Slow Food Month

During the month of May, Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food International will be doing a book tour around the U.S.  Carlo started The Slow Food movement in 1986 in Italy.  Today the organization is active in 50 countries and has a worldwide membership of over 80,000.  Although the organization is not necessarily vegetarian, the principles are to promote sustainability and to encourage us to learn about where our food is comes from.  Vegetarian or not, these are important principles to consider.  Here is the mission of the movement.

Slow Food envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair. We seek to catalyze a broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.

For more information on the the Slow Food movement and book signing dates, check out
The International site is here


So who’s inspecting the food?

Need another reason to buy food locally or at least food produced in the U.S.?  How about the fact that almost 99% of all the food imported is not being inspected by the FDA.  One of the FDA’s primary responsibilities is to ensure a safe food supply for this country.  But ,the agency is overworked and understaffed.  Consider this, last month they found 850 shipments of grains, nuts, fish, vegetables, spices and oils to be be tainted by filth, unsafe colorings, toxic pesticides and salmonella.  Remember, they only inspected 1.3 percent of the total amount of food imported to the U.S.  The amount of food imported is expected to increase over the next year, while the number of food inspections are expected to decrease to 1.1 percent. 

It is estimated that the average American eats around 260 lbs of imported food per year in some form.  Much of this food comes from Mexico and Canada, but an increasing amount of it is coming from China.  We have seen the problems when tainted food is imported from China and released into our food system.  This time it affected our pet’s food, what about the next time?  With very little food being inspected and nearly $70 billion dollars worth of it being imported annually, this can be bad news.

So you want to know where your food is coming from?  Good luck!  The Farm Act of 2002 mandated that certain types of food be labeled based on country of origin.  Fruits and vegetables are still not required to be labeled.  It really turns into a catch-22…the food is not being inspected for safety and we can’t avoid it because it’s not labeled.  And…if labeling is required, the food may be processed into other food (e.g. wheat gluten) without our knowledge.  This makes it difficult for the consumer to make an educated decision on the food they want to put into their bodies.  

There really isn’t a silver bullet answer for avoiding imported food, unless you live on a farm and only eat the food you grow on it.  The next best thing is to buy from known local sources like farmers markets and grocery stores that buy locally.  It may be difficult to avoid imported food altogether, but reducing our intake of it will certainly help.  This is a perfect instance of "less is more".

Read more about it at MSNBC


Eat Greener

Our third installment of our "Earth Day" series will focus on simple tips to eat greener foods.  It just so happens that eating greener coincides with eating vegetarian.  We have seen the positive impact that going vegetarian just one day a week has on our planet.  By following some simple guidelines there are additional ways to green up a vegetarian diet. 

Remember these are simply guidelines, not rules!  Make the effort to follow them when it is practical.  It would be best if we could follow these all the time, but sometimes it is just not feasible.  So, do it when you can, but you do not need to live your life by them to make a difference.  For example, try to adhere to them at home, but on Friday night when you go out for Mexican food, don’t worry about it.

  • Buy locally - all kinds of benefits can be had with this one.  It is probably the most important guideline to follow.  You support your local farmers, your food is fresh and the energy inputs, such as fuel to transport the food is negligible.  Most of the time this food is also grown organically.  With Spring here, what better time to visit your farmers market?  For listings of farmers markets in your area, click here.
  • Buy organic- probably the next best thing.  Your food has not been sprayed with pesticides and the ground it was grown in was not flooded with fertilizers.  Pesticides are not good for your health and fertilizers are not good for our planet’s health.
  • Buy seasonal- Let nature determine what foods are ready to eat, not the grocery store.  What’s in season in Chile may not be what’s season in Oregon.  Eating seasonal provides the best tasting foods.  Combine this with buying locally and the benefits of fresh, healthy great tasting food will abound.  To find out what’s in season in your area, click here.
  • Grown your own- You do not need huge plots of land and a tractor to grow your own food, just throw some pots on your back deck and start an herb garden or tomatoes or peppers or all of them!
  • Bring your own bag-  This is too simple not to do.  You will always have them if you keep them in the trunk of your car (or bike).  For more info read ban the bag.

These five simple tips can have a big impact on our planet.  Vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can make a difference by following them.  Not only do these guidelines benefit our planet….they also help to make us healthier and more connected with our food supply.


