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Food Inc.

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I saw this movie for the first time last night on PBS. Powerful stuff.

Of course we all know the evils of Agri-farming, feed lots, battery chickens, etc., but this movie brought it into sharp focus.

Before the closing credits the producers encouraged the audience to buy from farmers who treat their product, people and the environment with respect. OK, I'm up for that but how can you tell? 
post #2 of 29
Farmers markets are usually a good bet at the very least you know they are local and seasonal produce that are fresh. Its more expensive but there is a lot of variety and it isn't big agribusiness. I wish I could get food there all the time but currently I am in college and dirt poor. Lentils, beans, rice, potatoes and eggs poor. Anyway if you have a job and can afford it its really worth your time. You get to build relationships with the people who produce your food and you know where its coming from.
"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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post #3 of 29
There have been several discussions about Food Inc. started on this site you may want to check those out too.  Since I watched Food Inc. I've done many things differently.

First of all I read all ingredients in what I buy.  It is incredibly difficult to stay away from corn products, almost everything has some form of corn.  My main goal is to stay away from high-fructose corn syrup.

Secondly, I shop organic with more conviction and less guilt (over the price) because now I consider buying these products as "voting" with my dollars.  My vote is to bring more organic products into the market which will hopefully drive the prices down.

What I find most shocking is the "meat filler" that is laced with ammonia.  I haven't ordered a hamburger since I saw that.  Now if I want a burger I go to the butcher, pick out a piece of chuck and watch them grind it for me.  What a terrible solution to e-coli they have devised when all they need to do is feed cows grass instead of corn.

Corn fed fish?  Abominable!

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 29
Farmers markets are usually a good bet at the very least you know they are local and seasonal produce that are fresh.

This is one of those statements that actually confuse and confute the issue. How so? Because we tend to jump on this sort of sloganeering, and make broad assumptions as a result.

In point of fact, shopping at a farmers market does not guarantee that the food there is either local or seasonal. It depends on the rules of the jurisdiction, regulations regarding use of the term "farmers market," and the by-laws voted on by the specific farmers market.

I know of one case where the market allows "up to" 40% not being grown by the vendor. Just think about that. Almost half the produce being sold could legitimately be bought at the nearest terminal market. The same stuff sold in the supermarket, only more expensive.

Just to put a point on it, that market opened for the season two weeks ago. Among the offerings were green beans and tomatoes. Fresh & locally grown? You betcha. Locally grown in South America. And fresh---well, sometime.

"Local" is also a nebulous term. Sometimes it's just a convention. Ask ten locovores how they define local and you'll get 12 different answers. And sometimes it's defined legally. For instance, the Kentucky Proud rules allow agricultural products grown up to 50 miles into an adjoining state, to be labled as such. You wanna add up the square mileage of a 50 mile swath extending into 8 states? That's a whole nuther state right there. But legally stuff produced there is locally grown in Kentucky.

Most states with similar programs have anomolies like that, particularly with value-added products. Here's an extreme (but not made up) example. I will refrain from naming the state, to protect the guilty. A farmer grows blackberries is State X. They are shipped to China, where they are converted into pulp. The pulp is shipped to Canada, where it is converted into blackberry jam (using, of course, the infamous high fructose corn syrup). The jars are then shipped to market, legally bearing a label that says "product of State X."

Or consider "locally grown in California." What does that mean, in a state that stretches a thousand miles? Is California local any different than importing from Mexico? Or, to use the cant, buying any 1,500 mile tomato?

"Organic" is another one of those unfortunate buzzwords. The fact is, the organics you buy in the supermarket are not locally produced by small, diverse growers concerned with the land. They are grown and distributed by the organics divisions of factory farms. And, with the exception that they are not blanketing the land with synthetic ag chemicals, it is exactly the same food, grown & distributed the same way, as their conventional produce. In fact, the high cost of such organics isn't because it costs more to deliver, but because they can get away with it.

On the other hand, organics produced by local, small, diverse stewards of the land do cost more to produce. No amount of dollar voting is going to change that.

So, if you buy from the small local producer, you're getting true organics, and will have to pay more for them. If you're buying in the supermarket, you're getting something no different than the stuff in the bins next to it, and are overpaying.

