Friday, January 30, 2009

PETA Brands Fish, Sea Kittens

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has attempted to rebrand fish as sea kittens, because kittens are cute and one would never want to eat a kitten (unless you are George Bush). As we overfish our fish and our fish farms become less and less sanitary places, a movement to eat sustainably fished poisson has begun, PETA leading with its sea kitten campaign. But, hold up PETA, kittens don't like water.

Still, PETA's goal to educate fish consumers about the harm their consumption is doing to our underwater friends is well placed. Mark Bittman, in a recent NY Times article, spoke out against how we consume fish. Bittman, always an avid eater of fish and of all things really--considering his NY Times food column and cooking videos--has noticed, as has every person who reads the labels on their fish, that our fish is becoming increasingly raised on farms. As Americans and the world began to increasingly eat fish (global consumption has doubled since 1973, 90 percent of this growth being from developing countries), we also began to over fish the wild populations and had to find a solution to meat the fish consumption demand, which meant farming fish.

This movement to aquaculture, sometimes called the blue revolution, while it superficially stops us from fishing wild fish has us feeding fish with edible food that could be used to feed people; very often, farmed fish are fed smaller foraged, wild fish. What is particularly frustrating about this is that most fish don't convert a high percentage of the food they consume into edible flesh: it takes three kilograms of forage fish to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon, while it take 20 kilograms of forage fish to produce one kilogram of farmed tuna.

There is, however, some "good" aquaculture. China, which accounts for around 70 percent of the world's aquaulture, focuses on herbivorous fish, who consume water plants; this practice, which is often small scale, is not only sustainable but environmentally sound. Industrial aquaculture, on the other hand, is very different. Most fish farms use fish meal, which is made from wild-caught smaller fish, to feed the larger fish; one third of the wold's wild caught fish is reduced to fish meal in addition to a quarter of the wild-caught fish being thrown back, dead, as "bycatch." Considering the inefficiencies of farm raised fish in converting feed mass into human-consumable food mass, using wild-caught fish to raise farmed fish is terribly inefficient. In addition, farm raised fish pollute waters via their fecal waste and degrade the land near to wear they are farmed.

Still, the point is not to stop eating fish all together--sorry PETA, I like it too much and I get grumpy without it. We need to change the fish we eat and the ways we raise fish. Long term, through preservation practices, we can help wild fish populations grow to their original sizes. This means new laws reducing bycatch and regulations on how much fishermen can catch in a certain fishery, a limit which would be a scientifically determined percentage of the harvest. For consumers, this means consuming smaller, more bottom-of-the-food-chain fish, like sardines and anchovies, more frequently, while only consuming more top of the food chain fish, like wild-caught cod and salmon, once a month. Thinking of this another way, we'll be eating tastier wild caught fish while also preserving our ability to eat this fish.

Sorry PETA, your efforts to convince me to stop eating fish by dubbing them sea-kittens has failed, but your heart was in the right place. I'll make sure to only eat wild-caught fish and up my consumption of sardines and anchovies.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alice Waters didn't vote for 42 years!

Following up on my post Art. Food. Give. there was an article in the Huffington Post this past week reporting that Alice Waters didn't vote for 42 years! In 1966, when Waters' journalist-activist friend Bob Scheer lost his anti-Vietnam primary challenge to the Democratic establishment's congressman, Waters vowed to not vote again, until this past year when Clinton and Obama came forward as two possible presidential candidates. Waters raised big money for Obama as well as some funds for Clinton and is now hosting a fundraising dinner tonight in honor of Obama's inauguration that will raise money for two D.C. soup kitchens. So, after 42 years of politic abstinence, Waters finally cast a ballot this past November for our President-elect Barack Obama and become a responsible citizen once again. While I do obviously agree with her presidential choice and her food ethos and applaud her for organizing this inauguration event, I think abstaining from voting is a pretty weak way to influence politics. So let's hope that this time, since Waters' choice candidate did get elected, she will continue to vote like I believe a responsible citizen should.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Avedano's Meat Market; Local People, Local Food

I first read about Avedano's Meat Market in Meatpaper, issue one, I was not only excited about the local people, local food moto, but also, the feminist in me was incredibly proud that three women were hacking apart cows and bringing us Kobe beef steaks. For about a year, I had had the intention of visiting their meet shop in Bernal Heights and I finally did visit the small shop on Cortland Ave last week. At first, I saw many of the staples of local and humanly raised meets, such as Rosie's Chicken, as well as wild Alaskan salmon (the only type of salmon you want to eat), but then, looking closer in the smaller coolers, I was happy to find chicken and pig feet as well as some animal insides not consumed by the average Safeway shopper.

Also, and probably most importantly, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable. They engaged us in conversation about their store, about the meats they had, and enjoyed making jokes about the over sized, plush t-bone steak pillows/toys they had for sale as well. It was fun and tasty; you should visit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

CALL TO ACTION: Under Secretaries of Agriculture

Last month, Tom Vilsack was chosen by Obama to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. In my response to Vilsack's appointment, I met the decision with slightly mixed feelings. Since then, Food Democracy Now! has launched a new online petition proposing 12 possible individuals to fill the 6 Under Secretaries of Agriculture. It is often said that the Under Secretaries of Ag have a larger impact on the day to day operations of the USDA than the Secretary of Agriculture does; in this manner, these positions are very important. Food Democracy Now! presently has over 60,000 signers of its online petition and is looking to have a total 100,000 in the next ten days. As we look to the Obama administration to make changes in our country, it is important that we stress the importance of reforming our nation's food systems; I thus heartily encourage each and every one of you to sign this petition.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year! (yeah meat)

So, on New Years Eve in New York, I saw this lovely window and thought it was pretty much the best way to bring in the New Year. So, I thought I would share. I was walking with a few friends in the pleasant New Years Eve snow on 52nd street (just west of MoMA) and stopped in my tracks as I saw this beautiful collection of meat in the window of Gallagher's Steakhouse. Gallagher's has been around since 1964 and isbest identified by this signature meat aging room stocked with the best USDA Prime dry aged beef. Yum. Meat. Fucking freezing New Years Eve in New York...must eat more meat to prepare for next year.