wild edibles. I struggle with my job title for that reason. You should think of my job as forager in a broader sense of the term, as someone who gathers things. My primary responsibility revolves around sourcing ingredients for the kitchen. I collaborate with the chefs to source produce, meat, dairy, seafood, and added-value products for the restaurant and bars.

My goal is to bring the chefs as much product as possible directly from farmers, fishermen and food artisans, ideally from our region. I’d like to think I’m continuously pushing the envelope, steadily increasing my percentages. When necessary, I look beyond this region and apply the same principles further afield, looking for producers who follow sustainable practices.

The word “sustainable” is thrown around a lot these days. But to me, the essence of the word is not corruptible. It means having something last for the long term, by implementing techniques like rotational planting, cover cropping, traceability, and local animal composting. Non-sustainable practices include synthetic chemicals, tilling, and inputs like petroleum-based fertilizers.

I can’t know for sure that our farmers always follow sustainable practices, but at least I know where our food comes from and we’re supporting our local economy. I’m continuously expanding our network of suppliers, seeking out those individuals who have the same philosophies. Before making purchases from a producer, I ask lots of questions. To gather information, I have visited a number of the farms with which we work, and still have a few more to go.

One of the most challenging ingredients to source is seafood. Oysters, clams and lobster are on the easier side because it is possible to sustainably cultivate them through aquaculture. Fish are just tough. We use a handful of sources for our seafood: two standard distributors, Sea 2 Table (a direct fishermen to chef network), and a few regional oyster and mollusk producers. This year, we started working with a Louisiana shrimper, who ships directly to us. I’ve found it challenging to find fishermen in our region who will deliver. Furthermore, the chef feels his choices are even more limited by which local fish customers are willing to buy.

We rely on several reference organizations, like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, to determine what seafood is sustainable. But even such organizations and references are not totally reliable. There is such a grey area when it comes to seafood—the ocean is so vast and we know so little about it that we’re really taking a shot in the dark. If we wanted to save seafood populations, we’d cut back on our consumption drastically, no matter the species. But are we really going to run a restaurant without offering fish options? I know the powers that be won’t let that happen, so we have to compromise. All we can do is continuously ask questions and stay up to date on the latest data.

Our sources include Sea 2 Table, which works directly with the fishermen and makes sure they are not offering at-risk seafood. We have to trust that these for-profit companies truly have the health of seafood populations in mind. The chef also works with two more mainstream distributors. One is quite transparent about sourcing and concerned with the sustainability status of its seafood offerings. I believe the chef would not source seafood from someone he doesn’t trust, however the other distributor doesn’t have as thorough traceability like our other sources.

Ultimately, the chef doesn’t choose fish whose populations are threatened, and tends to rotate through a handful of different fish depending on the season. These days, he offers snapper, halibut, black sea bass, and salmon, just to name a few. There are numerous other fish that we would like to offer that are even more sustainable, however the challenge is in selling it to the customer. We can buy any fish, but if the dish doesn’t sell, then it’s a moot point.

In the next post, I’ll discuss some examples of these fish, along with the challenges of purchasing fish we want versus what the customer is willing to buy.

For more information on Johanna Kolodny’s work as a forager, check out the Print Restaurant blog: http://www.printrestaurant.com/blog/

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Posted on August 24, 2011 - by

The Revolution Tastes Like Sauerkraut

Reviving Cultured Foods

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It all started with a pickle.

It was a sour New York pickle, to be precise, and what started was Sandor Katz’s obsession with fermented foods.

“It’s a flavor I’ve always been drawn to,” said Katz, a self-described “fermentation revivalist” and the author of the books Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. While most of the pickles that are available in grocery stores today are preserved in vinegar, the pickles of Katz’s childhood were fermented in brine, lending them the tangy flavor associated with fermented foods.

If the mere suggestion of fermentation, not to mention its taste, makes you queasy, consider this: you probably ate a fermented food for breakfast. Bread, cheese, yogurt, and coffee are just a few of the staples for which we have fermentation to thank. According to Katz, as much as one-third of food eaten worldwide is subjected to some kind of enriching microbiotic transformation.

“I’ve tried, and have not found, a tradition or culture that doesn’t include fermentation,” said Katz. “People might not have thought about fermentation, but no one is unfamiliar with fermented foods.”

Getting more familiar doesn’t only provide fodder for cocktail party conversation. It’s also a way of improving intestinal health and supporting alternative food systems, and of reclaiming a process that lies at the heart of many culinary traditions.