Let's also remember that muck-raking, by definition, means to take an extreme position. Neither Food Inc. nor any similar expose is taking an objective look at the subject. Rather, it is trying to "prove" a contention, and picks and chooses examples for that purpose. In this case, it looks at the most extreme cons, and totally ignores the pros. Such so-called documentaries are designed to polarize, not solve problems.

To put that in perspective: Recently a man was arrested for mistreating his horses. There were 22 of them in a paddock, underfed, sick, some dead. A muck-raking film maker could, if he wanted, use that as a springboard to "prove" of how the thoroughbred industry mistreats its horses, and that changes need to be made. Such a documentary would be neither accurate nor objective.

And what's wrong with corn-fed fish? Sport fisherman have used corn as bait for at least a century. Should I not eat that wild trout I hooked because it recognized Libby's as food?

If you want to use corn-fed as a symbol for the problems associated with aquaculture, then let's discuss the pros and cons of aquaculture. But broad-based comments such as corn-fed fish being abominable are neither meaningful to the conversation nor accurate.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 29
Grower's Only Markets.

California has a farmer's market inspection system that regulates growers.

As a chef that founded and ran 2 growers only markets for 7 years I agree with KY....do your homework....more importantly just be aware of where your is being grown (if possible how).

Years ago there were a lot of us in the forefront who were discussing price of comparable products....grocery store vs farmers' markets.  Frankly during the season you can get great produce many times lower than from stores.  

I'm sure there are many threads related to this one in the archives, let's see if I can pull one up.

* it's better to do something rather than nothing....don't let it all be overwhelming.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #6 of 29
My daughter became a vegetarian after watching Food Inc.

Even my husband, who can practically drink bacon drippings, wants to eat organic meat now
post #7 of 29
I have bought only organic meat for over 20 years (long before it became fashionable)

I try to buy local and seasonal veggies and fruits - but here in the UK this woud mean never eaten certain fruits and veggies for nearly 7 months of the year (unless you absolutely adore root vegetables and brassicas!

I have always checked the ingredient lists on any product I intend to buy...   and if it is high in additives, I don't buy.
post #8 of 29
As a chef that founded and ran 2 growers only markets for 7 years I agree with KY....do your homework....

"Growers only." That, indeed, is the issue. Lexington has two farmers market organizations, one is a growers only, the other is not. But they're both called "farmers markets."

As with so many things, however, there is the strength of belief involved, and it's interesting to hear those buying at the not-growers-only one describe the freshness and better flavor of the produce sold there over what they buy in the supermarket. Yeah, right!

In addition to growers-only vs. not, there are other issues of nomenclature. In many areas of the country the phrase "farmers market" is used to describe what is actually a terminal market. And, again, if you bought stuff at one of them you are getting the same stuff sold in regular markets.

The same syndrome applies to virtually all alternative agriculture. There is nothing about a CSA, for instance, that makes the food supplied inherently better than what you buy at the supermarket. For sure, many, perhaps most, of them do grow using organic methods, and choose heirloom varieties. But there's nothing in any rules I've ever read that says they have to, and I'm sure there are CSAs out there that grow hybrids using synthetic chemicals---and maybe harvest a little longer before delivery than is inferred. If you join a CSA, and don't actually visit the farm, shame on you.

So, the base line, as Shroomgirl implies, is to not accept what others say. Do your own research and find out what is being grown, and how, and where it really comes from.

You have a choice, when it comes to controlling what you eat. You can make an informed decision, or you can react to somebody's flag waving.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 29
Jock,

Try these 2 links to find grass-fed meat farmers and local vegetable farmers / CSAs in your area.  http://www.localharvest.org/  http://www.eatwild.com/

And as far as corn-fed fish, I thought the concern was that fish raised on corn did not have the higher concentrations of omega-3 fats that are a primary reason people eat fish.  I'm sure my recollection is oversimplifying it, but I thought it boiled down to the fact that corn-based feed removed most of the health benefits of eating fish.

Rob
post #10 of 29
but here in the UK this woud mean never eaten certain fruits and veggies for nearly 7 months of the year

That is the fundemental issue, Ishbel, and the one the muck-rakers ignore.

The fact is, people want to eat tomatoes in January. And they want affordible beef. And they've gotten used to exotic foodstuffs grown in far-away climes. And as long as that situation prevails, food quality, overall, will never improve.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jock View Post

I saw this movie for the first time last night on PBS. Powerful stuff.

Of course we all know the evils of Agri-farming, feed lots, battery chickens, etc., but this movie brought it into sharp focus.

