Friday, March 30, 2012

Grillin' Time

It's been such nice weather lately, that we already have grilling season in full swing at our house. I love grilling season, but I will admit that it's probably because I take a break from the cooking and my husband does the work. And, let's face it, grill clean-up is usually simpler than kitchen cooking clean-up. Plus, I really love grilled food.

Sometimes people ask me what I eat off the grill since I'm a vegetarian. Grilled veggies are some of my favorites. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, there's a decent chance I'd choose grilled asparagus. My husband has mastered the grilled portabella (which I've heard referred to as "the vegetarian steak") and there are always peppers, onions, and potatoes alongside everything we grill. So I am well taken care of at dinner time.

We have experimented with grilled pizza, which is a favorite for some folks. I don't think we've quite perfected that on our grill yet, but the trials and errors are definitely enjoyable nonetheless.

If you are grilling out and the veggies aren't enough because you want a "meat substitute" (and the portabella isn't filling that void for you), there are some great veggie burgers out there. Typically, I'm not a fan of "fake meat." I always say, "I don't want to eat meat and I don't want to eat anything that pretends to be meat." I know I'm in the minority there. Vegetarian meat substitutes are extremely popular and a wonderful option. Some are just too close to real meat in texture that I have a hard time remembering that they are not really meat. I wish I could get past it because I feel like that's a world of wonderful options as well.

There is a type of veggie burger that I love though. And that is a black bean burger. I've always bought frozen black bean burgers in the past, but today I stumbled across this recipe and now I can't wait to try it! If it's as good as I think it's going to be, I'll be making up a huge batch of these and stocking my freezer for the grilling days to come.

Also, the new addiction at our house is kale chips! I heard about these quite some time ago and can not figure out why I waited so long to give them a try. They are simple to make, healthy, and a great snack...so much better for me than those potato chips I love so much. It's not uncommon for us to eat a whole bundle of kale (or two...or three) in one evening now that I make these. I'm late to jump on this bandwagon, but I'm glad I didn't miss it completely!

What is on your grill?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How we raise our food

I have a little boy at home who has never spent time at a farm. We talk a lot at home about where our food comes from because he has no frame of reference for this, other than the weekly trip to the supermarket. In the summer months, we visit the Farmers' Market in downtown Cedar Rapids. He loves exploring the groupsthat set up in the park and seeing all of the vendors. It also offers us an opportunity to check out the fresh produce that's available and purchase some garden-fresh items.

I think it's really important to have conversations with our kids about our food. The US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has set up a site called fooddialogues.com which offers opportunities for people to ask questions about how our food is grown and raised. This is the first site I have seen where an organization like this is actively seeking the questions and comments of the public and starting the conversation about where our food comes from.

Check out the site and take a look at what farmers and ranchers are saying. Ask your questions. Begin that dialogue. And then share with us what you think!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Under a month to the first Out Loud! event of 2012

Coming up on May 11, Linn Area Reads and Out Loud! The Metro Library Network Author Series will present Nicolette Hahn Niman at the Hotel at Kirkwood Center. We certainly hope folks reading this blog will join us for that event.

Hahn Niman's event is the fourth of eight Out Loud! events this year. We kick off in April with nonfiction and fiction writer Robin Hemley (April 21) and fiction writer Kevin Brockmeier (April 21), and we have Marc Brown, creator of "Arthur," on May 3.

After Ms. Hahn Niman, we have four more great events, including A. David Lewis (comics), Wendy Delsol (teen paranormal romance), James Rollins (thiller), and Sam Kean (science).

The full schedule is available here: www.metrolibrarynetwork.org/outloud.

We hope you'll join us...and if you do, you might consider eating at The Class Act, the restaurant at the Hotel at Kirkwood Center. It's a part of the school's acclaimed hospitality program. 

As it says on the restaurant's menu page, it features "the area's highest quality seasonal ingredients," which is, of course, in keeping with the themes of this year's Linn Area Reads program. And the Out Loud! Author Series team can confirm that the food is excellent at The Class Act.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Picture book from Pork Producers

Coe College had a health fair last week, and one of the participants was the Iowa Pork Producers!  Did they know I was coming?

I decided not to engage the representative, who looked like someone's grandma, in conversation, but I did pick up a copy of "a storybook from the National Pork Board," called Welcome to Our Farm.


