Posts Tagged ‘food’

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Grazin’ Angus: You are what your beef eats

by The Green A-Team

Why should the beef you eat be grass-fed?

As omnivores, we’re left to fend for ourselves at the local grocery with little knowledge on how cheaply processed foods are assembled or how they’re responsible for the health and even greater economic problems we endure.

In the meat section, you’ve likely been exposed to beef marked as “grass-fed” but you may not know the reasons why we should buy it or how it’s better for us.

Cattle farmer Dan Gibson of Grazin’ Angus Acres:

When you finish just with grass and not those three months on grain laced with antibiotics and hormones, you get a 10-fold increase in beta-carotene, you get a 60% plus increase in omega 3, you get the same benefit of eating wild salmon as you do, not farm raised salmon, but wild salmon.

No antibiotics, no hormones, and no grain.  Seems like no brainer!

For our more on sustainable agriculture check out the following links and click here for our full interview with Dan Gibson.

Word of the day: Permaculture

Do you know where your breakfast comes from? (Brooklyn Farmer)

Anna Lappe, Author and Food Activist

The Anti-Commodity Dairy Farmer, Dr. Samuel Simon

Photo by jon-e.

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Curt Ellis, Co-Creator of King Corn

by The Green A-Team

I’m speaking today with one of the creators of the documentary film, King Corn, he’s also a Food and Society Policy fellow with the Kellog Foundation.

Q: At the very beginning of the film you talk about how our generation is at risk of having a shorter life span based on the foods we eat, specifically regarding the omnipresence of corn in our diet.  Was there one thing in particular that really calcified this fear and got you off the coast and in the corn belt?

A: I think it was that announcement in a major medical journal.  Around that time I was graduating from college, that my generation, I’m in my 20s, my generation is likely to have a shorter life expectancy than my parents generation and that’s something that’s really never happened before and it’s a result of this incredible explosion of obesity.  The fact that obesity has doubled in the last 30 years in this country and now according to the CDC one in three kids is on a path to develop type-2 diabetes.  So we’re seeing this tremendous explosion of healthcare problems that really are being caused by the way we feed ourselves.

Q: Specifically, how is corn putting us at risk of a shorter life span?

A: Corn is the basis for fast food in our country.  When we go to McDonalds or Burger King and order a fast food meal, the hamburger is fed corn in confinement and as a result it’s higher in saturated fat than a grass fed cow would be; the soda is almost completely corn because of high-fructose corn syrup; and french fries are fried in corn oil or soybean oil and all those weird polysyllabic food ingredients like propylene glycol and citric acid, those are corn too.  So really what we’ve done is, in the last half-century, create an industrial food system that uses these highly processed commodities like corn and soybean to fuel a conversion from eating fresh food and nutritious food to eating these empty calories like high-fructose corn syrup.

Q: You and Ian looked like you guys were having a pretty good time throughout the film, was there ever a point where farm life seemed to be getting just a little too much for you guys?

A: Definitely!  We moved to Iowa with this expectation that we were gonna spend our first year out of college as farmers and I think we brought with us a lot of expectations as far as what that meant.  I remember a friend of us gave us work gloves because he imagined we’d be out digging in the soil with a shovel but the reality was completely different and it’s a sign of just how disconnected from agriculture most Americans have become.  For us, farming was not at all like gardening.  If you’re growing 1000 acres of corn or soybeans, it’s about driving giant tractors, spraying some pretty intense herbicides, injecting gaseous ammonia fertilizer into the field.  It was, to us, a totally different experience than we imagined.

Q: It’s all machines now.

A: You know, we didn’t touch the soil with our hands once in the course of growing 10,000 pounds of food and that, on a cultural level, was a real shock to us.  We have this incredible bounty coming from the land but very little interaction with it.

Disturbing.  In your interview with former Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, seemed to be one of the most tense and poignant moments on screen.  Having served for 5 years in that position, Buts is depicted as having probably the greatest effect on the US farm program in history.  Has there been much change to the Farm Bill he created in 1973 that indicates that the overproduction of commodity corn is being addressed?

