The changing agriculture

saynotofoodwaste.food.foodwaste.energy.agriculture.sustainability.diet.health.planet.share.love.care.give.plate8“Unlocking the Climate Puzzle” is the title of National Geographic‘s May 1998 issue. More than a decade ago scientists, politicians and global citizens were disputing whether or not human behavior was negatively impacting our climate. Today, this issue is no longer a puzzle, but a well-documented fact. Humans are contributing to global climate change and environmental devastation on Earth.

Giving thought and arguing over whose to blame is the past. Today, scientists and concerned individuals are asking: “What can we do to stop this change?” Unfortunately, years of research proved that once change is in motion, it’s unstoppable. All we can do now is hope to minimize the negative ripple effects.

Scientists at University of College London (UCL) published their new research in the journal of Nature outlining what it would take to keep global temperature from exceeding a 2C limit. “[The] new research is first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2C, including over 90% of US and Australian coal and almost all Canadian tar sands.” (The Guardian)

Changing human behavior is challenging, but it is essential for our survival. To motivate change we require monitoring and guidance. Today, we’ll examine global trends on food consumption, land and energy use. This will help map where we are and where we’re going.

1. Food Consumption
saynotofoodwaste.food.foodwaste.energy.agriculture.sustainability.diet.health.planet.share.love.care.give.plate5Eating more and having more food available are two big trends in the USA. Comparing our diet from 1950’s to 2000’s, average meat consumption increased from 138.2 pounds annually to 195.2 pounds. There are also 19% more calories available for American consumption compared to 1983. Total fruit and vegetable consumption increased by one-fifth between 1970 and 2000. Interestingly, we’re eating more of everything, even the bad stuff. Our new love for high fat, low nutrient and fast food is wreaking havoc on our bodies; diabetes and obesity are on the rise.




2. Growing Food
saynotofoodwaste.food.foodwaste.energy.agriculture.sustainability.diet.health.planet.share.love.care.give.plate4Few know that quality and nutritional value of consumed foods depends on the quality of soil. As we continue depleting nutrient rich soil with frequent high volume crop yields we run out of arable land. Figures from the World Bank demonstrate that percentage of land used for agriculture in USA declined from 2000 to 2014, dropping from 44.9 to 44.7. This figure is too broad to make any specific conclusion, but it looks like the average farm size in the USA is shrinking. Figures of agricultural imports and exports demonstrate some interesting findings. Exports in USA show that Feed grain export has declined the most, from 61,006 metric tons to 54,794 metric tons. Oilseeds more than doubled, going from 15,820 to 43,297 metric tons, experiencing the most growth of any sector.  Imports in the USA have increased in all areas but one, tobacco.

Growing consumption and declining farm lands, topped with higher agricultural imports, implies that a lot of the food in the USA has been coming from the outside world. Globalization means that our diets are getting more interconnected. In Brazil, this problem is reflected by changes in land that was once used as pasture land for livestock, but is cleared down for soybean farming.

3. Energy for growth
saynotofoodwaste.food.foodwaste.energy.agriculture.sustainability.diet.health.planet.share.love.care.give.plate3Innovation in technology has greatly helped with efficiency in agriculture. And although energy required for food production increased from 2001 to 2009, thanks to technology, efficiency has increased as well. Despite these improvements, this innovation has negative effects. All this good food doesn’t get evenly distributed to people who need it most. And since it can’t last forever, a lot of it goes to waste. Currently, 40-50% of all produced food is wasted, and in the USA that accounts for $165 billion in annual losses. Not something to be proud of when one in six people in America struggle with hunger, and 70 billion pounds of goods are sent to rot in landfills.

Next week, I’ll provide suggestions that you can implement in your daily life to address issues in the food industry which undermine our global sustainability.

Until next time!
Hokuma

Mid week delicacy: Winter Chili

midweekdelicacy.veggiechili.superbowl.healthy.hearty.ingrid.cooking.recipe.sustainable.diet.saynotofoodwaste.2On cold, rainy and snowy days of winter, nothing adds heat and color like a warm bowl of chili. This week, Ingrid shows us how to make spicy 3 bean Winter Chili. It’s perfect when craving something hearty and healthy, as well as, when throwing gatherings at home. (Hint: Super bowl is coming up soon!)

Enjoy the dish and send us your photos so we can upload them on our Instagram account, or tag them with #saynotofoodwaste.

