Organic vs. Zero Food Miles

Based on targeted marketing and the preach of pro-environment organizations, we all know that eating organic and local foods are important for the health of our ecosystem as well as our intestines… But in the battle between local and organic, which is ultimately a more important philosophy to follow??

Let us create a hypothetical situation: I am at the grocery store, and I see a tantalizing mountain of organic cherries imported from Michigan. I think to myself “Oh good, I am going to buy these cherries because paying the extra $3 is worth it to help the environment and to evade Parkinson’s from pesticide ingestion!”

…..But wait, right next to the pile of organic cherries is another pile of cherries grown in a non-organic farm just a few miles from my house. Automatically one might think “No, these are not organic and the organic man would be mad if he knew I had the option to purchase the ‘better’ choice and I didn’t because I found a less expensive option”

Although the cherries grown miles from your house are not organic, they are local, which means the amount of fuel used to transport them to your grocery store was much lower than those flown in from Michigan. It seems that buying non-local organic vegetables kind of contradicts the purpose of buying organic and supporting the environmental movement in the first place.

So I ask my readers, what do you think is more important when buying produce? Local or Organic?

(of course if something is both local AND organic you find yourself in an ideal situation, though this is not always the case)

Ethanol: The Vodka of Industrialism

Though it is not yet as popular as gasoline, the production and use of Ethanol is growing at exponential rates in the United States. Advertised as the answer to the world’s limited fuel supply, what is the real deal behind this ‘miracle resource’?

ethanol

Ethanol: What is it? How is it used? Is this the answer in the world of alternative energy? These are questions that are floating in the heads of many of us as the ethanol vs natural gas debate continues to burn.

Ethanol is a type of fuel that is most commonly derived from Corn. After the corn is crushed into a powder, mixed with water, and heated, an enzyme is added that causes the corn mixture to ferment and turn into alcohol. Another process then breaks this mixture down further to create a highly alcoholic substance. After a small amount of gas is added to the formula, ethanol becomes a viable replacement to gasoline as an alternative fuel.

An alternative to gasoline? Sounds great, right? Lets break it down into some pros and cons (because I seem to love doing that lately):

Pros:

  • Ethanol is renewable
  • Produced on US soil (getting us out of bed with the Middle East)
  • Burns cleaner than gas.

Promoters of Ethanol push the above three pros to the extreme, claiming that ethanol is the answer to our search for alternative fuel. Why the debate then? What seems to be the problem with making our cars drunk enough to operate? Here come the cons:

Cons:

  • Requires more energy transport than it supposedly saves: Ethanol cannot travel in normal pipelines and must therefore be shipped or trucked to its delivery destination.
  • Requires more energy to produce than it supposedly saves: All of the resources used in growing and breaking down corn into ethanol require more fossil fuels than are saved with ethanol. Thus, completely defeating the purpose.
  • More expensive than Gas: At the time of analysis, ethanol was $3/gallon where gas was $2.28

Like it or not, Ethanol is already becoming incorporated into our gas. Right now, gasoline at the pump is about 10% ethanol, and these numbers will probably grow in the future.

An energy bill passed in 2005 requires ethanol production to increase by 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.

Who benefits most from increasing ethanol production?? Surely not you. Mr. Monsanto is quite pleased though! At least now, the copious amounts of zombie corn have a place to go besides slaughterhouse feedlots! GREAT!!!!!!

Ultimately? By upping ethanol production, our government is pouring even MORE money into subsidizing corn and that does very little to improve our current economic and environmental situation.

Sure on the outside ethanol seems a lot better than drilling deep into the earth, or calling our friends the Bin-Ladens for oil, but this is only a surface level analysis of the situation.

Perhaps it would be more viable in the future when better technologies are developed to make production and transportation methods more efficient. But right now, Ethanol is nothing more than environmental alcoholism.

Where does the money go? Check it out.
😉

‘Going Green’ in a Brown Economy: A Restaurant’s Nightmare?

Living in Los Angeles during the ‘Age of Going Green’ has put me in the center of the battle between the sustainable folk and those to get off on using styrofoam (zombie food to go!)

2007-116-rising-sea-levels

Unfortunately I can’t be too judgemental on the restaurants that haven’t (yet) jumped onto the Green train. Why? Because with the current state of our economy, it is impressive to even have a restaurant that can stay open, let alone transform its entire food and production system to be more environmentally friendly.

What does it mean to be Green?

