Keeping Local Meat Local

Bill and Jim Eklund receive cattle near their farm in Stamford, N.Y.
The next day, the cows will be led into the Modular Harvest System (behind Bill) to be processed.

From NYT

[It’s time for Mendocino County to bring itself current with this obvious solution to local meat. If California law has to be adjusted to deal with this, get it adjusted. The big-time slaughterhouse solution being foisted on our community by economic development groups under the guise of “job creation” is nothing but industrialized farming to supply distant markets in the Bay Area and Sacramento… and that’s a load of uncomposted bull pucky. Humane slaughter on the farm can keep our local meat locally-controlled for local markets. Keep it small and on the farm, or forget it. -DS]

The only indication that I was outside a slaughterhouse was the blood dripping from a pipe jutting out of a pristine white trailer. I’d driven right past the Lego-like set-up — a refrigerated semi-trailer with a half-trailer and a delivery truck stuck onto it — parked behind Eklund’s old farm-machinery shop in Stamford, N.Y. With a former Hollywood trailer situated nearby, I took it for a movie set. But I was looking at the first mobile slaughterhouse for large animals in the Northeast.

It was hard to believe that these four innocuous-looking components may well be the answer to the prayers of livestock farmers.

Organic, grass-fed meat is much in demand in Manhattan restaurants, but little of it is local. It’s not that Hudson Valley farmers aren’t raising it. Who wouldn’t want the extra 25 cents per pound that a 900-pound organically raised cow can bring? But when it comes time to kill (or “harvest”) their animals, farmers have only four slaughter facilities available in the area to go to.

Proposed 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines — A Recipe for Chronic Disease


Weston A. Price Foundation Proposes a Return to Four Basic Groups of Nutrient-Dense Foods

The proposed 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines are a recipe for infertility, learning problems in children and increased chronic disease in all age groups according to Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

“The proposed 2010 Dietary Guidelines perpetuate the mistakes of previous guidelines in demonizing saturated fats and animal foods rich in saturated fatty acids such as egg yolks, butter, whole milk, cheese, fatty meats like bacon and animal fats for cooking. The current obesity epidemic emerged as vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates replaced these healthy, nutrient-dense traditional fats. Animal fats supply many essential nutrients that are difficult to obtain from other sources,” explains Fallon Morell.

“The revised Guidelines recommend even more stringent reductions in animal fats and cholesterol than previous versions,” says Fallon Morell, “and are tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. While the ship of state sinks under the weight of a crippling health care burden, the Committee members are giving us more of the same disastrous advice.  These are unscientific and grossly deficient dietary recommendations.”

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a non-profit nutrition education foundation with no ties to the government or food processing industries. 

Richard Heinberg: We Need a New Myth


[Extracted from an interview in Acres USA, March 2007 – DS]

Over the past 200 years the human population has grown from under one billion to now over 6.5 billion. That’s an extraordinary rate of increase—completely unprecedented in all of previous history. There are various ways of explaining how and why that has happened, but certainly it could not have happened without cheap fossil fuels with which to grow more food and to transport that food from where it’s abundant to where it’s scarce. I think it’s fair to say that there are somewhere between 2 and 4 billion people alive today who probably would not exist if it weren’t for fossil fuels. That’s a little worrisome to think about when one realizes that oil production globally is set to peak any year now, and global natural gas production will not be far behind. If we’re going to avoid to die-off of much of humanity through starvation and disease, we’re going to have to find ways of feeding people without fossil fuels or with a lot less fossil fuel use—and that really means redesigning out entire food system. It means growing more food locally, for local consumption, it means using smaller farm machinery and less of it, it means more people being involved in the process of producing food, and it means growing food with fewer chemicals and fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Fortunately, over the past few decades we have developed information, knowledge, experience and techniques that are capable of growing food intensively, organically and ecologically. Those techniques, those methods desperately need to be expanded and replicated and made the basis for our national and global food system.

The whole chemicals industry arose starting with coal, but natural gas is now the basis for the modern pharmaceutical and agri-chemical industry, and that’s a very worrisome situation here in North America

Book Review: A More Feminine Food System — Farmer Jane


[…] Enter Temra Costa’s new book, Farmer Jane. A compilation of profiles of farmers and food activists, the book groups the women it profiles by what they do — though most likely do several, if not all, of these things — into six chapters (Building new Farm-to-Eater Relationships, Advocates for Social Change, Promoting Local and Seasonal Food, Networks for Sustainable Food, Urban Farm Women and The Next Generation of Sustainable Farmers), each with a “recipe for action,”…

With all due respect to the “farm moms” featured in Monsanto’s Mom of the Year contest, Farmer Jane paints a more dynamic picture of women farmers, many of whom don’t adhere to the “typical” farm stereotype, who instead focus on their creative approaches to food production and marketing, as well as the politics that influence their work (otherwise known as our meals)…

A few of the dynamic women farmers profiled in Farmer Jane:

  • Nancy Vail, who entered into a creative partnership to fund Pie Ranch, and, inspired by the shape of her land, used it to her advantage, luring youths out to her farm with the promise of pie.
  • Erika Allen, who incorporated her knowledge of art, knowing that in order to sell urban farming to a town like Chicago, it had better be aesthetically pleasing, of Growing Power Chicago.
  • Deborah Koons Garcia — the filmmaker who knew to use media as a tool for education, with whom Costa now runs a radio show called Queens of Green.
  • Denise O’Brien — the farmer/activist perhaps best known for her (close) run for Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa, profiled here for founding Women, Food and Agriculture Network… More here.

