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Honest food. Honestly.


ChrisTaylor
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It's one of those words like "sustainable" about which I remain puzzled. What does sustainable mean in this context? The same people who complain about overfishing, will complain about farmed fish. Should we just not eat fish in some sort of fruitless protest against fisherman and fisheries? The fish will still be at the market, regardless of whether we take a "principled" stand against buying or eating it.

I guess if a chef serves up an "honest" Chilean sea bass, he is off the hook (so to speak)about serving an unsustainable fish. Assuming he didn't go catch it with his bare hands, to add to the authenticity and thus, the "honesty" of the dish.

Edited by annabelle (log)
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Well, my understanding of sustainable farming is that the practices used are compatible with the long term. If a farming method continually decreases the soil quality of causes erosion, for example, that is not sustainable. Eventually, you lose the topsoil, then you can't grow stuff. If you pollute the land with millions of tons of byproducts of feedlots or chicken houses, that is not sustainable. If you use antibiotics so liberally that you select for pathologic bacteria that we have no treatments for, that is not sustainable. Most of the farming done in the US falls under this heading. Eventually, we will cause so much damage that we can't continue the way we have. And thanks to lawsuits by companies like Monsanto, it is more and more difficult for farmers who want to farm sustainably to continue, and to maintain genetic crop diversity.

As far as fish farming, it can be done well and it can be done in ways that are very destructive, causing disease in the wild population and resulting in high levels of contaminants such as PCBs in the fish. It's not perfect, but I try to use an ipad app called "Seafood Watch", which is sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, when I am buying seafood. It has pretty good summaries of the issues with both farmed and wild caught fish, and provides ocean friendly alternatives if a fish I am interested in using is on the "avoid" list.

And I still think use of the word "honest" with respect to food is just plain meaningless.

Jess

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If you don't watch television, how can you speak to the value to the viewer, real or perceived? It's like me opining on molecular gastronomy, when I have never tried it or read a book about it.

Jamie Oliver does good work with his restaurant training programs for young tear-aways, but he is not a dietician, an argonomist or an economist. His opinions are just that: opinions.

Well, I DO watch Food television, mainly because my wife watches it. So I watch it. I find FoodTV annoying at best, a public nuisance at worst. These TV Food Porn peddlers never, ever, ever mention anything that might cause the viewer to think about where their food comes from.

The only thing you can get out of them is the occasional admonition to "use the good maple syrup." They never mention what good maple syrup is (or more importantly, what it ISN'T.) Because that might upset their advertisers. In this case, Pinnacle foods -- makers of Log Cabin and Mrs. Butterworth's brand table syrup. I don't think those syrups are advertised on FoodTV, but Vlasic pickles by Pinnacle are. So perky Food TV hosts can't ask viewers, "Why the **** are you paying that much money for corn syrup and caramel color?" Because their corporate overlords might lose those precious pickle dollars.

There is a pervasive effort afoot to keep the American consumer in the dark about what he or she eats. Many Americans consume more wood pulp and petroleum than they do carrots. While the information is out there, it simply is not getting into the brains of the people who most need it. The government agencies that are supposed to protect consumers do not. The media that is supposed to inform consumers does not.

Frankly, we need every Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver we can get.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Of course Food TV is annoying, Scoop. But, so are Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters. And so are posters who proclaim that, of course they never watch tv, because they're better than that. Holier than thou much? TV is entertainment, vast wasteland or not.

"Corporate Overlords?" Those are called sponsers. Without sponsers, the Food Network would be in some back alley PBS channel at 8 am on Sundays.

And none of this has anything to do with "honest" food. Which as tikidoc says, is a meaningless way to desribe food.

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I think the problem is that we (at least me) are somewhat ambivalent about these issues.

On the one hand who doesn't want fresh food that is produced properly?

On the other so many of the proponents of these issues are tedious at best and FOS at worst. Some have agendas that extend past the food problem. Some are preachy and elitist. (Who appointed Blythe Danner's daughter to her current position anyway?). Many make arguments that haven't been thought through to their ultimate outcome.

And its worth mentioning that these concerns are all trivia if one doesn't have enough to eat, the current state of billions of people. If eating a nearly extinct fish feeds my starving kids....

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There's a difference between a sponsor trying to sell a product and a sponsor who replaces "honest" food with wood pulp and petroleum distillates. (And then lobbies to have the FDA protect those products as "trade secrets." And then has their partners in television sell the product to an uninformed and unprotected market.)