A: No, there’s been piece meal change over the last 40 years.  But the way our farm subsidy systems work today, like in the early 70s, channels an incredible amount of tax dollars to promote the production of a handful of commodities, the commodities that become the basis for fast food and processed food.  In the last 10 years, we’ve spent more than 50 billion dollars just on promoting corn production through federal subsidies.  And we’re not subsidizing fruits and vegetables, the kind of things we know are healthy for us so what we’ve done is tinker with the free market and create a new system in which fast food and processed food and processed commodities are artificially cheap and abundant.  And the foods we know are good for us, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the things we know are good for the land like conservation practices, those things have not received their fair share of subsidies.

Q: Are we gonna need some new sort of fast food chain of natural foods in order to combat this?  I mean, what can we do?

A: Well, there’s certain things consumers can do if you decide you don’t wanna feed your kids high fructose corn syrup it’s probably gonna make them healthier to not have too many empty calories in their diet but the bigger thing we can do is become policy advocates in however small a way.  One reason the farm subsidy program has stayed intact for the last 40 years and is working against us as consumers and against farmers, family farmers, one reason that program has stayed intact is because there has been no outcry from the public.  Most of us have just assumed that farm subsidies only apply to farmers or to the “farm states” but the reality is this is also a food bill, the farm bill is a food bill, and the way we grow food and the kind of food we promote affects our health down the line and affects what we see when we walk into the supermarket which right now is a whole lot of processed corn and soybeans.

Q: Have you continued your farming practices after this whole thing?

A: I haven’t.  I will admit, I’m part of a growing number of people in my generation who want to get back to the land in some way and it’s pretty important.  The typical farmer now is around 55 years of age so there’s about to be a tremendous turnover in who’s farming the land and what they’re growing.  So I’m off the farm for now and making films like King Corn and traveling around showing them to people.  My desire in the long run is to be a farmer and to not just grow commodities on a 2000 acre scale but also grow some food for direct consumption.

Q: Any more films of this nature that we can expect from you guys?

A: Yeah, we just finished a documentary about the first big green residential building in Boston.  It’s a film called the Greening of Southie and it’s basically the story of couple hundred blue collar jobs going green and I think in many ways it comes from the same place as King Corn which is this idea that we live in the most advanced country in the world but we pay almost no attention to the fundamental things - food and clothing and shelter - which at the end of the day, are still the most important things.  King Corn’s a film about where our food comes from and the Greening of Southie is a film about the buildings we live in.

Photo by Ian Cheney | Independent Lens | PBS

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New Year’s Revolution

by The Green A-Team

If becoming green is on your list of resolutions this new year, why not start with the party?

Planning a sustainable New Year’s celebration takes more than just balloons. It means working to ensure that almost everything from the lights to the decor produces little to zero lingering waste.

Here are some tips to stay green while tipsy:

1.) Buy food that’s locally and sustainable grown and put up a sign that lets your guests know it.

2.) Send web invitations for your party. With a colorful card on a computer screen, you can get more creative, invite more people, and generate no waste.

3.) Make an extra effort to recycle hard goods and compost your food waste.    If you don’t have a compost container, put it aside for someone who does.

4.) Organize a carpool and encourage public transportation. This will not only keep gas guzzling down but leave extra room for food & drink guzzling at your celebration.

For more sustainable party tips, have a gander at some of these sites:

Sustainable Party: Where your green event planning prowess begins!

Sustainable Table: Serving up healthy food choices

How to go green: New Years (

Having a green New Year’s Eve (

Photo by Tokyo Boy.

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Urban Farmers Almanac:
Predictions of Plenty in Times of Need

by The Green A-Team

One of the hottest topics in food is to go from farm to table.  But what if you live in the middle of a city?

Urban farming is not as strange as it may sound.  All over the world, city dwellers with roots in agricultural communities have taken to the rooftops and vacant lots to harvest they’re own crops, raise bees, and even livestock.

