Agriculture


I have been a proponent for eco-labels for food.  But I wanted to share my most recent Whole Foods experience.  I went to Whole Foods in Portland, Maine and noticed that they had animal welfare labeling.  Great…I took some photos.  Then, I asked where I could find  Number 5 meat because I was curious as to the type and source of the highest rated products.  They told me that no number 5 or 4 meat exists in the store.  The highest rated chicken is 2, and the highest beef is 3 (and beef would be lower if environmental factors would considered).  Shouldn’t bigger and more animal friendly numbers be available now, or will this eventually and effectively increase consumer demand?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of social movements to create environmental change.  I know many sociologists and political scientists have studied grassroots environmentalism as a way to generate political change, but in the U.S., major environmental legislation hasn’t been passed for decades yet some sort of local environmental social movement is afoot as it relates to food.  People are genuinely interested in local and organic foods, regional food systems, composting, and universities are creating food-related programs.  While I think many of these positives have yet to fully address the problem of making alternative agriculture affordable, food is the most initimate natural resource we all use and perhaps can be a facilatator for a greater environmental movement.

…is the title of this interesting little opinion piece in the Times, offering up some ways to improve our food system.  One idea I like, but I’ve never heard discussed from a public policy standpoint is how to encourage people to cook.  The piece says:

Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they’re more stable. We should provide food education for children (a new form of home ec, anyone?), cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.

See here.

See here.  This press relaese uses loftier language than the actual opinion, but the crops must be removed from the ground.

 

I just finished reading “The Town That Food Saved” by Ben Hewitt.  It’s a must read for Vermonters who want to know more about the agricultural entrepreneurs in and near Hardwick, Vermont (enterprises like High Mowing Organic Seeds, Pete’s Greens, Claire’s, and the Center for Agricultural Economy).  I enjoyed the book both because it’s nice to read about a community in your home state, and because Hewitt recognizes the criticism placed upon high-priced organic artisanal food (something I discussed in an earlier post), and tries to define a successful localized sustainable food system (e.g., economic vitality to small-scale producers, it must feed locals, based on sunshine rather than fossil fuels).  Unfortunately, the issue of price/affordability remains, and in his book (and in my own work), there remains no answer of how to make healthy sustainable food more affordable in the face of industrial agriculture.  At the end of the book, Hewitt seems to suggest that an economic collapse of the industrial food model may result in price reorganization, but I’m more skeptical of such a collapse and instead have come to belief that big business (e.g., Wal-Mart) will instead seek to control the organic market where these large firms then bring smaller farms under their control by dictating production quantities and growing conditions.

Finally, yesterday I posted about the new Food Safety Bill passed by the Senate.  It seems Hewitt has his own take on the bill.

See here.

UPDATE: Sen. Sanders (I-VT) has a press release on the issue, “Senate Passes Food Safety Bill, Sanders Provision Protects Small Farmers and Processors.”

UPDATE 2: Process Mistake May Kill Food Safety Bill

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