Mark Bittman is making sense:
Oddly, affordability is not the problem; in fact, the tomatoes are too cheap. If they cost more, farmers like Rominger would be more inclined to grow tomatoes organically; to pay his workers better or offer benefits to more of them; to make a better living himself.
But the processed tomato market is international, with increasing pressure from Italy, China and Mexico. California has advantages, but it still must compete on price. Producers also compete with one another, making it tough for even the most principled ones to increase worker pay. To see change, then, all workers, globally, must be paid better, so that the price of tomatoes goes up across the board.
How does this happen? Unionization, or an increase in the minimum wage, or both. No one would argue that canned tomatoes should be too expensive for poor people, but by increasing minimum wage in the fields and elsewhere, we raise standards of living and increase purchasing power.
The issue is paying enough for food so that everything involved in producing it — land, water, energy and labor — is treated well. And since sustainability is a journey, progress is essential. It would be foolish to assert that we’re anywhere near the destination, but there is progress — even in those areas appropriately called “industrial.”
I agree with everything in this article. I suppose he could have talked to a worker or two to investigate the conditions a bit more, but the overall point about making the food system more fair to the land and to people is excellent.
In just about the only good thing for progressives in this year’s horror film of state legislation, all 11 ag-gag bills were defeated. Attempts by agribusiness to criminalize anyone taking footage of their operations went down to defeat. However, I am extremely pessimistic that we will repeat such a record in 2014. After all, North Carolina will continue on its road to become America’s worst state and I have no confidence that lovely state legislature would reject such a bill twice.
Let’s take massive overfishing and combine it with rapidly worsening climate change. What you end up with is a nightmare of cannibalistic lobsters, not to mention a Maine fishing economy desperately holding on for survival.
Here’s a great infographic explaining what the larger article explores in more detail.
An excellent Mark Bittman op-ed about the true cost of food upon those who produce it. Bittman talks about the fast-food strikes of the last few weeks and how only 1 worker has lost their job, which is interesting. Next week there are going to be more strikes. Listen to Bittman here:
Six elements are affected by the way food is produced: taste, nutrition and price; and the impact on the environment, animals and labor. We can argue about taste, but it’s clear that our production system — especially in the fast-food world — is flunking all the others. And if you think food is “cheap,” talk to the people working in the fields, factories and stores who can’t afford it. Remember: no food is produced without labor.
Well-intentioned people often ask me what they can do to help improve our food system. Here’s an easy one: When you see that picket line next week, don’t cross it. In fact, join it.
That’s right. No food is produced without labor. When you see incredibly cheap food at a Wal-Mart, know that the food is that cheap because the world’s largest corporation makes sure its suppliers supply at very low expenses. Sometimes, that creates conditions similar to slave labor. The food system is not at all different from the apparel system that kills 1100 workers in Bangladesh and poisons rivers around the world.
When workers do take the risk to stand up for themselves, we owe it to them to respect that picket line.
The meat industry is very upset by new regulations forcing meat producers to tell consumers where the meat comes from:
“Segregating and tracking animals according to the countries where production steps occurred and detailing that information on a label may be a bureaucrat’s paperwork fantasy, but the labels that result will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process,” Mark Dopp, an AMI executive, said in a statement.
Segregation! Is the cow black? If that’s the case, I suppose it’s OK. But those lighter colored cows, no way. That’s a superior cut of meat right there. Really, I haven’t been this outraged since George Zimmerman didn’t receive a parade for killing that hoodlum Trayvon Martin. I’ll bet some of black cows wear hoodies. Heck, they can’t even spell. I’ve seen my share of Chick-Fil-A commercials and we know how those gangster cows with their hoodies and their weed and their walking home at night act.
In all seriousness, we should probably assume most of meat, especially anything ground, has a high percentage of dog.
Always important to remember that food has a whole labor history before it gets to your plate. Unless you grow or shoot it yourself maybe. And even then it’s arguable.
Thanks for whichever commenter brought this story to my attention. Sorry I can’t remember who it was now.
The whole “Mediterranean Diet,” “Nordic Diet,” or whatnot is pretty silly generally. How about just eating relatively healthy and getting some exercise? But if you are going to do one of these, who on earth outside of a Scandinavian would follow the Nordic Diet over the Mediterranean? More pickled herring! More lutefisk! Please hold anything with taste!
Maybe I’m just permanently ruined by my own Lutheran background of hotdish. But no.
My Catholic friends, I think it is time to go old-school next Lent.
In addition to disease, the European settlers also brought Catholicism with them, and successfully converted a large proportion of the indigenous population. And the native Americans and Canadians loved their beaver meat.
So in the 17th century, the Bishop of Quebec approached his superiors in the Church and asked whether his flock would be permitted to eat beaver meat on Fridays during Lent, despite the fact that meat-eating was forbidden. Since the semi-aquatic rodent was a skilled swimmer, the Church declared that the beaver was a fish. Being a fish, beaver barbeques were permitted throughout Lent. Problem solved!
I’m going to suggest it to the in-laws.
Modern Farmer with a long look at a major problem with the Greek yogurt industry–endless amounts of very gross whey that is quite toxic to riparian ecosystems. New York produced 150 million gallons of acid whey last year from its Greek yogurt industry. Dealing with that stuff is, to say the least, a big problem.
Via this Alternet article, which I thought was an unfair attack on Chobani since it seems that it is a problem inherent to all Greek yogurt companies.
Just another part of our industrial food system and its endless supply of toxic byproducts.
I share the general opinion of many that our industrial food system is in crisis. But I generally disagree as to the real problems. Dislike of something like GMOs (or fluoride in the water for christ’s sake) are rooted in the empowerment of the individual body and the personal as political life we lead–a phenomenon that has had tremendous benefits on our society, but that also redefines much of our lives as a series of consumer choices that I think often obscures both class solidarity and larger structural problems that are not easily solved by personal choice. In the case of food, the waste of basic food-producing resources is I believe is the biggest problem. Take for example soil erosion, as our national bounty flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Or Americans’ increased need to import phosphorous from an unstable African territory quasi-controlled by Morocco. Or the draining of the Ogallala Aquifer. The decline of the Aquifer is a huge threat to our food production on the western Great Plains. With climate change and extreme drought, the long-term sustainability of our water resources for food are questionable at best.
Most of these problems actually do have solutions–we could subsidize land conservation instead of corn production, press for farmers to adapt drip irrigation, create manure recycling programs to reclaim phosphorous. But none of this will happen because of the control gigantic agribusiness corporations like Monsanto have over the majority of senators.
Tom Philpott reports on a new job safety hazard developing in agriculture. The enormous manure piles on today’s gargantuan hog farms are gurgling up explosive foam.
This never really happened before 2009, but it is an increasingly common occurrence on industrial-scale hog farms.
The problem is menacing: As manure breaks down, it emits toxic gases like hydrogen sulfide and flammable ones like methane, and trapping these noxious fumes under a layer of foam can lead to sudden, disastrous releases and even explosions. According to a 2012 report from the University of Minnesota, by September 2011, the foam had “caused about a half-dozen explosions in the upper Midwest…one explosion destroyed a barn on a farm in northern Iowa, killing 1,500 pigs and severely burning the worker involved.”
This is highly understudied and of course nothing will stop the growth of ever larger and more dangerous agricultural concerns. However, it does seem that dumping a bunch of antibiotics into the manure pits may solve the problem. And I’m sure there will be no unintended consequences from that action.