The Man Behind WikiLeaks (video)

Click Post Title For Full Screen

Hungry for Meatless? Horny as All-Get-Out? Need a Drinky-Poo?

Rock Island, IL

The high summer day slides languorously toward evening as the cicadas grind out their metallic song. Your gastric longings peak at a level that can almost be described as libidinous.

Your teeth and taste buds crave something substantial, like flesh, yet lighter, like farfel bathed sparingly in cream sauce. They want something savory and assertive, something that will hang on the tongue but not in the belly.

Your conscience, which always sits down to dine with you whether you know it or not, requires something seasonal and local, and your damned imagination interrupts with talk of color and texture. “Show me a palate,” it says. “Give me something soft yet crunchy, warm yet cold.”

In this season of oxymorons, let not your hearts be trouble; neither let them be confused. The most prefectest and yet simplest meal awaits you. It’s more simpler than good grammar.

So for the moment disregard what an English wag once said about his neighbors to the east (“nice place, France; pity about the French”) and pull a nice big French baguette out of the freezer—one of those prepared numbers that needs only to be baked for a short period of time. The ones I get need about eight minutes at 375.

(You can make your own, it is true. But remember that the day is already slipping into evening.)

Set the baguette down on a counter top cleared of all clutter. Remember: the mise en place is part of the experience.

The Financial and Political Big Picture

The Automatic Earth

As The Automatic Earth has grown and continued to catalogue the on-going financial crisis, it has been getting increasingly difficult for readers to find our view of the big picture in one place. Since it has been exactly one year since we issued our first primer guide, and several new primers have been added in the meantime, it seems an opportune moment to offer an updated distillation of our worldview.

The Resurgence of Risk, which appeared at The Oil Drum Canada in August 2007 provides the background to how we came to be in our present predicament. It is by far the longest of the primers, and its purpose is to explain in some depth the nature of our credit bubble, the role of ‘financial innovation’, the distinction between currency inflation and credit hyper-expansion and the mechanism by which value disappears as a bubble deflates.

For further explanation of the ponzi nature of bubbles, the spectrum of ponzi dynamics underlying many economic phenomena and the implications of this for where we are headed, see From the Top of the Great Pyramid.

This ties in with an earlier piece from The Oil Drum Canada, Entropy and Empire , detailing the progression of hegemonic power from empire to empire, as each rises, over-reaches, falls and passes the mantle on to its successor.

The political picture is further developed in Economics and the Nature of Political Crisis, with a more specific look at Europe in The Imperial Eurozone (With all That Implies).

When bubbles reach their maximum extent, they invariably deflate. Our explanation as to why this is inevitable can be found in Inflation Deflated, followed by, The Unbearable Mightiness of Deflation, a rebuttal to inflationist Gary North. An Interview with Stoneleigh provides a more recent and more comprehensive piece on deflation and its consequences.

America, There Is a Better Way: It’s Called Social Democracy


What anemic America can learn from Europe’s export-happy engine and largest social democracy

Nearly two years after the financial crisis brought the U.S. economy to its knees, more than 20 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed and Congress can barely extend jobless benefits. Republicans propose the same old nostrums–tax cuts–while President Barack Obama burnishes his deficit hawk credentials. Nearly everyone in power appears content to return to the status quo, circa 2007, with a few tweaks in place.

Even worse, alternatives to U.S.-style capitalism — and its attendant inequality, poverty and instability — are harder than ever to glimpse, as the sovereign debt crisis across the Atlantic distracts U.S media and politicians, once again, from the impressive achievements of European social democracies. That’s a shame, because if we can’t imagine a better world, our political and economic status quo appears inevitable and uncontestable, much to the benefit of those in power.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Geoghegan’s new book Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life (The New Press, 2010) to remind us that things like tax cuts for the wealthy, a healthcare system controlled by corporations and privatized retirement schemes are not inevitable.

The book’s central mission–to detail a more humane form of capitalism — couldn’t be more relevant to overworked Americans quietly thinking to themselves, there has to be a better way. Indeed, there is: Contrary to apocalyptic U.S. news articles, European-style social democracy is not about to go extinct. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Europe is not an undifferentiated mass of debt, socialist profligacy and unemployment.

Complete article here.

Wendell Berry: What Else?


For more than 100 years the coal-producing counties of eastern Kentucky have been dependent on the coal industry, which has dominated them politically and, submitting only to the limits of technology, has come near to ruining them. The legacy of the coal economy in the Kentucky mountains will be immense and lasting damage to the land and to the people. Much of the damage to the land and the streams, and to water quality downstream, will be irreparable within historical time. The lastingness of the damage to the people will, to a considerable extent, be determined by the people.

The future of the people will, in turn, be determined by the kind of economy that may come to supplement and finally to replace the economy of coal. Contrary to my own prejudice and sense of caution, I am going to yield here, briefly, to the temptation to talk about the future.

In talking about the future, wishes have a certain standing. My wish for eastern Kentucky, as for the rest of the state, is that the economies of the future might originate in the local use of local intelligence. The coal economy, by contrast, has been an imposed economy, coming in from the outside and also coming down from the high perches of wealth and power. It is the product of an abstracting industrial and mercenary intelligence, alien both to the nature of the land and to the minds and lives of the people. But as we humans seem always to have known, though we have often needed to be reminded, freedom is founded upon the land and upon the free use of local intelligence in husbanding the land. Disfranchisement approaches the absolute when powerful outsiders do your thinking for you. This can happen only when local intelligence is degraded and disvalued and when, as a consequence, political responsibility is sold out.