We’re trained to think of microbes as the enemy—evasive killers that must be boiled, steamed, fried, or otherwise driven out of the kitchen. “One of the triumphs of microbiology in the twentieth century was identifying pathogenic organisms,” Katz told me. “But now in the popular imagination, bacteria equal disease.”

Much more than disease, bacteria are essential to human existence. They are the most basic building blocks of life, and our bodies teem with them. More than a thousand species live in our stomach, intestines, mouths, and skin, but only fifty of those are known to be harmful. As Katz put it, “All life exists in a bacterial context.”

So do all cultures. Katz noted that the word culture is itself related to fermented or “cultured” foods. Farming—the cultivation of seed—and preserving the harvest through fermentation are at the core of modern ways of life. “Humans could never have made the transition to a sedentary agricultural lifestyle without insight into fermentation as a form of food storage,” said Katz. Since the microbial transformation of food is inevitable—often as rot—humans had to find a way to deal with it. And what ways they found. Culinary achievements like wine, cheese, miso, chocolate, and kimchi are all part of the legacy.

But the bacteria so fundamental to our biological and cultural existence are under constant assault thanks to an industrial food system that emphasizes processed foods, and the pervasive use of antibiotics, chlorine, preservatives, and antibacterial cleansing products. Several studies suggest that our immune and digestive systems pay the price for the latter. While a sterile environment is essential for open-heart surgery, depriving our immune systems of opportunities to develop antibodies makes us weaker over a lifetime.

Accordingly, Katz told me, it’s become important to replenish and diversify the bacteria in our gut. The easiest and most delicious way to do so is by consuming live fermented foods. Live cultures (unlike cooked fermented foods like bread, or pasteurized commercial products) contain beneficial Lactobacillus acidophilus, which produces lactic acid, a natural preservative, and a tender texture and complex flavor.

For those looking for a way into the healthy and delicious world of fermentation, Katz recommends brining any favorite vegetable. Sauerkraut was Katz’s “gateway ferment.” He made his first batch after he’d moved to rural Tennessee and planted a garden, to solve the practical problem of having too much fresh cabbage. Many years later Katz still bears the nickname ‘Sandorkraut.’

His “totally straightforward” instructions are to “chop up some veggies, salt them lightly to taste, squeeze or pound them and then stuff them into jar or crock so they’re submerged under liquid. Let them sit for two weeks, or months, or years.” Other easy ferments include mead (honey wine), yogurt and kefir, and sour-tonic beverages. “It really depends on what you like to eat,” said Katz. “You can ferment anything.”

When I asked Katz about the safety of home fermentation, he replied that fermented vegetables are really the safest kind. “There is a pervasive fear in our culture in aging food outside the refrigerator,” he said. “But according to USDA’s microbiologist, there has never been a case of food poisoning in the U.S. related to fermented vegetables. If you were to take vegetables that had been contaminated by factory farm uphill, and fermented them, the lactic bacteria would rapidly overpower pathogenic bacteria.”

The strength of fermented food doesn’t just lie in its biological capacities. “Fermentation challenges the notion that food is just another commodity that can be produced in far-away places,” said Katz. Part of  bucking the corporate system and re-localizing food is also reclaiming the processes that are essential to preserving fresh produce and enjoying its complexities.

“Empowered” is the word Katz used repeatedly , and I understood him to mean it on physiological and personal terms. And isn’t that really what it means to be fed, or nourished? We should receive nothing less from our food.

Here a few tips to get you started:

  • Make sure your vegetables are submerged in liquid—this prevents mold growth and is the difference between rotten vegetables and fermented ones. Usually the liquid is salty water (brine), but you can use plain water, wine or whey too.
  • Play with chopping your vegetables or leaving them whole. If shredded, simply salting the vegetables will typically pull enough juice out via osmosis, so adding water isn’t necessary. Whole vegetables require brine.
  • Traditionally, vegetables were fermented with lots of salt to preserve them for longer periods of time. However, less salt can be better for flavor and nutrition. Salt lightly, to taste—there’s no magic proportion. As a starting point, try 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of vegetables.
  • Use a heavy cylindrical ceramic crock, if you can. Glass containers also work well, but avoid plastic and metal, as they can leach chemicals or be corroded by the fermentation. Pack your vegetables at the bottom and submerge them with a weighted plate or jug.
  • If mold develops on the surface of the liquid, scrape it off as best you can; it will not hurt the vegetables underneath.
  • Taste your ferments early and often to find out what you prefer. Longer fermentation and warm temperatures mean tangier flavor.
  • Nearly any vegetable can be fermented—be bold! Seaweeds and fruits can be fantastic, and spices play a big role in giving kimchi and sauerkraut their distinctive flavors.

