Tag Archives: Mark Bittman

Friday Linkage 7/3/2015

Damn, it’s July. Where did June go? That’s right, I spent the month trying to put as many miles on my bikes as possible and spending the rest of my time enjoying a few moments of clam between rain storms.

On to the links…

Americans Are Drinking Less Coffee Thanks to K-Cups—So, we are drinking less coffee but paying more for the privilege of brewing it a single cup at a time. How is this a good trade off?

The Surprising Environmental Reason Weed Should Be Legal—Marijuana should be legal nationwide because the war on drugs is a sham perpetuated by the prison industrial complex. It also appears that there is an environmental benefit to legalization.

Solar Power Per Capita & Wind Power Per Capita Leaders—Lichtenstein is the leader in per capita solar? Really?

Largest Solar Plant On Planet Earth — Solar Star — Comes Online—With all the hype about distributed solar—of which I am a big proponent—sometimes the scale of these utility projects gets lost. Solar Star in California has a rated capacity of 579 megawatts of funky yellow sun fueled electrical power.

How Renewables are Thriving in the US Thanks to State Policies—Government policy can advance the cause of renewables despite what right wingers might say:


Total Plans 500-800 MW Solar Power Capacity In Bolivia—Bolivia has not ever come up in the links before that I can remember. The French energy titan Total is putting some serious money into renewables in that country.

3 Out Of 4 New Solar Homes In NSW To Include Battery Storage—The more I read and the more I think about the topic the more that I come to the conclusion that Australia seems like the perfect laboratory for the distribution of massive amounts of residential solar.

The West Is Literally On Fire, And The Impacts Could Be Widespread—As the climate changes as a result of global warming we are going to have to deal with the massive impacts of wildfires in drought stricken regions.

Californians Getting Drought Message: Water Usage Plunges—The state still has not addressed some of the agricultural usage insanity—like growing alfalfa to feed to cows or to export—but the residents of the state seem to be getting the idea that el Nino will not rescue them from drought this time.

Mark Bittman Wants You to Know the Drought Isn’t Your Fault—The drought is not our fault, but our food choices may be making things worse. Given the water situation in California there is no logical reason why cows should be residents of that state. None.

Corn Syrup’s DC Attack on Sugar Could Hit Minnesota Beet Industry—Talk about some lobby-on-lobby crime. These two subsidized industries need to get of the government welfare.

Hawaii Just Became The First State To Ban Plastic Bags At Grocery Checkouts—A big thank you to the aloha state for banning the distribution of single use plastic bags. These things are the scourge of the earth.

Friday Linkage 11/1/2013

I feel like I am finally getting back to a sense of normal after two months of crazy.  The next couple of weeks should bring some good project notes on some things that I have been working on and a plethora of beer related musings.  In recent weeks I have bottled a couple of batches, brewed another, and planned trips to several breweries within the region.  Good things are coming.

On to the links…

Surly Brewing Breaks Ground on New Brewery—Why is this the lead link?  Because the brewery is going to quadruple annual capacity bringing hope to those of us not living in the Twin Cities that Coffee Bender might make a trip to our environs.

Annie Leonard Shows us How to Solve Our Problems—I just love the simple and impactful way that these “sketchboard” videos lay out issues that are sometimes very difficult to process in a meaningful way.  Take a few minutes and watch with intent.  When you are done watch the Story of Stuff as well.

Shutdown Of National Parks Cost $30 Million In Just One State—It is a damn shame that anyone has to argue about the value of the National Parks.  At least the recent government shutdown highlighted the value that these parks possess.  Now, if anyone on the right actually learns the lesson it will be a miracle.

Vision of Prairie Paradise Troubles Some Montana Ranchers—When the Poppers proposed the “Buffalo Commons” many years ago a lot of people laughed the idea off as east coast elite nonsense.  It looks like the folks behind the American Prairie Reserve did not think it was such a silly idea.

Why You Should Care About Everglades Restoration—It’s hard to love a swamp and it’s even harder love Florida.  But, the ecosystem of the Everglades is very important and its restoration could be a harbinger of common sense for a state devoid of it, in general.

Natural Allies for the Next Sandy—In the future, we are going to have to consider every solution to ensuring our communities are protected from super storms.  These storms will become more common and more intense.  Bet on it.