It's written for pre-school and first-grade kids.  There are even "Notes to the Educator" in the back--with suggestions for vocabulary words (farmer, farm, crops, pig, snout) and art projects (make a pig snout out of a paper cup).

The pictures--photographs--showed a confinement farm.

 No pigs in sight at this farm.
 Here they are, inside a big building with nothing to do except bite each others' tails.  It looks fairly clean here, though.
 "These piglets are drinking milk from their mother" who is held in a pen that leaves her no room to turn around.
The pigs cower in fear from the caretaker, outfitted in a coverall and white gloves.

The Pork Producers have an online version of the book at http://www.pork4kids.com/kids/farm_tour.asp, too.  Basically the same story.

I was so glad to read the news that Pat posted yesterday about the changes coming to the pork industry. For those of you who read the Gazette article--did you see the quotes from Paul Willis (who was in our book)?  Nieman Farms were mentioned, too!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Large Companies Switching to Open Pig Pens

According to an article in the Friday, March 23, 2012 Gazette, several large companies are moving toward eliminating gestation pens. Pork suppliers to McDonald's Corporation are required to switch to open pens. Smithfield Foods has a plan in place to eliminate all gestation pens by 2017.

This is good news and bad news for consumers. The good news is that pregnant sows will no longer be confined to narrow cages where they have no room to move. Open pens mean that they will be able to move freely. The bad news is that open feedlot farming means fewer pigs and costs may be higher.

This is the first step toward returning to humane, sustainable hog farming. Hopefully, confinement barns are next.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

There's pig in what?!

I came across this handout on the Iowa Pork Producers website while doing some other research. It is a list of all of things that pig and pig by-products are in. I'm a bit grossed out and yet a bit morbidly intrigued by it as well. What do you think?

http://www.iowapork.org/Portals/iowapork/EBTO_Flyer.pdf

Area Farmers Markets

Farmers Market season is just about here! Summers in Iowa rock for finding fabulous local foods. I think many people consider that only vegetarians shop at farmers markets, but the markets also have local meats, eggs, cheeses, baked goods, and, of course great local crafts and neat things like cleaning supplies and things for your pets. And  FLOWERS!

The Cedar Rapids Downtown Markets are the 1st and 3rd Saturdays in June, July, August and September. You can visit the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance website for details.

Cedar Rapids also hosts its regular City Farmers Markets at Noelridge, Green Square Park, and in the parking lot on the corner of 8th Ave and 2nd St SE from May through October; check on the schedule at the City's website.

The Uptown Marion Market happens on the 2nd Saturday of each month, June through August, in City Square Park -- coincidentally, just across the street from the library! This is one of the best little markets in the area; if you like the CR Downtown Markets, but just feel a little overwhelmed, stop at the Uptown Marion Markets for a more accessible experience. You can learn details at the Uptown Marion website.

The weekly farmers market in Marion has been dislocated for this season; the City expects to make a final decision on the 2012 location on Monday, March 26 -- I'll post a comment once I learn where it is for sure. Here is information from last year: we expect details on dates and times are still correct, though the location is not.

Hiawatha's famers market happens on Sundays from 11:00-2:00 late April through October. Check out their photos and learn more at the city's website.

For reasons to shop at your local farmers markets, and some great web links, visit the Iowa Farmers Market Association. If you want to explore other markets in metro area communities, just do a Google search for the name of your town and farmers market. (You may need to add in the word "Iowa" to narrow things down appropriately.)

All of us with Linn Area Reads hope you will support your farmers markets this coming spring, summer, and fall, and that you will enjoy experimenting with some of the wonderful local foods we have available to us during this season of plenty!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

That pork chop may be righteous, but...

Working on a freelance gig this week for which I compile news stories for a high school audience, I happened upon the results of a Harvard School of Public Health study. Here's the little write-up I put together. (Spoiler: It isn't great news for red meat lovers.)

The Harvard School of Public Health thinks you might want to put down that burger. According to a new study, eating just three ounces of red meat each day increased the chance that a study participant would die by 13 percent. The study involved more than 110,000 adults, whose eating habits were followed for more than 20 years. Want to reduce your risk by 19 percent? Replace that burger or pork chop with a serving of nuts. That may sound nutty to many fans of red meat, but the researchers suggest that a change in eating habits would have a significant impact on public health.