The US consumer has precious few advocates. What good is it to try to tear down what little we've got?

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I think the problem is that we (at least me) are somewhat ambivalent about these issues.

On the one hand who doesn't want fresh food that is produced properly?

On the other so many of the proponents of these issues are tedious at best and FOS at worst. Some have agendas that extend past the food problem. Some are preachy and elitist. (Who appointed Blythe Danner's daughter to her current position anyway?). Many make arguments that haven't been thought through to their ultimate outcome.

And its worth mentioning that these concerns are all trivia if one doesn't have enough to eat, the current state of billions of people. If eating a nearly extinct fish feeds my starving kids....

Eating the last few of a nearly extinct species will ward off starvation until what, next week? Yes, I get it, you don't think that about that sort of thing when your kid is wasting away before your eyes, but when you are outside the situation, simply contemplating it, it's not a compelling sort of example.

Frankly, I find ALL the extreme points of view on this (actually, any) topic remarkably tedious, shortsighted, and spectacularly ignorant. It's as though everyone is so over-invested in their stance, the option of discussing the topic objectively and rationally is just out of the question. The inverted snobbism of the 'just folks' crowd is at least as nauseatingly dishonest as the wilfully naive and preachy elitism of of the overprivileged, self-appointed finger-waggers.

Yeh, I know: Moderation is boring, but does anyone actually believe that embracing some extreme fringe outlook is going to fix things?

The whole concept of 'honest' food is even more laughable, when framed by the hypocrisy of those who produce it.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Great thread.

I think that "honest" food is a teleological statement. There seems to be a fascination with a worldly regress to how things were done before civilization. I think it can be defined by the distance from food. The further you are from its production and it's preparation, the less "honest" it is. Which, I think has a valid point somehow, if you think for instance -- slaughter. We have such a denial of death when it comes to food. Perhaps, the closer we come to it the more "honest" we feel in our satiety...can anyone (home food growers, self-slaughter-er's) attest?

Kristine

http://www.platosplate.com

“I know something interesting is sure to happen whenever I eat or drink anything”. - Alice in Wonderland

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I think I have more appreciation for food that I have produced. There is a feeling or satisfaction that comes from eating a tomato you grew yourself that you don't get from buying one you bought. Same goes for animal products. We have chickens (mostly for eggs but the roos go in the freezer if they get obnoxious), a small herd of cows (milk and beef) and milk goats. Not only does our home raised beef and milk and cheese taste better and have better nutrition, but knowing exactly what the animal ate gives me a level of comfort feeding it to my kids. No antibiotics, no hormones, just hay and grass and a little grain when the girls are on the milking stanchion.

I also like the idea that my kids know where their food comes from. Beef comes from the steer that was in the pasture last year (named Sir Loin), not in a styrofoam container at WalMart.

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We don't have any livestock, but I have a lot of friends who ranch cattle and horses. We have a very large, I mean it's huge, kitchen garden, an herb garden and a salad garden. We don't have any chickens because our property is only an acre and a half and there are too many critters around here, including a family of fox. A chicken house would have to be too close to the house proper and I don't want to listen to my dogs barking at raccoons and skunks at night.

My parents and my husband all grew up on dairy farms, so where our food came from was never a mystery. People don't like to talk about the ugly side of farming/ranching which includes culling deformed baby animals and cleaning up slaughter. Additionally, farming is tremendously hard work and physically exhausting.

My BIL has a hobby farm in upstate NY, but he doesn't keep livestock. He uses it mainly for a deer hunting preserve and tapping his sugar maples for syrup production.

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One of the things that irks me is that we are 80-90% there with the laws and regulations we already have.

Companies are required to list what is in the package. Except for "trade secrets." So everything that might shock consumers is now a trade secret. Get rid of that loophole, and consumers might find out how much petroleum and wood pulp is in their packaged food.

Current USDA wholesomeness inspections are a joke. They should be surprise inspections and given more often. Inspector's reports should be made public as quickly as possible -- much like Nevada's Health Department's restaurant inspection reports. Pictures should be taken and made available to the public. We're paying for all of this, after all. I want to see the information that I paid for.

There is currently nothing in place for seafood inspections. That should change.

That would make all the food we eat more "honest." Not just the food offered at higher end restaurants. But I think the fact that people are starting to care is a step in the right direction.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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If current inspections are "a joke", how is having more inspectors going to fix that problem?

