28 September 2010
This installment of Ecotopia takes a look at factory farming, particularly production of meat.
We talk first with Daniel Imhoff, author of an impressive book of essays by major environmentalists with dramatic photographs showing “the tragedy of industrial animal factories.” CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Earth Aware, 2010.
Then we speak with David Murphy of Food Democracy Now! about his efforts to protect consumers from factory farming, especially the indiscriminate use of antibiotics on animals that are basically healthy.
Some Background on Factory Farming of Animals
From an essay by Wendell Berry, called “Stupidity in Concentration”:
The principle of confinement in so-called animal science is derived from the industrial version of efficiency. The designers of animal factories appear to have had in mind the example of concentration camps or prisons, the aim of which is to house and feed the greatest numbers in the smallest space at the least expense of money, labor, and attention. To subject innocent creatures to such treatment has long been recognized as heartless. Animal factories make an economic virtue of heartlessness toward domestic animals, to which we humans owe instead a large debt of respect and gratitude.
From Edward Abbey in “Down the River:
We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire—a crackpot machine—that specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate.
Daniel Imhoff writes of “The Loss of Individual Farms”:
In the United States, and increasingly in other parts of the world, livestock production has changed dramatically from family-based, small-scale, relatively independent farms to larger industrial operations more tightly aligned across the production and distribution chains.
The problem with applying the industrial economic model to agriculture is the nature of farming itself. Farms are not factories. Farms are embedded within biological systems. A healthy farm has natural diversity rather than factory-like precision and specialization. A healthy farm exhibits complex communities of plant and animal species instead of oversimplified monocultures. And finally, a healthy farm is scaled according to what the land can resiliently sustain, not drawing too excessively from local water supplies, or overwhelming the surrounding area with wastes that can’t be safely applied as fertilizers or tolerated by neighbors.
And Daniel Imhoff cites the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has identified seven factors that have contributed to the rapid expansion of the factory food industry.
Our Questions for Daniel Imhoff. Daniel Imhoff is both editor of and a contributor to a new book titled CAFO The Tragedy of Industrial Animal. Factories. The book has a distinguished list of contributors that includes Michael Pollan, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Anna Lapé, and Joel Salatin.
What else can concerned listeners do? Your book is an incredible resource, but are there also other organizations that people should know about or join?
The book is CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories. As we’ve said, it’s a work of art as a book, and it’s published by Earth Aware. We have a pledge drive coming up in a couple of weeks, and we will offer our copy of the book as a special premium in exchange for a good pledge. If you’d like to get your copy now, send us an e-mail, make an early pledge, and we’ll get this important book to you.
Our Discussion with David Murphy
David Murphy is founder and director of Food Democracy Now!, an activist group that is campaigning for a number of reforms in the food industry. He has worked as a food policy lobbyist, media strategist, and was successful in 2007 in getting presidential candidates to pledge support for sustainable family farms.
Food Democracy Now has an excellent web site and makes it easy for people to sign petitions and otherwise weigh in of food issues. Be sure to visit them at fooddemocracynow.org.
Playlist for Ecotopia #105: Factory Animal Farming
21 September 2010
Tonight we will be talking about the greening of the paper industry, the attempts environmental and industry groups are making to cut down on pollution within the industry and to cut down on the amount of paper we use in business and our personal lives. We’ll talk first with Shannon Binns of the Green Press Initiative and then with Pam Blackledge of the Environmental Paper Network.
Background on Paper Pollution
To give us some background on the paper industry, we’ll read some information prepared by Halimah Collingwood of the Mainstream Media Project in Arcata, a group that makes people available for interviews on key environmental and political topics. Halimah arranged our interviews tonight with Shannon Binns and Pam Blackledge. Halimah’s background piece is entitled, Turning Over a New Sheaf in the Paper Industry.
The pressure is on at every level of the paper supply chain to create more sustainable business practices, from pulp mills and paper manufacturers, down to big-box and local office supply stores. Through the dedication of organizations such as the Environmental Paper Network (representing 100+ organizations focused on accelerating social and environmental transformation in the pulp and paper industry) some real progress is being made. However, while Staples’ Copy Centers made the switch to 50 and 100% post-consumer paper as a standard offering, many other companies are guilty of “greenwashing” by marketing an eco-friendly appearance without addressing their environmentally damaging practices.