For more detailed information and recipes, check out Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation website and his books.

Photos from Flickr: little blue hen

zoe@freshthemovie.com

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Posted on August 17, 2011 - by

Regulators and Law Enforcement Target Local Foods; Corporations Walk Free

A sting operation targeting a small food club raises questions about food safety, consumer freedom, and the influence of the corporate food system.

Flickr: Kthread

On August 3, armed federal and county agents raided Rawesome Foods, a food club in Venice, CA. They seized computers and cash, loaded a flatbed truck with watermelons and coconuts, and poured out gallons of fresh milk. They arrested James Stewart, Rawesome’s owner, on criminal conspiracy charges. His alleged crime? The production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese, yogurt and kefir.

Stewart was later charged on 13 counts, 12 of them related to the sale of “raw” or unpasteurized milk. Healthy Family Farms owner Sharon Palmer and her employee Victoria Bloch were also arrested on related charges.

The raid was the culmination of a year-long sting operation targeting the club, which began twelve years ago as a collective of raw-milk drinkers who sourced unpasteurized milk from local dairies. While the sale of raw milk is legal in California, retailers are legally required to buy from state-certified dairies. Organic Pastures, which produces milk from Holstein cattle, is the only certified raw-milk dairy in California. Rawesome’s members had been buying uncertified cow, goat, sheep and camel milk from various producers. They did so as a private club of consenting adults, freely choosing raw milk from local sources.

That same day, while prosecutors attempted to set Stewart’s bail at $121,000, food industry giant Cargill issued a voluntary recall of more than 36 million pounds of ground turkey. The meat was contaminated with a strain of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella and had caused at least one death and 76 illnesses. It took Cargill, which sells turkey under multiple brand names and is a major supplier to public school meal programs, more than four months after illnesses surfaced to issue the recall.

Rawesome’s members have been declared criminals, but no one affiliated with Cargill has been charged with a crime. In fact, the USDA can only recommend “voluntary recalls” in cases related to pathogen-contaminated products, leaving companies like Cargill to self-police.

While the austerity-obsessed government struggles to find room in the budget for food safety oversight of massive multinational corporations, American tax dollars are funding multi-agency sting operations directed against neighborhood food co-ops, anti-raw milk ads and press releases, and lawsuits against small-scale farmers.

As the FDA maintains, unpasteurized milk presents a potential health threat because it can carry bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. But according to the FDA’s own statistics, sickness related to raw milk only accounts for about 0.00008% of food borne illnesses.

And there’s plenty of other data suggesting that the regulatory crackdown on raw milk is a waste of time and money. According to the CDC, approximately 800 people have become sick from raw milk since 1998. That’s an average of 62 people per year, compared with the 76,000,000 Americans who become ill, the 325,000 who are hospitalized, and the 5,000 who die annually from federally inspected/accepted ‘safe’ foods. Milk, pasteurized or unpasteurized, isn’t even on the list of the ten riskiest foods regulated by the FDA. The number one risk? Leafy greens.

If our regulatory agencies were solely concerned with the potential for food to cause disease, closer scrutiny would be placed on the opaque network of industrial producers that are responsible for deadlier and more frequent outbreaks of foodborne illness. For example, a recent technical review by the USDA acknowledged the connections between antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the prophylactic use of antibiotics on animal farms. But as Tom Philpott reported last week in Mother Jones, the report disappeared from the USDA website after complaints from the meat industry. Regulatory agencies have continually shied away from limiting antibiotic usage in industrial feedlots in spite of a vast body of scientific evidence pointing to the serious health threats related to that practice, like the resistant strain of Salmonella in Cargill’s turkey meat.

So the raw milk debate isn’t really about public health. It’s about the right to choose local, non-corporate foods. Rawesome members signed a form acknowledging the possibility of microbe contamination in the food they received, and records in the Rawesome office would have helped members trace contamination back to the source if illness had ever occurred. In comparison, consumers who eat federally accepted foods have much less information about what they eat, where it comes from, and how it’s produced.

