Thursday, February 21, 2013

An important project

The Sonoma Valley Grange is a partner in the Gleaning Project, and a host of the Brown Baggers' Wednesday hot lunch.  They really need a new kitchen.   And deserve one, too, as a community anchor.
There's something wrong with the fact that poverty in the Springs had to increase for the Grange to be eligible to get a grant to provide this important community facility.  But I'm glad the project is going ahead, and that the word is out.

keeping up with the links

Specifically this time, Christian Ecology Link, a British organization.   Their LOAF campaign resources have been updated.

I like the idea of a LOAF bake-off some coffee hour - loaves of various sorts made following at least one of the Local, Organic, Animal friendly, Fair-traded principles, and labeled accordingly.   I wonder if anyone at my parish could get behind organizing this, just for the fun and educational value of it, and so that those of us concerned with the sustainability of our food system are recognized as having fun with food, not just being cranky about how un-green others are?

Getting even fishier

And if you think that pun is bad, there are even more in this article on fraud in seafood sales:

Some learnings from this piece:
*  It's not just low end joints, like fast food places, which practice seafood fraud; sushi restaurants are among the worst offenders.
*  Mislabeling may affect health (allergies, mercury levels), environmental health (obviously), and the pocketbook (when cheaper species are substituted for and labeled as more expensive ones).
*  What's sold as snapper might be anyone of 33 different species of fish, though there is also abundant mislabeling of tuna and cod.

Legislation is needed to coordinate and render effective efforts to increase traceability (the magic word in food safety these days).

In the meantime, here's some good consumer advice from the last paragraph of the article: "[Beth Lowell of the ocean conservation group Oceana] recommends that consumers empower themselves by purchasing whole fish, which are easier to identify, and not trusting prices that seem too good to be true. She also encourages asking questions of fish vendors, such as what kind of fish it is, whether it was wild-caught or farm-raised and where, when and how the fish was caught. Even raising the question will alert the sales staff that consumers are interested in where their food comes from - and that they won’t settle for anything fishy."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

O Cod, what's a person to do?

Three strands have come together here, causing my need to say something, though I am not sure just what.

Late last month I read an article in the NY Times about even more restrictions on cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank.  The inexpensive fish of my youth (in Massachusetts) is on the verge of extinction.   Even the fishers who resist the new lower catch limits admit that they aren't coming close to catching the current limits. You can read that whole story here.

Then a couple of days ago I saw a still ad on the corner of a web page for Carl's Jr Atlantic cod sandwich.   I don't eat at Carl's Jr. - well, I don't eat fast food, but even if I did the political history of this outlet's owner would keep me away.   But I wasn't surprised that they were promoting something from a threatened fishery.
I should have stopped there, but today I pursued more information, and turned up the ad campaign for this item - the basic simulated sex approach which this purveyor of fast food is famous for.  You can Google it yourself if you want you to see a model 5 lbs away from emaciation except for her breasts having sex with a sandwich.   I'm sure I am the only person who has looked at the sandwich, but the grilled cod is golden yellow - and frankly, all the cod I've ever cooked was white.  Hmmm.  Who even knows if this is cod?  And if it's Atlantic cod, why was the photo shoot done in Hawaii?  I suppose aging New England fisherman don't sell food to teenagers.
Another interesting twist - the print ad copy promotes the sandwich as a low calorie (the fish is grilled) treat for Lent.   Okay - why not kick off Lent with sex and fast food?

This morning NPR featured a story on the Marine Stewardship Council - and the unreliability of their ratings of seafood as from sustainable fisheries.
I do wonder about this from time to time.  So I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and looked up Atlantic cod.  It turns out that most of the Atlantic cod sold in the U.S. actually comes from the waters off Iceland and the Arctic Ocean off northern Norway and Russia.   Line caught cod from there is given the green "best choice" rating.  
But how do you know where the fish is from when you buy your sexy sandwich at Carl's Jr.?  Is the minimum wage clerk there going to tell you?  Does even a supervisor or somebody a few more rings up the corporate ladder know?   And how does a fast food joint, where price is everything, afford sustainably harvested fish when I rarely do?

And then, to top it all off, Seafood Watch cites the MSC as its authority.