Successes and Setbabks in the Greening of Paper Manufacturing [include the handling of] Black liquor –a byproduct of the paper manufacturing process– [which] has been burned to power paper manufacturing plants for the last 75 years. In 2009, paper companies who use the viscous substance, in a mix with diesel fuel, pounced on a 50 cent-per-gallon tax credit that was meant to stimulate innovations in biofuels. Rather than develop something new and sustainable, the paper industry found a way to cash in on a practice they had been doing for decades. Now the IRS is allowing paper companies to amend their 2009 tax returns to take advantage of $1.01-per-gallon credit previously intended for vehicle fuels. The $6 billion in tax credit that the paper industry has already received could, by some estimates, become $25 billion of additional tax benefits over the remaining time period that Congress never intended.
Meanwhile, paper manufacturers in Canada are given incentives from their government to “green up” the manufacturing process in order to stay competitive with their American counterparts receiving the IRS credit. The “Wheat Sheet,” a wheat straw-based paper has been developed in a partnership between Canadian researchers, printers, manufacturers, and magazine publishers, and is the first coated magazine paper made from agricultural waste in North America. Around the world, straw-based paper manufacturing can be found as a standard practice.
And from the website of the Green Paper Initiative, comes this description of the environmental dangers of the paper industry:The entire paper industry, when accounting for forest carbon loss, emits nearly 750 million tons of C02 equivalent annually – nearly 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of over 136 million cars. The U.S. book and newspaper industries combined require the harvest of 125 million trees each year and emit over 40 million metric tons of CO2 annually; equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 7.3 million cars.
Each year the U.S book industry uses approximately 30 million trees, and the U.S. newspaper industry consumes 95 million trees. Many of these trees are from old growth and endangered forests, and the demand for paper is encouraging the practice of converting natural forests into single species tree plantations that support only a fraction of the biodiversity.
The paper industry is the fourth largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and books and newspapers release greenhouse gases thought their lifecycles. Globally, scientist estimate that deforestation is responsible for 25% of human caused greenhouse gases. When trees are cut to make paper, not only do they cease to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, but greenhouse gases are released to the atmosphere when plant material not used makes paper decays or is burned as a source of power at the mill. As a result of these emissions and those associated with soil disturbances at the site of harvest, even trees are replanted, it can take up to 25 years for a newly planted forest to stop being a net emitter of greenhouse gases, and hundreds of years before they store the same amount of carbon as an undisturbed forest.
In Canada, Indonesia, Brazil and many other countries throughout the world, people who rely on forests for their livelihood have been severely impacted by the paper industry. From the destruction of forests needed to survive to some being forced from their land, the paper industry has disrupted the way of life for these communities.
Miscellaneous Paper Facts
No doubt you know of the evolution of paper from Egyptian papyrus. But many of the problems associated with paper pollution come about after the industrial revolution. Here from www.historyforkids.org are a few facts about how machines made paper and paper products easy and cheap.
Newsprint Charles Fenerty of Halifax made the first newsprint in 1838. He was helping a local paper mill maintain an adequate supply of rags to make paper, when he succeeded in making paper from wood pulp. He neglected to patent his invention and others did patent papermaking processes based on wood fiber.
Corrugated Papermaking – Cardboard
In 1856, Englishmen, Healey and Allen, received a patent for the first corrugated or pleated paper. The paper was used to line men’s tall hats.
American, Robert Gair promptly invented the corrugated cardboard box in 1870. These were pre-cut flat pieces manufactured in bulk that opened up and folded into boxes.
On December 20, 1871, Albert Jones of New York NY, patented a stronger corrugated paper (cardboard) used as a shipping material for bottles and glass lanterns.
In 1874, G. Smyth built the first single sided corrugated board-making machine. Also in 1874, Oliver Long improved upon the Jones patent and invented a lined corrugated cardboard.
The first recorded historical reference to grocery paper bags was made in 1630. The use of paper sacks only really started to take off during the Industrial Revolution: between 1700 and 1800.
Margaret Knight (1838-1914) was an employee in a paper bag factory when she invented a new machine part to make square bottoms for paper bags. Paper bags had been more like envelopes before. Knight can be considered the mother of the grocery bag, she founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in 1870.
On February 20, 1872, Luther Crowell also patented a machine that manufactured paper bags.
Paper foodservice disposables products were first made at the beginning of the 20th century. The paper plate was the first single-use foodservice product invented in 1904.
