Category Archives: Sustainable Table related

Update

The Guide to Good Food blog series is coming along quite well – I already have interest from some publishers about turning it into a book and it’s being syndicated on a bunch of other blogs. Recent posts include Asking Questions (part 1 and part 2), Summer Days, Genetic Engineering and Buying Food. Check them out.

I’m also in the process of founding another program – it’s too soon to talk about it yet, but I can say that I’m no longer doing day-to-day Sustainable Table work, I’m working on a couple books, and I’m starting up a program that has the potential to be big big big…..

More soon!

Why Buy Sustainable?

(This is my post this week for the Guide to Good Food on The Daily Table, Sustainable Table’s blog.)

Farmers market fruitIn last week’s post, Sustainable vs. Industrial, we compared sustainable farming with industrial agriculture. This week, we have eight reasons why you should buy sustainable.

1. Tastes better. This is what convinced me to eat local sustainable and/or organic food. Many people believe that sustainable food simply tastes better – but you won’t know until you try it yourself, so might want to do your own taste test. Buy an organic or local sustainable apple and one of those large, waxed perfect-looking apples in the grocery store that come from a large industrial farm. Compare and let us know what you think!

2. Healthier. More and more health benefits are being found with sustainable food. Pasture-raised beef, for example, has two to six times more of the Omega-3 fatty acids needed for heart health and optimal brain function than grain-fed industrial meat. Eggs from pasture-raised chickens are not only higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, they’re also lower in cholesterol and calories. Organic fruits, vegetables and grains contain higher levels of nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants, including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.

3. Environment is protected. On a sustainable farm, animals graze on pasture and their manure fertilizes the fields. These sustainable farms only take from the land what they can put back, so the land and the environment are preserved for future generations. They do not pollute the surrounding soil, air and water with manure, chemical pollution or runoff.

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Sustainable vs Industrial

(This is today’s Guide to Good Food blog post from the Daily Table….)

hog-cafoIn the past two weeks, we’ve talked about sustainable and organic food, as well as industrial agriculture and factory farming in our Guide to Good Food. This week, we’re going to compare sustainable with industrial so you can see a side-by-side difference.

In general, the biggest differences between sustainable and industrial farms are the size of the operation (industrial farms are much bigger), the amount of pollution/effect on the environment (sustainable farms do not pollute the environment and they replace the resources they take), and the quality of food you get (small local sustainable farms provide fresher foods that not only taste better, they’re better for you).

To break it down and give you more specifics, I’ve done a comparison of the two types of farming so you can see how different these practices can be.

Health
Industrial farming: Industrial crops contain more nitrates and are often heavily sprayed with pesticides. Unsanitary conditions on factory farms and in industrial slaughterhouses cause high levels of meat contamination, which can cause food poisoning. In the U.S., food borne illness sickens 76 million people, causes 325,000 hospitalizations and kills approximately 5,000 people a year.

Sustainable farming: Food is grown with minimal or no use of pesticides or other dangerous chemicals. It can be healthier and more nutritious than industrially-raised food. Organic foods have been found to contain higher levels of antioxidants, which help fight certain types of cancer. Some types of organic crops contain more vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorous.

Antibiotics and Hormones
Industrial farming: Low doses of antibiotics are given daily to animals to ward off illness and disease that can develop from unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. This contributes to problems with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. Both antibiotics and hormones are used to make animals grow faster.

Sustainable farming: Antibiotics are only given if the animal is sick, and hormones are never given to the animals.

Environment
Industrial farming: Responsible for massive topsoil erosion, depletion and pollution of underground water supplies, and the reduction of genetic diversity. Industrial farms also pollute our air, surface water and soil with animal waste, hazardous gases, toxic chemicals and harmful pathogens.

Sustainable farming: Protects the natural environment, with farms managed in a responsible way, maintaining the fertility of the land and preserving resources for future generations. Sustainable farms use waste as fertilizer and don’t raise more animals than their land can handle.