Before the closing credits the producers encouraged the audience to buy from farmers who treat their product, people and the environment with respect. OK, I'm up for that but how can you tell? 

Simple, go and visit.

  Any producer with the type of values that the show purveyed will have no problem giving a prospective buyer a tour of their facilities. Buying that local also reduces the carbon footprint of the products you would be buying.
"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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post #12 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

"Organic" is another one of those unfortunate buzzwords. The fact is, the organics you buy in the supermarket are not locally produced by small, diverse growers concerned with the land. They are grown and distributed by the organics divisions of factory farms. And, with the exception that they are not blanketing the land with synthetic ag chemicals, it is exactly the same food, grown & distributed the same way, as their conventional produce. In fact, the high cost of such organics isn't because it costs more to deliver, but because they can get away with it.

On the other hand, organics produced by local, small, diverse stewards of the land do cost more to produce. No amount of dollar voting is going to change that.

So, if you buy from the small local producer, you're getting true organics, and will have to pay more for them. If you're buying in the supermarket, you're getting something no different than the stuff in the bins next to it, and are overpaying.

Let's also remember that muck-raking, by definition, means to take an extreme position. Neither Food Inc. nor any similar expose is taking an objective look at the subject. Rather, it is trying to "prove" a contention, and picks and chooses examples for that purpose. In this case, it looks at the most extreme cons, and totally ignores the pros. Such so-called documentaries are designed to polarize, not solve problems.

...And what's wrong with corn-fed fish? Sport fisherman have used corn as bait for at least a century. Should I not eat that wild trout I hooked because it recognized Libby's as food?

If you want to use corn-fed as a symbol for the problems associated with aquaculture, then let's discuss the pros and cons of aquaculture. But broad-based comments such as corn-fed fish being abominable are neither meaningful to the conversation nor accurate.

I think the purpose of Food Inc. is to be extreme.  Let's face it, we now live in a society where people are afraid of real food.  I have so many friends who "won't touch raw chicken cause it's gross" which results in them eating chicken nuggets or "boneless skinless chicken breasts" at best.  Even if the documentary is a bit extreme it serves the rightful purpose of getting people to ask the question that has been supressed for dozens of years:  What is in my food and where does it come from?

My choice to buy organic may be naive as you imply, but at least I'm taking some sort of action.  I definitely taste a significant difference between regular milk and organic milk and that's reason enough for me.  Also, doing research is easier said than done.  It's a very confusing industry and I don't know where to begin.  I take in information as it comes to me and make the best choices I possibly can based on the knowledge I have.  There are some people that know more than I do, and some people that know less.  But at least I'm on the journey of learning and know more than I did 2 years ago as I'm sure I will know more in 2 years than I know now. 

Part of my learning comes from testing products on my own.  Since conducting a fair amount of research (which I admit was pretty fun) I now realize I really like grass fed beef - sure it has a much milder flavor than corn fed which takes getting used to but I sincerely like the idea that I'm supporting the practice of grass fed.  Do I know everything about it though?  No and I don't claim to.

I don't know about corn-fed fish.  I don't buy it because it seems strange to me, there's something not right about it - but you go ahead.

Eating out of season is a big concern to me.  I grew up on a farm and ate local produce grown in our farms.  I remember eating seasonally - that means no tomatoes in January unless they were frozen since the summer.  I always get a kick out of greek salads at restaurants.  They have lettuce and tomatoes in them - in greece that would never happen since lettuce and tomatoes grow in opposite seasons.  It will either be a tomato salad or a green salad but not both.  I'm fine with this.  Can you imagine how awful figs would taste if we could get them year round?  That's the problem... people have stopped tasting real food.  We are so de-sensitized to the food industry and I'm glad that a program like Food Inc. can shed some light.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #13 of 29
My choice to buy organic may be naive as you imply,

I didn't, for a second, mean to imply that you are naive. Just that "organic" typifies the problem. People have jumped on that bandwagon without really knowing what it means---which, in the United States, is just that the farmer complied with a federal regulation.

And that just because food bears a certain label doesn't mean it's what you expect it to be. Many things used in the food industry are based on national and local legal definitions that are not what you think they are. Look up the definition of "vine ripe tomato," for instance, and see if it's anything near what you envision by the phrase.

That's the problem... people have stopped tasting real food. 

