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Sunday, March 28, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
For example, let's compare potential gross income from sweet corn, tomatoes, and garlic (all yield data from the Johnny's Selected Seeds catalogue, a respected source), using 100' rows. For simplicity's sake, I'm using gross rather than the more accurate net, because calculating net income per product involves more variables than I want to introduce into this discussion.
Sweet corn: 100 ears at $.25-$.50/ear = $25-$50/row
Tomatoes: 150lb at $2-$3/lb = $300-$450/row
Garlic: 300 heads at $1-$2/head = $300-$600/row
As far as I'm concerned sweet corn around here is criminally underpriced. It may make some economic sense for a farmer with many acres and large-scale equipment to grow a mass batch and make up for the tiny income in economies of scale, but no small grower with other options should touch it when you can make far more per unit area on almost anything else. Don't expect us to ever grow sweet corn for market, because I don't think anyone will ever pay the prices it would theoretically take for that to be worth growing in place of other products. Sweet corn is supposed to be one of the greatest delicacies of summer, yet the economic value placed on it by the consumer is somewhere below leftover Brussels sprouts.
Now let's compare the caloric value of various items as it relates to their price. Organic eggs cost around $4/dozen here, and local organic milk costs $6-$8/gallon. Many folks would consider that pricey. Yet organic tomatoes routinely go for $3/lb (the price ratios for conventional items are similar). Eight dollars could get you two dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, or a handful of large tomatoes. Of those options, the tomatoes have relatively few calories (though they are packed with nutrients), while milk and eggs are far better at filling the stomach. No wonder someone on a tight budget would choose a couple dozen eggs or a gallon of milk over a few high end tomatoes. Thus either tomatoes are way overpriced, or milk & eggs are way under-priced, from a value-cost perspective.
We spend a lot of time paying attention to our production costs and labor inputs, to better understand what products are worth our while to produce & sell, and what a fair price ought to be. This is unabashedly a for-profit farm and we intend to make a decent living at it. In many cases we've concluded that the going "market" rate in grocery stores has little relevance to the cost of production around here. I believe this is largely related to government subsidies.
Most fruit & vegetable production for the mass market comes from places like California and Arizona where effective farming is only possible with hugely subsidized water supplies. If those subsidies were removed, and those growers paid the local market rate for their water, their products would skyrocket in price and make ours look like a bargain. (We had a glimpse of this last year when water shortages briefly pushed California lettuce prices up to $16/pound, a price with which we are happy to compete; we charge $8-$10/lb.) These growers also often rely on cheap legal/illegal migrant labor, another effective subsidy that is not available to most small, local growers. We have a pretty good sense of what it costs us to produce a tomato, and we charge accordingly. The store price has our tax dollars beneath it like Atlas under a globe.
With regards to items like milk, eggs, and meat, the situation is similar only this time the subsidy is for cheap grains. Almost no one, not even us, produces these products without some inputs of corn, soybeans, and other commodities, all of which are hugely cheapened by government payouts. Thus generations of consumers have been trained to expect these products to be abnormally cheap. This is why, in the examples above, the milk & eggs appear to cheaply valued compared to the tomatoes. $3/lb tomatoes reflect an unsubsidized value for a product of low caloric content; $4/dozen for eggs reflects a highly subsidized (even for organic) base ration for those hens, thus making their concentrated protein irrationally cheap for their value.
Now, some would make the fair argument that food should be cheap, that it's a triumph of modern ag policy that we can get such cheap protein and produce, and that farms like ours are a niche anachromism. I have run out of space to deal effectively with this argument, except to note that many of the same people are otherwise deeply opposed to government interventions in the free market. How many Tea Party members would redouble their protests if all government ag subsidies ended and their steak, milk, and eggs tripled in price? Somehow it's a disaster to have government deeply involved in health care, but it's a basic human/American right to have food as cheap as possible no matter the cost in taxpayer dollars and loss of farm independence.