Hugh Moore was an inventor who owned a paper cup factory, located next door to the Dixie Doll Company. The word Dixie was printed on the doll company’s front door. Moore saw the word every day, which reminded him of “dixies,” the ten dollar bank notes from a New Orleans’ bank that had the French word “dix’ printed on the face of the bill. The bank had a great reputation in the early 1800s. Moore decided that “dixies” was a great name. After getting permission from his neighbor to use the name, he renamed his paper cups “Dixie Cups”. It should be mentioned that Moore’s paper cups first invented in 1908 were originally called health cups and replaced the single repeat-use metal cup that had been used with water fountains.
Our Questions for Shannon Binns
Shannon Binns is Program Manager for the Green Press Initiative. Shannon has also served on Nature Conservancy team that worked with Congress to develop science-based climate change legislation and organized the Earth Institute Global Roundtable on Climate Change.
The Green Press Initiative is online at http://www.greenpressinitiative.org.
Our Discussion with Pam Blackledge
Pam Blackledge is RePaper Project Coordinator for the Environmental Paper Network. She has degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology and in Environmental Studies, and she has spent the last fifteen years working on a range of environmental and social issues.
The RePaper Project. [http://www.environmentalpaper.org/]
14 September 2010
Tonight we’ll be taking a close look at Proposition 23 on the November California Ballot; it would suspend 2006 historic climate change legislation, arguing that cutting down on pollution is costing jobs in the Golden State. Our guest will be Jessica Allen of Vote Down Proposition 23. She has been leading the opposition here in the Northstate. We’ll also look at the background of this issue—the 2006 climate-change bill that would be suspended by Prop 23, and we’ll review the arguments that are being made by Prop 23s sponsors and proponents.
Background on Proposition 23
To help us understand the proposition more fully, we want to roll back the clock a few years to this press release by Governor Schwarzenegger, dated September 27, 2006. Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emission. It reads:
Joined by national and international dignitaries who have been leaders in the fight against global climate change, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles), California’s landmark bill that establishes a first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases.
“When I campaigned for governor three years ago, I said I wanted to make California No. 1 in the fight against global warming. This is something we owe our children and our grandchildren,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger at signing ceremonies in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“Some have challenged whether[the] AB 32 [climate change bill] is good for businesses. I say unquestionably it is good for businesses. Not only large, well-established businesses, but small businesses that will harness their entrepreneurial spirit to help us achieve our climate goals.
“Using market-based incentives, we will reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. That’s a 25 percent reduction. And by 2050, we will reduce emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels. We simply must do everything in our power to slow down global warming before it’s too late.”
The Núñez bill required the California Air Resources Board (CARB):
to develop regulations and market mechanisms that would ultimately reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Mandatory caps will begin in 2012 for significant sources and ratchet down to meet the 2020 goals.
The bill also provided the Governor with the ability to
invoke a safety valve and to suspend the emissions caps for up to one year in the case of an emergency or significant economic harm.
If you want to learn more about the 2006 climate control bill, AB 32, check out these two links:
Though he has the power to suspend AB 32. Governor Schwarzenegger has refused to do that in the current recessession, arguing that the climate legislation is vital to the environment and is promoting green jobs in the state.
Opponents then created a petition drive, led in part by Northstate Assemblyman Dan Logue, which was successful in putting Proposition 23 on the ballot. We’ll read from the ballot summary as provided by the Secretary of State’s office. Proposition 23:
Suspends State laws requiring reduced greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. [It] Requires [the] State to abandon implementation of comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension is lifted’
[A] “Summary of estimate” by […the State] Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government [identifies]: Potential positive, short-term impacts on state and local government revenues from the suspension of regulatory activity, with uncertain longer-run impacts. Potential foregone state revenues from the auctioning of emission allowances by state government, by suspending the future implementation of cap-and-trade regulations. [emphasis added]
We note editorially that the financial impact statement does not take into account green jobs that would be lost or never created if Prop 23 is enacted.
Proponents of Prop 23 argue—and here we quote the Secretary of State’s ballot summary that:
Yes on 23 saves jobs, prevents energy tax increases, and helps families, while preserving California’s clean air and water laws. California can’t afford self-imposed energy costs that don’t reduce global warming. 2.3 million Californians are unemployed; Proposition 23 will save over a million jobs that would be otherwise be destroyed.
The opponents argue that:
Texas oil companies designed 23 to kill clean energy and air pollution standards in California. 23 threatens public health with more air pollution, increases dependence on costly oil, and kills competition from job-creating California wind and solar companies.