Over 100 North Dakota Oil Spills went Unreported—The dark side of the oil boom in North Dakota is seeping out story by story, day by day.  None of it is really good.  Now we know that the safety record of these companies is pretty piss poor.  Are these the same people you want in charge of a pipeline bringing sludge from Canada across the American heartland down to Texas?  Did not think so.

Want to Stop Hunger? Shift the Food Industry to Plant Based Foods—As the ecological and economic impacts of our rampant meat eating become more and more apparent, a movement is going to grow that treats such wanton consumption with the same contempt that we have for smoking.  A guy can hope right?

Should You Eat Chicken?—Mark Bittman nails the problem on the head with the simple statement that the issue with the food system is that “We care more about industry than we do about consumers.”  In this light, decisions made by regulators make sense.  A speed up of processing lines?  Sure, why not, we’ll just tell people to cook their chicken until it resembles a Duplo block to ensure no contamination.  We should not have to handle our food like it is hazardous waste.

Organic Crusader Wants Food Labels to Spell it Out—Ronnie Cummins and the Organic Consumers Association, a Minnesota based advocacy group, have been a key player in the push to have labels that tell the consumer if genetically modified ingredients have been used.  Voters in Washington will go to the polls soon to decide the fate of a labeling measure similar to the measure that failed in California recently.

F.D.A. Finds 12% of U.S. Spice Imports Contaminated—Now it looks like the spices that we import from overseas are contaminated and adulterated at a rate that is twice that of other food contamination.  Like was said in Fast Food Nation, there’s shit in our meat.

Watchdog Warns Of ‘Dirty Dozen’ Hormone Disruptors As Scientists, Industry Argue Regulation—I remember when talking about ensuring your child had BPA free bottles was just “hippie talk.”  My search for glass bottles was treated like some kind of project in Wicca or dark arts.  Now labels proudly proclaim the chemical is not present.  Too bad these endocrine disruptors are everywhere.

Should You Be Afraid Of Your Smart Meter?—Add smart meters to the things that might be potentially dangerous.  More and more I want to live some kind of neo-Luddite, off-grid existence.

What Is Coffee’s Carbon Footprint?—I am a coffee person.  Over the years I have reduced my Starbucks habit to about once per month as a treat with my daughter, but my mornings always begin with a cup of coffee from the Aeropress.  Reading about the carbon footprint is just a buzzkill.

WalMart has More Solar Capacity than 38 States—Granted, in terms of economic size, WalMart is bigger than most states as well.  The thing that gets me is that not every roof in America is being measured for panels like the store in this picture.  When flying into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport I was struck by the acres of flat and low sloping warehouse roofs that I could see from the window of the airplane.  So much acreage that could host solar panels.

As Solar Takes Off, Utilities Fight Back in Australia—This is getting to be a common refrain.  As solar becomes more accessible, utilities see a threat to their business model.  Fighting tooth and nail they delay progress on a truly transformative power generation method.  It’s all about control.

2013 to be Record Year for Offshore Wind—The lack of progress on U.S. offshore wind hides the fact that nations around the world are making it happen.  Although the total amount installed is low compared with what is deployed on land, a growth rate of 40% per year is very sporty.  Also, offshore wind allows wind power to be deployed closer to clusters of population that need renewable energy.

Portland Swaps 163 Parking Spots for 1,644 Bike Spots—The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland.  The thing that blows me away about car parking is how much space we devote to our cars being stationary.  At my place of employment the new cubicles for employees are less than half the size of the average parking spot at the same company.  What is truly valued?

Friday Linkage 10/25/2013

I survived Florida.  Trust me, it is usually an ordeal in some way or another when I venture into Rick Scott’s land of strange.  Thankfully I did not run across any monitor lizards or pythons.  Nor did I fall victim to any sinkholes.  Just an uneventful trip to see the mouse.

On to the links…

America’s CO2 Emissions Hit 18-Year Low—The U.S. Energy Information Administration, a wealth of information on energy issues, estimates that U.S. CO2 emissions in 2012 were actually at levels not seen since 1994.  A lot of this is due to the emergence of natural gas replacing coal in electrical generation and a reduction in the demand for heat due to warmer winters.  It’s still some decent news.