Earth Day this Sunday

In honor of Earth Day coming up this Sunday, I am reiterating the mission of this site.  Choosing to go vegetarian, even one day a week makes a difference on our planet, our health and the lives of animals everywhere.  This week, will host a series of Earth Day related stories, so be sure to visit everyday for new posts.  If there are any articles or stories you would like to contribute please let me know! 

For more information on Earth Day click here.  For events scheduled in your area this link may be a good place to start.  Otherwise just do a quick search on the Internet.

(from our ‘Mission‘ page)

The top 10 reasons why adopting a vegetarian diet one day a week will make a difference. In a year you will… 

* Save 84,000 gallons of water.

* Save 245 lbs of grain.

* Save 7,700 sq feet of rain forest. (That is equivalent to four good sized houses.)

* Reduce your contribution to the over 10,000,000,000 animals slaughtered for food.

* Save 15.5 gallons of gasoline, good for one fill-up!

* Not contribute to over 403 lbs of manure produced by food animals.

* Reduce your contribution to over 24,000,000 pounds of antibiotics that are added to animal feed.

* Save 87 square feet of topsoil from erosion.
* Reduce your impact on our quickly vanishing ocean life!

* Do not forget about your health! A vegetarian diet, even one day a week will help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, and it may even  help to drop a few pounds.

– During this week, stay tuned for a couple of updates in the top ten reasons to veg one day a week.


Sustainable Corporate Cafeterias

Working for a large company has advantages and disadvantages.  One of the advantages is that there are cafeterias on-site, so if you forget your lunch or just want something different, you can walk over and choose from a variety of foods without having to drive anywhere.  One of the disadvantages is that the cafeterias are outsourced to huge conglomerate companies like Sodexho and Compass Group.  As such, much of the food is trucked in, frozen and conventionally grown.   Although, I have started seeing keywords like "sustainable" and "organic" on signs in the cafes (occasionally).

Last year Google saw the light and started their own version of what a corporate cafeteria should modeled after.  "Cafe 150" only serves within a 150-mile radius of the Google campus.  Talk about going local!   Could Google’s influence change the way all cafes do business? 

This article from the San Francisco Chronicle goes into more detail about Google’s cafes.

When chef Nate Keller opened the doors last week to his newest venture, Cafe 150, prospective diners lined up in droves.

For the opening, his changing menu of more than 30 items featured dishes such as a robust broth teeming with slices of beef skirt steak and hand-made yam noodles; clams sauteed with disks of handmade Chinese sausage and wisps of fresh basil; a sandwich bar with nine made from-scratch condiments, and grilled romaine lettuce, persimmon and poblano chiles; and composed salads such as wild rice and hazelnut, and crispy tofu slaw.

Keller is a passionate proponent of local, organic and sustainable food, and chose the "150" in the restaurant’s name to reflect the fact that ingredients will come from within a 150-mile radius of the restaurant.

continue at SFgate


Food and Vegetarian Highlights

This morning I noticed a few good articles related to food and vegetarianism.  The first is a search result from Runner’s World that has a ton of articles and links associated with it.   This is definitely a good veg reference for runners and in general.  Next, Newsweek published an article this week about the carbon footprint of the food we eat.  It discusses how some corporate and college cafeterias are moving to sourcing their food locally to reduce their CO2 emissions.  I know that Google has just such a cafeteria on their campus.  I will write an article about it soon.  Finally, the San Diego Tribune reports that FDA has extended the public comment period for cloned meat and milk.  If you have not made your voice heard on this, you have until May 3nd.  Check out this article for links to the FDA’s site.


Corporate Responsibility?

It seems like a lot of these stories are making headlines lately!  First Sainsbury’s (UK based grocery store chain) announced it will only sell eggs from free-roaming chickens, then Wolfgang Puck said he was revamping the menus at his restaurants to include more organic and humanely raised foods and yesterday Burger King announced that it was going to require that 2 percent of their eggs be “cage free,” and 10 percent of its pork to come from farms that allow sows to move around inside pens, as opposed to being confined to crates. 

The companies making these changes are doing so as a direct result of consumer awareness and activism.   Sure, we can say that these measures do not go far enough to protect the welfare of food animals.  It is of course only a small percentage of the animals currently living on factory farms.  This is true, but this is a good place place to start.  Just like the old Chinese proverb says "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."  This is the first step and like it or not, It is going to take a response from these corporate giants to change the factory farm industry.  They are the quantity buyers and as such are able to force their suppliers to change their practices.  

