News and Notes

US: Clammers anticipate fishery ban due to red tide

21 June, 2007
A bout of red tide has halted the blue mussel season from Maine to Gloucester and is widely expected to do the same for the clam fisheries this week, to the chagrin of local fishers. Normally at this time of year, the mudflats in the Great Marsh-stretching from Ipswich to Newburyport-are heavily dug for the soft-shelled popular clams, emphasised Jack Grundstrom, Rowley's shellfish constable. "This is really bad news," said Grundstrom. SOURCE:

Researcher criticizes 'consumerism' of North American organic industry

15 June, 2007
Organic food is straying from many of its core principles as big business takes it over, according to a researcher from Toronto's York University.

Most major organic brands in North America now are owned by large corporations such as Kraft and ConAgra, says Irena Knezevic, who will present a paper on the subject to the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan on Friday. She contends that organic products are becoming "a marketing tool more so than an assurance of quality, let alone assurance of a fair and sustainable production process."

Knezevic says consumer demand is driving the trend, leading to increased mass production of organic products that results in only a slightly "greener" version of the conventional food system. "Organic foods have less and less to do with the ethics of environmentalism, anti-globalization and social justice," she writes in her paper, "but more and more with hip consumerism, cultural and economic capital and the moral pedestals of those who have the luxury to make such purchasing choices. The core problems of the global food system remain unaddressed." SOURCE:

US: Bottom trawling banned in Bering Sea

12 June, 2007
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on Sunday voted to ban bottom trawling in 180,000 square miles of the northern Bering Sea. The agency delivered its unanimous decision at a meeting in Sitka, AK after weighing public commentary on some 330,000 square miles of the entire Bering Sea. The decision is set to go through the regulatory process with the National Marine Fisheries Service. SOURCE:

US: Wal-Mart demanding sustainability from Thai seafood

1 June, 2007
Giant US retailer Wal-Mart announced this week its intention to market more organic, sustainable foods this year. At a Tuesday conference held in Monterey, CA, the chain's vice president in charge of seafood, Peter Redmond, disclosed that the company has warned shrimp farms on the coast of Thailand to improve their aquaculture practices or else face losing the retailer's business. SOURCE:

Farmers' loss in corn is livestock's gain-in candy

22 May, 2007
Short on corn since prices skyrocketed due to the US ethanol boom, farmers across the country are shoring up their feed rations with everything from trail mix to tater tots, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Candy bars, cookies, licorice, cheese curls, french fries, frosted wheat cereal and peanut-butter cups also are items on an evolving menu, as farmers have taken to buying scraps and leftovers from food factories near their farms.

Dwight Hess, for one, is making use of his proximity to Hershey and Herr Foods Inc. A feedlot operator in Marietta, PA, Hess includes in his cattle ration a blend of chocolate bars and large chunks of chocolate, as well as a mix of popcorn, pretzels, potato chips and cheese curls.

Hess told WSJ the practice helps him save some 10% on feed costs, though it still costs him about 65 cents to put one pound on a steer--a 23 cent increase from last year.


Grass-fed beef processor makes it onto hospital menu

29 November, 2006
Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital has announced that all stewed and ground beef used in patient meals is grass-fed beef from Sedan, KS-based Tallgrass Beef Co, which was founded by tv broadcaster Bill Kurtis. The hospital promotes the meat as healthier than conventional product, since it is raised "without unnatural supplements and growth hormones." Swedish Covenant also offers patients many organically grown fruits and vegetables, and plans to offer completely organic meals soon. "Since many of our patients are making organic food choices at home we feel it's important that we offer these items at the hospital too," said Gillian Cappiello, who oversees many patient-centered initiatives at Swedish Covenant. "Wholesome and healthy foods play such a vital role in patient recovery."


Whole Foods Calls Joel Salatin For Help

21 November, 2006
Whole Foods called me a couple of days ago. I will report the conversation with the Charlottesville (NC) Whole Foods grocery manager as accurately as possible, and you will see that it completely vindicates Michael Pollan's observations in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma.