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Factory Farming and Industrial Agriculture

(This is the third in my blog series Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food that I’m posting up on the Daily Table blog.)

cows21Last week we talked about sustainable and organic, and the difference between the two. This week, we’re going to delve into the real issue – factory farming and industrial agriculture. The differences between sustainable and organic aren’t as big when you compare them to industrial food production.

Factory farming and industrial agriculture are unsustainable systems that produce large volumes of food but have little to no regard for the environment, animal welfare, soil and water quality, food safety, worker rights, farmers or local communities. The focus is on maximizing profit and efficiency – but at great cost.

The terms factory farming and industrial agriculture are used interchangeably, though factory farming is generally used to explain industrial animal production and industrial agriculture tends to describe or include intensive crop production.

What is a factory farm?

A factory farm is a large industrial operation that raises many animals (usually cows, pigs, chickens or turkeys) in overcrowded, confined conditions. Some animals are raised indoors in metal sheds, where they never see sunlight and often live on concrete slats, their feet never touching the earth. Other animals (cows mainly) are raised outdoors on large feedlots, huge tracts of barren land, where they stand in mud and their own feces, with no grass or trees nearby. These animals are not permitted to carry out their natural behaviors, like rooting, pecking and grazing.

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What are sustainble and organic?

I’ve started a blog series on my work blog – the Daily Table.  You can read the first installment (explaining what I hope to do) here….

(This is the second installment of Diane Hatz’s series – Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

Exactly what are sustainable farming and/or sustainable food, and what is organic agriculture?  Those are questions I hear quite often.  A general concept of organic has been seeping into the mainstream, but many people are still confused by both terms.  And to make it even more confusing, organic can be sustainable and sustainable can be organic, but they don’t have to be.  What?

To start with, sustainable farming is more of a concept or a philosophy than a literal definition.  With sustainable farming, food is raised that’s healthy for consumers, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.  At Sustainable Table, we also believe that sustainable food should be grown as close to home as possible.

Yes, that is a bit of a mouthful – a shorter answer would be to say that sustainable farming provides food that’s healthy for consumers, farmers, the environment, animals, and local communities.

The challenge with sustainable is that there isn’t a government approved label or certification system, so you need to educate yourself and ask questions before you buy.  Also, there is no standard for what’s healthy for consumers or humane for workers.  There is no chart saying when the environment begins to be harmed, and so on.  That means that each of us has to learn as much as we can about the issues and decide what we think is best.  We’re not here to tell you what to do – we’re here to give you information, encouragement and perhaps advice; but it’s up to you to decide what you think is best for yourself.

Since 2002, organic food has been regulated by the government.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines organic agriculture as “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity.  It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

Another mouthful.  To put it more simply, with organic farming
•    most synthetic (and petroleum derived) pesticides and fertilizers are prohibited;
•    all antibiotics, genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sludge are prohibited;
•    all organically produced animals must have access to outdoors and be fed organic feed; and
•    all processed products labeled organic must have 95% organic ingredients.

They look rather similar, don’t they?  But there are differences….  Let’s do a comparison.

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A Salute to President Obama

This is a blog post from my work blog the Daily Table that will actually go up tomorrow.  (You’re getting a sneak peak!)

I must admit, I’m not a political person. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I vote and do my civic duty, but I don’t follow politics and call my Congress-people or get involved on a political level (well, except for the Daily Show). I’m one of those people who believe change first comes from the ground up, from individuals and groups of people – it’s the public who make the difference. Politicians are supposed to simply represent us, so I focus on reaching people.

But, this week, as the world stopped to pay respect to one of the most historical moments in our lives, I was right there with everyone. To me, the inauguration of President Barack Obama isn’t about politics – it’s about hope. It’s about possibility and change. It’s about the old guard finally being retired. And that is certainly a reason for celebration.

Is it corny for me to say that watching thousands of people waving and cheering this man and his family brings tears to my eyes? That I have cried with joy to see hope back in people’s eyes, including my own? And to think one man is the catalyst for all this – think of what each of us can do if we’re given the chance to let our own light shine.

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Eat Local

This is a blog post I wrote for the Daily Table, my work blog.

