Wednesday, June 6, 2007

zero-waste pork chops

Upon consideration, one might feel inclined to admit that the practice of factory farming animals does very little good for the state of things on the planet. Except, of course, the moment of bliss when the sweet succulent taste of bbq'd burgers hits the tastebuds. Or something.
The point is that in order to get that patty to the plate, a few things are happening behind the scenes. For example, in the U.S, 250,000 pounds of animal excrement has to be dealt with every second. A daunting task - humans in the U.S create 12, 000 pounds per second and it's treated through sewer systems, a commodity lacking on feedlots.
Then there's the growing resistance to antibiotics which can be transfered to the carnivores consuming the meat. In fact, every year in Canada, "50 per cent of the total tonnage of antibiotics used in Canada ends up in livestock. And every year cattle raised in massive feedlots are routinely dosed with antibiotics even if they are not sick."
Burgers don't just grow on trees. Unfortunately. Because if they did, or at least if they grew in fields, it would take about 1/100 of the amount of water to make a pound of beef as compared to a pound of wheat.
And also, it's pretty unfair to the animals to be commodified in a way that takes away any semblance of a life worth living.
So, who better to come up with a solution than the Dutch? (And you have to trust the Dutch, they invented Amsterdam.)
"Dutch researchers are trying to grow pork meat in a laboratory with the goal of feeding millions without the need to raise and slaughter animals."
Potentially, just bits and pieces of animals will be grown in petri dishes without having to feed, "care for," transport, slaughter, and dispose of carcases. Imagine the guilt-free process of buying a rump that was grown in a little glass dish. Just like your sea monkeys.
The scientists say they have a few years to go before you'll find lab-grown animal parts on the supermarket shelves. So far, Bernard Roelen and his team have "managed to grow only thin layers of cells that bear no resemblance to pork chops." But at least (??) they're trying...
If you have 45 minutes, you could watch this. It's a documentary called FrankenSteer that takes an in depth look at the beef industry in Canada. A warning, you don't be eating while you do.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

the not really sleeping giant

There have been some interesting things happening in China involving the food industry.
And by interesting, I mean rather disturbing.
Specifically, two articles have recently caught my attention. The first, published Saturday last, involved the discovery of 5000 rare animals, packed in crates, on their way from their perilous habitats in "south-east Asia to the restaurant tables of southern China." Among the animals found were "31 pangolins, 44 leatherback turtles, 2,720 monitor lizards, 1,130 Brazilian turtles." Most, though severely dehydrated, were found alive. Unfortunately, a number of bears were not so lucky as 21 severed paws were also found aboard, wrapped in newspaper.
It's true that pangolins have anal scent glands that emit strong, foul smelling secretions and that monitor lizards can't even grow their own tails back. But the trend of extinguishing species, as useless as they may initially seem, for reasons like making it easier for mothers to breastfeed their babies, which is what the scales of a pangolin are used for, seems unfair.
To top things off, the former head of the Chinese Food and Drug Administration has been sentenced to death for accepting bribes during his tenure. He can appeal and potentially have his sentence lessened to life. We should be asking whether this is a punishment fitting the crime.
Zheng Xiaoyu has accepted nearly a million dollars over the years to approve substandard drugs and medicines that have caused the deaths of over twenty people. In 2005, thirteen babies that were fed a diet of powdered milk died because there was no nutritional value found in the supplement. There have also been deaths because people who thought they were taking effective antibiotics were taking chump-pills. China is now implementing a system to recall tainted food and drugs which will hopefully be able to warn people before it's too late.
China has some sway on this planet, with its population of 1.3 billion people.
We best be getting on the same page with things like conservation efforts and drug standards because the 'sleeping giant' has long been awake.

the return

Well friends, after a two month hiatus, your blog of choice is returning. My sincere apologies to the faithful readers who have been anxiously checking for updates. I'll explain - when this arduous semester reached its prayed for conclusion, the thought of updating my blog sent me to the corner, shaking and sweating. Fortunately, I have been revived after a month of defiantly-claimed holidays and am back to inform you on the world of food and so on.
Sunkissed and refreshed, I feel as though I face a new and exciting challenge.
Previously I had been blogging for grades, which I might akin to begging for food. I now blog for different reasons - the pleasure of my readers from whom I expect undying devotion, and because I think this is an important topic to create some dialogue around. Sounds self-involved? It is.
Welcome back friends.

Friday, March 30, 2007

i'm going to be a mama!

Phobias are learned behaviors. This goes to show that a parent's choice of actions have lasting effects on their children. My mother was afraid of insects, especially ones that fly. Outdoors I'm fine. But inside, sharing my living space, the thought makes me flap my hands in the air like a pansy.
Nonetheless, I am about to adopt a half a pound of red wriggler worms. They will lovingly be kept in a box on my balcony with some shredded newspaper and straw. The worms will eat my food scraps and crap out precious fertilizer, also known as black gold.
The process is worm composting. It's a method of recycling food scraps so that they don't end up in the landfill. And it creates nutrient rich fertilizer that can go back into the soil, making a healthy environment for plants to grow.
I learned about this recycling technique when I visited Vancouver's City Farmer project earlier this week. The City Farmer project is nearly 30 years old and offers workshops and training on how to worm compost.
It's a perfect way to compost, Mike Levenston, executive director of City Farmer, said. Especially if you live in an apartment building and don't have a yard.
Touching the worms with my bare hands might not be an option but I'm excited to start feeding my babies.
Any birthdays coming up? Some black gold is coming your way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

