Friday, January 23, 2015

Recent Reading, Screwed up animal husbandry edition

"If, thanks to an experimental inspection program, a meatpacking firm produces as much as two tons a day of pork contaminated by fecal matter, urine, bile, hair, intestinal contents or diseased tissue, should that count as a success?" The kind of problems you get when you let the meat industry regulate itself.

Foie gras is for assholes. Mark Bittman makes the totally valid point that any furor about lifting the California foie gras ban is totally misplaced. Foie gras from force fed ducks is small potatoes. It's the rest of our animal husbandry sytem in America that's cruel, and it's on an epic scale.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Recent reading, chicken edition


First the depressing story. A farmer that opened up their farm to reporters and was transparent about how he raises chickens. Now his only customer, Perdue, will probably shut him down for it.

But not all chicken stories end badly.  People complain about pricey food being elitist and out-of-touch. Being a merchant of that kind of food I know that can be the case (hopefully not the case with much of what I sell, since there should be a good reason for the expense). But here's an example of how higher prices have made chickens live better lives—and helped prevent antibiotic resistant organisms from growing. The story is the government asked chicken farmers to go antibiotic free. But because antibiotic-free chicken sales grew 34% last year many did it before the deadline.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Recent Reading on Poverty and Wealth in America

How do you think wealth is distributed in America? Hint: it's not even close to being as fair as you think it is. (Caveat: the speaker sometimes uses the words "income" and "wealth" interchangeable but they're very different. Income is the money you make. It's a flow. Income comes in this year, and some of it leaves as expenses. Wealth is what you own. You can make a million dollars this year but have zero wealth. Conversely, a good saver — or a person who inherits wealth — can have little income but lots of wealth.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Who are our oldest food makers?

Sam Edwards' ham house in Virginia peanut country.
I've been working on a spread for next spring's catalog about the oldest companies we work with. Some have been around for decades, some for centuries. We even have one that's a millennium old this year. It's been an interesting experience to think about them more deeply, bringing up lots of questions. Like, why are they still around? More importantly, how are they still around and making great food? How much did they have to change along the way? Who decided what to change and what not to change? How did they transition when their founder left the business? I ran across this article about why there are so many old companies in Japan that explains how traditional firms like Nintendo manage succession (these days it's often done by the owner adopting an adult into the family to run the business—a surprise to me).

Some of our venerable food makers and the year they got in business:

1731 Amarelli licorice in Cosenza
1880 Usinger liverwurst in Milwaukee Wisconsin 
1898 Rizzoli anchovies in Parma Italy
1900 Cope's corn in Rheems Pennsylvania
1900 Roi olive oil and sauces in Badalucco Italy
1903 Raye's mustard in Eastport Maine
1909 Broadbent cured meats in Kuttawa Kentucky
1925 Koeze peanut butter in Grand Rapids Michigan
1926 Martelli pasta in Lari Italy
1926 Edwards cured meats in Surry Virginia
1947 Benton's cured meats in Madisonville, Tennessee


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why aren't we as critical of design as we are of food?

"If you tasted some food that you didn’t think tasted right, you would assume that the food was wrong. But for some reason, it’s part of the human condition that if we struggle to use something, we assume that the problem resides with us.”
Jony Ive, Apple's chief designer
( iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iWatch)


Recent reading (and watching).

Look how big chickens have gotten in the last sixty years.

A typical cow in the European Union gets a government subsidy of $2.20 a day which is more than the daily wage of 1.2 billion of the world’s poorest people.

Have you been eating sushi wrong (video)?

Jaques P├ępin's omelet (video) totally changed how I cook eggs.