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NYT Articles on Food, Drink, Cooking, and Culinary Culture (2005–2011)

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Look at that picture--those hens don't have room to turn around.

Yeah, some of them totally look like they're going to dive-bomb into the crowd. It's like more of a mosh-pit than a comfortable living situation.

It's unfortunate, because as much as the idea behind it appeals to me (you know, the whole humane thing), it seems to be becoming more watered down. I also fear that (although it's happening already) because of high demand, there will be too many large corporations trying to take advantage of this as a marketing ploy, obviously, until it becomes more and more impossible to get your hands on really "cage-free" eggs.

There was a discussion about this kind of thing a class I took; it was more directly related to fair trade, but the issues are similar enough. The discussion was about the pros and cons of these kinds of movements becoming akin to a brand or label, one that can be marketed as protecting/supporting human rights through consumerism, instead of employing more traditional "activist" approaches. A major issue within the class was whether the possible awareness by the consumer that was created by these goods was worth it. Do a significant number of people actually learn anything from buying these goods, or are they simply purchases? Does it make up for the fact that it still encourages a level of consumption that wasn't necessarily conducive to change?


Edited by feedmec00kies (log)

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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I regularly buy raw milk at Whole Foods here in San Francisco. On another eGullet thread I described the flavor as richer and more complex--"milkier"--than pasteurized whole milk, which seems to have a tired, flat taste.

As for the health risk... I've never become sick, and I don't know of anyone who has. Even one of the scientists quoted in the article admitted that he drank raw milk throughout his childhood and never became sick. The article mentions that 25 percent of all food-related illnesses in 1938 were due to milk (note: the article doesn't say "raw milk"). But you have to ask, how were people getting their milk in 1938? What were veterinary standards like at the time? What about refrigerated transport? How long were milk bottles left to sit out on the front steps? And how many incidents of disease were caused specifically by raw milk?

(I also find it noteworthy that the same scientist refuses to drink raw milk again because "the risk is not worth any benefit anyone has been able to prove"--that is, he'd drink raw milk only if someone could prove its purported health benefits were true. Better flavor never enters into the equation; it's totally irrelevant for him. What a fascinating peek into the mindset we're facing...)

Sorry for the bloviating, but I get worked up about this issue!


Edited by StevenC (log)

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The fact is pasteurization was a major public health breakthrough. To say anything otherwise would partake of major historical revisionism. Pasteurized milk, of course still needs to be treated properly after the fact.

While I would drink raw milk and certainly eat raw milk cheeses :wub: , I would only do so with knowledge and trust of the source. A raw milk producer near where I live recently stopped selling it because their milk was found to be contaminated with listeria, a potentially very dangerous bug, especially for the very young and otherwise health compromised individuals. That being said, I am not at all against raw milk. One should be cautious with it though.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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This article from the August 1 edition of the SF Chronicle makes an interesting counterpoint to the NYT article:

Pastured eggs catching on

I had the opportunity to buy some pastured eggs last week; whilst on a field trip to the coast, I picked up a dozen eggs from Marin Sun Farms. I'm pleased to say that their flavour was indiscernable from the eggs I buy at my local farmer's market (affectionately known as "blessed eggs" due to the farmer's habit of bestowing blessings on his customers...you have to say 'blessed' as two syllables though).

My local eggs are labelled only as "certified organic" and "free-range" but the farmer has Polaroids of "his girls" posted in his stall. While their yard is not as scenic as the one on the Marin Sun website, there are no cages visible.

The way this food marketing is heading is disturbing. "Cage free" just means "crammed into a big barn"; "free range" means "said sardine-chickens have access to a single little door but are not encouraged to go outside". Don't get me started on "vegetarian hens"!

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Delicious. Utterly delicious.

There used to be (it may still be there) and creamery that served whole raw milk soft serve at this fair I went to as a kid. That ice cream is still my most vivid merory of those fairs. The only ice cream I've had that overshadows that is the gelato I got in Florence, which is just rediculous.

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You honestly do need to know the source. You don't want a tree hugger that has just retired and started their own farm.

You want to know when it was harvested also. Four days max from that date and time in your fridge. On that last day start to make yogurt, cheese or a bunch of other stuff I forgot. Buy what you need for that day would be best but who can do that. Oh yeah the French, Spanish, most of Latin America to name a few.

Might want to shy away from it if you're elderly, pregnant, elderly and pregnant or under the age of 4 (I say 6). If your immune system is down, cold, flu, HIV positive, various cancers...wait till you're feeling better.

