Friday, May 12


Two professors in geophysical science at the University of Chicago have done a study to determine what diet is the most energy-efficient in terms of the planet's resources. Surprise! It's veganism!

The article notes that "The strict vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy-efficient, followed by poultry and the average American diet. Fish and red meat virtually tied as the least efficient." That's right, good ol' "I'll just switch to fish" not only is loaded with contaminants for you, it's also bad for the planet. The researchers did tie in the fact that there's no health advantage to ruining the health of the Earth: "The adverse effects of dietary animal fat intake on cardiovascular diseases is by now well established. Similar effects are also seen when meat, rather than fat, intake is considered," Martin and Eshel wrote. "To our knowledge, there is currently no credible evidence that plant-based diets actually undermine health; the balance of available evidence suggests that plant-based diets are at the very least just as safe as mixed ones, and most likely safer."

I guess it's really true that what goes around comes around - at least in the case of the Earth.

Thursday, May 11


This quick overview of the dairy controversy is representative of a number of articles that are showing up pretty regularly, which we would not have seen in the mainstream press just a decade ago.

Still, as usual, it's pretty deficient, pitting "all those dairy ads" and the USDA's dietary guidelines against two prominent scientific experts who, as the article notes, are "from dairy-farming families, but their views have entirely turned around because of their research." Classic "he-said, he-said" stuff - on the one hand, on the other hand, etc. - as long as you don't mention that "all those dairy ads" are simply bald-faced commercial industry promotion and that our Department of Agriculture is proven again and again to be a branch office of the cattle industry. Let's compare this to the articles we'll be seeing five years from now. I doubt the smokescreen can hold out too much longer.

Wednesday, May 10


Michael Pollan is an engaging and obviously thoughtful writer on issues of food and ethics. His Omnivore's Dilemma, of which I've only read excerpts, looks to continue and extend his quest to find the perfect tightrope to walk between giving in to cultural pressure to be unconscious about food and the imperative to consistently eat consciously. But his titular quandary is a classic false dilemma: The choice isn't between gustatory pleasure and ethics - veganism offers both. The "dilemma" really is, will you or won't you live according to the ideals you actually believe in? Will you allow your comfort in the familiar to trump your reluctance to participate in needless cruelty and environmental destruction?

Pollan is good enough at philosophy and logic to work out the fact that there's no real justification for continuing to breed and eat animals. Yet blinded by his desire to excuse his own comfort level, even he falls back on utterly ridiculous arguments such as "domestic animals owe us one because we're responsible for their existence," which Peter Singer pretty handily demolishes in this Mother Jones interview, and maybe-if-I-eat-organic-chicken-that's-good-enough wishful thinking.

That said, Pollan does a good job of bringing a lot of facts to light about the excessses of the Western lifestyle, and with every piece he seems to be inching closer to making that crucial connection between honesty and action. So we eagerly await his next opus on this topic!

Tuesday, May 9


Pssssst! Speaking of the venerable tradition of Friday recalls, did you hear that 78 tons of ground beef had been recalled for E.Coli contamination? (That's right, seventy-eight freaking tons of beef - well over the amount the average American consumes in a full year!)

What's that? You say you didn't hear? You didn't get this detailed list of products you're supposed to check for in case you have deadly E.Coli lurking in your fridge? You didn't know to go and carefully examine this PDF-only release from the USDA? OK, then, their system is working perfectly! Carry on.

Monday, May 8


How fitting that the meat-recall scandal that pegged so many of its developments on Friday coverage, and so succeeded in keeping this story - to this day - from the consciousness of most Americans, was wrapped up (at least for not) on a Friday. What a coinkidink, as Micky Dolenz would say.

You may recall (ha!) that "eight people died and more than 50 were sickened in the outbreak, which led to one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history" - or you may not, since the companies involved, in collusion with the USDA, managed to keep a layer of smoke and mirrors between their obvious involvement and the public, largely via the Friday strategy. Pilgrim's Pride long maintained they had absolutely nothing to do with the people's deaths, that the strain of listeria had not really been tied to their plant, and the USDA did not publicly call them on this until well after any significant media coverage had stopped. Now they've quietly - and that is the operative word - settled. OK, rack 'em up again and let's feed some chicken feces to the next unknowing crowd!