So be thankful if you wish for cheap supermarket food, but don't expect those of us outside the subsidy system to like it. We do our best to price our products to reflect their actual production value and their nutritional/culinary value, and the occasional sticker shock to customers is something we just have to accept.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
She's currently producing about 3 quarts a day, normal for a decent dairy goat. Goatsbeard is culling her because her production is a bit below their target, and she has a second opening on one teat that's annoying but no big deal for a homestead farm. I'm her milking twice a day now. When Garlic kids in April, we'll start getting milk from her as well.
We use 2 quarts a week for yogurt and around 4 quarts a week for fresh cheese (feta, ricotta, or mozzarella). Employees can take some each week for their own cheese/yogurt making, and any remainder we'll freeze for future larger-batch cheesemaking. The whey left over from cheesemaking we feed back to the chickens and geese, for whom it's a great nutrient supplement.
We want to put up more aged hard cheese for next winter, as we only had 5 pounds or so last winter and really had to ration. Goat milks freezes very well, more so than cow, so rather than having it build up in the fridge waiting for an open slot when I can make cheese, it makes more sense to freeze it regularly. Then I can thaw out a big batch now and then, on a rainy day, and make a big round at once that can be waxed and aged until winter. I'll also hopefully be able to thaw some out over the winter for fresh cheeses.
Last night we had our first fresh cheese meal of the year, a calzone with fresh-made ricotta, our own crust, and homemade tomato sauce. Ricotta is quick and easy to make from a gallon of milk, and is oh-so-good in pizzas, calzones, or anything calling for soft cheese. The quality of homemade is so far beyond anything available in a store, and we're looking forward to sharing this enjoyment with our employees as well. Despite the extra work of milking and milk handling, we're so thrilled to be back on our own dairy supplies.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Our first toad show up:
Along with our first snake:
The truly nasty thing about this snow, for us, is that it will take so long to vanish. An equivalent rainfall on saturated ground would run off fairly quickly; this has all stayed put, and will take many days to dry out. A snowfall means a much longer period of wet ground in which we can't do as much. That's just how it is; March is the statistically most likely month for heavy snowfall in Missouri, so we can be grateful a few inches is all we recieved. Not far south of here the totals are closer to one foot.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I've been torn on this all along. I don't like the way this process happened, I don't think it's addressed some significant issues, I'm not convinced it will really be as budget-neutral as hoped, I wish it had been undertaken as a series of smaller, more understandable, more specific bills... yet the Democrats clearly ran on a platform to do this and clearly won. It's their right to push forward and win the vote if they can. The Republicans won plenty of controversial votes in the Bush years, as was their right.
And the other thing that I can't avoid: I detest the tone of the opposition. I detest the slurs, the hatred, the personal vitriol, the deep off-topic negativity that seems to form the front of opposition to this initiative. There are probably a lot of Americans out there like me; unsure, stuck in the middle, not real thrilled about this but not foaming at the mouth either. There are a lot of worthwhile principles hidden in the right's protests against this bill, but they're buried in a sea of illogical, irrational sludge that contributes nothing to bettering our country. If I had to choose, I'd have to side with the Democrats on this, if nothing else to deny justification and vindication of the methods of this opposition.
If this passes, I hope it works. If it doesn't, I hope that result does not push what's left of a national, rational discourse off the cliff for good.
A NY state representative has introduced bill A10129, which bans the use of salt in all state restaurants. You read that right. From the bill's actual text, posted on the State Assembly's website:
PROHIBITION ON SALT; RESTAURANTS. NO OWNER OR OPERATOR OF A RESTAURANT IN THIS STATE SHALL USE SALT IN ANY FORM IN THE PREPARATION OF ANY FOOD FOR CONSUMPTION BY CUSTOMERS OF SUCH RESTAURANT, INCLUDING FOOD PREPARED TO BE CONSUMED ON THE PREMISES OF SUCH RESTAURANT OR OFF OF SUCH PREMISES
The bill goes on, in typical legalese, to propose fines of $1,000 per violation. Saltshakers on tables would still be ok, but none in the kitchen.