There are all kinds of bacterial goodness in unpasteurized bovine milk just waiting for the temp to go above 40 degrees. Most won't kill you, you'll just wish you were dead.


"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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I'm fortunate that I live in farm country and can buy eggs and chicken for most of the year directly from farmers that raise their chickens in a way that I am comfortable with. Unfortunately, both products are somewhat seasonal. Whether or not it is for objective reasons, both eggs and chicken taste better to me. I grilled some fresh-killed, pastured chickens the other night. They were very flavorful and extremely moist.

I will still buy supermarket eggs and poultry when I have to, but fortunately I don't have to too often. The supermarket eggs do have one quality advantage, though. One can purchase them based on their grade, something that can't be done with eggs fresh from the small farm. Of course, if one doesn't use that advantage to buy recently laid AA eggs, that advantage is worthless.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I was raised on raw milk, cheese, and butter. I doubt that I've ever had a foodborn illness although I may have as a child and not remember it.

My grandfather's cows were regularly TB tested and the milk was always carefully handled.

I would be cautious about where the milk has been produced otherwise I prefer it and occasionally still indulge. I don't have it often due to the price.

Our local grocery store has started carrying raw milk and milk products.

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Our local grocery store has started carrying raw milk and milk products.

Barbara, which grocery store? Is it a local chain I would recognise?


Edited by Jensen (log)

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Our local grocery store has started carrying raw milk and milk products.

Barbara, which grocery store? Is it a local chain I would recognise?

Yes, it's Save Mart and I know there are a number of their stores in Sacramento. I think it depends on the size of the store. We have two and the milk products are only in the "Big" Save Mart.

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I can't believe it but I was thinking about this topic for an hour and a half this morning; yep, from 3:15 am to 4:45 am, my mind was filled with thoughts about eggs and how they are a reflection of our society as a whole.

Fortunately, a conclusion was made and I was able to go back to sleep. The conclusion? we are doomed to have all good things co-opted by businessmen and eventually ruined.

Our culture is one of growth...and bigger is always better. Business success is measured by how much you can sell, how much you can grow, how much of the market you can corner; in all things, more is better. Personal success is measured by how much you can consume; how much buying power do you have? Again, more is better.

Now let's think about the eggs. "Free range" and "cage free" and all those animal husbandry philosophies do not reflect the ideals of the free market or a supply and demand economy. The sort of animal husbandry from which these eggs spring is based in something entirely different...I didn't quite articulate this aspect of the egg world during my insomnia. For simplicity's sake, let's just say that, for whatever reasons, the animal husbandry producing "the good stuff" is based in quality, not quantity.

And the free market responds to "the good stuff" (in this case, tastier eggs) by creating demand. Suddenly, what started out as a desire to produce quality eggs becomes a business opportunity. The demand must be met! We must increase supply!

Thus, the businessmen take over "free range" eggs and, in order to convert the original concept of chickens leading chickeny lives, hunting grubs and scratching in the dirt into something that fits better into our consumption-based world, the concept of "free range" becomes "well, they can go out that little door if they want but we've got them so crammed in here so that we can meet our production quotas that if they were to try, it would be like a Who concert in here".

There is a fundamental disconnect between the ideals that spawn "the good stuff" and the society that makes them widely available; this disconnect is a great chasm that cannot be overcome.

And where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us in a world of overcrowded chicken barns (but nary a cage in sight!), monoculture crops, and global climate change.

Bah.

(Stay tuned. There will be more discussion about the clash of traditional foodways and modern consumerism after nap time...)

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How do you go about gathering the eggs in a barn filled wall to wall with chickens? Surely not all of the eggs are layed in nesting boxes. If you were to find an egg in the corner, how would you know how fresh it was?

HC

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According to the Encyclopedia of agricultural, food, and biological engineering (portions of which are available thanks to Google Books: click):

Most eggs are laid in the enclosed nesting boxes, but some eggs may be laid on the floor of the building. Eggs laid on the floor can be dirty and may be lost depending upon egg collection system.

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Our culture is one of growth...and bigger is always better. Business success is measured by how much you can sell, how much you can grow, how much of the market you can corner; in all things, more is better. Personal success is measured by how much you can consume; how much buying power do you have? Again, more is better.

Not that I completely disagree, especially when it comes to food, but you could also say that our culture is one of freedom to choose, even if the choice is known or suspected to be a poor one?

If this results in "growth", or "business success", that's the effect, not the cause.