Food is much safer than it was at the turn of the last century, when adulterated milk and spoiled beef were the norm in cities in the US.

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Scoop, you have mentioned the petroleum and wood pulp as food additives three times now. Obviously this is a concern. What are they being used in and what is the reason for doing so?

Thanks.

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Scoop, you have mentioned the petroleum and wood pulp as food additives three times now. Obviously this is a concern. What are they being used in and what is the reason for doing so?

Thanks.

Google is your friend.

They are used in damned near everything, and they're used because they're cheaper, or because marketers think petroleum based dyes will help a product sell better. (EDIT -- And many preservatives are petroleum based.)

http://www.thestreet.com/story/11012915/1/12-food-companies-that-serve-you-wood.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500803_162-4151130-500803.html

http://chemistry.about.com/od/foodcookingchemistry/a/bha-bht-preservatives.htm

EDIT -- Also, when did I say "hire more inspectors?" I said inspections should be a surprise, should be more often, and results should be disseminated to the public as soon as possible. They can do things the same way it's done here with restaurants. The places that are known to conform to hygienic standards can expect one or two visits per year. Repeat offenders get visited often, until they clean up their act. The fines and fees pay for the program. And it seems to work well.

Edited by ScoopKW (log)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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In Austria the inspections themselves are surprise inspections (except when there where some things found at the last inspection. If the problem is not too severe then the business owner has some time to fix the issue). If the issues found are too severe, the business will be closed until the issue is resolved and the premises again inspected.

The thing you mentioned that I would also like very much is that those inspections would be made public. I don't need a webpage where I can look at detailed reports, I would prefer e.g. a label at the door where you see when the last inspection was done. The business owners should get this label only when everything was according to the regulations. I know this is only an idea if we are talking about e.g. a butcher that sells directly (yes we still have those small shops...but there are less of them every year).

Would you really look up a slaughterhouse after seeing the mark on the label? If something is wrong...close them down, then we don't have to look up if the meat is "ok" or not. There might also be another issue: how many people are qualified to assess a restaurant/slaughterhouse on the pictures? In the restaurant it might be easier, but even there stuff might look awful that is indeed clean and ok.

And you also have to say that current inspections still seem to get some stuff right if you look at the numbers... (not saying that they can't get any better though)

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For my 2 cents (and holy is this ever a polemic topic), food in and of itself can't be honest or dishonest. It simply is. Marketing honesty in connection with our meals is simply that - marketing. Until we reach that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy point of being able to actually converse with our food before we eat it, that is. (

)

On the other hand, knowing where your food came from is something that ultimately comes down to education. I have friends up in Canada who think that milk comes from a supermarket, but down here where it's more common to buy your milk directly from a farmer, everybody knows it comes from a cow. It's our own responsibility as consumers to know about the origins of our food and to educate ourselves as best as we can in order to make informed decisions. Of course those are always going to be biased, but that's part of being human, isn't it?

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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It's our own responsibility as consumers to know about the origins of our food and to educate ourselves as best as we can in order to make informed decisions.

I think so, too. I have been told in the past that it "is hopelessly naive" to hold that opinion, but I still do.

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It's our own responsibility as consumers to know about the origins of our food and to educate ourselves as best as we can in order to make informed decisions.

I think so, too. I have been told in the past that it "is hopelessly naive" to hold that opinion, but I still do.

I'm not sure why that would be hopelessly naive. Granted, the fact that I live in the country and that there are lots of farmer's markets and a big local food movement in our area helps. I also don't think that it is possible to know the origins of everything we eat, but certainly a good percentage of it. To start with, almost all the beef we eat is from a cow that we raised, and we have most of a heritage breed locally grown hog in our freezer, and I have had enough discussions with the farmer to have a good idea what it was eating too. I think if one lived in a large city, it would be much more difficult, and would take a lot more work.

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It's our own responsibility as consumers to know about the origins of our food and to educate ourselves as best as we can in order to make informed decisions.

I think so, too. I have been told in the past that it "is hopelessly naive" to hold that opinion, but I still do.

I'm not sure why that would be hopelessly naive. Granted, the fact that I live in the country and that there are lots of farmer's markets and a big local food movement in our area helps. I also don't think that it is possible to know the origins of everything we eat, but certainly a good percentage of it. To start with, almost all the beef we eat is from a cow that we raised, and we have most of a heritage breed locally grown hog in our freezer, and I have had enough discussions with the farmer to have a good idea what it was eating too. I think if one lived in a large city, it would be much more difficult, and would take a lot more work.