One of the more positive effects of these stories is all the attention the media is giving them.  Not only are these animals going to live in better conditions, but the media is helping to raise public awareness as well.  When the NY Times does a story on this, it carries a different kind of "objectivity" than say when PETA speaks out about it.  PETA has its place, but they are not generally perceived as being objective.

Burger King has stated that they are not going to change their marketing efforts to reflect this decision.  They have also said that the prices on the menu will not reflect the increased food costs from their suppliers.  It begs the question…Does the common BK customer really care where their $1.50 hamburger came from?  The most likely answer is No.  If they cared about it, they probably would not be buying food from Burger King.   This change is strictly an internal corporate decision.  That can be good and bad.  It can mean that "organic, cage free" is just part of the regular menu, or it can make it easy to sweep under the rug at a convenient time.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen how much companies are willing to commit to purchase ethical food.  Small steps like these are good news, but they are a far cry from fixing the problem.  For this effort to be successful, companies will need to keep increasing the amount of ethical food they purchase and force their suppliers to change the way they raise animals.  It does not need to happen overnight, but measurable goals should be set to stay on target.

Read the NY Times article here


Go to the source

On March 6th I wrote about questioning where our food comes from.  This article from the San Francisco Chronicle discusses the issue as well. 

By Carol Ness
In the age of conscious consumerism, even water is complicated.

Deciding what kind to order in a restaurant — and to drink at home — has taken on the same complexity as buying what used to be simple foods like eggs (Do the hens roam free? What do they eat?) and milk (Do the cows graze on grass? Are they given antibiotics?).

And that makes bottled water in restaurants a worthy first topic for the Food section’s new ongoing feature, Food Conscious. Stories every few weeks will aim to feed Northern Californians’ growing demand for reliable information about what they eat and drink.

So hungry is the Bay Area for food facts that 2,000-plus people recently paid $10 apiece to see Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," chat with Whole Foods CEO and founder John Mackey about the future of food. The event sold out UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall.

"Why would 2,000 people pay to come see a journalist and a grocer?" Pollan asked the crowd, before answering his own question: "I think we’re witnessing a social revolution."

continue at San Francisco Chronicle

The short answer is yes…but it takes understanding and compromise. There are times when the politics of food can cause some tension in a relationship, so being able to settle on a common ground is essential. This article from Newsweek is about just such a relationship, the only difference is the author is a vegan and her husband is a meat eater.

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - When my husband, Ken, and I were planning our wedding two years ago, we toiled over the menu even more than most anxious couples. As a Jewish vegan who doesn’t eat meat, poultry, fish or dairy products, I wanted to share vegan delicacies without feeling I was pushing an agenda. My Chinese-Japanese-Hawaiian husband wanted to be sure his relatives would have enough to eat, and to incorporate Chinese banquet foods.

In the end, our caterer served a gorgeous organic vegan meal, complete with Chinese long noodles (representing long life). We added line-caught wild fish, served whole to symbolize abundance and good fortune (in Chinese and Hawaiian tradition). After a Jewish blessing over wine and challah, Ken worked the room, teaching people to extract and eat the fish delicacies: the eyes and cheeks.

I became a vegetarian as a teenager, with the mixed motivation of loving animals and wishing to confound (and inconvenience) my meat-eating parents. Then, five years ago, I became a vegan. Today chili, stews and endless variations of salads are my staples. While Ken’s diet is more varied, his philosophy is simpler: without claiming any trendy labels, my husband is passionate about fresh, flavorful food. From fish cheeks to tripe and oxtail, he consumes everything, but he does so with appreciation and attention.

continue at Newsweek



What’s with the labels?

Some “ethical” labels on foods can be a bit confusing (and unverifiable). There are labels for cage free, organic, dolphin safe, fair trade, grass-fed…and the list goes on. I stumbled on this article last night while reading this weeks Newsweek Magazine. It helps to decipher what some of these labels mean and how trustworthy they are. You can get more information on this subject and a pocket guide at the GreenGuide.

Organic: “This is the gold standard of labels,” says Pennybacker. Organic crops are free of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, most conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Livestock used for milk, eggs and meat are fed 100 percent organic feed, raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors. (See

Bird Friendly: Some coffee growers plant their crops on land stripped of its natural vegetation. But the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Council of the National Zoo verifies that all coffee bearing the Bird Friendly logo (see is grown under a canopy of trees that provide shade for the coffee and a habitat for migratory birds. Coffee grown in the hot sun requires more pesticides and chemical fertilizers to flourish, but it costs about 20 percent less.

continue reading at Newsweek.

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