Archive for the Miscellaneous Category

White House Farmer’s Market

Posted in Miscellaneous on September 17, 2009 by Powered By Produce

Two posts back-to-back?!  I just found this and thought it was a more than worthy reason to double-post today.

The White House Farmer’s Market opens today, demonstrating to all of the United States that the current administration is supportive of sustainable, healthy, humane, local food sources.

You can bet this is where I’ll be after work today!


Declare Your Independence

Posted in Industrialized Farming, Miscellaneous on September 5, 2009 by Powered By Produce

One of the most empowering actions for any paradigm challenger is the opt-out because it declares to one and all, “You do not control me.”  The time has come for those who are ready to challenge the paradigm of factory-produced food to make that declaration to both business and government (who established the existing system).  It is time to opt-out.

In America, you have the freedom to own guns, speak your mind, and assemble for a cause.  But you do not have the freedom to eat humanely rasied animals and pesticide-free produce.  The reason our forefathers did not include freedom of food choice in the Constitution is because they never could have envisioned the criminalized, bureaucratic, industrialized food system that we have today. 

People have short memories.  We all assume that whatever is, must be normal.  Industrial food is not normal.  Nothing about it is normal.  In the continuum of human history, what western civilization has done to food in the last century is but a blip, an experiment gone horribly wrong.  We have not been here before.  The three trillion members of our intestinal community have not been here before.  If we ate like humans ate for as long as we’ve existed, prior to about two generations ago, almost nothing in the supermaret today would be on our tables.

The lack of choice from which we now suffer is due to the governement farm subsidies that promote corn syrup and create a nation of diabetes sufferers; to the so-called inpectors that deem the most illogical practices, such as feeding dead cows to cows, as safe; to the corporate funded research that declared pumping animals full of antibiotics is sound science; and to the industrialized farm system that view animals as inanimate piles of molecular structure to be manipulated in any way the egocentric human mind can conceive.

(Today, industrialized pig farmers are trying to find the stress gene so it can be taken out of the pig’s DNA.  That way, the pigs can be abused, but they won’t be stressed about it.  In the name of all that is decent, what kind of ethics encourages such notions?!)

In the past few decades, Americans have been introduced to a plethora of new foodborne illnesses (lysteria, E. coli, salmonella, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, avian influenza). This is nature screaming at us, “Enough!” We have pushed nature to the limit, and its pleas go unheard upon the ears of human conquistadors who think they can forever tyrannize weaker species without eventual payback. 

But, if you plan to wait for government or “credentialed experts” to create ecologically, nutritionally, and emotionally friendly food, be prepared to wait a very long time.  Just imagine what a free-range, grass-fed herbivore paradigm would do to the financial and power structure of America…

Today, about 70% of all grains produced are fed to herbivores (who aren’t supposed to eat them).  If the practice of feeding grain to livestock ended, it would topple the grain cartel, reduce petroleum usage, reduce chemical usage, reduce machinery manufacture, and effectively eliminate bovine pharmaceuticals.  That’s a lot of economic inertia resisting change. 

So, if things are going to change, it’s up to you and me.  And we don’t even need to picket around the Capitol building, or dump cow manure on a McDonald’s parking lot.  The most effective force you and I can exert on the system is to opt-out.  Declare that we will not participate.

Instead, choose vegetarian, and choose local.  The only reason the local food system is still minuscule is because few people patronize it.  Chinese proverb: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  The non-industrial food system exists below the radar in every locality.  If you seek, you will find. 

We must adopt a proactive stance.  The power of many individual rights will compound to create a different culture.

Thoughts & Ramblings

Posted in Miscellaneous on August 26, 2009 by Powered By Produce

First things first: I received a personal comment from a loyal follower noting that he was very disappointed in my previous post because I simply copy/pasted out of the Time article and did not add my own opinion. My intention was to show that reputable news sources are reporting on this problem and that it’s not just something that I’m all wound up about because I have nothing better to do with my time. I apologize for any disappointment my previous post caused. You want my opinion, you get it!

Here are a few of the things I think about often:

1.) I went vegetarian thinking that I would still eat eggs and milk, but I quickly learned that egg laying hens are subject to the worst living conditions of all animals and that dairy cows live unhealthier lives than feedlot cows and are then slaughtered for ground beef. While I’d like to go vegan (no dairy, no eggs), it makes eating out difficult (even in a progressive city that accommodates vegetarians fairly easily). As author Michael Pollan said, “This is what can happen to you when you look. And what you see when you look is the cruelty – and the blindness to cruelty – required to produce eggs that can be sold for 79 cents per dozen.” I no longer eat eggs and no longer buy cheese for my house, but I still eat cheese when I eat out and I feel guilty about it afterwards. I picture the cows and the abuse they endure and it makes me extremely sad that I am so selfish that I haven’t been able to completely cut out cheese. I am trying, but I will try harder.