Sources: The Slatest, CNN, Los Angeles Times

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pulled Pork

In honor of the pig chapters of our book, here is my recipe for pulled pork.  Last time I made it, I used a pork shoulder from Forest Hill Farm.  No more store-bought pork for us--their heritage pork is great.  It has less gristle, more darker meat, and overall better flavor.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork
1 5-pound (or less) boneless pork butt or shoulder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. salt
11/2  tsp. garlic powder
pepper.

Rinse pork, pat dry.
Mix spices in a bowl and rub into pork.  Marinate overnight.

Cook in slow-cooker/crock pot on low for about 10 hours.
Put on cutting board, shred with 2 forks after removing fat.

Serve with buns and BBQ sauce.

Broth can be used for soup!

Homegrown goodness

Thanks to this beautiful weather mid-March, I've already been able to get out to play in the dirt a bit this year - and it feels great! Plotting my garden each year is always fun -- and stressful. I have limited space and those seed catalogs just make everything look so good!

Even though I have a small garden of my own, I am looking more seriously at joining a CSA this year as well. I try to grow so many different things in such a small space that I can't grow much of any one thing. I'm going to try something different this year - grow a few of our favorites here at home and then join a CSA for a wider variety of fruits and vegetables.

I've also talked to a neighbor that is renting a large garden plot. What a great idea! I know myself enough to know that if it isn't right here at my house, I could end up neglecting it more than I should. (Sometimes I manage to even neglect my poor little garden that is right in front of my face.) Still, this idea seems so fabulous to me that I wish I was a more reasonable "plant parent."

No matter what options you are considering, more information is never a bad thing. Don't forget that tomorrow is the 3rd Annual Linn County Local Farmer and CSA Fair at Prairiewoods from 2 pm - 5 pm. Stop by and learn more about your local food options.

Free-Range Pigs: Doing their piggy thing

I read an article written in 1999 in the magazine "the Art of Eating" written by Edward Behr, issue #51.

Harking back to my tasteful blog last week, Behr states, "Even the taste of pork has changed in the last ten years because almost all pigs have been bred to be lean. Rubbery is the best word to describe the pork; the flavor is bland, so the texture stands out. Occasionally in the supermarket, you can still find some marbled, more tender, and tasty pork, but most is as lean and characterless as factory-chicken breast. The lean meat is almost impossible to cook without making it dry and tough, and, no matter what, the new pork will never taste very good because it isn’t marbled with fat."

In addition to tasting better, he explains that "free-range pig farming" means that pigs are fed no animal byproducts, and receive no massive amounts of antibiotics. Each hog can be monitored for health and treated when a condition arises. There is no need to inject every animal with an unneeded drug.

Behr's article focuses on Paul and Phyliss Willis' farm--the Willis Free-Range Pig Farm. They have worked to keep the family farm viable and raise their animals according to guidelines endorsed by the Animal Welfare Institute. "The AWI, a pragmatic group, worked with farmers to produce a list of simple criteria, largely to do with space and bedding, that are kind to pigs and represent good husbandry. . . The AWI rules are so far from fanatic that there is not even a requirement that animals have access to pasture. But large-scale factory farming is expressly prohibited: “Each farm shall be a family farm, that is, an individual or family member must do all of the following: (a) own the hogs; (b) depend on the farm for [his or her] livelihood; (c) provide the major part of the daily labor to physically manage the hogs and the rest of the farm operation.”

Pretty simple, isn't it? Treat your livestock humanely, let them follow their instincts, and reap the benefits of healthy, nutritious, good-tasting meat.

Oh, by the way, the United Kingdom banned raising hogs in close confinement. Should the United States do any less?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Follow-up Information from March 8 Book Discussion

At the first book discussion last week at Barnes & Noble, two topics from the news came up, and participants who hadn't heard about these things wanted a little more information.

The first was pink slime hamburger meat, currently being discussed with regard to school lunches. I found this blog post that talks about the issue AND provides valuable links to additional information: http://bit.ly/zc1EJc

The other topic we discussed briefly was an article a couple of participants had read online about a school child's home packed lunch (turkey & cheese sandwich, banana, chips, apple juice) being confiscated, and the child being given a school lunch (chicken nuggets) instead, because some monitor deemed her lunch was not nutritionally sound. Here is that article, from the Carolina Journal.