In a September 9 editorial, the San Jose Mercury News wrote:
Proponents — primarily oil companies who have donated millions to the campaign — say that when it’s implemented through a cap-and-trade system, AB 32 will raise energy prices so much that businesses will be forced to lay off workers or move out of state. (That assertion [says the Mercury News] is very much in question.) With more than 2 million Californians unemployed, they argue that it’s the wrong time to implement it.
The Mercury News editorial continues, however, by pointing out how Prop 23 would eviscerate California’s clean energy business. They continue:
… [I]t would be an absolute calamity to turn off the magnet that’s attracting billions of dollars in job-creating investment. In 2009, 40 percent of cleantech venture capital went to California, where some 12,000 companies are working on ways that could help businesses and consumers reduce energy consumption. More than 500,000 people work in the industry, including 93,000 in manufacturing.
The San Jose Mercury News editorial concludes:
Supporters of Proposition 23 are right about one thing: Job creation is absolutely essential to California’s future. Which is precisely why voters should reject the measure — it would kill the state’s primary economic engine, now and for years to come.
We searched for other editorials on the topic. Papers such as the Ventura County Star, the Sonoma County Press Democrat, and San Diego’s East Country Magazine, and Desert Sun of Palm Springs all oppose Prop 23.
We only found one editorial favoring the proposition, that in the Orange County Register, which argued that:
Even without the Global Warming Solutions Act [AB 32], the state’s numerous clean air and water laws are the nation’s strictest. As we have noted repeatedly, the Draconian and unnecessary Global Warming Solutions Act fully implemented would result in more than 1 million lost jobs and billions of dollars in higher energy and other costs, while accomplishing nothing regarding global warming. Suspending its implementation, particularly in this economy, is prudent.
Recent Report from UCBerkeley:
Here’s an article from the Sacramento Bee published just last Thursday, September 9. Reporter Rick Daysog writes of a newly released study of Prop 23s impacts coming from the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote:
Suspending California’s landmark climate change law would result in the loss of millions of dollars in state revenue and hurt the state’s growing clean-tech industry, a new report says.
The Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley Law School also said the rollback initiative, Proposition 23, would benefit oil and power companies while increasing regulatory burdens to real estate developers and auto makers
“It adds significant uncertainty at a time when we have a lot of economic uncertainty,” the report’s co-author Dan Farber said.
California’s climate change law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, attempts to reduce carbon emissions statewide to 1990 levels by the year 2020.
The rollback measure seeks to suspend the law until the statewide unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or below for four quarters in a row.
Farber said Proposition 23 would force the state to suspend a $63 million fee it plans to charge oil companies, utilities and other energy companies.
It also would require the state to set aside a cap-and-trade program that places limits on greenhouse gas emissions from oil refiners, utilities and other energy companies.
Under such a system, the state would sell carbon allowances to the state’s largest polluters, which could then use those allowances to offset their emissions or sell them on a secondary market.
Estimates of the state’s revenues from a cap-and-trade system have ranged from $220 million to $550 million.
Another “casualty” according to the UCBerkeley report would be:
[…] California’s budding clean-tech sector.
Part of AB 32 requires utilities to purchase about a third of their energy supply from renewable sources.
Setting aside the law would result in the loss of clean jobs and limit investments in new technologies, the report said.
The study also said Proposition 23 will create inequities between industries regulated by different climate change laws.
Oil companies and utilities would be relieved of their burdens under AB 32 while real estate developers and car makers governed by a separate set of climate change laws could see increased pressures from regulators, the report said.
“You’re going to end up with this patchwork of climate change regulations that will affect some sectors and not others,” Farber said.
Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the Yes on 23 committee, disputed the report. She said Proposition 23 would have a positive impact on state revenue and California’s economy.
She cited a July study by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office which said the state could see “a potentially significant increase in revenue” from greater economic activity if AB 32 was delayed
We want to add that reader comments appended to this article on the Sac Bee website were vitriolic, mostly challenging the conclusions of the Berkeley study and generally attacking the idea of climate change, Al Gore, the University of California, while arguing for the factual basis of Fox news.
To take the pulse of some of the people and their reaction to the debate, we’d recommend that you read both the article and the responses.
Our Questions for Jessica Allen
As we close, and in the spirit of fairness, we are puttingincluding pro and con links on the website:
The proponents of Prop 23 have marshaled their arguments at: http://www.yeson23.com/
And the opponents are at www.stopdirtyenergyprop.com
Playlist for Eco 104–Prop 23
7 September 2010
Tonight we’ll be exploring local foods with special attention to a campaign of natural food co-ops nationwide called “Eat Local America!” We’ll be talking with Liza Tedesco, the general manager of Chico Natural Foods and Janae Lloyd, marketing and membership manager of what we fondly refer to as “Chico Natty.” We’ll also give attention to some of the questions raised about the value of eating locally—economic, environmental, and health-wise.