The real health problems caused by the American food system have little to do with raw milk. Sign now to tell the FDA: we have the right to choose what goes into our bodies.

zoe@freshthemovie.com

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Posted on August 17, 2011 - by

For Fish, Age is Not Just a Number


Image: Flickr/nhankamer

Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by FishWise, a non-profit sustainable seafood consultancy that helps seafood businesses improve the sustainability of their seafood offerings.

Yes, all aquatic animals have birthdays. Some live for a matter of days or weeks, and others can live forever. (Yes, really.)

Although we can’t ask a fish its age (it’s simply impolite), there are ways we can determine the length of time that an individual fish has been alive. One popular method for aging fish involves analyzing bones in their heads called otoliths (“oto” meaning ear and “lith” meaning stone). When an otolith is removed from a fish, sectioned into thin slices and viewed through a microscope, it reveals a pattern of light and dark concentric rings. The darker, denser rings are often formed in the winter when growth is slow and in the warmer months, when a fish is growing more quickly, a clearer ring is formed. A pair of rings is called an “annuli” and is similar to the rings found in trees. Count the annuli and you can determine a fish’s age.

So what does this have to do with the seafood you buy and eat? Often, slow-growing fish take a long time to reach reproductive age, which leads to a greater risk of that fish being caught, or dying of natural causes, before it has a chance to reproduce. Consider the orange roughy, which takes around 30 years to reach sexual maturity. Whenever you take a fish that is younger than that out of the water, that fish has not had a chance to reproduce, which in turn affects the abundance and diversity of the next generation. Additionally, you run the risk of negatively affecting other animals in the food chain.

This would all be easier to swallow if fisherman were catching a responsible amount of orange roughy, taking into account the number of fish in each year class becoming sexually mature and selectively catching only those individuals. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and instead we are seeing fewer, younger and smaller orange roughy reach our plates.

There are a number of species that are characterized by a very high growth rate and abundance, Pacific sardines being an excellent example. Most sardine fisheries are considered a “Super Green” option by the Monterey Bay Aquarium due to these biological factors and because they are generally well-managed and recognized for their low levels of bycatch and clean fishing techniques. Choices that are similarly sustainable are handline-caught mahi mahi from the U.S. Atlantic and U.S. farmed crawfish.

We don’t suggest you memorize the longevity of all of your favorite seafood; scientists have done that for you. Rankings systems such as that by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program take longevity and reproduction rates into account, so shop for seafood only on the green and yellow lists and you’re assured they’ll be around for you to eat well into your twilight years.

FishWise is a non-profit sustainable seafood consultancy that helps seafood businesses improve the sustainability of their seafood offerings through environmentally responsible business practices, such as policy development, employee training, sourcing assistance and point of sale information. This approach empowers consumer to make environmentally informed choices when purchasing seafood.

To learn more about sustainable seafood, visit www.fishwise.org or sign up for their mailing list.

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Posted on August 10, 2011 - by

Urban Gleaners: Challenging a System of Waste and Want

Photo courtesy of Urban Gleaners

Thirty-four million tons of food. That’s how much rots in landfills each year in the U.S. Meanwhile, 14.7 percent of households were food insecure last year, and one in six Americans relies on food stamps to get by. Why is such an astounding amount of food wasted when there are millions who need it?

“A lot of it has to do with poor distribution,” says Emily Kanter, the Development and Communications Coordinator for Urban Gleaners, a non-profit in Portland, OR. “It baffles me that people go hungry in America.”

Though Portland has been lauded as an epicurean mecca for local and seasonal produce, the truth is that Oregon ranks among the five hungriest states in the nation. To combat this, Urban Gleaners is trying to restore some balance to a food system that leaves some Americans bloated, and others starving. With the help of forty volunteers and a part-time driver, Urban Gleaners collects more than 45,000 pounds of food each month from high-end restaurants and grocery stores throughout the city. The food, which would otherwise be thrown away, is sorted and then distributed to local agencies that feed the hungry.

“It’s a pretty astounding amount of food to waste,” says Kanter. “I picked up around 400 pounds of zucchini and squash last week from a farmers market. We also pick up hundreds of pounds of bread and bananas– we never seem to run out of either bread or bananas.”