Exploring Solar, Efficiency, Gas and More with Amory Lovins and Joel Makower—If you get a chance to see either of these men speak, it’s a treat.  To get both of them on the stage talking about energy issues is just like Christmas in October.  Take a break and enjoy the talk.

Clean-Water Laws: The Second Front in the War on Greenhouse Gases—It’s not just about regulating emissions explicitly.  There are solutions to the issue of regulating greenhouse gas emissions that are much more covert.

The World Isn’t Keeping Up With The Need To Invest In Sustainable Energy—  To address the coming threat of climate change and keep warming to a “manageable” 2 degrees Celsius, the world needs to invest ~$625 billion per year through 2020.  Currently, the investment is at ~$359 billion.  It’s a pretty big shortfall, but what amazes me is that the total figure ($625 billion) is about what the U.S. spends on its military when you account for operations in Afghanistan and other ancillary defense agencies.

0.3% of GPD Would Protect East Asia from Climate Change—So, we can spend a large but manageable amount now to mitigate the impacts of climate change.  Or, we can ignore the signs and deal with apocalyptic conditions later on.  Guess which one the world will choose?

Koch Brother Wages 12-Year Fight Over Wind Farm—William Koch rarely hits the news like his more politically active brothers.  Usually, he is in the press for the strange western frontier town that he has built in Colorado.  Well, it looks like he hates renewable energy as much as his brothers.

To Expand Offshore Power, Japan Builds Floating Windmills—Thankfully the Kochs are not Japanese because it looks like Japan is going to go all in on offshore wind to replace nuclear power as the backbone of the countries electrical generation.  It will be interesting to see if a large investment can push the industry forward.

First Auction of Solar Rights on Public Lands in Colorado Draws No Bids—I was surprised to read that no one bid on the rights to build solar projects in southern Colorado.  Then I read the end of the article and was amazed at the amount of solar power already on-line in the region.

Residential Solar is a Middle Class Phenomenon—It looks like the Koch brothers, all three of those clowns, are not the only rich people who do not like renewables.  Apparently, its relatively well-to-do middle class households that like renewables.  At least when it comes to residential solar.

Independence Through Microgrids: When The Power Goes Out, Some Are Just Going Off The Grid—Every time a disaster hits where the grid is knocked out, stories flow about how a few islands—powered by renewables—kept the lights on and served as community hubs.

How The Department Of Energy Is Working To Reduce The Cost Of Solar By 75 Percent—The balance of system costs—those costs associated with a solar system that are not panel related—continue to bedevil systems as the costs prove sticky.  However, more effort is being focused on bringing those costs down.

Eating Raw Whale Meat While Dishing up Baloney — How Industry is Imperiling the Oceans While We Aren’t Looking—Man, it’s frightening just how fudged up large companies are making the world’s oceans.

Now this is Natural Food—I do not know why I have never read about the idea of perennial food systems.  Sure, permaculture has a place in the reading list and I try to incorporate some of those principles into my landscape but this seems different.

Fifteen Tons of Groceries, Sailing Down the Hudson—I have linked to articles about the Vermont Sail Freight Project before.  It is cool to see pictures of the initial voyage to New York City.

Where Do Baby Carrots Come From?—If your house is anything like mine, baby carrots are consumed in large quantities.  My children will eat bowlfuls after school or at dinner without any encouragement.  It’s interesting to see the journey to the grocery store for this staple of snacks.

Friday Linkage 5/31/2013

Few things could make my week turn out much better, but noted conservative wing nut and all around bat shit crazy wingbat Michele Bachmann is not going to seek re-election to Congress in 2014.  Granted, the current scandal surrounding her failed Presidential campaign—who for a minute thought that someone so far out of the mainstream would have a prayer of winning?  Oh right, the Republicans—might have played a role, but she did not elaborate on her decision.  Still, it’s a good week.

If you want to remember some of her greatest hits, check out this list.

On to the links…

Solar Power’s Epic Price Drop Visualized—Dig it man, solar power is getting cheaper and cheaper every day.  There may be hope for a clean energy future.

