Daily Essentials | 5 May 2015


USDA | AMBER WAVES: Fresh Fruit Makes Up a Growing Share of U.S. Fruit Availability

Fresh fruit accounted for 52 percent of fruit availability in 2010-12, up from a 42-percent share in 1970-72. Bananas, apples, and oranges account for 40 percent of the fresh fruit available for consumption in 2010-12. Demand for other fruit—such as blueberries, avocados, limes, pineapples, cherries, lemons, papayas, and mangoes—has been more robust over the past decade, driving the growth in fresh fruit availability. Greater ethnic diversity of consumers looking for fruit for their traditional dishes and heightened interest in healthy diets helped spur this growth.

GUERNICA: American Slaughterhouse: Carson Vaughan interviews Ted Genoways

Ted Genoways: An item in the newspaper said that there was this group of workers in Austin, Minnesota, who have all been affected by this unexplained neurological disorder, and the CDC was looking into it. Because I knew about Austin, because I knew about the Hormel strike and had this interest in packinghouse stuff in the first place, I just kind of followed that story.

The thing that really clinched it was talking to everybody—and everyone in every instance said that the problem was speed, how fast they were expected to work. For me, it slowly emerged that this was not just a series of related stories, but it was all part of the same story.

Guernica: In the prologue, you write that The Chain is not only a portrait of “American industry pushed to its breaking point by the drive for increased output, but also a cracked mirror in which to see our own complicity.” How is the average American responsible for the abuses that you expose in this book?

Ted Genoways: We feed it as much as it feeds us. Any of these companies—like Hormel—make decisions on how their supply chain is structured based on what the buying patterns are. In some small way, every time we make a decision at the grocery store or at the drive-through, those decisions all have an effect on Hormel’s bottom line and the way they structure everything about their business.

NEW YORKER: Preventing a Future Without Chocolate

For years, newspaper headlines and industry reports have been gloomily predicting that chocolate will soon become a delicacy available only to the super-rich. Accelerating consumption is part of the problem, as epicures in China, India, and Russia develop a taste for the product, but the vulnerability of the cacao plant itself poses the greatest challenge. As a 2010 trade guide put it, “the sheer number of known diseases and pests that attack cocoa makes one wonder how enough chocolate bars are ever produced.” According to Hadley, the plant’s many unpleasant-sounding scourges—vascular-streak dieback, swollen-shoot virus, frosty pod, witches’ broom—routinely reduce yields by about thirty per cent worldwide. The solution, of course, is for farmers and researchers to trade plants, using a cacao variety developed in, say, Ecuador to improve production in Côte d’Ivoire, or crossbreeding a specimen from the International Cocoa Genebank, in Trinidad, with one in Indonesia. But frosty pod can lurk in a plant asymptomatically for months. Allowing such a blight to migrate from one country to another, Hadley said, “would be curtains for chocolate.”

Preventing that fate is the primary goal of the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre …

WASHINGTON POST: Why diets don’t actually work, according to a researcher who has studied them for decades

There are three biological changes that take place that seem most important to me.

The first is neurological. When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food. Basically your brain becomes overly responsive to food, and especially to tasty looking food. But you don’t just notice it — it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting. It has increased reward value. So the thing you’re trying to resist becomes harder to resist. So already, if you think about it, it’s not fair.

Then there are hormonal changes, and it’s the same kind of thing. As you lose body fat, the amount of different hormones in your body changes. And the hormones that help you feel full, or the level of those rather, decreases. The hormones that make you feel hungry, meanwhile, increases. So you become more likely to feel hungry, and less likely to feel full given the same amount of food. Again, completely unfair.

And the third biological change, which I think people do sort of know about, is that there are metabolic changes. Your metabolism slows down. Your body uses calories in the most efficient way possible. Which sounds like a good thing, and would be good thing if you’re starving to death. But it isn’t a good thing if you’re trying to lose weight, because when your body finds a way to run itself on fewer calories there tends to be more leftover, and those get stored as fat, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen.

GRIST: Farmers are watering your food with fracking chemicals

A story in the Los Angeles Times raises disturbing questions about the practice of irrigating California farmland with the wastewater from fracking. Here’s what’s happening:

In the Kern County program, Chevron’s leftover water is mixed with walnut shells, a process the company says extracts excess oil. The water then flows to a series of treatment ponds. The treated water is launched into an eight-mile canal to the Cawelo Water District, where it is sometimes further diluted with fresh water. The water supplies 90 Kern County farmers with about half their annual irrigation water.

The program is a good deal for oil companies, which view the water as an expensive nuisance. And it’s a bargain for the water districts.

There’s a certain amount of WTF to all this — because we don’t even know what’s in this fracking waste, at least not until June 15. That’s when California’s fracking regulations kick in and force oil companies to disclose the chemicals they are using. I mean, maybe just wait to find that out before using it to water our cherries?

NPR: ‘Bourbon Empire’ Reveals The Smoke And Mirrors Of American Whiskey

According to Mitenbuler, many of the newer bourbon brands are actually just spinoffs of factory brands: Knob Creek Distillery, for example, is owned by Jim Beam and made at the same plant as the mass-produced Beam. But you’d never know, since they’re packaged to appear different, smaller and therefore more rare. What’s inside some artisanal-looking bottles may be startlingly close — and in cases exactly the same — as the mass-produced stuff.

The funny thing is, the bourbon industry has been up to these tricks for centuries.

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