The East New York Farm United Community Center is one such urban agricultural oasis that thrives in one of the most economically depressed areas in the country.

Sarita Daftary, Youth Program Coordinator and Project Director.

“Before we even started our project, East New York had over 140 registered gardens. So what we really started to do was to support those gardens and use them as a resource for food production.  And we also added in the youth training component and leadership development.”

Success stories like 12 year old interns going on to start their own farms to senior citizens organizing farmers markets and helping to feed those in need are just two examples of the power of organized urban farming.

For more on East New York Farms and urban farming, visit the links below.

East New York Farms! Blog

Urban Agriculture Notes (

Urban Agricluture News

An Abbreviated List of References and Resource Guides (USDA)

Heavy Petal (Gardening: From a West Coast Urban Organic Perspective)

See below for the full slideshow of our trip to the East New York Farms.

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What’s your carbon FOOD print?

by The Green A-Team

By now you’ve identified your carbon footprint but what about your carbon food print?

According to Michael Pollan’s most recent open letter to the President-Elect, issues like food prices and antiquated agricultural standards are being ignored.

He says, “After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy - 19 percent.” Clearing land for crops, chemical fertilizers made from natural gas, pesticides made from petroleum, farm machinery emissions, modern food processing and packaging and transportation all add up to a food industry that takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce one calorie of modern supermarket food.

The good news is that because of the two-headed crisis of food and energy in our country, Americans are more mindful of the food they’re purchasing, it’s safety, and healthfulness than ever before.  Support for reform from both sides of the aisle suggests the current agricultural machine is decidedly broken and the market for organic, local, and humane practices is thriving as never before.

For more on Michal Pollan and ways to combat the food energy crisis, click here.

Photo by ms4jah(still in indonesia)

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Anna Lappe, Author and Food Activist

by Rich Awn

Discussed: Disconnect/Phobia of Nature, Community Supported Agriculture, Federal Trade Commission, Industry Supported Lies, Center for Global Food Issues, Chemical Farming, Monsanto, Against the Grain, Permaculture and Ancient Agriculture

There are a few voices that speak with resonant clarity through the noise of the “too much information generation.”  They are the conscientious mavericks whose passion and diligence in finding the truth of things have elevated them beyond mere mortal thoughtless drones but as hyper-human change makers, or as we like to call them, superheroes.

One such individual is Anna Lappe, co-autohor of Grub and Hope’s Edge, founding principal for the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund.  Her literary work brandishes a samurai blade in the face of the chemically tainted, spurious battle against the evils of the commercial agriculture and biotech industries.  Her ambitious work with the Small Planet Institute prods and ignites the basic human tendency toward social mimicry by generating a broad spectrum of “entry points” through media to understand, accept, and impart democratic social change.

See below for more photos from the MINI Space Rooftop: Sustainability Roundtable Discussion:

Q: First I wanna talk about living in an urban environment and how there’s a disconnect with nature and even a phobia, in some cases, with school children.  How do you think that we should be dealing with that?

A: That’s a very good question and one I’ve thought a lot about as a New Yorker for the past 10 years, one of the things that I always remind myself is that eating food, which we have to do on a daily basis, is our most direct connection to nature and someone who lives in a city, as you said, it’s not so often that we necessarily get our feet on dirt that we are consuming nature through the food that we eat.  Of course, many times for many of us, the food that we eat is many steps removed from nature but the closer we can get to connecting to food that is in it’s most whole, natural form is one of the best ways I think to connect to the environment and to do that through whole foods and through seasonal foods is a really powerful way to do that.

Q: You think Community Supported Agriculture programs are also a good way?

A: Absolutely.  So here in New York City, Community Supported Agriculture farms are completely taking off.  The concept behind a CSA farm, as they’re called, is this really beautiful idea that those of us who aren’t farmers but who are eaters and want to support farms can actually become a shareholder in a farm and give that farmer the money that they need up front to farm the way we want them to farm without chemicals and creating real food for us and then throughout the harvest season, get food from that farm, and there are now dozens of CSA farm communities here in New York City.  A really fabulous organization called Just Food is spearheading it here, but there are actually now more than 1000 CSA farms across the country and it is a really powerful way to connect to great food and to support farmers.

