Saturday, May 24, 2008

Don't Have a Cow, Man!

Maybe Bart Simpson was right. This weekend filler video is a lecture by renowned foodie Mark Bittman. It has to do with a subject I've only recently learned about, the negative impact of our modern industrial food production system. Did you know cow's don't like to eat corn?

Now, I want to be very clear on a few things. I love meat and have no intention of becoming a vegetarian. The speaker also shares this attitude, as you'll hear. I also don't like people telling me what's good for me...even when they're right. But, I think we all should be informed about where our food comes from, and if after getting informed you decide to eat a few less burgers, and a few more salads, all the better.

I hesitated to post this before all the barbecues this weekend, but then I realized that it was actually the perfect time to see this video. A big bbq'd steak is perfect for a weekend, holiday or special occasion meal, it's the rest of the week when we should think about maybe changing our habits.

There are a lot of similarities between this lecture, and last week's talk by Michael Pollan. I have a feeling that when Mr. Bittman said he has become involved in this issue recently, that he did so after reading the Omnivore's Dilemma.

Disturbing photo (c) Flickr user schizophonia


RB said...

Bravo, Chef. Keep posts (aka "filler") like this coming. Pollan, Bittman, and Barbara Kinvsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" are all helping to educate us on the merits of cooking with and consuming REAL food.

Anonymous said...

I am really strange about the negative impact of our modern industrial food production system.

Chef John said...

"I am really strange..." :) I agree!

Anonymous said...

What About Grass-fed Beef? (The Food Revolution), and Leafy Green Sewage (NYT)

Those articles imply that feeding cattle grain -- instead of their natural diet of grass -- changes their system so that regular E. coli becomes the much more dangerous e. coli O157:H7.

When the O157:H7 form gets into groundwater, or washes downstream after rains, the O157:H7 e. coli gets into crops.

People have been recently debating about using corn to make ethanol; they say it's such an important food product for humans, at least in North America. I've read that growing corn requires a lot more nitrogen in the soil than other ethanol crops (why they don't intercrop with legumes to fix the soil's nitrogen is beyond me). So why are we still feeding valuable corn to cattle, which makes their poo much more dangerous to us when it contaminates local water?

Anonymous said...

...But my beef is hand fed only 4 leaf clovers and read 'It Takes A Village' before slaughter by heavy petting-and I drive a Prius. :(

This like the so many other enviromental issues is mostly a supply demand issue.Right now people want to eat lots of meat.The demand for protein as a society becomes more affluent is staggering.Look at China and India over the past few years-huge increase in demand.

And while there is a definate need for change here I can't help but feel like alternative music, a good cup of coffee, or the "organic" salmon mentioned we will find a way to exploit, and profit the issue-hence my opening paragraph.

Selfishly my family cut our demand for economic reasons-grass fed beef, free range chicken, and pastured pork costs more but the flavor made it worth it. Now we have discovered many other benefits from trying to eat 50% veg at every meal.


Chef John said...

feeding cows corn is way easier than grazing them on grass. the Omnivore's Dilemma covers this topic extensively.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you've got the right idea. IF most cut their consumption and consumed only products raised using healthy standards, AND during this transition, encourage "thinkers" find a solution, we would be well on our way out of this mess. The answer is out there. If the industrialists find a way to profit by it, and we learn to live healthier by eating less, with support, it will work for everyone. I am hopeful for the first time, in a long while, because "thinkers" really are working on it.

Anonymous said...

I learned a lot today.. thanks for the post chef John. I will try to cut down on my meat eating and tell my family about this. there is a local farmer's market. but i don't think my dad will drive that far because of the gas prices but i'll look more carefully at what i buy.

Anonymous said...

(I just posted this comment last week, but am doing it again just to add another opinion to today's post)

Good stuff.
And I would add to this guy’s lecture, that if you have to choose between local and organic, choose local. I maintain that the biggest sucker on the face of the planet right now is the organic consumer, mainly because a lot of organic produce comes from faaaaar away. Organic produce from somewhere in South America doesn’t mean as much to me. I don’t always trust other countries definitions of “organic” as well as their diligence to stay to the code enforcing organic farming (I work with many Central and South American immigrants who agree that their governments are “looser” than ours in enforcement of these things). Imported organic also means lots of energy to get it to me from 4,000 miles away. Again, local seems the better route if I had to choose between them. Local organic is a home run though!

About 5 years ago I got hooked on farmer's markets.
The big con : price. Can be very expensive, and now that I support a family not always realistic. But when I can afford it, I get it.

Taste : Apart from a garden tomato vs. a major chain’s tasteless tomato, I really can’t tell the difference between say, an organic celery stick vs. conventional. Especially in a recipe. Kudos to those who can.

I shop local and/or organic mainly because it’s responsible to the land, community, and theoretically healthier.

Champion Soapbox Derby-er,
Scott - Boston