A Debate Over Local Foods
The Eat Local, America! website has established a challenge for people who’d like to try to eat more local food. Here’s the challenge: “If you’re a seasoned locavore – someone who already eats lots of local foods – you’re encouraged to set a goal of eating four out of five meals with local food (or roughly 80 percent of your diet). If you’re starting out, you’re encouraged to begin by eating five meals a week made with local foods. And if you’re somewhere in between, you’re encouraged to create your own goal. After all, it’s all about eating, exploring and enjoying local food – and having fun while you’re at it.”
Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the local foods movement, however. New York Times Op-Ed contributor Stephen Budiansky wrote a piece on August 19 entitled, “Math Lessons for Locavores.” Budiansky argues that “the local food movement now threatens to devolve into another one of those self-indulgent — and self-defeating — do-gooder dogmas. Arbitrary rules, without any real scientific basis, are repeated as gospel by “locavores,” celebrity chefs and mainstream environmental organizations. Words like “sustainability” and “food-miles” are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use.”
It is Budiansky’s contention that:
The statistics brandished by local-food advocates to support such doctrinaire assertions are always selective, usually misleading and often bogus. This is particularly the case with respect to the energy costs of transporting food. One popular and oft-repeated statistic is that it takes 36 (sometimes it’s 97) calories of fossil fuel energy to bring one calorie of iceberg lettuce from California to the East Coast. That’s an apples and oranges (or maybe apples and rocks) comparison to begin with, because you can’t eat petroleum or burn iceberg lettuce.
It is also an almost complete misrepresentation of reality, as those numbers reflect the entire energy cost of producing lettuce from seed to dinner table, not just transportation. Studies have shown that whether it’s grown in California or Maine, or whether it’s organic or conventional, about 5,000 calories of energy go into one pound of lettuce. Given how efficient trains and tractor-trailers are, shipping a head of lettuce across the country actually adds next to nothing to the total energy bill.
It takes about a tablespoon of diesel fuel to move one pound of freight 3,000 miles by rail; that works out to about 100 calories of energy. If it goes by truck, it’s about 300 calories, still a negligible amount in the overall picture. . . . Overall, transportation accounts for about 14 percent of the total energy consumed by the American food system.
Other favorite targets of sustainability advocates include the fertilizers and chemicals used in modern farming. But their share of the food system’s energy use is even lower, about 8 percent.
The real energy hog, it turns out, is not industrial agriculture at all, but you and me. Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far.
A single 10-mile round trip by car to the grocery store or the farmers’ market will easily eat up about 14,000 calories of fossil fuel energy. Just running your refrigerator for a week consumes 9,000 calories of energy. That assumes it’s one of the latest high-efficiency models; otherwise, you can double that figure. Cooking and running dishwashers, freezers and second or third refrigerators (more than 25 percent of American households have more than one) all add major hits. Indeed, households make up for 22 percent of all the energy expenditures in the United States.”
Again, that by New York Times blogger Stephen Budiansky, and we’ve posted the link to that controversial essay at ecotopiakzfr.net
It seems to us that one of the glaring flaws of Budiansky’s argument is toting up energy to produce and transport food on one side of the equation and energy to preserve, store and prepare food on the other side of the equation. Whether food is produced locally or shipped from abroad, it will still have to be preserved, stored and prepared. Budiansky’s sleight of hand with numbers makes us immediately suspicious of his ways of calculating and presenting statistical information.
And we’re not the only ones who are skeptical of Budiansky’s arguments. Grist, a magazine of environmental news and commentary with humorous twist, provided a number of responses. In their feature Grist Talk: Food Fight, they write that the debate is over “whether locavores — those who prefer to eat food grown nearby, versus that grown thousands of miles away and trucked or flown in — are misguided in thinking their food choices are helping to save the planet.”
Ten writers—authors, analysts, and activist—weigh in on the topic of local eating. To read their full responses you can go to www.grist.org and click on the Food link and go to the article “Food Fight: Do Locavores Really Need Math Lessons?”
Food editor, Tom Philpott, takes issue with Budiansky’s contention that there “arbitrary rules” posited by “chefs and environmental organizations
Philpott says, “But he fails to spell out even one of those onerous rules, or name a single locavore, celebrity chef, or organization preaching it.