This has generated quite the predictable storm, including some amusing quotes, such as this one from the NY Daily News: "If State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, the only salt added to your meal will come from the chef's tears."
There's a deep irony in someone proposing a law like this for reasons of food health, yet apparently knowing so little about cooking that he doesn't realize salt is an integral part of the chemistry of cooking. Salt applied to the final dish is entirely different than salt used within a preparation. It's almost literally impossible to cook some things properly without integral salt. So this yoyo, who wants people to eat healthier, obviously isn't cooking for himself enough to realize this basic culinary fact. Has he ever even made pasta before? I wonder what he eats, where it comes from, and what ingredients are on the package?
I would think this bill has virtually no chance of passage; even in a state as dysfunctional as New York, there have to be enough baseline rational politicians to shoot down such an asinine idea. But even as an outlier, it's a great example of the craziness of our country's approach to food safety and health.
Friday, March 19, 2010
So for those few lonely souls like me, and perhaps the larger number interested in both, I have to point out this nifty little web feature from the Washington Post, laying out every Representative's past vote, current leaning, campaign contributions from the health industry, and % uninsured in their district. I'm sure far smarter people than I are pulling out all sorts of trends, so I won't attempt the same. These are tenuous comparisons, as there are so many other factors in play. For example, our own congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-9) has one of the lowest amounts of health industry contributions, but I think that's because he's wealthy and largely self-financed. It's fascinating stuff to examine, though.
The results of this vote, and the overall package, are of course important to us since we're self-employed in a fairly dangerous business; even a minor injury can have serious repercussions during the growing season when every healthy minute counts. If this passes, it will be interesting to see what actually happens on the ground for us.
UPDATE: The Post's web people need to learn a bit more about programming and data management. If you click on their headers to sort the data by column (say, highest-lowest contributions), it resorts by text value, not numerical value. Thus, you see all the contributions that start with 1 first (whether $1,000,000 or $100), then $2,000,000-$200, and so on. Stupid mistake, and even stupider that it hasn't yet been fixed.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
1) At the Farmers Market membership meeting Tuesday night, we finally secured a permanent stall location. 2010 will be our fourth year selling, and we were more than ready to have a reserved location where customers would know to look. Most stalls at the market are "owned" by farmers/businesses, who have first dibs on a location by seniority (continous membership) and who pay extra to reserve a stall. Once you've got one, you can keep it forever as long as you pay. Many farms own two, and some even own three. Thus, younger/newer farmers need to bide their time and earn their dues, waiting for a few slots to open up each year due to natural turnover. Anyone who doesn't own a stall gets into any given market on a first-come basis, and is slotted wherever the market manager can fit them. Sometimes there isn't enough room.
For the first three years, we've been too low on the pecking order, and haven't been able to get a slot. Last year, I simply made sure to arrive at market before 6:30 am every Saturday to make sure I got into the first-come-first-serve slots that remain once all the permament stalls were full. We were fortunate that the market manager does a very good job of trying to keep locations consistent, so she was able to keep us in the same place most of the year. But any given week we could have lost that place. Now we're guaranteed a place, albeit for an extra $150/year. Worth every penny. We'll be on the northern (school) side of the market, down toward the far end, between Dwyer's Pork and Stanton Brothers Eggs (they also got their first stall, next to us).
2) We held our last interview visit this afternoon with a potential worker, and feel that we have a really good set of three folks lined up to help us out this year. They're all eager, hard-working, well-referenced, and really interested in what we do. I think we'll enjoy their company greatly, and their help will be integral to our significant expansion. As discussed earlier, we're paying in farm products this year, such that each worker in effect receives a full CSA share including access to fresh milk and eggs. We're not legally allowed to pay in cheese or meat, but raw products are ok. Everyone is interested in learning to make cheese & yogurt, and in canning & preserving produce, so I think we'll have some fun afternoon/evening slots where we can have a cheese or canning party together.