I hope this additional information will be useful to the great ladies at last week's discussion!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Other Side of the Story

Hello everyone! So as I read Righteous Porkchop, I can't help but wonder - honestly, how do the farmers on industrial farms defend what they are doing? Is there any argument besides economics? Is economics sufficient?

Hence, this afternoon I tried something a little different with my Google searches, and here's a little of what I found. I hope you'll take some time to read these pieces. They are interesting, and, if not necessarily convincing, at least show another perspective.

First off is farmer Blake Hurst, who wrote in The American (Thursday, July 30, 2009) an article in response to Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma which he called "The Omnivore's Delusion: Against the Agri-Intellectuals." He makes an interestingly powerful case, the basic premise of which is that "farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is. This is something the critics of industrial farming never seem to understand." Check out his arguments and let us know what you think.

Next, this article which appeared in Foreign Policy in June of 2010: "Attention Whole Food Shoppers." Writer Robert Paarlberg suggests that we "stop obsessing about arugula. Your 'sustainable' mantra -- organic, local, and slow -- is no recipe for saving the world's hungry millions." This very interesting article about solving global hunger will give you pause about what's right and what's wrong. (Anna Lappe directly refutes Paarlberg in Zester on July 21, 2010 in her article "Debunking Myths About Agriculture.")

More on global hunger from Jay Rayner, a British writer writing in The Guardian in September 2010. Rayner's article, "Big Agriculture is the Only Option to Stop the World Going Hungry," warns that if we are to survive the coming food security storm, we will have to embrace unashamedly industrial methods of farming. We need to abandon the mythologies around agriculture, which take the wholesome marketing of high-end food brands at face value – farmer in smock, ear of corn, happy pig – and recognise that farming really is an industry, much like car manufacturing or steel forging, one which always works better on a mass scale, but which can still be managed sustainably." 


We hope you might enjoy a look at the other side of the fence. We'd welcome your thoughts. 



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Food Dialogues

There is a website from the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance called Food Dialogues. According to the website, "U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is a newly formed alliance consisting of a wide range of prominent farmer- and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners. This marks the first time agricultural groups at the national, regional and state levels have collaborated to lead the dialogue and answer Americans’ questions about how we raise our food – while being stewards of the environment, responsibly caring for our animals and maintaining strong businesses and communities."

There are a lot of interesting discussions taking place on this website, as well as videos and opportunities for both sides of the table to join in on the discussion. It's a fascinating website, and I highly recommend taking a look at it! Just click on the link below!


http://www.fooddialogues.com/

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Letting you peek inside my fridge

I've tackled a number of unique writing assignments over the years, but one of my favorite is a series of columns I wrote for Edible Iowa River Valley. The folks at the magazine asked me to investigate the refrigerators of various local people -- Z102.9's Schulte & Swann, Corridor Media Group's John Lohman, pianist Dan Knight, and more -- in order to discover what local foods might be in the icebox. I also loved to find the quirky foods that made each person and each refrigerator unique (in fact, that was always more interesting to me!).

To kick the series off, I detailed the contents of my own fridge, in a piece that made it clear that I had a long way to go if I was going to become a local food aficionado. Upon reflection, I don't think I've made much progress. Here's a link to that first column.  

(By the by, my editor introduced an error into this piece -- no, really! -- and it renders the first sentence of the fourth paragraph nonsensical. Do me a favor: Ignore the word "when" when you get there.)

First Farm

Does this look familiar?

I'm visiting my brother and sister-in-law and 1 1/2-year-old nephew this weekend, and he had the set.  I remember my kids had it, too.  I didn't have one, but I did have little toy chickens and horses and cows.

So, blog-readers?  What is your first farm memory?  Did you have farm toys?  Did you visit farms as a kid?  Maybe you grew up on one!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Good talk.

I was happy to see a nice group turn out for our LAR discussion at Barnes & Noble last night. (Thank you, Jo, for guiding us along and having questions prepared that helped us all reflect a little on what we're reading.) Next week I hope to see even more people come join in. I really do enjoy hearing different voices on this subject.