“You know why? Because they don’t really exist; or if they do, they exert no discernible influence on the sustainable food movement. All of the leading lights in the movement who I know think in terms of regional, not strictly local, food economies. Fred Kirschenmann, surely one of the movement’s most influential thinkers, has been advocating for regional food economies, and the importance of mid-sized farms, for at least 15 years.”
Philpott goes on to describe various efforts to work toward regional food systems. And tells Budiansky and those who argue the same line that “No one is going to cajole them — much less force them — to subsist on a 100-mile diet.”
Jill Richardson, author of Recipe for America, agrees:
“To begin rebutting this pack of B.S., I must correct his notion of locavory. Despite attempts by national retailers to reduce “local food” to a mere question of miles (i.e. Lay’s potato chips claiming they come from locally grown potatoes), true locavores are after more than just miles. At its heart, the movement is about relationships. When you buy food at the store, your purchasing decision rests mainly on marketing claims. But when I pick up my weekly box of produce from Farmer Phil, I know exactly how and where he grew my food, and that his values are consistent with mine. Organic certification alone does not certify anything other than a minimum bar of standards; by buying from farmers who are part of my community, whose farms I’ve visited, I am contributing to my local economy, supporting my friends’ businesses, and getting great, fresh food. And the farmers from whom I buy are taking care of the land right near where I live.”
Many of the Grist arguments emphasize other values of the local food movement beyond the issue of food miles. Kerry Trueman, founder of EatingLiberally.org, contends:
“Energy efficiency is only one small part of the equation when you add up the reasons to buy local. Other factors include: flavor and nutrition; support for more ecological farming practices; reduction of excess packaging; avoidance of pesticides and other toxins; more humane treatment of livestock and workers; preservation of local farmland; spending one’s dollars closer to home; the farmers market as community center, and so on.”
Budiansky’s support of industrial agriculture comes under attack by Dave Love, project director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future;
“Mr. Budiansky’s argument runs thin when we take a hard look at what consolidated industrial farming and food animal production “return to our land,” as he puts it. It is difficult to be in favor of a farming approach that relies upon mono-cropping using genetically modified seeds and synthetic fertilizers. Likewise, food animal production facilities make for poor neighbors when their (virtually unregulated) wastes and associated land application and spray-field sites spread allergens and antibiotic-resistant bacteria throughout farming communities.”
Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet, also finds fault with the notion that our current way of farming is efficient or effective. She focuses on the artificiality, indeed, the political manipulation of crop production in industrial farming:
“Budiansky argues that we should be advocating for raising crops in “places where they grow best and with the most efficient technologies” . . . .
In principle, all reasonable people — and I put most locavores in this category even if Budiansky doesn’t — would agree that choices farmers make about what foods to grow, and what time of year to grow them, should be informed by place. I haven’t heard of any locavores advocating for Hudson Valley pineapples.
But a food system based on a simplistic notion of “comparative advantage” is far from the reality of industrial agriculture that Budiansky seems to be defending, and much closer to the one we locavores are fighting for.
In the real world, here’s what happens — and what the sustainable food movement, locavores among them, is working to change: North Carolina becomes the second-largest home of pork in the country, not because pigs have some particular penchant for the Outer Banks, but because the state’s lax labor laws appealed to pork producers and so did the government’s incentives to lure companies like Smithfield.
Another example: The United States comes to dominate the global market for corn (we control 71 percent of the market) not because corn is the best crop we could be growing, either for the ecological health of the Midwest or the physical health of consumers, since most of it is used for high-fat feedlot meat, high-fructose corn syrup, exports, or ethanol. No, corn’s “success” in those uses was made possible in large measure by U.S. government policies propping up the biggest industrial corn growers with $73.8 billion in subsidies from 1995 to 2009.
The reality of our food system has never been, and will probably never be, the result of this mythological “comparative advantage” in a free market. And agribusiness insiders know this. Referring to grain, an Archer Daniels Midland executive once said, “The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians.”
What we grow and where we grow it is the predictable result of massive public subsidies to the largest industrial producers. In this context, the question that we locavores are asking is what kind of support and subsidies should we have, directed at which outcomes, and in whose interest? Do we want a food system that subsidizes chemical farming and feedlot meat production — the kind that has given rise to foodborne illnesses sickening hundreds of thousands every year and spreading salmonella causing a 380 million egg recall? Or one that fosters sustainable practices, fairly paid farmers and food workers, clean water and healthy soils, all while bringing us affordable good-tasting food?”
