Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BIG Bag o Foodie Links


Libya's Great Man-Made River nears completion at $20 billion and 2,333 miles long to connect the 5% of the country with rain to the rest.

What makes water projects work? Social capital, says IFPRI. Water and sanitation committees (cleverly known as WATSANs) in Ghana are not only more likely where communities have other social groups and less likely where communities are ethnically divided, they seem to improve payment for water services and improve water safety. Female leaders seem particularly important.

Food Safety
Powell gives NY Times reporter Bittman's new book two thumbs down for terrible food safety advice: "This is food safety idiocracy. Any food safety advice in Bittman’s book should be disregarded as fantasy."

Powell also found something worse than e. coli and salmonella:a metal staple in his pretzel-filled M&M. "I would rather take my chances with Salmonella or E. coli that I know I can cook to death rather than bleeding internally to death."  Update: Contrition from Mars goes a long way.

Foodie Faddies
Ben and Jerry's has surrendered. They're taking the "All Natural" label off their ice cream because a number of the ingredients are heavily processed (high fructo... I mean, corn sugar, highly processed? you don't say...)

And speaking of corporations, Wilde lets us know that corporate heads are either deluded or lying when they claim that "Personally, I would like to serve a healthier product.  But, if these efforts threaten profitability, I risk getting sued by stakeholders.  Corporations are obliged to pursue maximum profits and no other goal." A recent study of actual court cases says this is not the case.
If one can argue with a straight face that selling healthier food enhances the reputation and long-term prospects of the company, I think that would count as a reasonable business judgment.
Wilde's best line: "Markets are a great game, but a dreadful religion."

Powell urges us to buy local while avoiding "locavore nonsense" by quoting Doering:
buying local makes a good deal of sense when the natural conditions support the seasonal production of good, fresh local food. Who wouldn’t buy our local asparagus in June and fresh sweet corn and tomatoes in August? ...  What is new is the pretentious elevation of this simple idea by the chattering culinary class to the status of a comprehensive creed, which, they assert, can make a major contribution to a more sustainable food system.

I was in a very chic restaurant in Tucson, Ariz. where the smug chef righteously proclaimed that all his ingredients were locally grown. He was quite offended when I asked him about the environmental and other costs of importing all that fresh water to grow that food in the Arizona desert. And how is it more sustainable to deny developing countries the opportunity to export their tropical fruits and vegetables?

And five programs to improve school lunches:
  • Salad bars
  • Healthy vending machines (Cornell nutrition and agricultural economics students occasionally foment for that when gradual changes move the vending machines back to less healthy choices.)
  • Chefs joining the staff or advising kids on healthy eating and food prep
  • School gardens (not without controversy)
  • Buying food from local farmers
Breakfast in Iraq: "At first this weekend I was jealous of my friends in DC enjoying DC brunches.  Then we went to a local hole-in-the-wall and I saw breakfast. ...  After that, I was basically jealous of myself, because the food was so good." 

Tyson is facing a suit for gender discrimination which could jeopardize millions in government contracts if a) it is proved true and b) they don't give 750 female workers backpay and roughly 100 more female applicants jobs. That could cause a significant market power shift. naturally assumes guilty before proven innocent.

And the FAO is touting small-holder dairy farms. There are presently over 750 million people engaged in it, with an average of two cows. The most interesting and unexpected problem they bring up is environmental: "Low-yield dairy systems in Africa and South Asia are estimated to have higher carbon footprints per 100 kilogram of milk produced than high-yield systems in the United States and Western Europe."

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