Sure, if you're raising the cow yourself and live in the country where you're surrounded by farms (that aren't monocultures of corn and soy), then it's relatively easy. It's less easy when you live in a big city, but it can still be done, because you're surrounded by lots of other people who share your interest in doing it. But the hardest situation is when you live in a small city that's not in an agricultural region, especially if that city is poor. It's easy to overestimate how far the distribution chains for local, organic food have penetrated when you live in the middle of them.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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If you shop in supermarkets I think that truly knowing the origins of food is impossible. The intentional mislabeling of fish is an obvious example, but how do you know where the loose potatoes in the bin came from? Even if the produce guy gives you an answer, how do you know its true?

I also think that it isn't a task that individuals can be expected to take responsibility for, (unless they are truly driven). Its a nice idea, and I like the philosophy and aesthetics of it, but I know that I can't do it.

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The "hopelessly naive" remark was made to me by a professor friend of mine who is of the opinion that people are too stupid to look out for themselves and thus need ever greater government intervention in their lives. But that is waa-ay off topic, so I'l leave it there.

Topic? It is a luxury today to have even a hobby farm. We've moved far and away from an agrarian society and most people wouldn't have the first idea of where to start with animal husbandry. (That would include me.)

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It's our own responsibility as consumers to know about the origins of our food and to educate ourselves as best as we can in order to make informed decisions.

I think so, too. I have been told in the past that it "is hopelessly naive" to hold that opinion, but I still do.

I'm not sure why that would be hopelessly naive. Granted, the fact that I live in the country and that there are lots of farmer's markets and a big local food movement in our area helps. I also don't think that it is possible to know the origins of everything we eat, but certainly a good percentage of it. To start with, almost all the beef we eat is from a cow that we raised, and we have most of a heritage breed locally grown hog in our freezer, and I have had enough discussions with the farmer to have a good idea what it was eating too. I think if one lived in a large city, it would be much more difficult, and would take a lot more work.

I'd also have a hard time thinking that keeping oneself informed is naive. Seems to me it's the direct opposite.

Granted, I live in a country where there's no such thing as a city far removed from agriculture - even Quito, a city of 3 million, still has farmland in it.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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If you shop in supermarkets I think that truly knowing the origins of food is impossible. The intentional mislabeling of fish is an obvious example, but how do you know where the loose potatoes in the bin came from? Even if the produce guy gives you an answer, how do you know its true?

I also think that it isn't a task that individuals can be expected to take responsibility for, (unless they are truly driven). Its a nice idea, and I like the philosophy and aesthetics of it, but I know that I can't do it.

My problem is that most of the individuals I know seem to think that if it's sold in a grocery store, it must certainly be wholesome to eat. They get the fact that unhealthy stuff is sold in the market. But they can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that bacteria laden meat and chemical additives are standard operating procedure these days. They seem to think that the FDA and the USDA has their backs, when in fact those agencies are now little more than cheerleaders for agricorp. The attitude seems to be, "They wouldn't sell it if it wasn't any good."

They don't realize when they buy ground beef, the meat in the package could have come from as many as a few hundred different animals in several states. I have a feeling if they saw how a CAFO or slaughterhouse works, they'd go off meat entirely.

We have all (well, almost all) of the laws and regulations we need to make our food chain considerably safer. But they aren't being enforced. Or they're being enforced in such a way that benefits the producer and not the consumer.

We're fast approaching the point where we need warnings like what's found on packs of cigarettes. "Warning, this product contains petroleum distillates," "Warning, this product is likely infected with salmonella," "Warning, this product is mainly indigestible wood pulp." I may not have a good answer about what constitutes "honest" food. But I have a pretty good idea what makes food "dishonest."

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I'd also have a hard time thinking that keeping oneself informed is naive. Seems to me it's the direct opposite.

I think you misunderstand (or else I'm misunderstanding you). The way I read it, the naïveté lies in believing that everyone has the time, energy and desire necessary to become fully informed about this subject. Obviously, those of us who are in this forum are here because we have a specific interest in food, but a lot of people don't. For example, how many of the people in this thread can tell me the origins of all the wood in their home, both structurally and in their furniture, and whether or not it was harvested legally and sustainably? Isn't it also our responsibility as consumers to know that information?

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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