Read How Much Can Dietary Changes and Food Production Practices Help Mitigate Climate Change? (Pacific Standard)
Food policy experts weigh in on the possibilities of individual diet choices and sustainable production methods.

Agriculture, forestry, and other types of land use account for 23 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the IPCC. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 11:49AM


While there is limited data available that can confidently measure the expansion of the meatless population, societal indicators like the double-digit sales growth of plant-based food options between 2014 and 2017 reflect a growing consumer demand for vegan and vegetarian foods. Still, an analysis by Animal Charity Evaluators found that between 2 and 6 percent of Americans self-identify as vegetarians, and only 1 percent of Americans self-identify as vegetarians and report never consuming meat. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 11:53AM


“The fundamental problem with climate change is that it’s a collective problem, but it rises out of lots of individual decisions. Society’s challenge is to figure out how we can influence those decisions in a way that generates a more positive collective outcome,” says Keith Wiebe, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 11:55AM


Consumer demand is one of four important variables that, when combined, can influence and shape farming practices, according to Festa. The other three are the culture of farming communities, governmental policies, and the economic system that drives farming. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 11:57AM


Festa argues that this is why organic farming in the U.S. saw a 56 percent increase between 2011 and 2016. 

A useful statistic but it needs more context. What is the percentage of organic farming to the overall total of farming?

Fortunately the linked article provides some additional data: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/10/organic-farming-is-on-the-rise-in-the-u-s/
Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 12:01PM

Listened to Hoptopia How the Willamette valley conquered the world of tasty beer by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Brewers have long appreciated the value of hops from the Pacific northwest, but it was Cascade, a variety practically synonymous with craft brewing, that made the area more generally famous among beer drinkers. Cascade was named for the Cascade Range, which runs down the west coast of North America. The home of the Cascade hop is the Willamette valley, roughly halfway between the mountains and the coast. Cascade was released in 1972, but the history of hops in the Willamette valley goes back to the 1830s. The industry has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs, all examined by historian Peter Kopp in his book Hoptopia.

The whole question of changing tastes in beer, and how that affects the fortunes of different hops, is fascinating. If you’ve been a listener forever, you may remember a very early Eat This Podcast, about the rediscovery of an English hop known prosaically as OZ97a. Deemed too hoppy and abandoned when first tried, the vogue for craft beers resurrected its fortunes. It’s a fun story, though I say so myself.

Notes

  1. Peter Kopp’s book is Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
  2. Cover photo is Ezra Meeker, the early grower of hops in the Willamette valley who pioneered the global marketing of Oregon hops. The booming hop business made him the territory’s first millionnaire, and perhaps also its biggest bust. Hop King: Ezra Meeker’s Boom Years chronicles that part of his long, rich life.
  3. Banner photo of hops by Paul on Flickr.
I know I’d listened to this a while back, but it is so dense it has a lot to unpack on so many fronts.

🎧 Our Daily Bread Episode 19: The Bread that Ate the World | Eat This Podcast

Listened to The Bread that Ate the World Our Daily Bread 19 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Small bakers couldn’t compete with the giants created by Allied Bakeries, so they turned to science. That produced the Chorleywood bread process, which gave them a quicker, cheaper loaf. Unfortunately, the giant bakeries gobbled up the new method too. More and more small bakeries went out of business as a loaf of bread became cheaper and cheaper. Was it worth it? You tell me.

Photo of Beaumont House, former HQ of the British Baking Industries Research Association, where the Chorleywood Bread Process was invented, by Diamond Geezer. It is now a care home.

🎧 Our Daily Bread Episode 18: Allied forever | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Allied forever Our Daily Bread 18 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Size brings benefits to bakeries as much as to flour mills. The episode tells a small part of the story of how George Weston turned a bakery route in Toronto into one of the biggest food companies in the world, responsible for more brands of bread than you can imagine. And not just the bread, but many of the ingredients that make megabakeries possible.