Solar Industry Anxious over Defective Panels—It looks like the boom and bust in solar panel manufacturing is coming with a dark side.  Namely, cost cutting in the name of survival may be leading to sub-standard products being shipped out the door.

The Three Best Things Minnesota did for Solar—Who would have thought that Minnesota would be a leader in solar right now at the government level?  It’s not like people think of sunny Minnesota.  Maybe the state will be our Germany?

Kansas City to Install Solar Panels on 80 Municipal Buildings—The move is expected to save upwards of $40K per year for the city.  Such a move would not have made since with higher panel prices, but as the cost curve has bent downward it looks increasingly attractive.

Coal Making a Comeback in 2013—Ugh, I thought the coal demon was slinking back into the dark forever.  It looks like I was wrong.  Maybe some of the predictions over at WonkBlog will come true with regard to coal’s struggles continuing.

The CBO says We Need a Price on Carbon Emissions—If we cannot put a price on something, no one will put the cost in their models and it is models that rule the world now.  Trust me, if you can put it into an Excel spreadsheet it instantly becomes more believable to the MBAs of the world.

5 Reasons Why I Became a 1 Gallon Brewer—The idea of brewing batches of beer in smaller than 5 gallon increments is enticing, I would be one bummed out dude when I made something that I loved and had only a dozen or so bottles.  Bogus!

Dean Foods Completes Spin-off of WhiteWave Foods—I remember when Dean Foods’ purchase of WhiteWave was viewed as the death knell of organic because now the term was going to be abused by the big industrial food machine.  I do not know if the spin-off is a good thing because it means that organic is now big enough to be its own industrial machine.

Shuanghui Buying Smithfield Foods for About $4.72 Billion—You want to talk about a disaster waiting to happen.  China’s food system is a mess and now a Chinese company is buying a U.S. pork producer not known for its sterling food safety record.  The answer is to opt out of industrial meat completely.

16 Not-Quite Meatless Recipes—This is the way to do things if you want to opt out of the industrial meat game.  Use a little bit of meat to enhance a dish, but make vegetables and grains the center piece of the meal.  Mark Bittman’s approach to food is quickly becoming my favorite perspective.

Breeding Nutrition out of Our Food—Great, our food system is not only designed to produce crap but it looks like even the unprocessed foods have been bred to be less healthful than nature intended.  Is there any good news?

How I got Hooked on Weeds—and Why You Should Too—One answer to finding more nutritious food is to eat the things that have not been or cannot be bred for industrial farming.  Who is going to spend the time to genetically sequence dandelions or lamb’s quarter?

How to Find out Where Your Food Comes From without Waiting for Label Laws—The informed consumer is the powerful consumer.  Companies want you to be as ignorant of their practices as possible so that you make decisions based purely on information that they themselves provide.  Kind of sounds like the Catholic Church prior to the Reformation.  Trust us…

Illegal Monsanto GMO Wheat found in Oregon Field—Do these people have any control of what they are doing?  And to think they want less regulation and oversight.  Ok.

California Plan to Overhaul Water System to Cost $25B—Whenever I read about California’s water system and its problem I think about Cadillac Desert and Chinatown.  The history of that state is just interwoven with the story of water.  It’s still going on.

Microplastic Pollution Prevalent in Lakes, Too—It feels like we are quickly approaching a time when the prevalence of plastic in every step of our food chain will be a reality.  Great.

Friday Linkage 8/24/2012

This is it for about two weeks because I will be spending the time around the Labor Day holiday in Colorado visiting friends.  It should be a nice break spent sampling beers at several of the Front Range’s well-regarded craft brewers, some nice hiking, and maybe bagging a couple of fourteeners if I am lucky enough to get the time.  Who knows, maybe the Manitou Incline will make the schedule this trip.

On to the links…

White House Brews its Own Beer and the People Want the Recipe—The person who filed the Freedom of Information Act request is awesome!

Natural Gas, Renewables Dominate Electricity Additions in 2012—Expect this trend to continue as the downside of coal fired power becomes too much to overcome in the U.S.  In China it is another story entirely.

Older Boomers Help Shift Driving Trends into Reverse—There is going to come a time when I stop having to read articles on the impact of baby boomers.  Until then, I can at least hope there are more positive stories like this one.  Essentially, with such a large cohort of people entering the period of life where driving declines there is going to be a general trend downward in miles driven in the U.S.