It was an excess of bread that prompted the organization’s expansion last year to include a Food To Schools program. Founder Tracy Oseran was trying to figure out what to do with a surplus of whole-grain loaves when she learned that hunger was a serious issue for students in some of Portland’s elementary schools. Food to Schools now delivers nutritious foods to six elementary schools in Portland’s David Douglas district, where 75 to 90 percent of children live below the poverty line, and many rely on subsidized school meals—which, Kanter notes, are constructed on nutritional guidelines that consider Corn Nuts a vegetable. Kate Barker, the principal of Cherry Park Elementary School, says that so far “Urban Gleaners has provided for hundreds of families. Some of these children come from homes where there is nothing in the cupboard.”

A primary goal for Urban Gleaners is to bring as much fresh produce as possible to food insecure households. Kanter says that the lack of support for specialized crops combined with massive subsidies for corn products makes it nearly impossible for low-income families to access fresh foods, particularly vegetables. The double burden of food insecurity and obesity is one outcome of that imbalance. Kanter thinks that healthy foods could be more accessible if there were a better system in place for redistributing unused food, and if food stamps were worth more when used to purchase produce.

Urban Gleaners acknowledges that redistribution does not directly alleviate the socioeconomic inequalities that create barriers to adequate nutrition. But, she says, “there are families that are starving right now, and food that can be made available to them. Ideally, there wouldn’t be any wasted food, but while there is we should do something about it. We want to draw attention to how much gets wasted.”

Local food insecurity is also part of larger compounding systems of poverty and unemployment. “It’s hard to look for work when you’re hungry. It’s hard to focus in school when you’re hungry,” says Kanter. So while working with lawmakers like Senator Ron Wyden to encourage long-term systemic change, Urban Gleaners focuses on making an immediate local impact. The organization also tries to provide opportunities within the community of recipients, for example by hiring a former resident of a participating shelter as a driver.

By creating a network of donors, volunteers, and receiving partners, Urban Gleaners works to promote resourcefulness and cooperation in the city. Kanter says that the most important part of signing up new donors is taking the time to build relationships and establish common ground. Accordingly, Urban Gleaners has typically has more success working with small, independent restaurants and grocers rather than large chains, simply because it’s more difficult to coordinate with a bureaucratic network.

The benefit of a model like Urban Gleaners, says Kanter, “is that it’s not impossible to do anywhere, if you take the time to make the connections.” Older food rescue organizations like New York’s City Harvest and Boston’s Food For Free have developed extensive networks, and there are signs that greater attention to distribution issues may be the next step for local food movements.

Although Kanter thinks that metropolitan areas are ideal contexts for forming establishing networks, she sees potential for rural communities to form effective partnerships with farmers and smaller producers of specialty crops. She notes that Oseran started Urban Gleaners with her two teenagers, one restaurant, and one agency;  ”If you have a car and some bags or bins, you can do what we do.”

zoe@freshthemovie.com

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Posted on August 10, 2011 - by

FRESH Giveaway: 9 Sustainable Food Books for Your Library!

Hey folks, are you in need of some end-of-summer reading? Hankering for a light tome on how to save the planet? We’re doing some cleaning and we’ve got a lot of books from the FRESH library that we’d like to give away! The following is a great collection of books on real food and ecofriendly living, and we want each of them to go to curious homes. Some of the books may have markings or light writing on the pages, but they’re all in good, legible condition.

The books up for grabs include the following:

  • What Can I Do? An Alphabet for Living by Lisa Harrow
  • Clean Plates NYC: A Guide to the Healthiest Tastiest Restaurants in Manhattan by Jared Koch
  • No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet by Colin Beavan
  • The End of Nature by Bill McKibben
  • The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need by Juliet B. Schor
  • Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad by Frances Moore Lappe
  • Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
  • Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg
  • Forty-Six Years of Pretty Straight Going by George Bellerose

To win a book: enter by commenting on this blog post below with the book(s) that you’d like to win and why you’re interested in it.

For additional chances to win:

  1. Follow us on Twitter and tell your friends about this giveaway: tweet Want to learn about Food Rules and Clean Plates? Enter the @FRESHthemovie sustainable book giveaway! http://bit.ly/ohEwwO
  2. Fan us on Facebook and comment on this post with the book(s) that you’d like to win and why.

The contest closes at 5 pm Eastern on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. We will randomly select a winner from the pool of people interested in each book, and contact them to get their mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!

Update: Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway and shared it with friends! The winners have been emailed and will be receiving their prizes shortly. Stay tuned for future giveaways!