That is, indeed, the problem.

And my point was that there is no simple solution, and that sloganeering isn't going to solve a complex problem. There are no magic bullets.

Take that grass fed beef you've developed a fondness for. It was one thing, in the 19th century, when populations were low and land was plentiful, to feed the country on it. It's an altogether other thing in the 21st century, when there is no open range and population pressures impinge on everything.

The fact is, given the current state of the world, and of the food distribution system, there is no way that grass fed beef can be anything but a specialty product.

And that raises another part of the issue: Many authorities are concerned that all these "better food" movements are, by their very nature, elitist. That because (insert food specialty of choice) is, and will always be, limited, it's only available to the wealthy.

I don't know as I fully subscribe to that idea. But I can see the merit of the argument.

Take the locovore movement, for instance. Doesn't matter how you define local---call it a hundred miles, which seems to be a favorite figure. Here's an exercise for you: Take a compass and map, and put the point on the Chrysler building. Now inscribe a 100-mile circle. Two things will become apparent: 1. There's an awful lot of land within that circle that is no longer suitable for agriculture, and 2. what is available has an incredibly high land use cost. If you grow tomatoes on that land the price you charge for them has to reflect that land use cost---to the point where it's actually less expensive to grow them in California and ship them to your market.

If that New York tomato was grown organically, and picked when it was ripe, and delivered to the nearest farmer's market after a short truck trip, there is no question that it's a much higher quality than the one from California. But there's that price difference to consider.

It's no accident that there are very few unsubsidized farmers markets located in poor neighborhoods.

it serves the rightful purpose of getting people to ask the question that has been supressed for dozens of years:  What is in my food and where does it come from?

I would question your use of the word "surpressed."  None of the issues raised in Food Inc. have been hidden. The fact is, people, as a whole, don't care about what's in their food or where it comes from. Can't tell you how many people I've seen, for instance, reading Fast Food Nation while they devoured a Big Mac.

Logically that makes no sense. You would think that anyone who read that book would never step into a fast-food joint again. But it doesn't work that way.

What the muckrakers choose to overlook is that people have preferences that often have little to do with logic and rationality.

Let's look at your part of the world for an example. Despite being bordered by some of the greatest fish factories in the world, the most popular fish in the countries of the northern Med remains salt cod. There's no logic to it. Indeed, it makes no sense at all. But if, for some reason, you wanted to reform the eating habits of those people, and ignored that fact, you would get nowhere. They are not going to give up salt cod no matter how bad for them you make it sound.

I recall when GMOs first hit the public consciousness, and there was, on NET, a panel discussion about them, followed by a viewer poll. The bulk of respondents felt that if a product contained any frankenfoods it should say so on the label.

That sounds encouraging, right? However, in a follow up study, those same people said that knowing there were gmos in the product would not stop them from buying and using it. In short, the issue for them wasn't genetically modified food. It was just labeling they cared about.

Of all food issues, that one was the most confusing to me. If you don't care what goes into your body, why does it matter what's on the label?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #14 of 29
I think people do care what goes into their bodies.  Over the past few decades the food industry has literally disguised food.  The supermarket is the first and last place one looks for food.  Food has to look a certain way for someone to buy it.  You don't walk into a market and see beef carcasses hanging around, the butcher turns to you says "what do you want me to cut off for you?"  Oh no, our food has to come in color coded styrofoam plates labed ribeye or loin or whatever.  Same thing with every other product in that store.  Nice square packaging - if it looks like an animal we don't want it.

The fact that a person is eating a BigMac and reading Fast Food Nation is precisely the confused consumer most of us are.  We care, but we don't know how to care.  We've been eating fast food for so long that we are tolerant of it even if we know better.  We don't know where to turn to for accurate information.  Living in a city we don't have opportunity to research our farms and visit them.  We don't know what these "regulations" are. 

What we do know is that there are people out there living a different kind of food culture than we do here.  My parents for example grow their own food, make their own olive oil, and keep herbs all over their garden.  Sure they go to the market but that's just a part of where they get their produce.  They also exchange food with others.  A jug of oil for a jug of wine from one of their wine maker friends.  A bushel of tomatoes for a bucket of cheese from another friend.  A basket of eggs for their aunt who grows beans.  Vine leaves from their vineyard for the local fisherman who parades his daily catch at the pier.  Also they forage for mushrooms, wild lettuces, snails, and wild figs.  It's a way of life, everybody there is like that. 