Eleanor Starmer, Western Region Director at Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group, takes up the issue of food safety in her essay and is critical of how little choice consumers are given in our current system of farming:
“As it happens, I was already doing some food calculations the day Budiansky’s piece ran — but not of the sort he discussed.
My numbers included the following: As of Friday, 450 million eggs originating from two Iowa egg operations — both of which buy feed and chicks from the same company — had been recalled from stores in 14 states for salmonella contamination. These days, record-breaking food recalls are happening with disturbing frequency. We won’t soon forget the 2009 peanut recall that affected nearly 4,000 products; the 2008 recall of 143 million pounds of ground beef, the largest of its kind in history and which included beef distributed through the National School Lunch Program; or the 2006 recall of E. coli-contaminated bagged spinach that sickened hundreds in 26 states.”
. . . [V]irtually our entire meat supply is controlled by four — soon to be three — companies: Tyson, Cargill, Smithfield, and the Brazilian powerhouse JBS, which is vying for a Smithfield takeover. (Grist’s Tom Philpott does the meat math here.) Cargill and two other companies process more than 70 percent of U.S. soybeans, which are in turn fed to livestock and added to processed food products as soy lecithin and other ingredients. And most of our corn — a staple in livestock feed and present in virtually all processed food — is grown from seed developed by one of two companies.
What does it mean when so few companies control so much of our food? It means that unless we happen to live in a place with a lot of local farmers and the infrastructure to process and distribute their products, we have virtually no control over what we’re eating or feeding to our kids. If these companies choose to raise meat using hormones and antibiotics (and they do), or grow corn from genetically-modified seed (and they do), then that’s what we’ll have access to. And if one thing goes wrong at one of those companies, we all risk being affected.
So here’s my message to Mr. Budiansky: The local foods movement is not so much about choosing between what’s grown here and what’s grown elsewhere. It’s about having any sort of choice at all.”
The rest of her piece argues eloquently for farm policies and a farm bill that would give more power and control to smaller growers and to consumers.
For a detailed and scholarly examination of food miles, we recommend that you visit National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website, a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology….The site explains that:
Recent studies have shown that this distance has been steadily increasing over the last fifty years. Studies estimate that processed food in the United States travels over 1,300 miles, and fresh produce travels over 1,500 miles, before being consumed.” The publication of food miles “addresses how food miles are calculated, investigates how food miles affect producers and consumers, and evaluates methods for curbing the energy intensiveness of our food transportation system.”
Another of the concerns addressed by National Center for Appropriate Techology is nutrition:
“The ability to enjoy consistent produce and exotic ingredients at all times of the year is a luxury that, according to many food system analysts, has its price. The farther food travels and the longer it takes en route to the consumer, the more freshness declines and the more nutrients are lost. Many fruits and vegetables are engineered for a long shelf life, sacrificing taste and nutrition for preservation.”
The site also addresses the carbon footprint of food:
“While studies vary, a typical estimate is that the food industry accounts for 10% of all fossil fuel use in the United States.(5) Of all the energy consumed by the food system, only about 20% goes towards production; the remaining 80% is associated with processing, transport, home refrigeration and preparation.”
The site explores how far various foods travel and the modes of transportation used to transport food. They conclude that local foods use less energy and site a number of ways producers can get their food to markets more efficiently, including farmers’ markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), direct marketing, and Farm-to-Institution programs.
The National Center for Appropriate Technology site includes with a list of recommendations from for individuals to reduce food miles, adapted from Brian Halweil’s Home Grown: the Case for Local Food in a Global Market.
* Learn what foods are in season in your area and try to build your diet around them.
* Shop at a local farmers’ market. People living in areas without a farmers’ market might try to start one themselves, linking up with interested neighbors and friends and contacting nearby farmers and agricultural officials for help. People can do the same with CSA subscription schemes.
* Eat minimally processed, packaged and marketed food. Generally speaking, the less processing and packaging you see, the less energy went into production and marketing, the less global warming pollution was created.
* Ask the manager or chef of your favorite restaurant how much of the food on the menu is locally grown, and then encourage him or her to source food locally. Urge that the share be increased. People can do the same at their local supermarket or school cafeteria.
* Consolidate trips when grocery shopping. Consider carpooling, public transportation, or a bike trailer for hauling groceries to reduce your personal contribution to food miles.
* Take a trip to a local farm to learn what it produces.
* Limit the amount of meat you consume and when you do buy meat, look for organic or free-range meat produced on sustainable farms.
