The Food Film Fest Short Report

The Food Film Fest Short Report

Yesterday I attended the first day of Food Film Fest 2009. What started as a dreary, wet, miserable trip to the Action Center at Battery Park ended up as a full, enlightening, insightful and tasty one.

I will not have time to get into too much details but just a few notes about the event. First, this event will repeat next Saturday April 18, 2009 at Columbia University Medical Center Office of Government and Community Affairs. It is a fantastic -and free- opportunity to see these movies which are not so easy to catch. Go and let know your friends about it.

I highly recommend :
Asparagus: Stalking the American Life; Flow; Hotbread Kitchen & the trailer for Fresh.
-The trailer for Flow is above. Follow this link for Asparagus: Stalking the American Life trailer.
You will sure think twice before buying bottled water or a bunch of asparagus after viewing these films.
-The documentary about Hot Bread Kitchen, the New York Social bakery that mixes tradition with social activism. What a great idea!
-And the trailer for
Fresh, a promising documentary partially based on Michael Polland The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

The day ended with a tasty reception. Unforgettable was “Jean-Louis” a New Jersey raw milk cow cheese named in memory of my Gascon fellow chef Jean-Louis Palladin. I am not kidding this cheese is the best I have tasted in the USA so far. You can experience “Jean-Louis” too, the Bobolink dairy & Bakeyard is at Union Square Farmers Market on Fridays, Lincoln Center Greenmarket (66th & Bwy) every Thurs & Sat. If you are not in New York City do not feel excluded shop on their online store (bread not available online). About their breads, the rye is outstanding and though I don’t like flavored bread, their garlic and duck fat loaf is a must with a bbq’d duck breast!

Another great product at the reception was the raw chocolate from Fine & Raw. I can’t wait to make my “Lapin au Chocolat” with it – I don’t mean chocolate Easter bunny, no! I mean rabbit stew in chocolate sauce (a kind of mole), but that will be another post.

Joyeuses Pâques!

Pork superbug

Pork superbug

Sadly this article doesn’t come as a surprise. How can animals living in CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) be healthy? CAFO meat might be *cheap* but on it’s real cost is very high.

Pork superbug documented
As evidence mounts of deadly bacteria from CAFO pigs, will the FDA and the USDA act?

Posted by Tom Philpott at 9:33 PM on 27 Jan 2009

Last June, Iowa State researcher Tara Smith delivered preliminary results of a study linking the deadly, antibiotic-resistant pathogen MRSA to pigs in concentrated animal feedlot operations. Despite mounting evidence of the link from Canada and Europe, U.S. public-health officials had never formally studied the issue, even though MRSA kills something close to 20,000 Americans every year — more than AIDS.

In a must-read blog post at the time, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s ace health reporter Andrew Schneider documents the craven inaction of the FDA and the USDA as this public-health menace gained force. (I weighed in here.) As Schneider wrote:

An effective way to say there isn’t a problem is never to look. That seems to be precisely what most U.S. government food-safety agencies are doing when it comes to determining whether the livestock in our food supply is contaminated with MRSA and if so, whether the often-fatal bacterium is being passed on to consumers who buy and consume that meat

Now Smith’s research has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Examining CAFOs scattered in Iowa and Illinois, Smith and her team found the MRSA strain in 49 percent of pigs and 45 percent of the workers who tend them. The sample size is small; more study must be done. Will the government undertake it?

A real reckoning with the MRSA-CAFO link could deliver a devastating blow to the meat industry. To keep animals alive while stuffed together by the thousands, standing in their own collected waste, it’s evidently necessary to dose them with lots of antibiotics. CAFO conditions destroy animal’s immune systems; antibiotics pick up the slack. Take them away, and the CAFO model might crumble.

That, presumably, is why the Bush agencies so studiously ignored the problem. Let’s hope the Obama FDA and USDA do better.

Update [2009-1-28 8:40:10 by Tom Philpott]:The Seattle PI’s indispensable Schneider reacts to the publication of Smith’s findings:

So I called some disease detectives and food safety specialists in agencies responsible for ensuring that our food supply is safe. You could almost hear them cringe over the phone. And, no, to the best of their knowledge, neither the FDA, USDA nor CDC had launched systematic testing of the U.S. meat supply for MRSA. One physician said that a study was being done on the MRSA strain (ST398) that Smith had found on the pigs but added, “I don’t think it has anything to do with meat.”



Join, among many others, Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Anna Lappé, Marion Nestlé in signing asap the petition urging president elect Obama to nominate a Secretary Agriculture that will support a Sustainable Choice.
It is very important and urgent because none of the names that are mentioned in The Associated Press contender list 4 days ago match the Food Democracy proposed names.
Read below & click on pix to get to the petition and do pass it on.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices. We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to invest in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic success.

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.

The Sustainable Choice for the Next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

  1. Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
  2. Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE.
  3. Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.
  4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
  5. Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
  6. Neil Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, IA.

Sign Petition

Changing the Way We Eat

Changing the Way We Eat

I am an unconditional fan of both Bill Moyers and Michael Pollan. Good timing for the interview as President Elect Obama is picking the next Agriculture Secretary.
AGRICULTURE SECRETARY contenders at this point:
by Associated Press
Dennis Wolff, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture.
Tom Buis, president of National Farmers Union.
Former Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas.
Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D.
Former Rep. Jill Long Thompson, D-Ind.

Will any of them help change the way we eat? I sure hope so but do not have too much hope. What is sure is that we can CHOOSE what we eat and even during times when money is tight it is important to still go for less but better. Anyhow Michael Pollan says it all in this interview; please do pass this interview around, we got to put pressure on the first family to have them grow an organic veggie garden at the White House. And if I were them I would have a few chickens and couple of goats!

A forward from Michael Pollan inquiries list:

“In case you missed it, Bill Moyers did an hour on food issues with me this past weekend. You would have heard about it last week, but the list-serve was down– sorrry. Anyway, you can catch it on Moyers’ website. Here’s the link and listing:” (Michael Pollan)

“Changing the Way We Eat”, Bill Moyers Journal, PBS.
November 28, 2008
A food crisis plagues America. Or, so believe Michael Pollan and many activists across the U.S. Some might find it difficult to comprehend that one of the richest countries in the world suffering from food issues, but MichaelPollan lays out what ails America and the case for reform in “Farmer in Chief” an open letter published in THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE.

(or click on picture above)
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