Q: What’s up with Greenwashing in food advertising?  Does America have a food culture, number one, and how can we break from our omniverous habits?

A: Well, Greenwashing I think is becoming more and more prominent across all industries including food as companies realize that more of us care, that we’re freaking out about climate change, that we’re worried about the environment and so it’s really important in that context that we become really savvy consumers of media messages about Greenwashing and to really be able to tell the real deal from just the Green hype and there are all kinds of ways we can do that.  We can also do things like speak up to the Federal Trade Commission that’s determining what they call “The Green Guides” in other words, the “rules” that they set about what a company can say and can’t say and ask them to set really strict standards so that we are protected from Greenwashing as consumers.

Q: Can we call them or email them?  How do we get in touch with the FTC?

A: The FTC, part of government that you might not think too much about, but the Federal Trade Commission is what protects us consumers from fraud of all kinds and they also set their Green Guides as their policies for what companies can say about their environmental friendliness and increasingly there are lots of companies that are making environmental claims whether their carbon neutral or carbon negative even, I’ve seen, or whether they are eco friendly or all natural.  These are vague claims that have very little meaning so the FTC is trying to determine how do we actually be more specific about that.  Increasingly, the food industry, as they come under fire for being such an important contributor to climate crisis, I see the food industry increasingly coming out with Green messages about their products.

Q: Are the FTC regulations different from USDA?

A: Yes, totally separate.  In the FTC’s Green Guides regulations I should specify, they’re actually not laws in the same way that the USDA Organic Standard is a certifiable standard that you have to follow strict rules around and you can get sued if you go outside of those certification standards where as the Green Guides are just guidelines.  I think the other great thing that we can look for when it comes to food that’s good for the environment is to look for the USDA organic certification; that’s a verifiable claim, there are standards behind it and it’s something we can trust.

Q: You brought up the IPCC and “scientific” organizations funded by commercial agriculture.  Who can we trust?

A: I, as someone who is constantly on the search for the truth, and I think that the number one thing that I do whenever I read any claim or even read people quoted in the newspapers is go behind the name of the organization to really look at who’s funding that organization and so, there are a lot of groups, really front groups, that are funded by the chemical industry for instance but have very neutral sounding names that to you and I might not raise an eyebrow.  So for instance, the Center for Global Food Issues, have you ever heard of it?

Q: No.

A: What is the Center for Global Food issues?

Q: Probably some amazing altruistic .org that I should be contributing to.

A: So have you ever heard of DOW, Dupont, Sargento, Monsanto…?

Q: Those are the top five worst polluters in the world, yes.

A: So the Center for Global Food Issues, is a project of the Hudson Institute and the Hudson Institute is funded in part by some of those companies that I just mentioned.  We can go to sources, I love resources like, is a great website.  You can actually go to that website and put the name in of one of these organizations that you read about and find out, is it a altruistic organization that’s created to get to the truth behind big issues or might there be another alternative agenda.

Q: How evil is Monsanto?

A: Hmm… well, let’s see.  Seeing as Monsanto has a habit of suing people who speak negatively about them, I don’t know if I want to answer that question on record.  In fact, Monsanto affected me very directly, affected my family very directly, my father before he passed away had written for his last book had written a book called Against the Grain that was a scientific evaluation of the claims by Monsanto about whether or not their crops actually yeilded more food, you know that’s one of the claims we hear from the biotech industry, and his book raised some serious questions about the Monsanto promise and their technology.  It was actually at his publisher ready to go to print when his publisher received a 7 page letter from Monsanto lawyers saying, we just wanna let you know, if you publish this book, we might come after you and at the time his publisher did not have an insurance policy his publisher got very worried about having to battle with such a large company like Monsanto who has been successful in suing many farmers and journalists and they pulled the book.  Ultimately my father was able to find a Maine-based publisher called Common Courage Press. I’ve always thought his book had a very different feel to it when it was published by this more left-leaning press than it would’ve been had it had been published by a New York City mainstream textbook publishing house, and that was just my own family’s experience of what this company is doing in terms of stifiling real debate and the fact that they have been so aggressive in going after scientists and journalists who truly just want to engage the public in debate to me, is some of the most profound evidence that this company is not interested in really letting the truth out not interested in really having the public know all the facts and make a decision based on facts.

