As I mentioned earlier, this is the more in-depth look at Michael Pollan's Chicago visit along with notes from another nutrition-related lecture from last week, tying in a few themes together.
This essay was originally written for my day job, and was published on Friday. But as you will see, the audience for this Web site will also appreciate its content.
Here is the essay in its entirety:
For those in the colder regions of the world who struggle to eat local because, well, it's been cold out there, this is your season to rejoice. After all, if you can't enjoy the literal fruits of the harvest now, this just won't work out for you.
If you haven't been paying attention, eating local is one of the newest food trends, reducing your carbon footprint. It's about finding a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement to get locally grown fruits and vegetables or hitting the farmers market so often they start to know you by name.
You could do worse than follow Michael Pollan's advice to "avoid any foods that you've seen advertised." Pollan was in Chicago earlier this week on a book signing tour for "In Defense of Food," his follow-up to the highly acclaimed "The Omnivore's Dilemma."
Pollan spoke out about the need to re-regionalize food, to have fresher, less processed food that is also more climate friendly.
"You can't make money with simple foods," Pollan said. Marketers aren't giving up so fast, being on the offensive so quickly you might not remember they were on the defensive.
After Pollan had suggested to not buy food with more than 5 ingredients, you started to see products limiting themselves to 5 ingredients. Pollan cited Haagen-Dazs' five as an example of how marketers try to squeeze in to new expectations, even though it's not a health food since it's still ice cream.
Eating better in the summertime is easier no matter where you live, but there is burgeoning hope for the colder climates to have more options come wintertime. Pollan said there is progress in growing food in unheated greenhouses, citing one in Milwaukee, WI that uses hot compost and another in Maine where plastic is used to protect the crops.
He also suggests canning and freezing to supplement foods in places where winter makes an impact. But greenhouses will only go so far. "We feel entitled to have foods year-round," said Pollan. "Certain foods should be seasonal."
Pollan did observe that meat is the exception, given that the cost and carbon footprint savings just aren't there, noting that grass-fed beef could be gathered from different parts of the country, depending on where grass is best for that time of year.
What government can do
Government plays a role in the quality of our food supply. We subsidize corn to the max while keeping sugar prices artificially high. Moderator Bill Kurtis, owner of a grass-fed beef company in his native Kansas, pointed out that the system is set up against the small farmer, and how while corn farmers get lots of subsidies, grass farmers don't get subsidies.