We are so far removed from that here.  I see people who open a carton of eggs and will close it if they see a speck of poop on an egg.  Not many folks knows what if feels like to pick up a just hatched egg that is still warm and has feathers on it.  Not many people want to. 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #15 of 29
Show you how true that all is.

Bill Best, founder and director of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, was the subject of an article in the Chicago Tribune. The article---which was syndicated nationally---included a photo of Bill working with beans out in his fields.

When it appeared in a North Carolina paper it prompted a letter to the editor bemoaning the fact that the farmer had dirt on his hands, and did anyone really expect us to eat the food he sold after being handled like that.

I kid you not. We've come so far from where our food is grown that a farmer doing his job is considered to be an object of scorn and derision.

The thing is, it's happened relatively quickly. When I was a kid, my mom would buy whole chickens from the butcher and do the finish cleaning and butchering in the house. Now most places don't even have butchers. Indeed, the big markets don't even have meat cutters anymore.

As a matter of fact, there was still an operating dairy in Brooklyn, in those days. But I digress.

Some of this, to be sure, has to do with the economics of the food distribution system. But much of it, too, has to do with government regulation. Anyone trying to hang chickens in his window today would be in trouble with several government agencies. Ditto that butcher you spoke about. So, while it's easy to blame the "food industry," the fact is many of our woes have to do with the often-confusing way the government passes and enforces its rules.

If you have any doubts about that, go find me a raw-milk cheese that's been aged 30 days. I guarantee you, it isn't the dairy's fault that you'll be unsuccessful in that quest.

Granted, for those who live in big cities in particular, it's not the easiest thing to visit farms. But, more often than not, if you want to know where your food comes from all it takes is a fair share of mouth. Ask the seller. If he claims not to know, tell him to show you the shipping cartons, which will be clearly marked as to country of origin at a minimum. Often enough, if it's a domestic product, the box will not only say, "grown in the US," but also, "product of Wisconsin," or whatever.

Even roughly knowing the where can tell you an awful lot about the what. If you're in New York, and the tomatoes come from Mexico, then you pretty much know how they were grown, how they were harvested, and how they were handled in transit. If the avocadoes came from California, you can pretty much answer those questions, too.

At the farmers market, did the vendor grow it himself? Or did he purchase it at a terminal market for resale? And if he did grow it himself, ask about his growing methods. What kind of varieties, what kind of growing techniques, when was it harvested?

Here's an experiment for you. Go buy some free range eggs at the farmer's market. Crack one open and compare it with a regular egg from the supermarket. Then ask the guy at the farmer's market about those beautiful orange yolks. Trust me, he'll be more than happy to educate you about eggs, and chickens, and, perhaps, even ducks as well.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 29
Grass fed beef isn't always more expensive than feedlot beef. I paid $2.17 a pound for a quarter of beef wrapped and delivered to my door. Grass fed, locally raised and butchered in a small family run shop that is spotless. As far as out of season fruits and veg I can and or vacuum pack and freeze. I don't buy out of season tomatoes because they taste like crap
post #17 of 29

MaryB - wow, at least the tomatoes you've tasted out of season have a flavor - crap.  To me they taste like wet paper towels.

KY thanks for the tips.  I guess I should be a little more proactive when I shop.  I admit that farmers markets intimidate me a little but I should do it as an exercise more than anything else and ask questions and talk to the farmers myself.  It's a leap for sure.

I'm tired of my local butcher.  They really don't know anything and are not keen to answer questions, they seem really put out and answer me like I'm an idiot for not knowing these things in the first place.  I've asked them to debone a whole chicken (while leaving it intact) and not a single butcher in my area can do it.  At best they can debone pieces of chicken.  No, don't give me a method, I'll tackle it when I'm ready but not now.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #18 of 29
 My wife started this a few years ago and it takes work but is totally doable. We not buy our pork from a local farmer every year and also our seafood (salmon) from husband and wife team that only provides line caught salmon. You will need a box freezer because you will be buying in bulk but you will have a lot less trips to the store.

What I enjoy about it most is that I have a relationship with the people growing my food. I know their names, the breed of pigs they raise and what they feed them! One of the best ways to find a farmer near you is to go to http://www.localharvest.org/ You can find farmers by your area.

