Daily Essentials | 22 May 2015

Hank Shaw | Hunter Angler Gardener Cook


Wild onions, ramps especially, make a great pesto. This is my version, which is pretty classic — but you can play with pesto a lot, changing the nuts, cheese and herbs at will.


Today on the show, we go out for pizza at a place where machines have taken over parts of the server’s job. Waiters are the latest group of workers meeting the machines that might replace them.

JACOBIN | RACHEL LAUDAN | A Plea for Culinary Modernism

Culinary Luddites are right, though, about two important things. We need to know how to prepare good food, and we need a culinary ethos. As far as good food goes, they’ve done us all a service by teaching us to how to use the bounty delivered to us (ironically) by the global economy.

Their culinary ethos, though, is another matter. Were we able to turn back the clock, as they urge, most of us would be toiling all day in the fields or the kitchen; many of us would be starving. Nostalgia is not what we need.

What we need is an ethos that comes to terms with contemporary, industrialized food, not one that dismisses it, an ethos that opens choices for everyone, not one that closes them for many so that a few may enjoy their labor, and an ethos that does not prejudge, but decides case by case when natural is preferable to processed, fresh to preserved, old to new, slow to fast, artisanal to industrial.

WONKBLOG | ROB FERDMAN | A massive bird flu outbreak could make eggs, and just about anything made with them, a lot more expensive

But today, farmers from Iowa to California have learned that there is nothing forgiving about H5N2 — this particular strain of bird flu — which has spread like wildfire, paralyzing chicken farmers throughout the Midwest and casting a gloomy shadow over the U.S. egg industry.

“I can’t tell you how many farmers this is affecting,” said Oscar Garrison, director of food safety for United Egg Producers, which represents farmers responsible for almost every egg-laying hen in the country. “It’s been absolutely devastating. Just abysmal.”

The numbers are, indeed, hard to fathom. As of this week, the flu has affected almost 40 million turkeys and chickens, well over 80 percent of which are egg-laying hens, according to the Department of Agriculture. Some 25 million birds in Iowa alone are believed to have been exposed. In all, more than 10 percent of the entire U.S. egg supply is likely to have been affected by the outbreak.

GRIST | NATHANAEL JOHNSON | This palm oil company just bulldozed a rainforest

In the last two years, a series of companies have made bold commitments to halt deforestation in their supply chains (see this story for the context). But producing products like palm oil without clearing ecologically important rainforest isn’t easy: It’s much easier to get rich quick by exploiting natural resources. Though most companies have agreed to rein in their operations, forests are still being razed.

Here, courtesy of a video from activist group Forest Heroes, you can see the results when that happens:

According to Forest Heroes, the company responsible for this act of deforestation is Astra Agro Lestari. Astra has announced it is “pursuing” deforestation-free palm oil, but has not made a clear promise to stop cutting down the forest, as other companies have.

HARVEST MEDIA | JEREMY BERNFELD | Walmart asks suppliers to make changes on antibiotics, treatment

Walmart, one of the country’s largest food retailers, is asking its suppliers to use less antibiotics in farm animals and to treat animals “humanely throughout their lives.”

While not mandatory, the guidelines for suppliers ask producers to change their practices. When Walmart makes requests, many in the food industry listen.

NPR | THE SALT | ALLISON AUBREY | Adios, Trans Fats: FDA Poised To Phase Out Artery-Clogging Fat

s retailing behemoths such as Wal-Mart have committed to the removal of all remaining, industrially produced trans fats in the products they sell, the food industry has stepped up its pace to reformulate its offerings.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association says the food industry has already reduced its use of trans fats by more than 85 percent. Even Crisco is now made without partially hydrogenated oils.

Now, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to take action soon to phase out much of the remaining trans fats in the food supply. The agency first announced its plan back in 2013. And, any day now, the FDA is expected to announce a final rule that could amount to a near ban of trans fats.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND | GROWING RETURNS | How agriculture’s resilience to climate change benefits us all

At the National Adaptation Forum earlier this month in St. Louis, agriculture was top-of-mind in discussions about reducing emissions and building resilience to climate change.

That’s because in order to protect people, 81 percent of whom live in urban areas, we’ll need to protect what’s around where they live, too. It’s largely rural areas, like the farming town of 1,100 people where I grew up, whose working lands and farms provide valuable services to urban areas. These services include food security, flood and drought protection, recreation and water storage. Agriculture can also play (and is already playing) a big role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The more resilient we can make agriculture, the better off we’ll all be.

Fortunately, pilot programs are already underway that demonstrate the value of investing in agricultural mitigation and adaptation programs. Plus, these programs are proving that we can tackle climate change through agriculture while maintaining or increasing yields, and offering additional income for farm.

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