it appears as though the flesh is falling off my hand

Spring is almost a week old now and if you haven't already done so, it's time to clear out those cobwebs and shake out those carpets. It's time, my friends, for spring cleaning!
Before you're inspired to grab your Mr. Clean and 'disposable' Swiffer wipes, we should discuss what's in these common cleaning products and the potential effects they may have on you.
Knowing exactly what is in cleaning products takes some research. This is because manufacturers of cleaning products are not forced to list the names of chemicals on their packaging. In fact, Health Canada says that “the responsibility for assessing the hazards associated with a chemical product is that of the manufacturer." They have to list whether or not the product is poisonous or flammable but that's as specific as they are forced to be.
Some household chemical hazards are:
Acetone - A neurotoxin, acetone may cause liver and kidney damage, and damage to the developing fetus. It is a skin and eye irritant. Found in spot treatment cleaners, mark and scuff removers, and other products.
Methylene chloride - a carcinogen, a neurotoxin and a reproductive toxin. On inhalation, it can cause liver and brain damage, irregular heartbeat, and even heart attack. It is a severe skin and moderate eye irritant. Used in stain removers.
Phosphoric acid - extremely corrosive, it can severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes. Breathing vapours can make the lungs ache, and it may be toxic to the central nervous system. Found in some liquid dishwasher detergents, metal polishes, some disinfectants, and bathroom cleaners, especially those that remove lime and mildew.
For a full list, go here.
Believe it or not, all you need to do a thorough scrub job is a couple of lemons, some baking soda, white vinegar, olive oil and water. Instead of paper towel or 'disposable' wipes, you can use old sheets or tattered shirts. Here's a list of ingredients and recipes that make cleaning easy, cheap and safe.
Imagine, you can get that fresh, clean, lemony smell from, gasp, lemons!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

we're about to get personal

Toilet paper has come a long way since it was first used by Chinese Emperors in the 14th C when the sheets measured two feet by three feet.
Today arse-wipe is the third most widely consumed non-food commodity. The average person uses 57 individual sheets per day, 20,805 per year. (The Pentagon uses, on average, 666 rolls per day... weird.)
Kimberly-Clark, of Scott Tissue and Kleenex notoriety, is the world's largest manufacturer of 'disposable' paper products. Less than 19 percent of the pulp Kimberly-Clark uses for its disposable tissue products comes from recycled sources. Kleenex tissues contain 0 per cent recycled content.
In order to fulfill the market demand for soft, high quality bum scrub and snot rags, Kimberly-Clark uses virgin forest tree fiber.
The forests that Kimberly-Clark are disposing of are Canada's own ancient boreal forests.
The company uses more than 1.1 million cubic meters of trees from Canada's boreal forests each year.
These forests that have taken 10,000 years to evolve, run across the northern part of the country where there are no major urban centres. There is, however, 80 per cent of Canada's Aboriginal population who live in forest regions. And an entire ecosystem that acts as a filter for pollution and, oh yeah, it produces air.
Greenpeace started the Kleercut campaign in order to address these issues. They have been 'asking' for a meeting with Kimberly-Clark executives for three years now but have constantly been denied.
Kimberly-Clark claims to have an environmentally friendly policy to replant the trees it cuts down. But in order to replace a 180 year old tree it will take, well 180 years. Besides, the very idea of replanting an entire forest post-clearcutting is ridiculous. Maybe we can just ask the wolves, bears, and caribou to check into the local motel until their habitat is regrown.
In conclusion, buying recycled TP is not that much more costly. I would argue, in fact, that it's far less costly.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

kidney failures for canines

People go to extreme lengths for their pet. And the market has adjusted accordingly - you can take your pet to the spa and buy your pet designer clothes.
At the very least you can make sure your pet is well-fed. This has gotten harder to do in the last couple of weeks, though, as there has been tainted pet food found in the food supply.
Most pet food is owned by subsidiaries of food/product empires: Nestle (Alpo, Fancy Feast, Frisky), Heinz (Kibbles-n-Bits), Colgate-Palmolive (Hill’s Science Diet Pet Food).
The food in question these days comes from brands under the Proctor-Gamble label who get the product from an Ontario-based company, Menu Foods. Food like Iams and Eukanuba are owned by Proctor-Gamble.
The pet food from Menu Foods has been making dogs and cats sick with kidney failure and has resulted in ten deaths. There has been a massive recall of 60 million cans, involving 91 different kinds of wet cat and dog food.
The suspected harmful ingredient is wheat gluten, a protein used as a filler. Pet food is a combination of filler and leftovers of the animals that humans consume. It is called offal (pronounced awful) and consists of bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, etc. Most veterinarians find that the food is nutritious enough for animals and it's probably a good thing that that extra stuff is going somewhere.
In other bad news for pet food manufacturers, a $50 million Canadian class action law suit is being filed against Royal Canin. The lawsuit seeks compensation for anyone who has purchased Royal Canin dog or cat food since Aug. 1, 2004. According to the lawsuit, the food contains excessive amounts of Vitamin D, which cause severe illness or death in animals.
The increase in demand for organic food occurred after several food contamination scares. I'll bet that the same happens for organic pet food.