We expect to start selling at market in late April. We've gotten a few beds of lettuce seeded under plastic, and will start seeding peas, radishes, and more as soon as this last winter storm moves through this weekend (forecast calls for rain/snow and lows below 30). We'll start out (hopefully) with a mix of radishes and greens, and go from there. We're excited.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
We also did our best to make the preparations identical, but some differences crept in anyway. For example, the store-bought edamame were noticeably larger than ours, so that may have affected the cooking times and thus the quality. But you can't get everything perfect when you're serving nine people 16 courses in a few hours from a home kitchen.
Remember, 1 is the best and 5 is the worst. These are the mean scores from our guests only. Joanna and I also tallied our preferences, but we didn't want our numbers to bias the results (given that we could easily identify which product was which in most cases).
Several comments indicated that the farm corn was crisper, but the flavor wasn't much different.
This didn't surprise me; the purchased pickles were far crisper, and ours were a little too vinegary in comparison. The texture may relate to the multiple preservatives/chemicals in the ingredient list, but the effect was still there.
Morningland (MO): 2.57
Farm goat (MO): 1.71
Cabot (VT): 2.00
This was a bit surprising; we like our cheddar but didn't expect it to beat out Vermont and Irish cheddars.
Boiled chicken eggs
Organic Valley: 2.71
I thought this difference was fairly subtle, but the results were fairly clear. This was a close comparison, as Organic Valley is widely regarded as the best of the large-scale producer brands, and our eggs are coming from winter chickens who still are eating mostly grain and not a lot of foraged protein. Our yolks were noticeably yellower, but the flavors were only subtly different. If we can beat the best store option at the low end of our chickens' flavor potential, that's not bad. And it speaks well for O.V., as I've had far blander store eggs before.
Edamame, frozen in-shell
The flavor and texture were better with ours. The store version were larger than ours, so perhaps the cooking changed things, but we prepared both according to the bag's directions to give them the benefit of the doubt. Folks who had bought our fresh edamame agreed that the frozen ones weren't nearly as good, but they still ranked above the store-bought.
Edamame, frozen shelled
The pre-shelled frozen was noticeably less good than the in-shell. Clearly keeping them in the shell protects the flavor somehow. This was effectively a tie, though it's worth noting that the farm frozen ones we used in both tests were our least favorite of four varieties grown last year, plus they were our seconds from market harvest (those rejected for market sale). So anyone buying them from us and freezing them got a better bean, but these still tied or beat the store's.
Goose vs. chicken eggs (scrambled)
This was a surprise, as we generally think the goose eggs taste richer and better. However, in the blind test the difference was more subtle. One person thought the goose suffered from being unusual, such that the familiar taste of chicken made it rate higher on instinct. Another possibility is that the goose eggs get tastier as spring arrives, and their diet becomes fresher and more diverse (right now they're mostly eating grain and hay). The eggs we sold at market last year in late April and May got rave reviews, and I agree that the current ones are relatively mild. The textures are noticeably different when scrambled, as goose froths up and becomes airier than chicken.
Dried soup beans
Farm mixed heirloom: 1.57
Store organic pintos: 3.14
This one was obvious, and backed up what market customers told us in the fall and through the winter. Our heirloom beans taste way better than standard beans. We have to charge a lot to make them economically practical, but they are definitely a culinary treat.
Fresh-ground farm corn: 2.14
Bob's Red Mill cornmeal: 1.57
This one REALLY surprised us, partly because the night before as we cooked up the polenta, we found the Bob's taste to be strongly bitter (rancid) to the point of spitting it out. We were sure it would be blown away in the test. Yet after sitting overnight, and a quick shot under the broiler, they were fairly similar in taste with only a hint of bitterness in the Bob's. Also, we found the texture of our meal to be far smoother, with the Bob's being far clumpier, and expected that to count against it. Someone suggested that, ironically, the clumpy texture of Bob's and the ultra-smooth texture of ours had led people to subtly assume the farm meal was the clumpy one and rate it higher. Who knows. In this case we clearly lost, but after tasting (and smelling) the just-cooked Bob's cornmeal the night before, I'm so glad we grow our own. I'm not sure what chemical changes the broiling made, but we'll stick to ours. Given the already rancid early flavor, it's not comforting that the "Sell by" date on Bob's is July 2011.