For background, Pollan's recently-released blockbuster book created a firestorm at Whole Foods, the nation's largest organic foods supermarket chain. The founder, John Mackey, began an internet debate with Pollan when the author observed that the farms supplying the chain were neither local nor significantly different than their conventional industrial counterparts.

This raised Mackey's ire and created a verbal tempest between the two.

Recently, the Charlottesville Whole Foods grocery manager called asking for eggs.

I wasn't in so he left his message on the voice mail and I called him back two days later.

He said he had a supply glitch and needed to get some eggs in a hurry. He was not interested in our supplying this store, which is only 30 miles from our farm. He just needed some eggs quickly to get out of a pinch.

But in the two days it took me to respond, he had fixed the problem with the distributor and didn't need our eggs. Not to be waved off so nonchalantly, I pursued him: "Do you have any local eggs in the store?"

"No," he replied, matter-of-factly.

"That's too bad," I said. "I remember when you guys first came to town you used to buy from people like us but since we don't tool around in tractor trailers you quit."

"Yes, that's a shame," he said. No attempt to deny it, just regret that this was the new reality.

But he quickly assured me that the chain was trying to connect to local farmers, and they would host four farmers' market days next spring.

And then he made the big Freudian slip. "We're looking for local distributors...I mean, farmers, who whold participate." I would guess that he doesn't know any local farmers. All he deals with are distributors. He had never heard of Polyface, the Salatins, or anything. We supply 20 restaurants, three retail outlets, plus at least 100 families in his town and he has never heard of us.

He said the farmers' market plan was not to let farmers come and sell their wares, but that Whole Foods would buy their stuff and bring it into the store. In order for customers to buy it, they would have to come into the store; the farmers could be in the store and talk to people. He said it was a new initiative to promote local food and farmers. I told him thanks but no thanks. Then the discussion shifted back to the eggs.

"In the future, if this happens again, would you have enough eggs to help us?" he queried. Notice, he's still only interested in this local dumb farmer getting him out of a pinch. No long-term deal is even on the table. "How many do you need?" "We sell 120 dozen a day here," he said. "Well, we get about 100 dozen a day, but we could certainly take you on if we had some lead time and a contract that would lock you in long enough for us to make back the investment in the expansion," I replied.

I wanted to pursue this conversation to the max, to let him know clearly that a local producer could supply all his eggs, and force him to either move the matter forward or tell me he wasn't interested. I had no idea where the conversation would go. "Are your eggs cage-free?" he asked next. "Cage-free? Ours are pastured," I shot back, perhaps a little caustically. "Are you organic?" was the next question. "We're beyond organic. We put our pastured eggs up against organic and beat them like a drum every day of the week," I said, perhaps a bit cocky.

By this time I knew he had no clue who or what he was talking to, so I turned up the heat: "Tell you what, why don't you and anybody else who wants to come, come on out to the farm, we're only 45 minutes away and I'll show you around and you can see for yourself what we're doing."

"Well, we're actually beginning our own brand of eggs and that should fix everything," he said, politely. End of conversation. We said our goodbyes and that was that. Pollan, carry on. Mackey, you just don't get it.

Salatin, Joel; The Stockman Grass Farmer (Nov 2006).

US: Alaska crab group fights imports of poached Russian crab and its mislabelling

5 September, 2006
Alaska's Bering Sea crab industry is petitioning the United States Congress to halt domestic marketing of Barents Sea king crab that is illegally harvested by Russian vessels and seek coordinating international efforts to address the problem at its root. It is clear that almost 30 million pounds of processed crab would not be available on the world market were it not for illegal fishing in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea.

US: Healthy fall Chum Salmon predicted this year

25 August, 2006
Experts predict the fall run of Yukon River Chum (Keta) Salmon will satisfy subsistence smokehouses and commercial fishermen this year but not equate the levels of 2005's near-record

US: Pink as opposed to Red Salmon Season Bountiful

18 August, 2006
Although the Alaska Red (Sockeye) Salmon season has proven disappointing for fishers, pinks have been bountiful to the point where the season may be extended by another three weeks. As of Tuesday (Aug 15), 21.7 million pink salmon were harvested.

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