U.S. Hits 30 Bike Shares in Just Four Years—Compound the decline in baby boomer driving and following generations’ inclination away from auto-centric lifestyles…you get those socialist sounding bike shares.  Sean Hannity is crying in his Ayn Rand pajamas right now thinking about people sharing…bikes!

Most New Yorkers Say Bike Lanes are a Good Idea—New Yorkers were already probably on Mitt Romney’s hit list because of their affinity for dense urban living and public transportation—where does one find space for a car elevator in SOHO—but their support of bike lanes will make him join a therapy session with fratty Paul Ryan.  Just don’t take either of them to the Park Slope Co-Op.

On Lanai, Community Faces Change—Lanai is such a strange place.  Just off the cost of Maui, it seems like it should be developed for tourism like so much of the area around Lahaina yet it is sparsely built out.  Now that Larry Ellison has bought the island there are concerns about his plans.  So far, he has said nothing.

Marine Defenders App Helps Fight Ocean Pollution—Technology can offer new ways to help heal and protect the planet.  We need to take advantage of every opportunity to do so.

The Art of Saving Reefs—Last week I had a link to some similar information on man-made sculpture reefs.  Here is a video showcasing some of the marine life that has come to inhabit these odd, but compelling creatons.

USDA Eyes Whether Tainted Beef Entered Food Supply—The story emerging out of Central Valley Meat Co. is disturbing.  The folks over at Compassion Over Killing obtained video imagery of sick animals being slaughtered and shoddy practices leading to quite brutal deaths.  At least In-and-Out did the right thing by severing ties with this company.  The only way to affect positive change in the system right now is to hit them in the pocketbook.

Celebrate the Farmer—Mark Bittman is right to suggest that we need to celebrate the people who make our food as much as we celebrate the people who cook our food.  The problem is that people are too disconnected from the production of basic foodstuffs.

How to Improve School Lunch without Spending More—If there is one place where everyone should be in agreement, it should be that we can provide better food to our children in school.  Sorry, but strawberry flavored milk, reconstituted chicken parts, and some faux mashed potatoes from a box do not count as food.

Ten Gardens Prettier than a Lawn—In the United States we are obsessed with covering our landscape with acres of green carpet.  What about alternatives?  With the drought afflicting so much of the country I would hope that more people consider replacing some, if not all, of the lawn on their property.  It is going to be one of my priorities come spring.

Front Yard Garden in Quebec Wins Right to Stay—The sweet front yard garden in Drummondville, Quebec that was slated to be ripped out has won a stay of execution.  This is such a better alternative than a blah patch of green grass.

88 Year Time Lapse of a Forest—Forests can seem so static, but this series of photos taken from the same spot in Idaho show how dynamic the landscape can be in just under a century.

Friday Linkage 7/13/2012

It’s Friday the 13th…and that means absolutely nothing to me.  Except for the memories of movies where Jason Voorhies would terrorize stupid teenagers at camp.  I digress.  On to the links…

Less Sitting More Living—Basically, if you sit less and watch less television you will live longer.  While this comes as no surprise it is nice to see that there is finally peer reviewed science that tells us to get of our asses and move!

Burtynsky’s Oil Photos Ported to the iPad—If you ever want to see the majesty and sheer destruction that our global thirst for oil has done to the planet, you must see Edward Burtynsky’s Oil photos in person.  The large prints will sort of blow your mind.  The next best thing is seeing the photos on the iPad.  It’s $10 well spent.

Rising Demand is Giving Biogas a Big Lift—I have always thought that biogas seemed like one of the few “win-wins” to exist in the modern world.  You take a notional waste product—usually a waste product that is dangerous in the case of biogas facilities that use animal manure—and turn it into easily burnt gas.  The technology exists, the technology to exploit the gas exists, and the country has more than enough waste produce to use as feedstock.  Why is this not a bigger deal?

1GW of Solar PV in California—California now has over 1GW of customer installed solar photovoltaic on the grid.  There are a lot of interesting stats and tables in the report.  Check it out.