Basic tomato sauce
Home-canned Sunny Acres tomatoes: 1.57
Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes: 1.86
This was closer than we thought it would be. Like the polenta, we made the sauce the night before, and on early tastings the Muir Glen version was nasty, with a strong canned/chemical/salt flavor. But again, after a night of sitting with the other basic ingredients of our garlic and dried basil, the two sauces ended up being pretty close in flavor. Maybe cooking mellows the flavor of some of the preservatives, though several tasters did identify the distinct canned flavor. Once again, like the polenta, even where these are a draw we're thrilled to be using fresh ingredients because the quality of the purchased stuff out of the bag/can is really different. And it's worth noting that the local tomatoes were grown in 2009, a very wet, cool summer that tended to make tomatoes blander and more watery than usual, so we had a tough-weather-condition local ingredient going up against one of the highest-end canned version.
Goat vs. Venison, red-wine marinated
Clear win for goat, mostly based on texture. Most people didn't see much difference in flavor, but the venison was tougher while the goat was tender and flaky. This was all the more impressive since I couldn't match the cuts exactly from what we had left in the freezer, and used venison backstrap and goat "ham". So even with a higher-quality cut of venison, it still lost badly. Of course, we were still comparing a young, milk-fed kid with a mature wild deer, but I wasn't expecting that spread.
Store frozen: 2.83
This was a bit unfair, as we used frozen Fin de Bagnol beans, our top-quality filet beans, as against a standard frozen organic bean. The appearance difference was quite obvious, and may have influenced the results. Still, folks were pretty clear on this.
Goat vs. Venison, fresh-ground burgers
Again a clear win for goat, with similar comments on a superior texture for goat though the flavor wasn't much different. Clearly we need to raise more meat goats and figure out how to have the meat legally and economically butchered. Goat is certainly underrated in the US, especially young, milk-fed kid like this one was.
Sweet potatoes (roasted fries)
A narrow win for the store (conventional from Hy-Vee). I really couldn't tell the difference, and most folks felt it was subtle. Ours probably haven't been stored at ideal conditions, and depending on where Hy-Vee got theirs, they might have been fresher, though they looked very beat-up surficially. But the good news is, we don't grow sweet potatoes for sale, just for us, and if we can match the quality available elsewhere in a far cleaner and known form, we're happy with that in our pantry.
Farm dehydrator-dried: 1.57
Store sun-dried: 2.71
This was pretty clear. Ours were sweeter with a better texture, while the storebought ones were darker and tougher with an odder flavor. We're not allowed to make and sell these without a certified kitchen, but customers can certainly make their own to get a better quality than store-bought.
Farm-dried whole blossoms:
Storebought tea bags:
We were all a bit punchy by the end, possibly from the effects of the wine, beer, and hard cider tastings brought by guests, so data didn't get recorded for the tea. However, the discussion made it clear that everyone though the farm tea was far more flavorful and good. So we need to find out whether we can legally dry blossoms for sale, and whether we can set a rational price.
Overall, having done our best to buy the highest-quality equivalents, prepare everything simultaneously/equally, serve them blind in random order, and get reasonably accurate ratings, we're happy with how this turned out. The corn/polenta was the biggest surprise, but given the large number of customers who have told us how much they like our cornmeal overall, and our experiences with the raw/early cooked store stuff, we're probably not going to worry too much about that test. Fascinating that goat was far more popular than venison, but at least it's theoretically possible for us to legally sell goat.
Overall, our farm products held their own or beat the best store-available alternative, in March when they've all been frozen or stored for many months, and with far more known growing, handling, and harvest methods with far fewer food miles on them. If we can match the stores even in winter, I know what we can do in summer (and what customers can do with our products).