Last night, when talking about the pig population in Iowa (there's a lot of them, folks!), one participant commented, "And when was the last time you saw one?" That simple question got me thinking. The farm animals here in Iowa do seem to be in hiding. (Or perhaps I'm just not looking in the right places.) I grew up in New York state. When I tell people this, I'm yet to have anyone say, "Oh man. You must have seen farm animals all the time." But I did. Granted, I grew up in upstate New York - a far cry from the hustle of NYC - but, believe it or not, I saw farm animals on a regular basis. Not hogs, perhaps, but real, live farm animals eating grass and laying in the sun, nonetheless.

When I moved to Iowa, I had visions of farms everywhere. Yes, that's an ignorant view of the state. I know that now. (Cedar Rapids is much more "city" than my little hometown.) But last night I got to thinking, is it really that bizarre that I expected to see more farm animals here than I did back in NY? When I drive across Iowa, I do smell more animals after all.

When I take my husband and son (both raised/being raised in Iowa) back to visit my family, what do you think is one of the highlights? A trip to a farm to pet the horses and cows or to pick a piece of swiss chard fresh from the plant and feed it to the chickens. It's almost like my son's favorite part of NY looks like a scene from my younger self's vision of Iowa.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Straight from Nicolette and Bill Niman

Here is "The Niman top Ten List for Affordable Sustainable Eating" extracted from a blog discussion that took place in July 2009. The complete blog is a wonderful read. Here is the link to the blog.


THE NIMAN TOP TEN LIST FOR AFFORDABLE SUSTAINABLE EATING
(Some of which are easier to do than others but all of which are worth consideration...)

(*But first, we should note that we think cost to the consumer is a very important question. In fact, it's one of the most important barriers to changing the practices of the current industrialized meat and dairy industries. It is true that meat and dairy from pasture-based, natural farms often costs more money.

The reasons for this are complex and are closely related to government policies (at federal, state and local levels) that encourage industrial production. But that does not help the consumer who's trying to carefully watch his or her budget and eat healthy foods. With that said, here are our suggestions on how to do that.)


1. Reduce consumption of meat, dairy and fish products. Most Americans eat far more meat and dairy than is nutritionally warranted and this is the most expensive part of the American diet. We refer to this as "moving meat OFF the center of the plate." By cutting down on the number of times you eat meat, dairy and fish AND by reducing portion sizes of those foods, you can keep buying naturally raised meat and dairy without breaking the bank.


2. Shop and eat in harmony with the seasons. For every food that is naturally raised, (and wild game, seafood and fish), there is a "season of plenty." During that season of plenty, the foods are available at a lower cost and it's a great time to get bargains on healthful, delicious foods. Various websites now offer guidance on what's in season when. A walk through a farmers market also tells you what's in season.


3. Plant a garden. If you have a yard, terrace, or even a window sill, you can grow your own organic vegetables, herbs and fruits cheaper than you can buy them. It's also a great way to get fresh air and exercise.


4. Keep a flock of laying hens. At the dawn of the 20th century, even cities had loads of chickens. "A 1906 census showed that in urban areas there was one chicken for every two people" (Righteous Porkchop, p. 40). More and more cities are again allowing people to keep chickens -- a great way to get cheap, organic eggs and chicken meat.


5. Cook more. Food that is prepared at home from raw ingredients is cheaper than prepared foods (and better tasting and more nutritious!)


6. Shift budgeting priorities. Americans spend a smaller percentage of their budgets on food than any other developed country. In France, for example, people spend about 14% of their income on food. In the US, we spend about 9%.


7. Buy cheaper cuts of meat. The so-called "middle meats" (e.g. pork loin, beef tenderloin) are the most commonly available in supermarkets, but are not the tastiest and are the most expensive. By learning about the lesser known cuts (e.g. beef tri-tip, pork shanks) and how to prepare them, you can save a lot of money on your meat.


8. Buy whole chickens (instead of parts). Roast the whole bird or cut it into parts at home. You'll save money and get better quality meat. Use what's left to make stock for soup and sauces.