  • Adios to Styrofoam (the biggest offender): Styrofoam is not biodegradable and is filled with toxic chemicals that don’t make the Earth happy.
  • Get Rid of Energy Eating Equiptment: Regular refrigerators and other kitchen/cleaning appliances require quite a bit of energy to run. According to Panasonic, the average refridgerator eats up about 1000 kwH of energy per year, but they just introduced a new fridge that boasts a 350 kwH/year energy use. (I am not endorsing the product but that is a pretty impressive reduction.)
  • Low-Flow Faucets/Flushers: Restaurants consume a ridiculous amount of water, from dishwashing, cooking, and bathrooms. Low-Flow faucets increase the amount of air in the water and ultimately lower consumption. Double flush toilets, well, no more “if it’s pee let it be” rule.
  • Sustainable Eating: For a restaurant to be gastronomically green (and not in a way that causes food poisoning) it has to serve foods that come promote the long-term health of the ecosystem: foods from local sources, organics, foods produced with sustainable agriculture (energy/resource conservation), etc.

Consumers want their restaurants to be Eco-friendly these days so they can feel like they are making a small contribution to saving the world with each bite of their lunch. This is easier said than done.

Reading an article in the LA Times, the exec chef from the Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica gives a little perspective on how difficult it truly is for a restaurant to ‘Go-Green”.

It is much easier to go green at home, and much less expensive. But if you are fixed on eating out on a regular basis, http://www.dinegreen.com provides a pretty conclusive link of restaurants around the US that are certifiably Green.

The economy sucks, we all know that, but what would suck even more is UNIVERSAL ECOSYSTEM COLLAPSE!!!!!! (cue dramatic music)

Bill HR 875: The Patriot Act of Food


While it may seem that my arguement below is skewed to the left and based simply upon liberalist banter, I must stress that my conclusions are based off of what I read in the actual text of the Bill.

To be more specific, I suggest you read over the following sections:

  • Section 201: Administration of National Program
  • Section 401: Prohibited Acts
  • Section 403: Notification and Recall
  • Section 405: Civil and Criminal Penalties
  • Section 506: Regulations

In my humble opinion, after reading over this bill, the establishment of Food Safety Administration seems like a small death to civil liberties. The administrationwill have the power to determine what food passes regulation standards based on very broad (and some arbitrary) guidelines left up to the determination of the the ADMINISTRATOR (dun dun dunnnnnnnnn)

The motivation behind this bill is to keep our food safe and out of the hands of contamination and bioterrorists. Though (if passed) this might prevent the occasional tomato and peanut scare, it seems like more wasted funding for another one of our government’s anti-terrorist moves that will do nothing more than infringe on our rights as citizens.

Anyone remember the Patriot Act? Well, more than anything else this seems like the beginning of government intervention into multiple realms of domestic life, a change none of us were hoping for.

Obama, you might want to get your wife’s organic garden at the White House approved. Those veggies could be lethal.

Fascism and Organics: What’s New at Costco?

Costco has jumped on the bandwagon and begun to market to the organic obsessed consumer. The Kirkland Signature line has now begun to mass produce organic products ranging from milk to salad fixings…but something doesn’t seem quite right…

Costco: Where bigger is better!!!!!!!#($&*%#)#$
Costco: Where bigger is better!!!!!!!#($&*%#)#$

Alright, I can’t lie, being the good American that I am, I love going to Costco every now and then and buying massive amounts of crap I don’t need. And now,  for my consumer convenience, I can go there and buy an 18 pound bag of carrots, but no need to worry folks these are organic carrots, produced by the Kirkland Signature brand…

….what?

The way Costco is marketing this shift to organic produce and dairy products is by playing the “we’ll save the economy” card. “Sure organic stuff is expensive, but when Costco can cut the price in half, and sell you about 234325345 times more than you need, why wouldn’t you want to buy it?!”

This is where it gets fishy… Costco says you can buy cheap and still be environmentally friendly.. but then how are they justifying the ridiculous packaging and preparation processes that make these organic products so cute and convenient?

For example, in a Costco article discussing what consumers can look forward to, here is what they have to say about their organic apple line:

  • “These hearty, good-for-you, crisp apples are pre-cored and cut into wedges for the ease of eating…Equally nice is the fact that these organic apples are packed in one-cup, single serving portions.”

Ok, I am sorry, but with all the plastic and energy they are using to package this stuff, they may as well just open a few more nuclear plants around the country and call it a day.