I think Scott Rowson asked the best question: "So the results seem to show that the best-scoring items are the ones you can't sell, like cheese. How do you feel about that?". Well, I feel pretty annoyed. If the cheese we make in our home can outrank some very high-end commercially available cheddars, what justification is there for keeping it illegal? I'd happily submit every round to a health department swab test to prove it's "clean", whatever that means, and I think everyone at this meal would happily have paid for some. Good thing we have food safety laws to protect us from ourselves.
Grousing aside, it was a great day, with great people, just a really nice fun atmosphere. Thanks to everyone who took a big chunk out of their day to join us.
Friday, March 12, 2010
As scientists, we've always been interested in using experiments to get evidence for claims. This is certainly relevant to direct-market farming, as one of our justifications for this business is the higher-quality food we produce. It's pretty easy to demonstrate that in-season, local, fresh product is better than the shipped-in equivalent, but what about when it's preserved and used out of season? And what about products we can't sell but want the right to, like our cheese? With this in mind, and with the kick in the pants from a fascinating recent article in The Atlantic, we set up this tasting luncheon on Sunday with the following menu:
Chert Hollow Farm
Tasting Meal Menu
Comparing quality of frozen edamame: Store-bought organic shelled or unshelled, and farm-frozen shelled or unshelled.
Comparing fresh-ground farm cornmeal with Bob’s Red Mill cornmeal. Served both plain and with homemade tomato sauce.
Comparing basic boiled eggs, both farm-fresh and Organic Valley.
Comparing flavor of each source in basic omelets with farm-dried tomatoes and Goatsbeard cheese.
Venison & Goat meat
Two comparisons of these meats, raised/hunted and butchered on-farm: slow-cooked medallions in a red wine marinade, and ground as mini-burgers on farm-baked bread.
Tasting four sources of cheddar:
- Ireland (via. World Harvest)
- Morningland Dairy (MO)
- Cabot Creamery (VT)
- Chert Hollow Farm (MO)
Tastings of store-bought okra pickles, farm-made okra pickles, and farm-made green bean pickles.
Comparing frozen organic green beans with frozen heirloom farm beans, topped with homemade Hollandaise sauce.
Comparing store-bought organic pinto beans with farm-raised mixed heirloom dried beans.
Roasted sweet potato fries, using store-bought vs. farm-stored.
Store-bought organic sun-dried tomatoes compared with farm-grown dehydrator-dried tomatoes; served as main topping on baked flatbreads.
Store-bought organic chamomile vs. farm-grown and dried chamomile.
We're absolutely fascinated to see how this turns out. It will be a blind test, with each course labelled only by letters and guests given scorecards to record ratings and other notes. I have my expectations on how various items will be scored, but the whole point is that I'm hardly an unbiased source. We can't wait to have reasonably fair raw data to look at, and report.
All the results will be live on the blog next week. Where our products rank higher, great. Where they're indistinguishable, that's good to know and customers can still feel better supporting a local farm. Where they rate lower, we need to work on improvement and/or alter our price & marketing claims.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Polenta & bread
Fresh-ground dent corn cooked into polenta squares, topped with homemade ragu of tomatoes, dried basil, and ground goat meat. Side of fresh-baked bread with olive oil for dipping.
Leberkase sandwich & German preserves
I'm no food photographer, usually remember to grab the camera when things are already served and rapidly chilling. Still, we like to document meals, and the fact that so many interesting things can be made with our farm's products and a few basic low-ingredient kitchen staples.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
However, one of the core frustrations we have with government, particularly at the Federal level, is the extent to which different agencies and chambers of government move in different or opposite directions so as to render the resulting policies nearly incoherent. This is thoroughly present in agriculture & food policy. For example, you have some branches of government promoting healthy living, proper food pyramids, and so on, while other branches actively subsidize the production of food-like substances which subvert the very meaning of the former branches' attempts. For a neat mental trick, compare our Federal subsidies of various food products/ingredients to the daily recommended servings in the official Federal food pyramid. It's a nicely inverse relationship.
