Articles from January 2012



Newsbites: Choice Tidbits from the Week in Sustainable Food

                Story of the Week American farmers routinely give the drug ractopamine hydrochloride to livestock. The chemical, which mimics stress hormones and makes the heart beat more rapidly and promotes growth and the production of lean meat. But at a cost. It has sickened more animals than any [...]

When it Comes to What’s in our Food, Americans have Less Transparency than the Chinese. Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg Intends to Change That

The healthy food movement just got a CE-Yo. Gary Hirshberg, the head of Stonyfield Farm, announced that he was turning the operation of the Londonderry, New Hampshire- based organic yogurt company over to Walt Freese, who has held executive positions at Ben & Jerry’s in Burlington, Vermont, and Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, Colorado. Hirshberg (who [...]

The Agrichemical Business Goes on Trial

Methyl iodide is one of a family of chemicals that researchers view as well-known cancer hazards. The chemical is also a neurotoxin and causes late-term miscarriages. And it kills soil-dwelling organisms — which is why farmers (particularly strawberry and tomato growers) fumigate fields with it prior to planting.  Calling it one of the most toxic chemicals used in [...]

Newsbites: It’s Officially Paula Deen Week

Newsbites I hereby declare this week Paula Deen Week. Her culinary tastes may be questionable, but no one can debate that the woman has a rare knack for self-promotion. As a service to readers of Politics of the Plate, I plowed through dozens of commentaries on Deen’s announcement that she has diabetes, and have winnowed out three [...]

Dining on Dioxin

Dioxins are nasty chemicals. They are human carcinogens. They cause reproductive problems, wreck the immune system, and interfere with hormonal production. The World Health Organization ranks them among the “Dirty Dozen,” a group made up of organic toxins that persist in the environment (and our bodies) for decades. Although they are produced mainly by industrial processes, [...]

A Documentary that Must Get Made—and How You Can Help

If you enjoy this blog, I’m asking a favor, and it’s not for me. Please consider making a donation for Sam Mayfield, a documentary producer and friend of mine who is raising funds to defray production costs of her new film Wisconsin Rising! The documentary tells the story of how the people of Wisconsin rose [...]

Newsbites: Choice Tidbits from the Week in Sustainable Food

  PR Flub of the Week The award this week goes to Trader Joe’s. The feel-good bastion of all things fair and natural, has steadfastly refused to sign a Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)—a social-justice organization based in the south-Florida migrant community of Immokalee. The coalition has long been pressing supermarkets [...]

You Call Them Uni; I Call Them Whore’s Eggs. By Whatever Name, Green Sea Urchins have Become Overexploited

Back in the 1970s, I spent a summer as a mate on a lobster boat off Nova Scotia. With cold weather, choppy seas, and the physical drudgery of heaving around traps, the job entailed many less-than-pleasant duties, but my least favorite was dealing with green sea urchins—which the lobstermen referred to as “whore’s eggs.” Several [...]

More Cheap PR Stunts from the Folks Who Are Supposed to Protect Our Health

  The cynicism of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knows no bounds. Just before the holidays, the agency, which is supposed to protect Americans’ health, reneged on a 35-year-old pledge to ban farmers from administering low levels (also called subtherapeutic levels) of antibiotics that are used to combat infections in humans to livestock, not [...]

Meet Your Meat: Feedlot Vs. Free-Range

Before buying your next cut of beef, consider these two photographs.   The top one is of the Harris Ranch Beef Company feedlot along Interstate 5 about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There, up to 100,000 cattle at a time are crowded on top of their own excrement into one square mile of [...]