* Produce a local food directory that lists all the local food sources in your area, including CSA arrangements, farmers’ markets, food co–ops, restaurants emphasizing seasonal cuisine and local produce, and farmers willing to sell direct to consumers year-round.
* Buy extra quantities of your favorite fruit or vegetable when it is in season and experiment with drying, canning, jamming, or otherwise preserving it for a later date.
* Plant a garden and grow as much of your own food as possible.
* Speak to your local politician about forming a local food policy council to help guide decisions that affect the local foodshed.
Our Interview with Liza Tedesco and Janae Lloyd.
Northstate Local Food Resources
We’re lucky here in California to have access to great food sources. In addition to stores that carry local foods, we have a number of farmers’ markets and Community Supported Agriculture (known as CSAs), in addition to some local food networks that give attention to how we can take advantage of local foods. Some of them will be familiar to our listeners. Some may be new.
2nd & Wall, Downtown Chico
7:30 AM-1:00 PM, Rain or Shine
North Valley Plaza Mall
(at the corner of East Ave & Pillsbury Rd)
June – October • 7:30 AM
North Parking Lot, 1528 Esplanade (at 5th Avenue.)
June 2-September 2-6 PM
Outside Miriam Library
Year round (weather permitting) 3-5 PM
(Student vendors coming)
Saturdays and Sundays
Butte Community College
Chico Center Campus
April 10-October 31 9AM-2PM
Gardeners Swap Meet Free
6 – 8 p.m
(Locations vary in Chico; look for announcements/posters)
(collaboratively Creating health access opportunities & services)
16th & C Street, Chico CA (in the park)
When School is in session–2:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Summer Hours (When School is not in session)– 5-8 PM
Our mission is to facilitate, improve and maintain healthy lifestyles by increasing access to fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, and opportunities for physical activities and using the consumer safe food shopping environments created by certified farmers markets to develop grassroots community leadership to maximize human health.
Municipal Building on Montgomery St.
(between Huntoon & Myers)
May 10th – September • 7:30 AM-12 noon
Paradise Alliance Church
6491 Clark Road (next to P.O.)
June – October
7:30 AM-Noon, Rain or Shine
(From edible Shasta-Butte)
Year-round Pastured Meat
Chaffin Family Orchards
Winter Pasture-Raised Meat and Eggs
Churn Creek Meadow Organic Farm
Year-round Organic Fruit and Vegetables
Freshies—Local Food Gone Wild
Fruit and Vegetables
Vegetables (and gleaned fruit)
Little Folks Produce and Meats
Fruit and Vegetables
Summer through Harvest Vegetables
Sawmill Creek Farms
Meat (and more)
Twining Tree Farm
Winter Fruit and Vegetables
Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables
Vegetable, Grain, and Eggs
Mission: Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic organization that supports a biodiverse, sustainable food supply, local producers, heritage foodways, and rediscovery of the pleasures of the table. www.slowfoodusa.org
The purpose of the Chico Food Network is to foster a local food system that contributes to the long-term viability of farms in our region, provides Chico-area residents with fresh, healthy food choices, provides education regarding local food systems, and creates an awareness and interdependence between Chico consumers, food businesses, and local farmers.
The Chico-Butte Valley Chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation was formed to:
1. Provide a place for members to learn about and access nutrient dense foods.
2. Promote a healthy local food economy
3. Teach about the work and research of Dr. Weston A. Price
4. Promote Sustainable and Grass Based Farming
5. Help members access support and services to facilitate a traditional foods diet.
This chapter meets the 3rd Monday of each month, 6 pm at the Chico Grange.
Food Not Bombs . . . [has] hundreds of autonomous chapters sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty. Food Not Bombs is not a charity. . . . For nearly 30 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth.
Depot Park (W 3rd St & Cedar).
Food share every Sunday Noon
Community Gardens: The goal of the Community Garden project is to establish a sustainable food network in Chico. We are achieving this by creating a network of neighborhood gardens that are supported by our community. In order to do this we have two staff members who help match garden space requests with available lots and help establish the gardens and offer ongoing support. We need community members to work the gardens.
Fruit Tree Registry: The goal is to create a registry of trees that are producing fruit that is not used.
GRUB also keeps a binder of food producers–Local, Seasonal, Organic and Bulk.
Certified organic grains from Black Ranch, located near Etna, CA
Grains milled on site the day before baking
Wood-fired oven for baking
“Celebrating the Abundance of Local Foods, Season by Season”