2.) More than one person has told me that they fear going vegetarian would upset their parents. I, personally, see no logic in this – a.) my parents support my choices, b.) I’m a grown-ass woman, and c.) why would anyone be so emotional about something as trivial as someone else’s eating habits, especially when the eating habit they are adopting is a more responsible one?

However, I do understand that fear of being different or being considered difficult to accommodate is unfortunately a real obstacle to going vegetarian. I struggled with this initially, and even endured some very unexpected badgering from some of my closest friends. (Why people feel the need to defend eating meat, and condemn those who don’t, baffles me. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism to try to justify their own choice?) But rest assured, most people eventually realize that your eating habits have absolutely no effect on them and it becomes a non-issue.

PS, at family gatherings, either my family will make me a vegetarian option (a meatless lasagna or bean tamales) because they support my choices, or I’ll simply eat the sides (Thanksgiving is just as delicious when your plate is loaded with mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, biscuits, and pumpkin pie).

3.) Vegetarianism is not an unreasonable response to the evils that exist in our current industrialized food operation. Yet, there are animals living on farms that contradict the nightmare ones. True, they are but needles in a haystack (literally, 1% humanely raised to 99% inhumanely raised), but their very existence suggests the possibility for change.

Yes, though these animals are raised humanely, they are killed, and as Matthew Scully (author of Dominion, a conservative Christian examination of the treatment of animals) said, “[predation is] the intrinsic evil in nature’s design… among the hardest of all things to fathom.” So, can I in good conscience eat a happy, sustainably raised chicken? (That’s a rhetorical question… for now.)

What I find most wrong with eating meat is the current practice, not the general principle. People who care about animals should be working to ensure that the ones they eat don’t suffer, that their deaths are swift and painless, and that they are eaten with the consciousness and respect they deserve.
Breakfast: Bagel with jelly
Lunch: Veggie sandwich from the deli downstairs: lettuce, tomato, avocado, sprouts, carrots
Diner: “Powerhouse” salad from Chop’t, loaded with superfoods: spinach, edamame, broccoli, carrots, dried cranberries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, & a lemon vinaigrette dressing

Growing Local Farm Movement

Posted in Miscellaneous, Organic on August 11, 2009 by Powered By Produce

Last week, CNN reported on the growing local food movement, or Community Supported Agricurture (CSAs). From the article:

[The farmers] describe their farming technique as “beyond organic,” saying they use no artificial fertilizers, growth hormones or antibiotics and don’t keep their animals penned up.

Life on their property — where cattle and sheep graze in open fields and chickens follow along to clean up after them — looks much like the classic image of a family farm. [The Farmers] say they consider themselves healers to both their customers and, according to their Web site, a food system that “had become a machine with little regard for food safety, food taste and animal welfare.”

“People are becoming very disconnected from the food system,” Liz Young said. “Buying from a local CSA or just shopping at a local farm, you can see where it’s coming from. You can talk to the farmers and figure out how the animals or the produce is raised.

Members of the nation’s handful of meat CSAs, and the thousands of others, offer a list of reasons.

The food is healthier and tastes better, they say. They like supporting their local economy. Eliminating cross-country delivery is better for the environment, as are the sustainable farming techniques the farmers tend to use.

“Being part of a CSA means that I know the first names of the people who are raising the meat I eat,” said Andrew Johnson of Kansas City, Missouri, a member of the Parker Farms meat CSA in Richmond, Missouri. “Whereas, with the meat I buy from the grocery store, I don’t know where it came from or who raised it.”

Others say they appreciate that animals from the usually small family farms don’t spend their lives in processing plants, conditions that advocates call inhumane.

Because CSA members deal with the farmers directly, they are able to visit the farms and see exactly how their food is produced. The transparency, they say, creates an incentive for farmers to raise their animals as naturally as possible.

“Is it as cheap as the lowest-price chicken in the grocery store? Absolutely not,” Tim Young said. “But with our prices and the prices of any sustainable farmer, you’ve got everything baked in: the cost to the environment, the cost to the health care system, the cost of producing that animal [in a humane way].”

“I don’t think it is significant, but if it does end up costing a bit more, it is still important to us to make this a priority,” he said. “There are other expenses I am willing to give up rather than give up a safe, trusted food source.”
Breakfast: Bagel with “better than cream cheese” (a non-dairy cream cheese subsitute)
Lunch: Veggie sub with avocado, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, shredded carrots, vinegar & oil
Diner: Burrito with beans, rice, zucchini, squash, peppers & salsa

The Most Dangerous Job in America

Posted in Health, Miscellaneous on July 28, 2009 by Powered By Produce

Sorry for the slow down in posts lately. My life got hectic with a business trip, moving apartments, then vacation, all back to back. But I’m back on track now & hope to pick up the pace on the blog again!