The great thing about buying our pork from a local farmer is that we are getting the same or better quality than whole foods at half the cost.

You can do the same Jock for vegetables, eggs, and milk. Takes a bit of work and planning but once you get in the groove it is worth it.

This year we are growing a vegetable garden so I am excited about that. Hopefully we can do some canning following some of Pam Grants How-To articles on canning.
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Nicko 
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Thanks,

Nicko 
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All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
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post #19 of 29
One alternative (or supplement) to buying like that is to join a CSA. You not only develop a relationship with the farmer(s) that way, you actually have a vested interest in his success.

Even big cities like New York and San Francisco have operating CSAs, and you can find them with a little research.

KK: The problem you ran into is getting to be fairly widespread, unfortunately. We have fewer and fewer real butchers in America. Most of those who pass themselves off as such are merely meat cutters. There's a world of difference between the two, as you've discovered by how little your "butcher" knows about his trade.

When you're ready to tackle your own butchering keep in mind that you will, the first few times, really make a mess of things. Don't let it frustrate you. There's a relatively fast learning curve, but those first few mistakes will be lulus. Once you develop the skills, however, you'll wonder why you never did so before.

There are some unexpected benefits to home-butchering as well. F'rinstance, when you buy primal cuts you can usually get a better quality meat, at a lower per-pound cost. Then you just break it down yourself and you're good to go.

Getting back to mouth, you have one thing really going for you, surrounded as you are by ethnic and small specialty markets. The owners of those stores usually are more in touch with who their suppliers are and where the food they sell comes from, and are more than willing to discuss it with you once they get to know you a little.

Example: When we first started patronizing the Korean market in Lexington we were treated as just another couple of round eyes. But after a very short time we were regulars. Now the owner not only chats with us, he makes recommendations about things we should try, and things we should shy away from.

And, as Nicko suggests, a chest freezer and canning equipment go a long way towards maintaining food quality year round.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #20 of 29
at least the tomatoes you've tasted out of season have a flavor - crap.  To me they taste like wet paper towels.

You're absolutely correct, KK. And the reason for that also helps you understand my comments about supermarket organics. It all boils down to the food distribution system.

Take those tomatoes. The way the system works is that they are harvested green, and stored in climate-controlled warehouses (which translates, in the common tongue, as cold storage). Just before they are shipped the tomatoes are hit with ethylene gas, which causes them to change color.

Don't get put off by the ethylene, per se. Ethylene is what causes tomatoes to ripen on the vine. The difference is, with the factory-farm produced stuff, they aren't being bathed by the gas long enough. So what you get, in the market, is a tomato that is colored, but which has never actually ripened. Then, if you're like most people, you get home and put them in the fridge. Result: cold, wet, cardboard.

BTW, if you want, we can discuss why vine-ripened tomatoes should never be put in the fridge.

Contributing to the problem is the choice of variety. Factory-farm tomatoes are always hybrids, and they were bred specifically to meet the needs of the food distribution system. There are a lot of characteristics looked for when breeding such tomatoes, but taste is not something selected for. So, if you grow that variety yourself, and harvest it ripe, any real flavor crept in by accident.

Even so, the first time somebody grows their own they are amazed at the difference in flavor. The reason is, they've never before actually eaten a ripe tomato. If that person then takes the next step, and grows an heirloom or other open-pollinated variety, whose primary characteristic is flavor, there's no going back. They become like me and Mary, and do not eat "fresh" tomatoes for about seven months of the year.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #21 of 29

"Even so, the first time somebody grows their own they are amazed at the difference in flavour "

No truer words were spoken. I love it when friends come over in the summer and ask "Is there anything I can do to help?" and I say "Yes you can make a salad thank-you." They look in the fridge and then say" there's nothing to make a salad with!" I then hand them  a basket and kitchen shears and point them out back to the Garden!  Some are amazed I add Zucchini flowers to my salad ,I'm always carefull picking those ,( Bees like to hang out inside)

My feet are firmly planted in mid air
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My feet are firmly planted in mid air
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post #22 of 29
Of course I am still enjoying last years tomatoes from the freezer. Pulled some tomato sauce out last night for a new BBQ sauce I am working on. Still have stewed tomatoes. Whole frozen (peeled) for use in soups and chili etc. Pulled out some green beans to go with supper last night. Battered and into the deep fryer. Even in the city you can container garden and grow some food. Tomatoes do well in a 5 gallon bucket, herbs in pots, leaf lettuce in window boxes etc.
post #23 of 29
I don't think you can stress that enough, Mary. People do not realize how much they can grow in very little space, or that there are alternatives to formal vegetable gardens.