Humane Society Files Lawsuits Against 51 Hog Operations—This story is receiving a lot of press here in Iowa—surprisingly neutral thus far—because we have most of the facilities named in the lawsuit.  Hopefully this lawsuit sparks a discussion and backlash against the way that CAFOs are allowed to operate in the state, which is to say above or outside the laws established to protect the health of the planet, people, and animals.

In Rooftop Farming, New York City Emerges as a Leader—The growth of urban farming operations on rooftops is amazing.  This is not something I imagined would have gained any traction a decade ago, but here we are discussing operations that are estimated to produce up to 1 million—yes that’s a million—pounds of produce per year.  Wow!

5 Surprising Ingredients Allowed in Organic Food—I remember one of the debates about the government’s creation of organic labeling standards was that it would allow for the creation of “big organic” that subverted the values of the organic food movement.  That is to say, organic food was always about more than simply producing organic food.  It was about a healthy, sustainable, and inherently honest system of food production.  Obviously that sentiment was lost in the chase to establish a government sanctioned standard.

What are Pullet Eggs?—I have run across signs for these at the farmers market, but I have never asked.  Now I know.

Kebab Flowchart—If it’s summer than a grilled kebab can never be more than a few nights away.  A trusty quick dinner, the kebab is an underrated companion to America’s favorite grilling champions of hamburgers, bratwurst, and beer can chicken:

8 Water Saving Tips—As drought grips more of the country saving water should be at the forefront of our home front efforts.

Friday Linkage 6/15/2012

It looks like parts of Iowa are tipping into drought.  It just feels dry outside right now.  The air positively crackles like I remember it used to when I lived in Tucson.  I suppose if it were 90 degrees with 80% humidity I would be complaining as well.  At least I would not have to water my plants if it would actually rain.

On to the links…

U.S. Solar Installations Continue to Surge in 2012—Lost in the Republican noise machine is the fact that solar power in the United States is doing quite well.  Installations continue to surge and all that clean power is flowing to the grid.  The thing I think opponents hate the most about solar is that it seems like magic.  Put some panels on a roof, the sun comes out, and electricity is produced.  Come to think of it, that does sound kind of like magic.

The Reality of China’s Emissions—China is not telling the whole truth about its emissions?  No way!  Oh wait, the difference between official numbers and reality could be the size of Japan’s emissions?  That’s not a fib, that’s just downright criminal.  If you tell a big enough lie…

W.H.O. Says Diesel Fumes Cause Lung Cancer—This is one of those not really surprising, but important anyway announcements.  Every time I see a school bus or garbage truck belching out a plume of black smoke I think that this would be one of the lowest hanging fruit to help clean the air.

The American Diet in One Chart—Basically, we eat processed food.  That is the problem.

What’s Really in Your Steak—Who would have thought that the filet mignon I ordered—okay I did not really order a steak, it’s a rhetorical device, would actually be formed from a selection of scrap cuts.  First it was pink slime and not it is meat glue.  Maybe we should just reduce our appetite for meat in general.  I know, crazy hippie talk.

What About the Food Workers—Mark Bittman nails it again.  We worry about the source of our food and we worry about the personal economy of the farmers who grow that food, but we scarcely pay a moment’s thought to the people who cook, serve, and clean up after our meals out of the home.  Why?  Check out the ROC National Diners’ Guide to see what eateries are doing a good job and which ones just plain suck.

How Broccoli Became a Symbol in the Health Care Debate—Why do people hate on broccoli so much?  Is it because broccoli is healthy?  Is it because they have repressed memories of their parents telling them to eat their broccoli in some infantile version of the nanny state they abhor?  Word to the wise: broccoli rules!

Small Batch Canning—Canning always seems like such a daunting task.   The equipment is large, the recipes are large, the workload is large, and so on.  Obviously, someone else feels the same way.

Simple Solar Water Heater—I always think about the properties of solar hot water heat when I feel the first few seconds of water flowing out of my hose after it has been in the sun for an afternoon.  It’s amazing how much thermal energy can be stored in a small amount of hose.  Hmmm…

Green the Sahel—If we are going to survive the changes in our climate brought about by human activities, we are going to have to be able to create microclimates conducive to survival. As this article shows, the importance of trees can hardly be overstated.  Maybe the future can be secured one sapling at a time.

