Category Archives: Food & Politics

Chocolate milk wars

Marion Nestle continues to fight the good fight, trying to prevent every single American from becoming a Biggest Loser contestant in waiting.  This time, she’s taking on chocolate milk in schools and she’s taking heat as usual, being accused of being a Food Nazi and trying to tell people what they can and can not eat.

Well, screw that. 

Someone’s got to take responsibility for what’s being shoved down our kids throats if parents aren’t going to.

The milk industry is trying to convince parents that sweetened and flavored milk is about they only way they’re going to get their kids to drink it, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if parents fell for that argument hook, line and sinker.

Do these parents not remember elementary school, because I do. And I distinctly recall that chocolate milk was not an option back in the austere 1970s when the term “childhood obesity rate” was hardly ever used.  We all brought our 5 cents to school and got to choose between whole milk or 2% and we’d drink it every morning.  WITHOUT A SNACK!!

No one died. No one got sick.  No one complained.  We drank our milk because that just what you did.

I always wanted chocolate milk.  I would beg for it.  My mom refused about 99% of the time.  She told me it would ruin my appetite.  I sullenly drank my white milk, because she told me to.  Every once in a blue moon she’d let me have chocolate milk when we went to the local cafeteria and I got to drink it after I ate my dinner.  Once, I gulped it down so fast I threw up.

So what happened to those days? Why aren’t parents today insisting their kids drink plain milk and not viewing chocolate milk as an occassional treat?  My short answer is that parents are lazy.  It’s much easier to give into your kids who are always going to pester you for something sweet– it’s in our biological make up to want sweets.  And that is why kids are fat and getting fatter.

Someone needs to be a parent. Right now, Marion Nestle and the others who are fighting back against this chocolate milk propaganda campaign are the only ones with the balls to do it.  Call them Food Nazis if you want, but know that term is really just another term for being a grown up.

Would you like poop with that?

The U.S.D.A. just announced that it has approved an E. coli vaccine for cattle.  They say that like it’s a good thing.  But really, all this vaccine is doing is treating the symptoms rather than actually doing anything to solve the bigger issue of a food system gone completely awry.  It’s the equivalent of a restaurant in Mexico telling you to go ahead and eat the lettuce but giving you an Immodium A-D chaser, just in case.

Granted, the vaccine isn’t all bad if it leads to fewer E. coli infections, which affect 70,000 people each year in the U.S.  But really, the only true winners in this are the beef industry people who hope to make more money by telling us their beef is E. coli free.

What the vaccine does not do is get to the heart of the real problem, which is the American feedlot industry.  Feedlots handle about 88 percent of the beef that Americans buy, and feedlots just happen to be breeding grounds for E. coli.  Every cow has E. coli bacteria, but one strain, E. coli O-157, is the bad E. coli that makes humans sick.  It also happens to grow really well in the stomachs of cows who are fed grain, the staple diet at feedlots, as opposed to cows that eat a more natural  diet of grass.

Eating a cow that had E. coli O-157 in his belly won’t make you sick, unless for some reason you were actually eating fecal matter from said cow, or cow shit to put it bluntly.  That’s the other problem with feedlots.  Cows stand knee-deep (do cows have knees?) in poop at these places.  They go to the slaughterhouse covered in crap, and if they aren’t cleaned off real good, then poop gets into the beef, and if it’s E. coli infected poop, a lot of people are going to get really sick.

What really freaks me out about the vaccine, is what if it gives people at the slaughterhouses a false sense of security?  What if they think, “Well, hey, this poop isn’t going to kill anyone now, so if I don’t get the cow as clean as I used to, no biggie.”   To quote Betty Fussell in her book Raising Steaks:  “Sterilized shit is still shit.”

So lets review: The E. coli vaccine is merely a band-aid.  It is not a solution to the bigger problem, which is cattle raised on filthy feedlots.  The only winners in this scenario are the beef producers who are hoping to sell more beef because it’s “safe”.  The farmers don’t win, because they won’t get any more money for their cattle when they sell them to the feedlots.  The cattle sure don’t win, because they’re still living their miserable feedlot existence.  And consumers don’t win because the USDA just fed us a shit sandwich and called it a victory.