SB :hmmm:

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Jensen

I can't believe you were thinking about this topic for an hour and a half either. Perhaps I can lend a different perspective and thereby restore some hope that the world is not doomed to copiously consume simple good eats hijacked by the evil business empire in America. Maybe you'll get some sleep.

I think it's all in where you live. I used to live in Chicago. I used to live in NYC. Both boast some of the finest dining and ingredients available in the world. Yes. I admit. There was a real high in purchasing the hot new, old fashioned, back to basics, now labled gourmet, exorbitantly expensive food stuff. Then I moved.

I live in a small town in Illinois. One might think I am now denied the finer things in culinary life. But you'd be surprised. Every Friday I get into work (City Hall) and find a dozen "non caged, free range, whatever" eggs in beautiful colors of tan, brown, blue and white on my desk, delivered by the lady who cleans our offices and raises her own chickens. She charges a dollar a dozen. The yolks are deeper and richer than the store bought ones. (We like to call those concentration camp eggs because of the blue stamped serial numbers on each egg.) They are pure joy to eat and taste decidely different.

Morel hunting is a community or social event. No one sells them to anyone here except at farmers markets on occasion in the nearest real city. If you have too many you offer them to your friends before they go bad.

I know a local venison farmer who supplies the better dining establishements in New York and Chicago. If he knows you know how to handle and appreciate great food he'll invite you into one of his many barns and take you to the chest freezers in the back. I've left with an entire shopping bag of venison tenderloins and roast for a sum total of $25.00. Yes, for the whole bag, not just one roast. And after a darn great conversation with him and his wife while watching them train their prize winning horses as well.

I've had neighbors who know I can tomatoes every year bring over boxes of just picked tomatoes because they are going fishing on the Mississippi for a week and they'll spoil by the time they get back. I pay them back with the pounds and pounds of asparagus I pick in my yard each spring.

A local meat market purchases as many of the prize winning lambs at all the county fairs in the area that they can and if they know you love lamb they give you a sheet with the dates of the fairs they'll be buying from so you know when they'll have the prize winners in their meat case. It's usually about $6-$7 a pound for all different cuts.

I guess what I am getting at is that the huge part of the population that lives between the big cities in this country are living a pretty darn good and pretty darn smart life when it comes to food and quality of life. I now purchase far higher quality meats and produce than I ever did in Chicago or NY for in some cases 1/3 of the price. And until I came here, I'd never eaten much less picked a morel mushroom. I like many people I know make and smoke my own sausage. Some of us even smoke the fish we snag on the Mississippi River. I've had more high quality food experiences than ever before in settings completely different than high end restaurants. I often marvel that the midwest is refered to as "fly over" country. There are communities like mine all over fly over country that are laughing their butts off at that while eating "cageless eggs". I can't wait to tell the cleaning lady she's on the cutting edge of chicken raising.

There are some things that big business will never be able to get their greedy mits on. Good neighbors, raising good food, and offering it out of good friendship is one of those things. I wouldn't go back to big city life for all the world. Don't get me wrong. It's great to visit, but I love coming home.

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Our culture is one of growth...and bigger is always better. Business success is measured by how much you can sell, how much you can grow, how much of the market you can corner; in all things, more is better. Personal success is measured by how much you can consume; how much buying power do you have? Again, more is better.

Not that I completely disagree, especially when it comes to food, but you could also say that our culture is one of freedom to choose, even if the choice is known or suspected to be a poor one?

I don't actually agree that "freedom of choice" applies unfettered to the market. In my world view, that freedom applies only to moral and/or ethical decisions and is tied more to individual responsibility rather than individual consumerism.

The choices available to the consumer are always limited or defined by the suppliers. Undoubtedly, some choices can be market-driven but, unless universal access to all commodities is available, "freedom of choice" is just a nice idea.

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Not that I completely disagree, especially when it comes to food, but you could also say that our culture is one of freedom to choose, even if the choice is known or suspected to be a poor one?

Ditto, Jensen

Also, this goes back to something I mentioned in another post (where I went on a huge rant about commodification and "artisanalization" of food): the "democratization" of food. Basically, the gist of my argument is this: food industries try to appeal to the largest number of people by trying to create goods that are standardized, reliable, and easy to ingest. Their goal isn't to provide a variety of products, but to be able to appeal to the largest number of people, without scaring them off. The "democratization" part is about making products more "egalitarian", not giving people choice. The way they distinguish themselves and appeal to people are in other ways, by their brands themselves - advertising, and/or using some schtick (say, claiming to be "cage-free"), or something else. (If you want to see the full rant for whatever reason, look here.)