9. Buy foods during low demand periods. For example, at Christmas, prime rib and tenderloin are in high demand while the New York strip steak is in relatively low demand, so this it's a good time to buy it if you're looking to save money. Another good example is pork spare ribs and babyback ribs -- they are in high demand in the summer grilling season and are much cheaper outside of that time period.


10. Eat organ meats. Liver, hearts and kidneys are highly nutrious and can be purchased at a relatively low cost. Even a very tight budget can afford these from naturally raised animals. Learn how to cook them and you'll have great, nutritious food.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We're #1!

As I read Hahn Niman's chapter on exploring industrial pork production in North Carolina, I'm reminded of my days working at CMF&Z, a local advertising agency with a lot of agricultural accounts. In those days (the '80s and '90s), Iowa was the undisputed King of Pork Producers. But I remember hearing that North Carolina was on the road to overtake us, because they had confinement farming, and Iowa did not. I believe there was controversy in Iowa about whether these farms should be allowed, family farms saying that they would not be able to compete; economics obviously won out, though I didn't closely follow the issue at the time, as we obviously have confinement farms now. In fact, for the first time (and shame on me for not noticing it long ago), when I traveled rural Iowa this past summer, I was suddenly struck by seeing no hogs.

I remember well growing up and traveling with my family that all the farms along our routes had hogs in fenced areas outside of barns. My aunt and uncle raised hogs and I remember visiting. Now, you do not see hogs. None. And yet -- so far as I know -- Iowa still ranks #1 in hog production.

Tonight, I did a little checking to see if that was so. Indeed, in fact, there is barely a close competitor. North Carolina is still 2nd, but there really isn't any contest. Check out these numbers, from the 2011 State of the Pork Industry Report, published by National Hog Farmer:
Iowa and North Carolina alone contain 43.1% of the United States hog inventory.
Hogs & Pigs, Breeding, Market, & Total Inventory, 12/1/2010:
Iowa - total hogs 18,900,000
North Carolina (our closest competitor) - total hogs 8,800,000

We have 18.9 million hogs in this state, and, unless you have explored the barns at the State Fair recently, when is the last time you saw one? Isn't that a little scary? (By the way, the human population of Iowa is 3,062,309.)

Guess what else we're #1 in? Egg production. And once again, no close competitors. According to economic data from the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, as of 2010 Iowa had 52,537,000 laying hens; our closest competitor is Ohio, with 28,050,000 laying hens.

And, I have to ask, when's the last time you saw a chicken? Admittedly, there is a local food movement afoot with some Iowa communities now allowing city folks to have chickens; bravo! So maybe your next-door-neighbor has a few laying hens. But chances are, you haven't seen a chicken for a good long time. Where are those 52.5 million hens laying their eggs? Confined in tiny battery cages with wire mesh floors and with their beaks clipped off to keep them from pecking their cage-mates, since they are all compacted so closely together: each hen has no more space than a sheet of paper.

We're #1, we're #1! Go Iowa.

Do your eggs come from THESE Iowa hens? 
Or these?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Influencers

When it comes to changing the standards that are established in any industry, you have to consider who the big players are and who really wields influence. When it comes to pork production, a company like McDonald's can be a force to be reckoned with.

In February, McDonald's announced that they will begin working with pork suppliers to phase out "gestational crates," the tiny stalls where pregnant sows are stalled. These crates have been targeted by animal rights activists as inhumane, and a number of states have restricted or banned their use.

These crates are approximately two feet by seven feet, too small for a pregnant sow to turn around in. This can cause several health issues for the pregnant sow over the course of a four month pregnancy.

McDonald's purchases one percent of the pork produced in the US, but other fast food chains have historically followed their lead when it comes to these types of changes.

This is just one step on a road to a larger solution, but it is important that the companies and organizations who have the power to influence the use of inhumane practices use that power to change things. Social media and the increase in citizen journalism has made it possible for customers to have a more direct link to businesses and that has led to some important changes. Companies have responded to what their customers are saying. And that means each of us has a little more power than we used to.

Individually we can't do much, but working together much can be accomplished.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'll have the lab-grown burger with fries, please.

Came across news of some Dutch scientists who are using stem cells to create lab-grown meat. In fact, it seems they are hopeful that they might serve up an artificial hamburger--prepared by a celebrity chef and eaten by a celebrity taster--as early as this fall. Word is, however, that the meat itself is likely to be bland, so that chef will have some work to do to make it palatable.