We’ve been working overtime these past few months, trying to get all the exciting and new information we have for you up online, and we’re slowly but surely getting there.  If you haven’t yet seen our new “Spread the Word” section or checked out our “Glossary of Meat Production Methods”, please do!  We’re also just about ready to launch our new “Eat Local” section, to help you understand what eating local is all about and to introduce you to some of the key people and groups working on this issue.

I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the past couple of years at how popular local sustainable food has become – it’s wonderful to see so many people looking seriously at the food they’re eating.  At Sustainable Table, our information on eating or buying local is consistently our top visited pages, so, I thought I’d spend a little time talking about local food as an introduction to our upcoming “Eat Local” section (which we’re hoping to have online in a couple weeks).

What does eating or buying local really mean?  As with the definition of sustainability, there really isn’t a set answer for that.  At Sustainable Table, we encourage consumers to eat as locally as possible and consider “local” to be as close to home as possible.  For a Locavore, someone who values local food above all else, local food is considered local when it’s harvested from an area usually within 100 miles.  We tell people to use their best judgment.  If you live in New York City, why buy an apple from New Zealand or even Washington State when they’re grown right in the state of New York?
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Eat Well Guided Tour of America 2007

Last year, I was lucky enough to travel cross country on a biodiesel tour bus for 40 days to celebrate and promote local food – all by eating pies.  Lots and lots of pies.  Along the way, we met up with Curt Ellis from the excellent movie King Corn – below is a clip from his visit with us.

You can read about the tour in our Tour Journal on the Sustainable Table website – http://www.sustainabletable.org/roadtrip/archives.php 

I’m pooped from working so long today – if I ever get the energy, I’ll write more about my experiences on the trip.  Until then, there are dozens of entries in our Tour Journal.

Slow Food Nation

I just got back from a week in San Francisco where I attended the Slow Food Nation event.  It was a three-day event around the city to celebrate local artisanal food.  Rather than rewrite what we did, you can read posts from the ST Chronicles below (from Sustainable Table):

Slow Food Nation

9 Beers, 9 Cheeses, Happy People

Tantalizing Tastes at the Taste Pavilions

Food, Inc.

It was a lot of food – so I certainly can’t complain! – but it was exhausting.  I mean, how much great food can a person eat in a day?  (A lot, in case you’re not sure…)  I met a lot of wonderful people, had fantastic weather (don’t know if I believe those stories about it being cold and foggy there…).  Though, one day, there was fog rolling in over the bay – we could see it out on the water, and, as we were looking, a huge container ship glided silently through the mist out of nowhere – it was really cool – looked totally like a ghost ship.

Oh – and if you interested in any photos from Slow Food Nation, there are a few on Sustainable Table’s Flickr account.

More Magazine

Okay, I’m bragging a bit here, but here’s a link to the August 2008 issue of More Magazine - they did an 11-page article on me and Sustainable Table. The cool thing is that More Mag is for women over 40 and it happens to be one of my favorite magazines, so I was so totally honored and tickled to actually be in it!

From Bonnaroo to Boulder

Have you ever had that perfect trip?  The one where everything just seems to fall into place and everything goes perfectly, even with hiccups and all?  Well, that was “From Bonnaroo to Boulder” for me – and it was a work trip to boot!

My program Sustainable Table had a booth at Bonnaroo, the four-day music festival in Manchester, Tennessee – four glorious days in the hot stinking sun (and I hate the sun) – but we met so many amazing people and had such a great time that it was all perfect.  You can read all about it on the Sustainable Table Tour Journal - we (my colleague Dawn and I) journaled our way across half the country.

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Sustainable Table

I think most people who know me know that I founded a nonprofit program called Sustainable Table – we try to educate consumers about sustainable food and issues with our food supply.

In the past year, especially, sustainable food has become popular and even a bit trendy, as people are really starting to question where their food comes from. (Yeah!….)

I do interviews every so often – here are two:

Sustainable Table“, New York Spirit, April/May 2008 – by Heather Ashare
(It’s basically about our philosophy at Sustainable Table.)

Snack & Diane“, Grist, 15 October 2007 by Katharine Wroth