Turkeys Fed Beer for Flavor, Size

Holly Ramer

Henniker, NH—When it comes to pairing beer with poultry, Joe Morette isn’t too fussy.  His turkeys will drink just about anything.  Morette has been giving his birds beer since 1993, when he and his workers popped open a few cans after work on a hot July day and a turkey knocked one over and started drinking, he said, and they’ve been sipping the suds ever since.  Morette insists the beer makes the birds fatter, more flavorful and juicier.  He also said that the gravy is much darker and the bird overall has a slightly different taste that is very appealing.  The animal rights group PETA said turkeys shouldn’t be fed beer, but a poultry expert with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension said it is unlikely the birds are suffering.  Kathy Brock, national director of Humane Heartland, which oversees the treatment of farm animals said, “I consulted with an avian veterinarian who said that while giving beer to turkeys is not a standard protocol, hops could be beneficial for the intestinal tract.”  Morette’s turkeys are not the first animals to consume alcohol.  Japanese farmers have been said to feed cattle beer to stimulate their appetites.  And a winemaker and farmer in the south of France have experimented with feeding cows the remainders of pressed grapes to produce meat they’ve dubbed “Vinbovin.”


Trimming the Fat

Alexandra Sifferlin

“Time” Magazine, November 25, 2013

FDA to Ban Trans Fat

Mary Clare Jaloick

F.D.A. Ruling Would All but Eliminate Trans Fat

Sabrina Tavernise

Major FDA Breakthrough Regarding Trans Fat

Michael F. Jacobson

The CDC estimates that trans fats contribute to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 heart-disease-related deaths each year.  Those mounting stats prompted the FDA to declare that trans fats are no longer on the FDA list “generally recognized as safe”.   The agency isn’t yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take.  Different foods may have different timelines, depending how easy it is to substitute.   Once trans fats are off the list, anyone who wants to use them would have to petition the agency for a regulation allowing it.  That means companies would have to prove that such oils are safe to eat, a high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary.  The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level of consumption of them, a conclusion that the FDA cited in its reasoning.   Denmark was the first country to virtually eliminate trans fat from foods in 2003, said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which first petitioned the FDA to require the fats be listed on nutrition labels in 1994.  Austria, Iceland and Switzerland followed.


Can You Taste the Difference of No Trans Fat? Probably Not

J. M. Hirsch

5 Food That Still Have Trans Fats—But Won’t for Long

Huffington Post

The trans fat purge began when federal officials first took aim at the ingredient more than a decade ago, but hit critical mass when trans fat content was added to nutrition labels on packaged foods in 2006.  As consumer awareness grew, companies worked fast to reformulate products to reduce or eliminate trans fats, which are considered unsafe at any level.  You’d think we would have noticed.  Trans fats can play a significant role in a food’s texture, structure and taste.  Like butter—but more cheaply and with better shelf life—they put the flakiness in flakey piecrusts, and Americans baked with them in the form of Crisco (also now free of trans fats) for generations.  But there are lots of alternatives, and companies simply had to test their way through them until they found the right one for their products.  Food with traces of trans fats still lingering will have to rethink.  Here are a few of those culprits:

Some Margarine.  Certain margarine products still contain trans fat, and, in some cases, high amounts.  Land O Lakes sticks, for example, contain 3 grams of trans fat in just one tablespoon.  Soft margarine packaged in tubs is less likely to have trans fat.

Instant Soup.  Certain brands of instant noodles and soup cups contain trans fats.  The sneakiest part?  The nutrition facts clearly state 0 grams trans fat.  That’s because up to 0.5 grams of the stuff can be rounded down to zero.

Fast Food.  Fast food joints like trans fats because they can be re-used for frying, which saves money.  Watch out for anything deep-fried, like chicken tenders and French fries.  But even burgers aren’t safe:  Burger King’s Whopper, for example, contains 1.5 grams of the stuff.

Microwave Popcorn.  Some brands have cut trans fats out of your movie night, but others, like Pop Secret, still contain as many as 5 grams of trans fats per serving.

Ready-Made Frosting.  Hopefully, you’re not eating much of this treat anyway.  Just two tablespoons of one Pillsbury frosting contains 1.5 grams and one Betty Crocker variety has 2 grams.


4 Foods That Could Disappear If New Food Safety Rules Pass

Mother Jones

When President Obama signed into law an overhaul of the nation’s food safety regime in early 2011, it was clear that the system needed a kick in the pants.  The law, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), was a pretty modest piece of work when it came to reining in massive operations that can sicken thousands nationwide with a single day’s output.  No surprise since Big Food’s main lobbying group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, notes on its website that, “GMA worked closely with legislators to craft the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and will work closely with the FDA to develop rules and guidance to implement the provisions of this new law.”  To allay fears of one-size-fits-all regulations, Congress exempted most operations with sales of less than $500,000 from most of its requirements.  But the proof is in the rule making—the process by which federal agencies, In this case the FDA, translate Congressional legislation into enforceable law.  Congress intended its exemption to save small farms from overly burdensome regulation, but the question remains:  How would the FDA put it into action?  Finally, more than two years after Obama signed FSMA, the FDA’s rule-making process appears to be nearing an end.  Unfortunately, the proposed rules as currently written represent a significant and possibly devastating burden to small and midsize players.  If you’ll excuse the gimmick, here are four foods that could go missing if the FDA sticks to the current version of its food-safety rules:

The local, organic carrots in your kid’s school lunch program.  Many farm-to-school programs are facilitated by what the USDA calls food hubs—operations that gather produce from small farmers and sell it, usually to buyers like schools, restaurants, and retailers.  The new rules imperil food hubs in two ways.  The new law’s less-than-$500,000 exemption applies only to farms that sell more than half of their produce directly to consumers.  But a growing number of small farms earn a significant amount of their income selling to third-party local enterprises like food hubs and food co-ops.  If revenue from those sources exceeds half of total revenue, these farms would lose their exemption and become subject to costly requirements.  Then there’s the problem that the FDA’s proposed rules have not settled upon a definition of “very small business.”  If such a definition isn’t spelled out, operations like food hubs could be regulated well beyond their risk and with compliance costs too high for the to stay in business.