Happy cooking!
Hokuma & Ingrid

The Meat of the Issue: Energy

food.cow.meat.sustainability.love.share.health.diet.footprint.green.eco.food.foodwaste.energy.water.resources.land.saynotofoodwaste.1Last week, I described the health risks associated with eating red meat based solely on its nutrient content and only briefly alluded to its environmental impacts. Fact is, the modern meat industry – including poultry, not just red meat – wreaks havoc on our land, air, and water quality; depletes copious amounts of energy; and threatens human health through the additives we feed our animals. As the idea of sustainable eating becomes increasingly popular, it’s important to identify what exactly makes meat so unsustainable. Since there is a lot to cover, I’m just going to start with energy consumption and discuss other aspects in subsequent posts. Keep in mind, however, that most of these consequences stem from large-scale, industrialized agriculture; even if it’s inherently the least sustainable food type, meat could be produced by more Eco-friendly means.

food.cow.meat.sustainability.love.share.health.diet.footprint.green.eco.food.foodwaste.energy.water.resources.land.saynotofoodwaste.2Animal agriculture, like any form of food production, requires energy, most of which is attained through fossil fuel combustion. Grain to feed livestock is grown with petroleum-based agrochemicals and then harvested with gas-burning combines. According to the WorldWatch Institute, at least 70% of American grain is grown solely to serve as livestock feed, and “it takes the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of grain-fed beef” – which requires more grain to produce than any other kind of meat – in the United States. Feed production accounts for more than half of the energy used in intensive meat production (Koneswaran et al.).

food.cow.meat.sustainability.love.share.health.diet.footprint.green.eco.food.foodwaste.energy.water.resources.land.saynotofoodwaste.3The feed is transported, typically via truck or train, to the livestock ranch, after which even more energy costs are incurred in transporting the animals to slaughter, their carcasses to processing plants, the processed meat to markets, and, finally, from the market to consumers’ homes. Since meat is very sensitive in terms of perishability, storing and transporting it also requires a lot of refrigeration, further drawing on fossil fuels and releasing CO2. Similarly, cooking the meat uses electricity and/or gas, and the plastic packaging that it typically comes in is the result of fossil fuel-intensive manufacture. As Emory University succinctly states, “meat is the least fuel-efficient food we have.”

If you’re a meat-eater, try to find grass-fed, rather than grain-fed meats, which have far lower energy costs associated with its feeding. Additionally, as with any food, try buying local, as this means that the meat doesn’t have to be transported as far or stored as long. And be on the lookout next Tuesday for another meaty article!

Eva

Living the life down under.

The continent of Australia is full of wonder. Its mainland and neighboring island of Tasmania are home to exotic animals. Some are cute and cuddly, such as kangaroos and koalas, which you can play with in a sanctuary. Some are dangerous, like snakes in rainforests and sharks in coastal waters, which are best kept at a distance.

Still, living under has its perks. The best one is the flipped seasons. As a fan of summer and warmth, leaving winter for the sunshine of Australia is a wonderful treat. However, not all changes are easy to adjust to, such as: driving on the other side of the road. It took me several attempts until I found the blinker signal. Throughout the ordeal, I was left with a shiny window, thanks to the hard work of a pair of windshield wipers that kept reminding me that I was a foreigner to this land.

Being a lover of food, the adventures of discovering a new land didn’t stop at tourist attractions, beaches and mountain parks, they extended to local cafes and dishes.

Below are five things that surprised me most about the Aussie food culture.

1. Hotels that are actually…pubs

Sir_William_Wallace_Hotel_Balmain_1Walking around town, especially in the evening hours, I spotted various hotels. These hotels were pretty loud, had a menu, a bar and served food in the main lobby, well into the evening hours. After visiting one or two, I realized that these were not actually hotels but rather pubs. But, why would anyone call a pub a hotel? A quick google search explains it, and the answer actually makes sense.

The Australian pubs originated from British and Irish public houses. When the British colonized the mainland, one of the first establishments to go up were pubs. These businesses had “multiple functions, simultaneously serving as hostelry, post office, restaurant, meeting place and sometimes even a general store.” As the years changed, activities inside the pubs adjusted to the times, yet the outside name stuck on.

2. Macca’s

maccasWhile studying and traveling abroad, I ran into many Australians who referred to McDonald’s as Macca’s. What was surprising, however, was to see some of the local golden arches actually carrying the name. Whether it’s the love of keeping it short and sweet, or whether the Aussies ‘can’t be bothered‘ with the full pronunciation, their slang won the hearts of the decision makers at McDonald’s, and for the first time in history the restaurant chain decided to alter its image for the local market. Considering that ‘Macca’s‘ is the second most popular slang term in the land down under, right after “footy”, which stands for Australian rules football, this was a smart move by the execs.