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Posted on August 4, 2011 - by

The Meat Eater’s Guide: weighing the impacts on your health and the environment

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/infobunny/

There are two clear signs of summer in the air: the heat wave sweeping across the country, and the barbeque smoke drifting on the afternoon breeze. I imagine that most of us are a good deal more excited about the latter. Before you throw a pack of hotdogs on the grill, however, it’s worth checking out the new Meat Eater’s Guide from the Environmental Working Group.

The guide is based on an assessment of the environmental and health effects of various forms of protein, including meat, dairy, and legumes. Using a lifecycle analysis that followed twenty types of animal and vegetable products through the entire process of production—including the chemicals used to grow grain for livestock feed, the life of the animal, butchering, processing, transportation, cooking, and waste—the EWG, in conjunction with the environmental consulting firm CleanMetrics, was able to determine the total carbon footprint of our most popular forms of protein.

While it’s no secret that meat and dairy production is a significant contributor to rising levels of greenhouse gasses, the report details the products that may be particularly implicated in this sweltering summer. The EWG found that while all meat arrives on the plate with environmental side effects, some forms of protein are more destructive than others.

Lamb, beef, pork, cheese, and farmed salmon are the greatest polluters in terms of carbon and manure. Lamb generates 50 percent more carbon than beef, which itself emits twice as many greenhouse gases as pork, four times as many as chicken, and thirteen times as many as vegetable proteins such as lentils and soy. Cheese comes in a surprisingly high third place in emissions output. That’s because making cheese requires milk, which in turn requires cows and lots of feed. These foods (with the exception of salmon) are also heavily resource-intensive, meaning they require large quantities of fertilizer, feed, and water, and so tend to have the worst environmental impacts as well.

The EWG found that most of the greenhouse gas emissions from animal proteins are generated during the production phase, when the animals are still on the farm. Livestock and fish feed, digestion, and manure all contribute to production emissions. Emissions from plant proteins, by contrast, largely come from post-farmgate processing, transportation, and cooking.

The good news is that more ecologically sound forms of protein tend to be healthier choices for people as well. Being picky about your protein isn’t just for carbon crusaders: recent research suggests that it’s an important key to your own longevity and wellbeing. The use of antibiotics and hormones to promote livestock growth, and the concentration of toxins in conventionally produced meat present risks to consumers. Several epidemiological studies have found associations between high levels of meat consumption and being overweight, while the American Dietetic Association suggests that vegetarians have lower rates of obesity and chronic illness than meat eaters[1]. The consumption of red and processed meats, in particular, has been linked repeatedly to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. So, there are clear signs that eating meat in moderation, and using some vegetable sources for protein is the way to go.[2]

Climate change and cancer may seem like unrelated issues, but our best science demonstrates again and again that our ecological and physical health are intimately entwined. Given the rising costs of healthcare and the growing burden of chronic disease, it makes sense to practice preventative medicine at the supermarket and the dinner table. While simply eating, producing, and wasting less meat and dairy is the most effective way to make our food work for, not against, us, the EWG analysis suggests how to consume meat in a healthier way.

Eat less meat and dairy: Buying less meat overall makes it easier to afford healthier meat when you do buy it.  Most Americans exceed the government’s recommended daily allowance for protein, while only 1 percent of children and 4 percent of adults eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, Americans eat 60 percent more meat than Europeans. Try going meatless on Mondays, making meat a side dish instead of a main dish, or experimenting with plant-based proteins like lentils.

Choose local, certified organic, grass-fed meat: It reduces your exposure to antibiotics and hormones, supports your local or regional economy, requires fewer resources to produce, and pollutes less. In some cases, meat from grass fed animals is lower in fat and higher in nutrients than meat from conventionally raised livestock.

Avoid processed meats: Often loaded with sodium and nitrates, products like hot dogs, lunch meats, and chicken nuggets are energy-intensive to produce and have been linked with a variety of chronic illnesses.

Reduce waste: About 20% of edible meat gets thrown out. Buy appropriate portion sizes and use what you purchase.

Find out more: check out the EWG Eat Smart graphic, and find your local producers with the Eat Well Guide or the Eat Wild farm directory.

zoe@freshthemovie.com


[1] Craig WJ, Mangels AR. 2009. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109(7):1266-82.
[2] For more information on meat and your health, look at the references for the EWG report at http://breakingnews.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/footnotes-references/
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