🎧 Food Safety | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Food safety and industry concentration: How the back seat of a car is like a bag of leafy greens by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

In the previous episode, I talked to Phil Howard of Michigan State University about concentration in the food industry. Afterwards, I realised I had been so taken up with what he was telling me that I forgot to ask him one crucial question.

Is there any effect of concentration on public health or food safety?

It seems intuitively obvious that if you have long food chains, dependent on only a few producers, there is the potential for very widespread outbreaks. That is exactly what we are seeing in the current outbreaks of dangerous E. coli on romaine lettuce and Salmonella in eggs. But it is also possible that big industrial food producers both have the capital to invest in food safety and face stiffer penalties when things go wrong.

Are small producers and short food chains better? Marc Bellemare, at the University of Minnesota, has uncovered a strong correlation between some food-borne illnesses and the number of farmers’ markets relative to the population.

Phil thinks one answer is greater decentralization. There’s no good reason why all the winter lettuce and spinach in America should come from a tiny area around Yuma, Arizona. Marc says consumer education would help; we need to handle the food we buy with more attention to keeping it safe. Both solutions will take quite large changes in behaviour, by government and by ordinary people.

Right now, it probably isn’t possible to say with any certainty whether one system is inherently safer than the other. But even asking the question raises some interesting additional questions. If you have answers, or even suggestions, let me know.

Notes

  1. Phil Howard’s work on food-borne illness is on his website.
  2. Marc Bellemare’s work on farmers’ markets and food-borne illness has gone through a few iterations. He’ll email you a copy of the final paper if you ask.
  3. An episode early last year looked at aspects of food safety in developing countries. Spoiler: shorter food chains are safer there.
  4. Banner photo, norovirus. Cover photo, E. coli. Both public domain to the best of my knoweldge.

🎧 Industrial strength craft beer | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Industrial strength craft beer from Eat This Podcast
Italy, land of fabled wines, has seen an astonishing craft beer renaissance. Or perhaps naissance would be more accurate, as Italy has never had that great a reputation for beers. Starting in the early 1990s, with Teo Musso at Le Baladin, there are now more than 500 craft breweries in operation up and down the peninsula. Specialist beer shops are popping up like mushrooms all over Rome, and probably elsewhere, and even our local supermarket carries quite a range of unusual beers. Among them four absolutely scrummy offerings from Mastri Birai Umbri – Master Brewers of Umbria. And then it turns out that my friend Dan Etherington, who blogs (mostly) at Bread, cakes and ale, knows the Head Brewer, Michele Sensidoni. A couple of emails later and there we were, ready for Michele to give us a guided tour of the brewery.


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I’m sure there was audio all the way through the tour, but portions of it were cut out, likely for time editing, but I kind of wish the whole thing was there… I could probably listen to this kind of beer talk all day long. I would also appreciate a more chemistry-based technical approach to the topic as well.

The question of the definition of craft beer versus industrial beer is a very good, yet subtle one.

I’m actually curious to try a beer that’s based on legumes to see what the increased protein percentages do to the flavor. It’s also interesting to hear about the potential creation of a signature Italian style beer.

🎧 Air-cured sausages | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Air-cured sausages from Eat This Podcast
Among the more miraculous edible transformations is the one that turns raw meat, salt and a few basic spices into some of the most delicious foods around.

Time was when curing meat, especially stuffed into a casing to make a sausage, was the only way both to use every part of an animal and to help make it last longer than raw meat. Done right, a sausage would stay good to the next slaughtering season and beyond.

The process relied on the skill of the sausage-maker, the help of beneficial bacteria and moulds, the right conditions, a great deal of patience, and sometimes luck. Luck is less of a factor now, because to keep up with demand the vast majority of cured meats are produced in artificial conditions of controlled precision. Here and there, though, the old ways survive. Jan Davison spent months touring the sausage high-spots of Europe looking for the genuine article, and shared some of her favourites at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking last year.

This tempts me greatly to consider decommissioning an incubator from science related use to food related use…