Dumping Ground Becomes Desert Oasis—Sometimes, a good story can even come from the belly of the petrochemical beast.  Fossil fuel peddler Saudi Arabia has turned a dumping ground near Riyadh into an oasis of green.

Would You Marinate a Faux Chicken Breast?

If you thought pink slime…er lean finely textured beef was bad, wait until you get a load of chicken.

Even though most cows are fattened in feedlots prior to slaughter, the animals at least spend some of their lives on natural range or pasture.  Dairy is a whole other story, but that is for another day.

Chickens and pigs, however, spend their entire lives in captivity when raised in the industrial settings where most broiler chickens, eggs, and pork is produced.  Loads of books and websites detail the horrors of these operations—animals that cannot fall down after dying because the coop is so packed, animals with malformed anatomies because modern science has bred them to produce copious quantities of the “right” meat, antibiotics used so liberally it is leading to the evolution of mutant strains of infection, and so on—that is begs the question: is there an alternative?

Mark Bittman, the New York Times opinion writer who focuses frequently on food issues, is an ardent proponent of a variety of faux chicken.  The product, at face value, seems like a good proposition.  Why not eat a chicken meat replacement that forgoes the horrors of industrial meat operations and the horribly inefficient cycle of transferring energy from feed to meat?

Well…is it really worth eating fake meat?  In college I had a friend who was a very strict vegetarian who bordered on veganism.  This was a time when vegan alternatives were not so easy to find, even in a major metropolitan area like the Twin Cities.  Plus, a college student’s budget was not always friendly to finding alternatives.  The darkness of the mid-90s.  This friend would eat all kinds of meatless burgers and soy substitutes for meat including these oddly hued strips of soy bacon.  How was eating something that was the product of an industrial process better than eating meat from an industrial process?  Outside of the treatment of the animal, it is cut from the same cloth.

We eat too much meat in America.  There, I said it.  On top of that, we seek alternatives that are guilt free.  We worry about fat and salt, so we get something fat free and low sodium.  We worry about the impact of the meat we eat, so we devise industrial alternatives that are meatless yet frightening.  Why must we pursue meat consumption so blindly?

Think about what Michael Pollan said about eating well: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.  The critical component of the statement here is the second word.  When most people say food they think that anything in the grocery store is food.  However, the products sold in boxes and bags are not food.  These are food-like products that deliver some nutrients, but none of them would be recognized as food.

Seeking out meat free meat is the same thing.  If you want to eat meat—chicken, pork, or otherwise—seek out a producer that raises animals humanely and healthy.  Eat a little bit of meat along with a lot of vegetables and whole grains.  Easy as pie.  As a matter of fact, make a pie from scratch and eat it as well.  Do not think that some industrial Frankenstein faux meat is going to save the planet, your soul, or your waistline.

I do find Mark Bittman’s embrace of faux chicken a little interesting because I have heard him speak in the past about food.  His primary message is that the whole food is important not just the nutrient.  It’s not the beta carotene, but the carrot that is essential in a close approximantion of his thought on the issue a couple of years back.  Check it out at the TED site.

Given all the problems with industrial poultry and pork production one would think that the USDA would be all over regulating these industries.  Nope.  Recently, the USDA has floated the idea of letting these companies police themselves by privatizing meat inspection. Really?  The same people who have given us pink slime and E. coli recalls are such responsible actors that they should be entrusted with our food safety.  Government bought by industry at its finest.

I guess we will be seeing more shit in the meat.

Friday Linkage 3/2/2012

Major League Baseball’s spring training is in full swing, so as a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan hope springs eternal and disappointment seems to wait just around the corner.  I am not even going to delude myself that this is going to be the year.  My hope is for a team that I actually enjoy watching play rather than the laborious affairs of the past two years.

With spring training, my mind turns to thoughts about the outdoors.  The seed catalogs have hit the inbox and emails from mail order nurseries are a daily occurrence.  Soon, my hands will be dirty and my skin sun kissed.  Ahhhh…..

Chumps at the Pump—It’s like a broken record with some people.  No matter how bad some things are going in the world, if the price of a gallon of gas goes up you would think someone had just cut off an arm or a leg.  Really?  Have you been to other parts of the world where gas is much more expensive?  Oh wait…

Recycle all You Want, the Planet Won’t Notice—I get what these guys are saying from a purely utilitarian stand point, but is the message lost in delivery?