All the container ideas you mentioned for sure. But here are some others:

1. Turn a cement block on its side and you have two compartments ideal for growing herbs, lettuce, greens, etc. Line up a bunch of them and you've created a living wall. Think block is unaesthetic? You can get masonary paint in any color imaginable.

2. Cut the necks off of beverage bottles. Arrange them on a sunny outside wall, fill with potting mix, and, voila! A hanging garden---along with that nice warm feeling that comes from recycling.

3. If there's a recycling center near you, check it out. It's incredible what you can find there as plant containers. In my case, for instance, it's an almost unlimited source of 20-gallon tubs. Talk about mini-gardens!

4. For a kitchen herb garden, get a large strawberry pot. You can plant herbs in the mouth and in each of the side cups. Keep it right outside the door, if possible, and harvesting herbs as you need them is just a matter of a couple of steps and snip-snip-snip.

5. Don't forget the freehold above your property. Growing vertically requires very little space, and provides unlimited room.

6. Look into the concept of edible landscaping. The idea is that many vegetables and herbs also are decorative plants, and you can intersperse them with your ornamentals. One of the most dramatic examples: Okra, which is related to hibiscus, and whose flowers look just like it.  
     Edible landscaping is also a legitimate way of getting around restrictive covenents against vegetable gardens.

7. Explore the idea of community gardens. Many cities have them. Models differ, but the basic idea is that city-owned property is turned over to an association, whose members are assigned plots in which to grow a garden.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #24 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post



Here's an experiment for you. Go buy some free range eggs at the farmer's market. Crack one open and compare it with a regular egg from the supermarket. Then ask the guy at the farmer's market about those beautiful orange yolks. Trust me, he'll be more than happy to educate you about eggs, and chickens, and, perhaps, even ducks as well.

 



      The problem I have with many "farmers" selling stuff at the markets is that many of their products are as bad as most of the stuff in the grocery store.  Fruit, vegetables...pork, eggs, etc.  I've done the exact experiment you mentioned so many times and have been disappointed every single time.  I've talked to the farmers and they tell me all the right things about their eggs, yet when I crack them in the pan, they are very old.  Some of the eggs did have a nice yolk...but I'm talking eggs that were so old they filled the entire skillet.

     I've had much better luck going directly to the farms than I have buying stuff at the "farmers" market.  The way it looks to me is that alot of people are happy buying a label rather than a product.  

   How do I think we can get out of this mess?  I believe it falls with us teaching our children how to grow quality vegetables and seek out farms that raise quality livestock.  While everyone can't do all these things, we can start growing our own herbs and vegetables.  I've been to a large number of farmers markets in my area and must say that there's far too much hype in much of the products.  But the stuff I'm pulling out of my soil is filled with flavor, not hype.

   dan

    dan
post #25 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicko View Post

 My wife started this a few years ago and it takes work but is totally doable. We not buy our pork from a local farmer every year and also our seafood (salmon) from husband and wife team that only provides line caught salmon. You will need a box freezer because you will be buying in bulk but you will have a lot less trips to the store.

What I enjoy about it most is that I have a relationship with the people growing my food. I know their names, the breed of pigs they raise and what they feed them! One of the best ways to find a farmer near you is to go to http://www.localharvest.org/ You can find farmers by your area.

The great thing about buying our pork from a local farmer is that we are getting the same or better quality than whole foods at half the cost.

You can do the same Jock for vegetables, eggs, and milk. Takes a bit of work and planning but once you get in the groove it is worth it.

This year we are growing a vegetable garden so I am excited about that. Hopefully we can do some canning following some of Pam Grants How-To articles on canning.

This is a grand thing for those of us who can do it Nicko. One of the great paradoxes of this whole issue is that in a perfect world we would all eat such food but the reality is, you can't feed a nation like that and hence the birth of agri-business.

That's not an excuse for the excesses and sometimes dispicable practices of Agri-businesses however which I think is one of KYH's points. And whether it's KYH's "muck rakers" or any other source, I believe it's a good thing to shed light on the issue so that some of these excesses can be reined in.
post #26 of 29
it's a good thing to shed light on the issue so that some of these excesses can be reined in.

