Careful what you fish for.
Missing fresh local seafood from the Gulf? We all are: the Gulf used to account for a majority of the domestic shrimp and oysters eaten by Americans. So it sounds like good news that the federal government recently reopened 4,281 additional square miles of water for commercial and recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. This represents the third area in the Gulf to be cleared of the fishing ban in the aftermath of the recent BP oil spill. More than 48,000 square miles of water remain closed.
But despite government assurances that this seafood is safe for consumption, a recent AP poll of 1,007 adults found that 54% aren’t quite ready to trust seafood from the Gulf. Could it have something to do with statements like this one from the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website? -- "Although crude oil has the potential to taint seafood with flavors and odors caused by exposure to hydrocarbon chemicals, the public should not be concerned about the safety of seafood in stores at this time." Sounds delicious!
It seems many of us are taking a wait-and-see approach. Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Defense Council and several other groups working in the Gulf have called upon the FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to strengthen current protocols for determining whether seafood is safe and when fishing areas should be re-opened. For more information about seafood and the Gulf disaster, check out Food & Water Watch’s Gulf seafood Fact Sheet and download their latest Seafood Guide to help you make smart and sustainable seafood choices.
Happy, healthy (and increasingly popular) organic hens.
The recent recall in the U.S. of more than 500 million eggs contaminated with salmonella has prompted a spike in business for organic egg farmers and farmers markets where these eggs are sold. What makes an egg organic? They’re produced by free-range hens that eat an organic, pesticide-free diet without added hormones or antibiotics. These eggs often have a natural nutritional boost, including higher levels of Vitamin B, Folic Acid, Iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
This recent food safety scare has been linked to mass-production factory farms like the Wright County and Hillendale Farms. These operations keep chickens caged very close together, creating an environment where salmonella and other bacteria can easily spread. Not just that (and if you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip this part), but federal inspectors checked out two Iowa egg farms connected to the salmonella outbreak and found barns infested with flies, maggots and scurrying rodents, overflowing manure pits, and uncaged hens tracking through waste. Turns out, eggs get contaminated from infected hens.
While organic eggs are not entirely immune to contamination, the USDA’s organic standards ensure that these chickens are given more space, making it less likely that diseases will be transmitted. Considering that most of America’s large egg farms have gone largely uninspected for decades, and that the FDA is just now embarking on an inspection tour that won’t be completed until late next year, you may be looking for a free-range, organic egg source yourself! Check out American Farmland Trust’s list of top 5 Farmers Markets in your state, and visit Local Harvest’s website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area!
Rising temperatures = more coffee for beetles, less for us?
This particular threat from climate change could really rock your world, if you’re as fond of a daily coffee fix as we are! Coffee is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world, but new research reveals a growing threat to coffee farms that’s being fueled by steadily rising global temperatures. The coffee berry borer beetle, nonexistent in coffee growing regions in the 60’s, is now a widespread pest and causes an estimated $500 million in crop damage every year! Yale Environment 360 reported findings from a recent insect physiology study that found “… for every 1.8 degrees F increase in temperature, the coffee berry borer became 8.5 percent more infectious on average.” Data from the same study revealed that even coffee grown at higher altitudes, which experts once considered immune to beetle infestations, are also at risk. The critters have been devastating coffee plants in Africa, Latin America, and around the world.
The key seems to be reducing the temperatures of the coffee berry crops, and one of the best solutions could be the simple shade of a tree. Tree shade has been found to reduce crop temperatures by as much as 3 -7 degrees F. Shade-growing is widely known to produce a higher-quality product and it’s also an important sustainable growing standard that protects migratory bird and animal habitats. The downsides are that shade trees can take years to grow, and not many coffee retailers are promoting shade-grown coffee to customers.
The final word from researcher Juliana Jaramillo, a biologist at Kenya’s International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology: “I think the coffee industry has two options. Either they start investing in climate research, or they educate the consumers to drink something else.” Yikes!
Make sure your beans are shade grown and sustainably farmed by looking for Rainforest Alliance certified products, and check out our latest Green Tip for more environmentally-friendly brewing ideas!