It's very difficult to write about this coherently, at least for someone like me who is prone to rambling. So I was thrilled to make my usual rounds of favorite online comics one day and find this gem from one of my top cartoons, Non Sequitur:
Thousand words and all that. Whether we want people to cross or not, we'd be better off with a government system that was capable of choosing one or the other, and pursuing that goal with a coherent and coordinated set of policies. This would also be far more practical in budgetary terms; as it is, we have multiple departments and programs spending money to counteract each others' efforts. I see this all over the place in ag policy, and am sure it's true elsewhere as well.
I don't know how to fix it, or whether it can be, but the problem sure seems evident.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Wyoming House Bill 54, now under consideration:
The purpose of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act is to allow for traditional community social events involving the sale and consumption of home made foods and to encourage the expansion and accessibility of farmers' markets, roadside stands, ranch, farm and home based sales and producer to end consumer agricultural sales...
(b) Any producer or processor who is selling his product only at farmers' markets, roadside stands or by ranch, farm and home based sales
directly to the end consumer is exempt from licensing required by
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, there shall be no licensure, certification or inspection by any state governmental agency or any agency of any political subdivision of the state provided there is only one (1)transaction between the producer, the processor, the producer's agent or the processor's agent and the end consumer when the food is for home consumption or the food is prepared for a traditional community social event.
Predictably, this has generated some rather hysterical backlashes, such as this sarcastic column from Bill Marler, an "foodborne illness attorney". I fully understand any given person's aversion to purchasing "uninspected" food (though I suggest they learn a little more about the existing inspection system). What I don't understand is why they think others should be banned from the same decision. If my neighbors choose to buy goat meat from us, that transaction affects no one but us, and if something goes wrong, they'll know where to turn. Such a law would not put uninspected food on grocery store shelves, it would only open up direct transactions between producer and consumer. Even the dubious argument that this might increase foodborne illness cases that would cost the health care system money doesn't hold up in context; if that's a true concern we'd be far better off banning fast food and sodas, which is just silly.
People like Marler might also reflect on the fact that it's been USDA policy for years to allow farmers to butcher poultry on-farm with no inspection, if the sales are made direct to consumer. Somehow the massive waves of sick consumers from dirty small farms hasn't managed to break through the biased media's accounts of widespread food illness in the corporate food world.
So good for Wyoming so far, though the bill is far from law. Apparently it's been introduced for several years, but this is the farthest it's gotten. I'd love to see a state adopt this as a test case, allowing willing customers to be their own guinea pigs in a unique test of freedom, and see whether the sky really does start falling.
Monday, March 1, 2010
From the end of January to the beginning of February, about 3.5 tons of cowpea from Hainan Province was found tainted with Isocarbophos, a highly poisonous pesticide, in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province. Soon other provinces, too, reported consignments of toxic cowpeas from Hainan.Actually, Wuhan has been slow on reporting this to the press. Wuhan has found and destroyed a large amount of tainted cowpeas from January 25 to February 5. Wuhan told Hainan to test their cowpeas on February 6 and, from that day, placed a three-month ban on cowpeas from Hainan. But until February 22 Wuhan did not notify the press what it had found and done.
Mark Tijssen, a major in the Canadian Forces, is to appear in court next month to face charges of running an unlicensed slaughterhouse, failing to have an animal inspected both before and after slaughter, and distributing meat. If found guilty, Tijssen could face up to $100,000 in fines. The charges arose after a friend of Tijssen's left his property on Nov. 11, 2009 with about 18 kilograms of pork. The two had jointly bought a pig and slaughtered it.
A group of people who jointly buy or raise an animal, slaughter it together on their own property, and take it home are now criminals? Words fail me. Hunters certainly ought to watch the precedent being set here very closely. Yes, this is Canada, but the US is rapidly moving in this direction with our food safety laws. Will last fall's goat roast party become a criminal offense?