Archive for the ‘food’ tag
I note this more for its contrarianism than for its validity, but this was truly an unconsidered point in my mind.
But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do.
The primary means by which this idea is made reasonable:
Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in:
- at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein
- more environmental damage, and
- a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.
(via Marginal Revolution)
“Atul Gawande” is a consistently promising byline, and this piece about the balkanization and standardization of the health care industry is no exception. You’ll get a number of thoughts about the pluses and minuses of the biggest trend in American healthcare administration, but also a thorough look at the high-end American restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory. About the kitchen of the restaurant:
Two things struck me. First, the instructions [delivered to a touchscreen right beside the cook] were precise about the ingredients and the objectives (the steak slices were to be a quarter of an inch thick, the presentation just so), but not about how to get there. The cook has to decide how much to salt and baste, how to sequence the onions and mushrooms and meat so they’re done at the same time, how to swivel from grill to countertop and back, sprinkling a pinch of salt here, flipping a burger there, sending word to the fry cook for the asparagus tempura, all the while keeping an eye on the steak. In producing complicated food, there might be recipes, but there was also a substantial amount of what’s called “tacit knowledge”—knowledge that has not been reduced to instructions.
Second, Mauricio never looked at the instructions anyway.
I link to this disproportionately popular article mostly because I linked to “I, Pencil” recently and it’s essentially the same thing, only food based. (And in this case, rather than having an irrelevant plea for privatized mail service tacked on at the end, we get one about home-grown turkey.) But it remakes a point I think absolutely vital:
Anyone who tells you that life was better in the past is a dummy. Anyone who dreams of self-sufficiency a fool. We live in a magical time filled with uncountable objects no person would ever dream of making on their own. Everything about our lives is a minor miracle; we’re far more deeply connected than we even realize.
That felt good. Thanks for listening, internet.
This is another one of those stories I ignored the first five times I saw it. But it actually raises some very interesting issues about the nature of McDonald’s, modern food production, and economics, and thus worthwhile regardless of the defensibility of its core conceit.
(John Gruber is the reason I actually read it)
You may or may not know anything about Cargill, but chance are good that you regularly ingest something they touch. Famously the largest private company in the world, and rather secretive too, they’re a favorite of conspiracy theorists. This story skips most of the scare mongering, but is a very worthy introduction to the company for the uninitiated. The most interesting part of the story (to me), begins here:
“As far as how our corporate strategy works,” says Conway, “we don’t say, ‘We think the world’s going to look like this, let’s define our strategy for that world.’ We say, ‘We don’t know what the world’s going to look like. We need a strategy or a set of strategies that can be successful almost irrespective of what the world looks like.’” Which helps explain how Cargill got into the cocoa business in Vietnam.
(via The Browser)
One of the most important and least understood industries in the world is the one that makes all those “natural and artificial flavors”; this decade old excerpt from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation gives a fantastic glimpse inside.
(via Justin Blanton; and yes, this URL is multiple kinds of wrong, but I like the story enough to deal with it)
There are few things that environmental activists have enjoyed attacking more in the last decade than meat, and so to see one of them reconsider that is nice.
If pigs are fed on residues and waste, and cattle on straw, stovers and grass from fallows and rangelands – food for which humans don’t compete – meat becomes a very efficient means of food production. Even though it is tilted by the profligate use of grain in rich countries, the global average conversion ratio of useful plant food to useful meat is not the 5:1 or 10:1 cited by almost everyone, but less than 2:1. If we stopped feeding edible grain to animals, we could still produce around half the current global meat supply with no loss to human nutrition: in fact it’s a significant net gain.
It should be noted, however, that this theoretical world where ideal meat-raising is practiced is quite different than the methods currently used to do so.
In an excerpt from his book, Mike Steinberger lays some of the blame for the decline of French cuisine at the door of what is usually considered its ultimate judge.
Someone finally asked the Green Lantern the question I’d been meaning to since Slate started the column:
Green Lantern, you’re always telling us how bad meat is for the environment. I’m willing to throw some more zucchini kebabs on my barbecue this summer, but are all meats equally awful? Or are there some that I can grill with a little less guilt?
The answer’s pretty much in line with what had been my assumption: the bigger the animal, the less efficient the meat.
While I think this
…so I attached no value to time.
is probably a mistake, I found Jennifer Reese’s exploration of the cost-effectiveness of making some basic foods at home quite interesting.
Ceaselessly patrolling the boarders of our corporeal liberties, William Saletan notes the looming attack on “sugared beverages.”
New York City’s health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, is leading the way. He’s the guy who purged trans fats from the city’s restaurants and made them post calorie counts for menu items. Lately he’s been pressuring food companies to remove salt from their products.
Now he’s going after soda.
That paragraph put into my head this line: “First they came for the transfats, I said nothing…” Apologies to Niemöller fans.
Though it’s not exceptionally deep (not to mention aged in my Instapaper account for a few months), Sara Dickerman’s story of the cows historical journey from farmer’s field to feedlot and hamburger patty is pretty good.
It reminds me of my argument — which I’ve thus far failed to live up to — that no one should be able to eat meat that hasn’t (at least) watched an animal killed for that purpose in front of them.
As Matt Yglesias exlpains, Pew just found that most of those things you think about the difference between Starbucks and McDonald’s customers are true:
The more money you earn, the more likely you are to want a Starbucks. The more education you have, the more likely you are to want a Starbucks. The more liberal you are, the more likely you are to want a Starbucks. The younger you are, the more likely you are to want a Starbucks. White people like Starbucks more than black people.
The one moderately surprising fact is that in aggregate Hispanics actually prefered Starbucks more than white people.
I’d always figured that the making of hot dogs was one thing better left unseen, but the unsavoriness of the watery “meat” is just incredible.
First, sorry for the title.
Second, the chart attached to this article answers a question I’ve been meaning to ask a knowledgable person for a while: different kinds of meat really are different in the amount of carbon dioxide their raising produces. While chicken produce relatively little CO2 per pound, beef makes quite a bit. Pork, shrimp, and salmon all fall between those two. All of those are (obviously) much less efficient than grains and other plants.
Also interesting: cheese is actually roughly as efficient, in CO2 per pound terms, as shrimp.
My fake restaurants never got trashed (yet loved) by a reviewer on the internet. I feel unloved.
Obviously you wouldn’t want to use this to judge a proud carnivorium (that is: steakhouse), but I definately think this idea has some merit.
I have a theory that you can tell how much a restaurant thinks about its food by the quality of its veggie burger. The item has become the quintessential menu add-on for restaurants that want to show that they “care” about vegetarians. Restaurants, let me share a tidbit right now: Warming a pre-packaged Gardenburger, slapping it on a bun, and charging $9 for it is not caring for vegetarians. It’s caring for vegetarians’ friends who want to go to a restaurant and say, “Oh, look, they serve something for you.” Meaning: you eat boring meatless crap, and this place serves one boring meatless item.