Obama scorns the much maligned beet

Because Americans are obsessed with the everyday minutiae of our Commanders-in-Chief, today we get this report detailing Barack Obama’s– and the Obama family’s– eating habits.  A quick summation of the article: they dig Rick Bayless’ Mexican food, pizza, handmade pastas, and kicking back with some wine or maybe a margarita.  Much to my annoyance, the article also mentioned Obama eats “boutique salad greens” — a fact that was used in an attempt to brand him an elitist, which is so ridiculous I posted about that a few months ago.  You can’t even go to an Applebee’s these days and not find arugula on the menu.  But I digress.

But the one thing the Pres-elect reportedly won’t touch:  beets.  I know, I know.  Everyone has foods they don’t like.  But beets really aren’t that bad.  

 I think a visit to Australia might be just the thing to get Mr. Obama over his repulsion.  You see, beets (or beetroot as it is known here) are put on the delicacy known as the Aussie Burger w/the Lot.  “The Lot” is shorthand for all the other food they put on the burger which includes the aforementioned beetroot, pineapple, a fried egg, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.  They are a big, sloppy, burgery mess and they are GREAT! Plus, they’re the gateway food to more general beet eating.

So can Australia change Obama’s mind about beets?  YES WE CAN!!

P.S. I’m endeavouring to get a photo of a burger w/the lot.  Please stand by.

Bush was right about food aid

According to former President Clinton, he and the U.S. blew it on food aid to developing countries.  In the story he also says that President Bush was right in asking that 25% of U.S. aid be in cash rather than commodity crops.

First, let me point out my headline.  I said “Bush was right.”  I could easily have written it as “Clinton says U.S. blew it on food aid”, but I didn’t.  I credited Bush with being right, even if it pained me a little to do that.  It just shows that journalists can be fair and unbiased.  So there.

And I’d like to take Clinton’s remarks a bit further.  Not only are we wrong for requiring countries to drop crop subsidies from their own government in order to get aid from the U.S., but the global captains of industry are wrong when they encourage farmers in developing nations to quit growing their own native foods they could use to feed themselves in order to plant more crops  they’ll never eat because it will all be sent to the U.S. or other Western Nations to feed our desire for cheap food.

Furthermore, when they do start growing their own food again, it should be with seeds of their own choosing, not GMO terminator seeds manufactured by companies like Monsanto or Cargill and sent as a “gift” by the U.S.  Some gift.  “Here, have some seeds, that will grow crops this year, and this year only.  After that, you’ll have to pay a behemoth U.S. company to get them.” 

Finally, treating food as a commodity isn’t just a problem for developing nations.  The big commodity crops (corn, wheat, rice, soy planted in giant monocultures) are anathema to responsible agriculture and a big reason Americans are so fat.  All these commdoties are pulled apart and reassembled into crap food like cereal straws, Cheetos (which I love), and Oreos (which I also love).  Basically, most of the “food” in the middle of the grocery store is made up of some reformulated commodity crop.  Yet the U.S. government continues to prop up farmers who grow these crops, and even punishes them for trying to grow anything else like tomatoes or carrots.  This is why it’s cheaper to buy a Little Debbie (which I also love) than, say, an apple.

So, certainly, let’s work to make the food aid we provide to other countries more appropriate, but let’s not forget to tend our own gardens while we’re at it.

Michael Pollan for U.S. Food Czar


I just recently read journalist Michael Pollan’s memo to the next President (it’s really long but worth the read).  After reading it, I think there needs to be a food czar– just like the drug czar– only this position would likely be a lot more effective.  This person would help direct food policy and oversee both the compromised and castrated FDA and USDA.

Michael Pollan probably knows more about food policy than any other American after researching his two excellent books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, so he is the obvious choice for food czar. I’d like to hear what others think and who they would like to see as food czar or members of the food czar’s staff.

That said, I have a couple of quibbles about his memo in the NY Times magazine.

Click here to see my quibbles

It’s not pork if you like it

Ironic that my apolitical husband provides a perfect food analogy to the Republican Veep Wannabe’s attitude toward political pork.  Sarah Palin is an anti-pork crusader unless that pork benefits her interests.   My husband, who often expresses his disdain for the other white meat, eats bacon and ham like it’s going out of style.  I guess it’s not pork if you like it.