Is this a long-term solution to the ever-growing worldwide need for food? Will the stem cell controversy that adheres to conversations about human research be in play when the stem cells in question come from cows? Will there be an ethical showdown between those who want more humane treatment of animals (which might, arguably, include increasing reliance on lab-grown meat) and those who are opposed to this sort of science?

A link to a BBC article on the new meat.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vegetarian?

I find it interesting that Nicolette Hahn Niman is a vegetarian.

And she's not trying to convert us to vegetarianism.  In fact, she admits that she once used vegetarianism as an excuse not to be concerned about the meat industry:
Frankly, I found those stories so depressing, I intentionally avoided them. (Anyway, why did I need to read that stuff--wasn't I doing my part by abstaining from meat?)
 But she decides to get involved anyway.

Many people take up vegetarianism not to protest the meat industry, but for health reasons.  For example, I read this article in the Gazette about a Cedar Rapids woman who found out she had high risk cholesterol levels and completely re-vamped her whole family's lifestyle.  She, her husband and--get this--two small kids!--are now all vegans!

From talking with nutritionists about this topic (I wrote a short article about it for the Gazette a while back), I learned that getting the nutrition one needs from a vegan--that is, all plant-based, no dairy, no eggs--diet is a lot of work.  I admire this person for doing it for her whole family.

Blog readers--what do you think about becoming a vegetarian?  Have you ever tried it?  Are you interested?  Are you already a non-meat-eater--or even a vegan?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Local Food Co-op Makes Healthy Choices Fun, Useful

The cart is open! On the first of each month, Iowa Valley Food Co-op opens its member carts. Members have about two weeks to browse the selections, all foods and hand made goods from area producers, and fill their carts. On a pre-announced date, the carts close, you have purchased what's in your cart at that time, and all you have to do is go to the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Cedar Rapids to collect your stuff. It's a great system, and the Co-op's website is a joy to explore because of the variety of things available each month. A membership is only $25 the first year, and $10/year thereafter; my gosh! It just doesn't get any better than that! I'd encourage you all to explore the Iowa Valley Food Co-op website, and then, if you're not already a member, take Amanda's challenge to try something new this month -- and join! There's still time to get in on the March order. This isn't just for vegetarians: there's a wide selection of meats, candies, desserts, coffee, pet supplies, household cleaning products, granola: worth a look. Have fun!

Book is so timely

Hahn Niman's book is so timely for us here in Iowa Right Now because of the legislation that has now passed both houses and is heading for the Governor's office for his expected signature. There was another good article in today's Gazette.

Just for fun, try something new

My father stopped eating turkey. Not for any moral reason, just because, he said, "It didn't taste like the turkey my family had on the farm." And I thought that he was just a bit crazy. Of course turkey tasted just the same. Turkey is turkey, for goodness sake!

Ah, the arrogance (or stupidity) of youth. This past November my husband found a wonderful local farm, The Long Shot Farm, selling heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving. And I discovered that free-range turkey does not taste just like grocery store turkey. (My apologies, Dad!)

Since November we have been getting our eggs from the Long Shot Farm, also. They are local, the eggs taste great and are a delight for the eyes. One dozen eggs and three or four different colors. Wonderful!

So, go a little crazy. Find a local farm or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and try something different. It's not always a moral issue. It can be one that is just fun and educational.

Let the Discussions Begin!

I hope many of you got to your local library last night and got your copy of Righteous Porkchop to dive into! Now's when the fun begins. Open that book and start reading because next Thursday our collaborative book discussions at Barnes & Noble begin. For the rest of the month, every Thursday evening at 6:30 pm you should swing by Barnes & Noble Cedar Rapids to join the discussion. The more people that come, the more views we will be fortunate enough to hear, and the more food for thought we will carry away with us. I am really looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say.

I challenge all of you to allow March to be a month to question and challenge something in your life - whether it be the choices you make about the food you consume, how you can help preserve this great Earth, or how you can improve the lives of those around you. Sometimes it's worth really looking at the way we are living our lives to make sure we are choosing the options that we really want to be choosing.

Let's make March a month of reading to broaden our perspective! Hopefully you'll start with Righteous Porkchop, but why stop there?