Jock, I don't disagree with your point. But there is a difference between heat and light.

The problem is, when does a documentary actually represent curable excesses, and when it is just an attempt to create a controversy---to make the news, as it were, instead of just reporting it?

Are you old enough to remember the 60 Minutes bruhaha about selling guns to minors? The producers took a kid who was barely a minor and had him, in front of hidden cameras, attempt to buy a handgun in a gunshop. They went through something like 23 stores before they found a place where the clerk sold the youngster a gun. Yet the entire story was this hand-wringing report about how easy it was for kids to buy guns.

Hmmmmmm. Took them almost two dozen gunshops and one stupid clerk, yet a national "news" organization described the process as "easy."

Or do you remember the Ramparts Dam controversy? This was a proposed project to put yet another dam on the Colorado River, downstream of Grand Canyon. Virtually every study---from those in favor of the project and those opposed---indicated there would be no effect on the Grand Canyon itself. This did not stop the Sierra Club from launching its infamous "Should We Also Flood The Sistine Chapel...." campaign.

To this day I can introduce you to people who believe the Ramparts Dam would have flooded the Grand Canyon.

The fact is, it's the in thing right now for activists to focus on food. And the normal and standard do not make good film. Drama is found in the exceptional, precisely because it is exceptional and therefore unexpected. See, for instance, my comment about the horse industry. Or, to cite a real case, ask yourself how come most of us believe that lemmings commit mass suicide.

It's up to us, as viewers and listeners, to determine, therefore, when we are being foxed with the exceptional, and when we are being shown a standard that should be changed. And to determine what, if any, biases the documentarian may have.

I leave you with one thought to ponder. One of the "excesses" uncovered (as if it were a secret!) was that McDonald's sprayed its fries with meat flavoring in order to make them taste good. The question for you to answer: What, exactly, is wrong with making a food product taste better? Isn't that what we, as cooks, are dedicated to doing?
Edited by KYHeirloomer - 4/26/10 at 5:41am
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #27 of 29
     The problem I have with many "farmers" selling stuff at the markets is that many of their products are as bad as most of the stuff in the grocery store.

See my comments about farmers markets above, Dan.

As farmers markets become more and more of an in thing, this problem will grow. People just make assumptions about the quality of food found at farmers markets, and farm stands, etc. But the reality is often not quite the same.

Growers belonging to farmers markets are basically people. There will always be some who violate the rules, who try and get something by, who exploit any ambiguities in the rules. And there will be farmers markets which basically have no rules. Thankfully, they are in the minority. Even so, when you find a vendor whose products are your idea of perfect, stick with him.

Things do get a little hairy with animal proteins, though, no matter how honest the vendor is. How, exactly, do you define freshness in an egg? What is the difference between an aged piece of beef and an old one?

One rarely discussed benefit of CSAs is that such abuses are much less likely. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the grower's ability to rationalize his harvest schedule so that the food he supplies you is as fresh as possible.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #28 of 29
 KY is correct. We are all being conned. Here in Florida most ""Farmers Markets and roadside stands "" are not local . Maybe the tomato or strawberry is but that could be it . When I see crates and on the bottom see that the box it is packed in is made in Santiago Chile, you know it isn't local. If you notice on Food Inc not one large food co. would agree to be interviewed. Me I blame the FDA and The USDA. . Its all politics. There is no inspection anymore. It is almost impossible to close a plant. The lobbyist are all former USDA employees. Most meat packers are on a self inspection regiment. This is ""BULL"' I have never met a poor butcher or owner of a meat company .  With the importation of frozen and fresh meat and the mixing of same it is almost impossible to pinpoint the source of any E.Coulli  or for that matter anything else. The 1/4 pounder you are eating could be 1/4 meat from Romania, Australia, New Zealand and Kansas. . Also seafood only less then 1/3 of imported fish is inspected.. Since 75%of our fish is now ship factory frozen, it is almost impossible to detect if it is good or infected.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #29 of 29
Ironically, Ed, FAS fish is the most unlikely to cause any sort of wide-spread illness. There are reasons, both biological and mechanical, why this is so.

Any real problems with seafood are more likely to originate with farm-raised than wild. But because that industry is so carefully self-monitored, any problems tend to get nipped in the bud.

Note that virtually all the big recalls and advisories involve terrestrial animals.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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