3. Breaky

Weetbix_StevageRiding the wave of short and sweet names, it’s important to mention that Aussies are very serious about their breakfast, or ‘breaky‘ as they call it. Many of you heard of Vegemite, a super salty and unique tasting, but also healthy spread loaded with Vitamin B. Yet, there is another morning food that is a favorite in the early hours, a cereal called Weet-Bix. It is made with whole grain wheat and has a malty flavor. Locals love to have it with milk, honey and fruits. In addition to its health benefits, it also has a long history, dating to 1920’s. The brand kept up with current diet trends and comes as gluten-free.

4. Kangaroo Meat

Kangaroo_steakIn the northern hemisphere we love deer, but they are also pests. Without any major predators, deer can reproduce in quick numbers, and wreak havoc on agriculture. A similar thing happens in Australia, but their deer can jump high, hide pups in its pockets and give you a mean kick if you bother it too much. Kangaroos are cute, but their numbers need to be kept in check. Hunters in Australia are encouraged to keep the population at bay by preying on them during certain seasons of the year. The result, the kangaroo skin and meat is put to good use. In diet, kangaroo meat is healthier, more sustainable and a local source of protein. Since kangaroos are active, their meat is a bit tougher than beef or veal, but they don’t travel a long way to get on the plate, and aren’t fed antibiotics and corn, making them the perfect burger or meatball option.

5. Juice Craze

SugarcanejuiceAustralians are juice addicts. Every place I went to, or almost every place, offered a fresh juice. The best part, most of the time you paid a basic price for the size of the juice, small or large (which is more like a medium by USA standards), and then picked whichever ingredients you wanted. It was delicious, refreshing and invigorating, especially on super hot days. This makes sense since Aussies are more health conscious than individuals in America, Britain and New Zealand. This is especially true in areas of: buying food free of additives and maintaining a low fat diet. Yet, despite this awareness, Aussies are just as obese as their overseas counterparts. Despite the conflicting results, it was encouraging to see healthy living videos throughout many of the local metro stations. To discover these  for yourself, visit HealthyMeTv by clicking here.

Australia is wild, amazing, crazy and serene all at the same time. It was an unforgettable experience, both through the food consumed by my eyes and by my stomach. After all, it’s good to have two hemispheres that work backwards, there’s always an excuse to visit the other side, especially when winter pays a visit.

Happy travels and yummy eats!
Hokuma

Mid week delicacy: DELICIOUS SAAG

Dear Friends,

Delicious Saag picI want to announce some great news! Starting this week, we will feature a new tasty and healthy meal recipe prepared by Ingrid Fiallo. She is a chef, a gardener, loves sustainability and wants to help you add some new recipes to your dinner table.

This week she shows us how to make Delicious Saag.  Just download this recipe – Delicious Saag. If you have any questions contact Ingrid through Twitter: @FoodIngrid or leave a comment and we’ll get your questions answered.

Ready for this yummy adventure? We are! If you want to join us, just send us a photo of your meal and we’ll share it on our Instagram!

Happy cooking!
Hokuma & Ingrid

The Red Scare: How Red Meat Hurts Humans

saynotofoodwaste.happy.healthy.love.give.care.share.sustainable.diet.rare.meat.green.vegetarian.2Doctors have long been warning against red meat because it contributes to heart disease, but a University of California study published in December also links it to cancer. The study identifies the culprit as the sugar Neu5Gc, which is found in most mammals, especially in sources of red meat (cows, lamb, deer, sheep, etc.), but not in humans. Humans, unlike most other carnivores, cannot process the sugar, meaning that their immune systems have to generate antibodies to try to break the molecule down after consumption. This constant antibody-production can cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer. In short, the more animals containing Neu5Gc a person eats, the higher his/her chance of developing cancer.

While the study’s findings are tentative and require further research, there are many other health consequences to eating red meat. As is commonly known, red meat’s high saturated fat content raises blood cholesterol levels, which can prevent the heart from getting sufficient blood and oxygen. The compound carnitine, which is associated with meat’s red color, has been known to have a similar, artery-clogging, effect that often leads to heart attacks. Other, non-heart-related, conditions have also been connected to red meat consumption outlined by two studies from 2013. The first, from the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that eating red meat heightens the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, a chronic condition resulting from damage to the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. The second was published by the University of California Los Angeles and ties the development of Alzheimer’s disease to high levels of iron, which red meat is rich in. Of course, iron shouldn’t be cut out of diets entirely – just not consumed in excess.