Just last week, the headlines read “Woman Found Dead at McDonald’s Food Processing Plant.” Although this is a single headline, this is not an isolated incident. Meatpacking is now the most dangerous job in the United States. The injury rate in slaughterhouses is three times higher than the rate in a typical American factory. Every year, more than one-quarter of the meatpacking workers in this country (roughly 40,000 men & women) suffer an injury or work-related illness that requires medical attention beyond first aid. And, there is evidence that the official numbers, reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are an underestimate and that thousands of injuries go unreported.

Lacerations are the most common injury, but meatpacking workers also suffer from tendinitis, back problems, shoulder problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, and trigger finger (a finger becomes frozen in a curled position). The rate of these cumulative trauma injuries is much higher in the meatpacking industry than in any other industry. It is thirty-three times higher than the national average. Slaughterhouse workers make a knife cut every 2 or 3 seconds, adding up to about 10,000 cuts during an 8 hour shift, and placing repetitive pressure on the workers’ joints, tendons, and nerves.

The speed of the assembly line is an accurate determinant for the number of injuries at a slaughterhouse. The original meatpacking plants slaughtered about 50 cows an hour. Twenty years ago, plants slaughtered about 175 cows an hour. Today, meatpacking plants slaughter about 400 cows an hour. One former nurse in a meatpacking plant said, “I could always tell the line speed by the number of people with lacerations coming into my office.”

Workers desperate not to fall behind (and risk losing their job), are encouraged to take methamphetamine (often sold to them by their supervisors). The widespread use of “crank” in the meatpacking industry only makes an already very dangerous job even riskier.

Because most of the workers in slaughterhouses are recent immigrants, many illegal, they can be fired at any moment, without warning. They may have traveled long distances for this job, could have families to support, and are earning more than they could back home, so there is huge pressure not to complain, and not to report injuries. The annual bonuses for plant supervisors is often based on injury rates.

From a purely economic point of view, injured workers are a drain. They are less productive, so getting rid of them makes sense when there are plenty of available replacements. Injured workers are often given easy, yet unpleasant tasks, their wages are cut, and they are encouraged to quit. This causes non-visible injuries (hand pain, back pain) to go unreported and untreated.
Breakfast: Lots of cherries!
Lunch: Spinach burrito from California Tortilla (Spinach, black beans, rice, tomato, onion, cilantro)
Dinner: Tom Yum Veggie soup (Thai lemongrass soup full of veggies, including broccoli, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, bean sprouts, those mini corn things, cilantro, and noodles)

Tweet Me!

Posted in Miscellaneous on May 18, 2009 by Powered By Produce

It was suggested by multiple people that I post my blog updates to twitter for easier following. I’ve never tweeted before, but I’m going to try it out. All you twitterers can subscribe to me here:

Also, I keep getting asked, “If you don’t eat meat, then what do you eat?” Well, I eat EVERYTHING ELSE! Our culture teaches us that meat must be the main dish at every meal, so it is hard for us to even conceive of an alternative. There are many other cultures around the world that eat heavily vegetarian diets and they seem to find plenty of options. To help give us Americans some ideas for meatless meals, I will begin to list what I ate (or plan to eat) that day at the bottom of each post. Just don’t judge me for not eating breakfast.
Breakfast: A few pieces of cantaloupe
Lunch: Leftover gnocchi (it’s like pasta, but made from potato) from Maggiano’smmm.
Dinner: Tacos made with either black beans or meatless crumbles (found in your frozen aisle), topped with all the fixin’s (lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, salsa verde, cheese). Lucky for me, I have some authentic hand-made tortillas from San Antonio (HEB Central Market) stockpiled in my freezer 🙂

Food of the Pharaohs

Posted in Miscellaneous on May 12, 2009 by Powered By Produce

I just got back from Egypt where the local cuisine was delicious! My favorite was Koshare which is a bowl of rice, noodles, lentils, carmelized onions, crushed tomatoes, and hot sauce.

I also enjoyed Fuul, which is a crushed up bean (similar to refried beans) served in a pita-like bread. And Fateer, which is a pastry-like dough stuffed with cheese and veggies (and/or meat), kind-of like an Egyptian pizza. Fresh-squeezed juices including mango, strawberry, and even banana juice, are available at all the restaurants and at juice shops, like the one below. In addition to the traditional Egyptian dishes mentioned above, the local cuisine had a heavy Mediterranean influence (after all, Egypt is on the Mediterranean sea), including hummus, babaganoush, yogurt, falafel, and other Mediterranean classics.

And of course, I could find all the basics I was used to, from pizzas and pastas to burgers and fries.