Vegetables as a Way of Life—The Esalen Institute is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012.  That is 50 years of probing the frontiers of sustainable agriculture, community involvement, and the potential of human beings to be just a little better.

Living off the Land in Maine, Even in the Winter—When I read articles like this it makes me want to sell all the trappings of a modern suburban life and buy a chunk of land in northeast Iowa.  Too bad no one else in my family feels the same way.  I guess I will garden.

Ibex Wool Will be 100% American, Grown to Sewn—For anyone who says you cannot completely source a garment in the good ol’ USA I give you Ibex.  Pretty simple, parts of the Ibex collection will be sourced completely from the USA.  Damn, I love it.

I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave—For almost a year in college I worked as a picker at a company that produced a large share of the sheet music in the world.  Reading this article brings back memories, although it was never as bad as this.  It makes me wonder about the true cost of free shipping.

Regulating our Sugar Habit—As we begin to look at our modern diet some things are becoming very clear.  It’s not the fat or carbohydrates that are the problem.  It’s the salt and the sugar.  For years, decades even, salt has been tied to some pretty poor health outcomes.  But sugar has escaped notice until now.  It is every bit as toxic and addictive as many drugs yet we literally spoon it into our mouths and our children’s’ mouths.

Marshaling the Winds of Mongolia—For anyone who has not been near the Mongolian steppe there is one constant—wind.  Not the gentle breeze of late summer, but full throated banshees roaring across the landscape unchecked.  The only place where I can remember it being close to as aggressive is the Dakotas.

Hawaii Breaks Ground on its Biggest Wind Project Yet—I have visited Hawaii several times and seen wind turbines on each island except for Kauai.  While progress needs to be applauded, I hope that these new projects do not end up as derelict reminders like the broken sentinels at South Point on the Big Island.  At least Pakini Nui is operational.

Solar as Cheap as Conventional in Germany by 2013—So, by some accounts, solar energy will cost no more than coal fired or nuclear power by 2013 in Germany.  Okay.  Why isn’t this a bigger deal all over the world?

Midwest Coal Plants Shutdown Earlier than Expected—It looks like a combination of pressures are starting to turn the tide against dirt coal fired electricity.  This is an environmental and public health win for everyone but the profiteers who dirty our air and shorten our lives.

Friday Linkage 10/7/2011

The colors of fall are really bursting, but a week of daytime temps threatening to breakthrough 80 degrees make me wonder is summer is not dead yet.  This year I am so ready for the cold temps, snowfall, and hot cocoa of winter.  Maybe I am sick and twisted.  Or, I just want to go sledding with my daughter.

Jamie Oliver’s Best and Worst Lunch—These images of good and bad school lunches bring back too many memories of mystery meat and strange vegetable combinations.  My hope is that there is a growing amount of momentum behind improving the food being served in our schools.  At least some people are trying to do better in the vending machines.

Is Cooking at Home Really Cheaper—Maybe in the most basic comparison of calories versus calories, including labor, going to a fast food emporium is cheaper than cooking at home.  However, what are the externalities associated with going to McDonald’s?  What is the social cost?  What is the environmental cost?

The Chef’s Garden—I found this to be a fascinating story about how a failing family farm found a way to be successful with a different business model.  What the story of the Chef’s Garden shows is that alternative models to the dominant paradigm can and do work.  The next time I am in northern Ohio, which happens more often than I care to think, I am going to schedule a visit.

Why We Need a National Ocean Policy—I totally agree with this idea in principle.  Too bad even the policies and laws that are currently on the books are not adhered to by entities that feel as if they are above the law.  Too often the attitude is that it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission, particularly when the punishments for the crimes are so criminally insufficient to deter bad behavior.

Shifting the Suburban Paradigm—I believe that the word suburb has become the new epithet of the elite class.  It is as if anyone who does not live in an urban area with access to extensive bike trails and mass transit is somehow beneath even the contempt of certain people.  Nonetheless, there is something in the concept and execution of suburban housing that screams regressive.  It is as if innovation and appropriateness have been forgotten.