The sad thing is, and you see it with these cage-free egg things... they're being "democratized" in the same way too. It's easier to get people to go along with your schtick and buy your eggs if they don't differ much from the eggs they're used to if you appeal to their soft side.

Oh, and Pebs: Thanks for your input! You're right that region certainly has something to do with it, and it was nice to know its not all downhill. :wink:


"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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Pebs: I have egg connections in Galena too, though few and far between. You are a lucky person.

Just a silly note: When I was in Canada this spring I bought some eggs labeled "Range free." A tad confusing, but I bought them anyway.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Basically, the gist of my argument is this: food industries try to appeal to the largest number of people by trying to create goods that are standardized, reliable, and easy to ingest. Their goal isn't to provide a variety of products, but to be able to appeal to the largest number of people, without scaring them off. The "democratization" part is about making products more "egalitarian", not giving people choice.

Lovely rant, Cookie (may I call you Cookie?).

Calling it "democratization" is so kind. I like to think of it as "pandering to the lowest common denominator". Okay, maybe that was a little harsh but, remember, I didn't sleep well last night and now I'm grumpy. :laugh::laugh::laugh:

This democratization process is usually what triggers regulation which, in turn, REALLY sets the lowest possible bar.

Hobbes can add "tasteless" to his list...

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This all just makes me glad that we took the plunge and have a coop with two hens in our urban backyard. Yay for truly fresh and local eggs!! It's been several weeks now and it still feels like magic to come home and pick up two freshly laid eggs. Plus they are easier than cats in terms of care and maintenance.


"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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Are you able (and willing) to take some photos of your urban coop? I have a spot in my garden that used to be home to an aviary. We had to take a tree out right near there and I think it might just be big enough for a chicken coop.

(Of course, whether the Spouse would let me get chickens is another story.)

(Oh, and keeping the whippets calm about them might be a chore but they're in their own yard.)

I'm pretty sure I can have chickens here, since Fair Oaks is home to a gazillion feral chickens.

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In some respects it is probably easier to have a small urban coop than it is to have a small rural coop unless one is a farmer in the rural venue. I would think that predation in particular would be less of an issue in the urban setting so long as there is enough space and privacy. Where I live I have ample property but not the right location. :sad: Fortunately, we have enough people around with both and the time and expertise to do it right that it is not an issue. :smile:


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Are you able (and willing) to take some photos of your urban coop? I have a spot in my garden that used to be home to an aviary. We had to take a tree out right near there and I think it might just be big enough for a chicken coop.

(Of course, whether the Spouse would let me get chickens is another story.)

(Oh, and keeping the whippets calm about them might be a chore but they're in their own yard.)

I'm pretty sure I can have chickens here, since Fair Oaks is home to a gazillion feral chickens.

Rather than stray too far off topic and use up resources here, I'll try to post some photos on my blog tonight. Honestly we were told it's easier than having cats and so far it's been true.

Oh, and we have a 75-lb golden retriever who went a bit nuts at first but has calmed down considerably. They've even learned how to share the yard (under strict supervision) from time to time.


Edited by pansophia (log)

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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Lovely rant, Cookie (may I call you Cookie?).

Calling it "democratization" is so kind. I like to think of it as "pandering to the lowest common denominator". Okay, maybe that was a little harsh but, remember, I didn't sleep well last night and now I'm grumpy.  :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:

This democratization process is usually what triggers regulation which, in turn, REALLY sets the lowest possible bar.

Hobbes can add "tasteless" to his list...

Hehe, sure Jensen. And rants are my thing, I must say! :biggrin:

The main reason i call it "democratization" is because i borrow the term (and it's specific use) from Michael Schudson, a sociologist, in his book called "Advertising: The Uneasy Persuasion" (further subtitled with "Its Dubious Impact on American Society"). It was assigned reading for a class called "Culture and Consumption," and so in talking about the chapters of the book and using it when writing a paper for the class, I've gotten in the habit of putting it that way. Otherwise, I'd be calling it "making food suck to not scare anyone away so that most people have low expectations." :wink:

BTW, the book is interesting, if you happen across it. It's on Amazon, of course (and for used you can buy it pretty cheap, if you'd like). The book was written in the 80s, and though some little specific things might seem a little dated (say, the unforseeable impact of the Internet on the transfer of information), but it's actually broader than just advertising. For instance, there was a very interesting chapter on the history and development of cigarettes as a commodity...

Rather than stray too far off topic and use up resources here, I'll try to post some photos on my blog tonight.  Honestly we were told it's easier than having cats and so far it's been true.

Thanks for the pics pansophia!


"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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