Do apples really need to be pre-sliced and cored for the ease of eating?! Why don’t we just have a convientent robot we can buy that will manually move our jaws open and closed to ease chewing? and then another robot that will wiggle our throats to ease the swallowing process? Are you freaking kidding me?

I am happy that Costco is willing to jump on the organic train (even if it is only for business purposes) but in my humble opinion this is a one step forward, two steps back plan.

Pros:

o Increased demand for organic products=more farms converting to organic practices. (as of now less than 10% of American farms are certified organic)

o Allows the average American to eat a healthy organic diet at their own convenience, perhaps offering an motivation with increased availability to buy organic.

o Lowers prices of organic products (though there is a con to this that I will address momentarily)

o According to Costco, the organic foods are supplied by a ‘variety of regional farmers’

Cons:

o These organic products are still being processed in large plants (how else do you think that this stuff gets distributed all over the country by the truckload…or by the bargeload)

o Costco will never break its fascist ways of slapping their Kirkland name on it and packaging it in a way that costs more than the product itself.

o Plastic packaging and the machines that do so are bad for the environment.

o Though the prices of these products are lower, how many of you can go to Costco and come out spending less than $500 dollars, “Sure honey, we definitely needed that automatic milkshake maker with a built in plasma T.V.”   (I think not)

Therefore, If you are going to go to Costco and buy organic, good for you, but keep in mind that your buying bulk organic is not going to single-handedly solve the world’s environmental problems. It might be better for your health, but you’ll still be breathing in the pollution omitted from their processing plants…

oh, and Here is an article I read about Costco’s new business endeavour to ‘go organic’. The language used in this article seems a little manic to me… Read it for a good laugh. Love the propaganda.

New food in a Crap-ola Economy

Sitting in class I began to think about our continously deteriorating economy… Are we on the brink of breadlines? Probably not… but what is the priority of preserving environmentally sound food systems in the hellish economy we now face?

In my opinion, developing a palate for the push away from GMO foods would actually probably save  us money in the longrun, devoting more funding towards the exploration/development of food systems that benefit our wallets and stomachs.

What do you think? Is there/should there be space for focus on food in the world economy at this point? or are industrialized food sources here to stay and grow to even more astronomically large and monopolized levels?

Also, with Obama as the supposed Messiah of the world, do you really think he will do much to save the current state of our national health and food mentality, or are we (for lack of a better phrase) Gastronomically screwed?

There is so much potential for new jobs to be created in these fields, it is just a matter of motivation and strength of knowledge within the global market. (both by consumers and producers)

DISCUSS!

Would you like some Corn with your Corn?

So just a quick bit, I am currently reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma because naturally as a foodie thats into the environment, this book is right up my alley.

Anyway, though I have only just begun I have already been introduced to so many horrifying statistics and factoids that I am considering becoming an AIRitarian….that’s right, I’ll just eat air from now on….

For example: Apparently there is corn or some sort of corn by product in about 80% of all the processed foods we can find in the supermarket. To list a few: Mayonnaise, nondairy creamer, frozen yogurt, cheez whiz, soups, snacks, cake mix, frosting, frozen waffels, syrups, hot sauces, hot dogs, bologna, salad dressing, VITAMINS. my GOD!

Why is it so bad be having this much corn? Who cares if you’re eating corn in basically every foodstuff that enters your mouth? Well, amongst the ridiculously long list of reasons, corn has become a commodity, not only a food product. In fact, many farms across the midwestern “corn row” (an area of America completely filled by acres and acres of corn fields, about twice the size of New York state) are growing corn that is not even directly edible by consumers. This genetically modified, easy to maintain, governmentally subsidized product, is grown in obscenely large amounts (larger than any American consumer can eat) to feed livestock, fatten them up more quickly, to make us some Grade A meat, and FAST!

…And what’s worse, is that these livestock (and EVEN SALMON) are not accustomed to having a corn-based diet, making these animals sick or extremely vulnerable to disease. But thank god for antibiotics right? I love me some antibacterialized beef.

What’s absolutely disgusting is that the corn in all of our food increases the caloric value astronomically, but for no reason at all. Maybe THIS is the reason for such high rates of type 2 Diabetes, and obesity in America?

I will make more updates about this book as I read it, seriously I am just turning each page, more and more horrified.

There is much more to say about corn, but to be honest, I don’t have the mind or the stomach to list all of them right now. I am being haunted by the corn in my pantry, I think I just heard my box of Special K taunting me… wow I need a nap.

Has anyone else out here read this book? Any reactions to the corn section?