Q: A topic that I’m super interested in is sustainable agriculture, namely Permaculture, and I wanted to get your thoughts on Permaculture and the return to ancient agricultural practices and do you see this as a trend?  Can we expect to see more of this in the US and worldwide?

A: There’s been this very strategic and very smart way in which those companies that have been promoting chemical agriculture have painted anything other than technology defined as using chemicals, technology defined as using genetically engineered crops that have been created in a laboratory, that anything other than that is backward that if we want to support anything other than that, that we’re Luddites or that we don’t care about progress.  It’s been a real battle that many people have been fighting now for decades to actually reframe the story and to show people that tapping into natural cycles of fertility and natural cycles of abundance and tapping into much of that ancient wisdom about how we fed our selves for centuries and centuries before all these chemicals came around that by tapping into that wisdom is not going backward it’s actually taking us into the future. I just heard Michael Pollen the journalist say that it’s “post Industrial farming,” and as I like to say it’s really about tapping into the best of ancient wisdom with the best of what we know about science and what we’re discovering is that we can actually take this form of farming even farther than we ever knew was possible in the sense that we’re seeing higher yields than we ever thought was possible through getting off of the chemical treadmill there’s been all kinds of new studies coming out that show that organic farming is a really powerful way to sequester carbon in the soil so this false tradeoff between forests and farms is one that we can shatter that idea by showing that farms can be this important way for us to sequester carbon.  There are all kinds of ways in which these traditional methods actually have a place in our modern world even more so than any of us could ever believe.

Photo by rich_awn.

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Converted Organics (cont.):
Full Interview with Ed Gildea, CEO

by The Green A-Team

With a third of our country’s waste problem completely avoidable, it’s interesting to follow the progress of a developing market that hinges on it’s removal and recycling.

Ed Gildea, CEO of Converted Organics, shared a few moments with us to discuss the process and ethos of turning food waste into organic fertilizers.  Ed’s background in law and finance coupled with the sustainable business policies formulated by his brother, Bill Gildea, set him up as one of the leading visionaries in the restructuring of American waste stream management.

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Cutting Edge Breakthrough: Organic Composting Factories

by The Green A-Team

Every year 25 million tons of solid waste is entering our landfills but can it be used to grow healthier crops?

With food prices choking our wallets, you may be surprised how wasteful Americans are with food. Whether it’s fresh food gone bad or throwing good food out, 27 percent of all edible food produced in the US never even makes it to our plates.

One company though sees the food waste stream as a way to benefit the community. Ed Gildea, CEO of Converted Organics.

With forward-thinkers like Ed, our country’s mounting trash may soon be a thing of the past and the promise of a Greener future.

Here’s some more on Converted Organics and information on home composting.

Photo by rotomotor.

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Unnatural Roots of the Food Crisis

by The Green A-Team

Full BBC article here.

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It is a good ol’ battle of tradition versus change. With supplies low and prices up, Gonzalo Oviedo acknowledges that the most obvious solution to the current food crisis is to increase food production. However his approach certainly differs. Oviedo finds the techniques utilized by corporations to increase food production to be overly sycophantic towards the agricultural commodity and crippling to the ecosystem that supports it.

Like a good science experiment, it is always good to introduce new approaches. The solutions Oviedo offers involve a more localized form of agriculture that is suitable for the natural environment as well as adaptive to the climate changes. But with corporations unlikely to change their tune about an established way of profit, it may be more ideal for Oviedo to offer solutions that is adaptive to the controlling school of thought.

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