saynotofoodwaste.happy.healthy.love.give.care.share.sustainable.diet.rare.meat.green.vegetarian.3So, from a health (as well as environmental – more on that next week) perspective, there is no reason to eat red meat; yet people, myself included, still do. Personally, I know that my body doesn’t need it, since there are plenty of healthier, more sustainable sources of protein and nutrients that could take meat’s place in my diet. I also have a very broad, vegetable-appreciating palate, so I know that I could be happy as a vegetarian or even just eating non-red meats and fish. I don’t even eat that much red meat anymore – so, why do I do it at all? The answer is simple and unjustifiable: I like it. All of the aforementioned considerations have made me very conscious of my beef consumption, which is why I limit it and make myself go vegetarian for a day for every time I have beef – but the fact is that I have never made an effort to eliminate it from my diet completely. I’m not trying to excuse myself but rather comfort my fellow red meat-eaters who feel guilty for their choice but not enough to do something about it. If you aren’t willing to give up brisket and venison, at least try to cut down on how much you eat. I would much rather live a longer, healthier life with the occasional steak than become diabetic and suffer a heart attack at age 40 due to too many burgers.

Let’s make red meat less of a staple in our diets and more of a rare (very deliberate pun) treat.

Eva

A Liquor Love Story: Humanity’s Relationship with Alcohol

sustainability.safety.happy.drinks.alcohol.newyear.love.give.care.saynotofoodwaste.food.foodwaste.sustainability.happy2With all the celebratory drinking going on over the holidays, it’s interesting to consider how and why people began consuming alcohol. After all, alcohol is a toxin, as anyone who has ever had a hangover can attest – so, what motivated humans to ingest, much less deliberately manufacture it?

Evolutionary biologist Matthew Carrigan has found the answer 10 million years in the past, before ‘humans’ had even been evolved. As their forest habitats were being affected by climate changes, animals began eating fallen fruit off the forest floor. To safely eat fermented fruit and use its sugars, vitamins, and proteins for energy, animals developed enzymes to break down the alcohol’s calories. By 10,000 BC, humans – the evolutionary descendants of these animals – had started fermenting beverages for themselves, unknowingly relying on the enzyme ADH4 to allow them to drink.

Over time, alcoholic beverages became appreciated throughout the world for a wide variety of uses in addition to pleasure. Firstly, they were actually a far safer means of quenching thirst than water, since water was unfiltered and lacked alcohol’s microorganism-killing antioxidants.

High levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and vitamins also made alcoholic beverages valuable nutritional supplements, and their medicinal and therapeutic uses trace as far back as Sumer, 2000 BC. Ancient Egyptians revered Osiris for bestowing the world with wine and beer (which was considered a life necessity), included alcohol in their offerings to gods, and stored drinks in tombs to be enjoyed in the afterlife. In ancient China, “alcohol was considered a spiritual (mental) food rather than a material (physical) food” (Hanson); drinking took place during memorials, ceremonies, and celebrations and before battles and even executions. Alcohol was embraced for practical, pleasurable, and ritual purposes worldwide.

sustainability.safety.happy.drinks.alcohol.newyear.love.give.care.saynotofoodwaste.food.foodwaste.sustainability.happy1Even though alcohol was prominent in all early cultures, drinking in moderation seems to have always been the norm. The adverse effects of drunkenness were recognized as shameful, if not dangerous, and alcohol was considered too precious to be irreverently imbibed in excess. Given how widespread drinking and intoxication is today, one might be tempted to say that those principles were lost to history – but that really doesn’t seem to be the case. Fact is, whenever drunkenness is seen in the media, be it in fiction or the news, it’s portrayed as something to be ridiculed, pitied, or learned from.

Modern society still values moderation, but we focus on the consequences of inebriation rather than the ‘preciousness’ of alcohol. Instead of being told to cherish drinks as holy gifts, we get reminded that the penalties of getting drunk range from making a regrettable decision to ending up in the hospital. We also have more sympathy for alcoholics, though, recognizing them as sufferers of a disease rather than vile sinners. Today’s variety and availability of alcohol has developed with an important understanding of how to take advantage of it responsibly.

So, drink up! Or don’t! There is neither shame in sobriety nor in controlled drinking. If you take advantage of those prehistoric enzymes and the delicious beverages that have been perfected over the course of history, just don’t take it too far. Alcohol is a toxin, but it’s a very enjoyable one in the right quantities.

Wishing everyone a wonderful New Year, regardless of whether or not you’re guzzling champagne,

Eva

Sources:

‘80 drinks’ graphic credit: wineinvestment.com, Joe Shervell

Barclay, Eliza – Our Ability To Digest Alcohol May Have Been Key To Our Survival

Hanson, David J. – History of Alcohol and Drinking Around the World

Maynard, Lynnsay (NPR) – What Would Jesus Drink? A Class Exploring Ancient Wines Asks

Rediscovery of Food

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