The kohlrabi in your farm-share box.  Because the current proposal doesn’t narrowly define “manufacturing facilities,” CSAs and other “direct farmer-to-consumer” farms that do light processing activities or include produce from another farm in their boxes will be subject to inappropriate, excessive regulations designed for industrial food facilities,” NSAC states.

The pickles peddled by your favorite hipster farmer.  Small value-added operations—like pickle and salsa makers—are also endangered by these hazy definitions.  NSAC reports that the proposed rules “treat pickles like a dangerous substance.

The local, organic spinach you’re hooked on.  Most organic farmers apply manure in November and plant their first cash crops in April, harvesting some of them, like salad greens, soon after.  That’s a five-to-six-month gap.  The FDA’s new rules would push the limit for all farms to nine months, making the fertility programs that drive organic farming essentially illegal, and also directly contradicting the FSMA itself, which had stipulated that the new safety rules should not conflict with the National Organic Program.  In a recent national survey by the Organic Trade Association and the Washington State Department of Agriculture, 55 percent of respondents said the manure rule would prevent them from maintaining their current crop rotations and crop diversity, and another 45 percent said it would have a “moderate” effect on crop rotation and diversity.

The nation deserves a food safety regime that focuses on real threats while not imposing the same regulatory burden on, say, a CSA or a diversified vegetable farm as it does a giant peanut-paste factory.  The FDA accepted public comments on its proposed rules until November 15.  Stay tuned.


Unearthed: Where supporters and opponents agree on GMOs

Tamar Haspel

When it comes to genetically modified foods, you don’t have to look hard to find issues that supporters and opponents disagree on.  But does that mean they have to disagree about everything?  Although there’s scant common ground between those for and against, there must be ground worth exploring if we’re ever to make any progress.  The author uncovered three clear areas of near-universal accord and, taken together, they offer some clue as to how to narrow the divide in the public discussion.

GMOs have contributed to the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds and pesticide-resistant insects.  The two biggest uses for genetic modification have been to create crops that resist the herbicide glyphosate (used to control weeds) and crops that generate their own internal insecticide (Bt, widely used by both organic and conventional growers).  Both traits are popular with farmers, and the vast majority of corn, soy and cotton grown in the US has one or both of them.  Resistance happens with or without GMOs, and it’s all but inevitable for chemicals as popular and effective as glyphosate and Bt. Nevertheless, there’s broad agreement that the widespread adoption of the genetically modified crops in question has been part of the problem.

Most of the benefits of GMOs accrue to biotech firms and farmers, leaving little to balance consumers’ assessment of risks.  While there is some upside for consumers, like the availability of papayas that are resistant to the ringspot virus, most advantages accrue to food producers.  Farmers have seen some reduced labor costs and higher profits, and some farm workers’ exposure to pesticides has been reduced.  Claire Robinson, research director of Earth Open Source follows the money upstream:  “The benefits of GMOs accrue to a small but powerful group of seed/chemical companies and those who depend on their profits.”  That issue is an important contributor to what the biotech industry calls a lack of consumer confidence.

We need to evaluate GMOs on a case-by-case basis.  Genetic modification is a tool, and any tool can be deployed for good or ill.  There is potential for GMOs to be beneficial, but with caveats about safety, oversight and transparency.

All can agree is that it’s a good thing to pursue advances in agricultural technology.


As Coconut Demand Skyrockets, Why Has Production Struggled To Keep Up?

Huffington Post

With the rising popularity of coconut-based health and beauty products, the demand for coconuts has skyrocketed—and producers might not be able to keep up.  Apparently, aging trees in coconut-producing countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and India are simply past their prime.  Today’s coconut trees were planted more than 50 years ago, according to Hiroyuki Konoma, the regional representative for Asia and the Pacific at the FAO of the United Nations.  That puts them 20-plus years past their peak production time.  Production growth is 8 percent behind demand growth.  More than a dozen countries from Asia and the Pacific gathered in Bangkok in early November to discuss plans to rehabilitate the coconut industry.  With the right replanting initiatives the industry could recover within a few years.


Breadfruit: The Next Superfood To End World Hunger?

Carla Hererria

Move over kale, there’s a new superfood in town and it’s here to end world hunger.  Breadfruit is large with prickly skin and tastes like a baked potato or—you guessed it—bread when prepared.  It’s grown on tall trees in tropical areas like Hawaii, Samoa, and the Caribbean.  It’s high in energy from carbohydrates, low in fat and has more potassium than 10 bananas.  According to the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), more than 80% of the world’s hungry live in tropical or subtropical regions—the type of environment that is perfect for growing breadfruit trees.  These trees are very easy to maintain and can bear an abundance of fruit for decades.  The trees have already been introduced to Haiti with the help of the “Trees That Feed Foundation,” where the newly planted breadfruit trees are feeding at least 1,000 orphans every day.  Breadfruit, also known as ulu, has been feeding the Hawaiian and Polynesian islands for centuries.


Mom Learns The Hard Way that ‘Ritz Crackers Count As A Grain’

Rebecca Klein

In Manitoba, Canada, school lunches are no laughing matter.  Kristen Bartkiw received a $10 fine after reportedly failing to send her two young children to daycare with “balanced” lunches.  The mother told blog Weighty Matters that she provided her children with meat, potatoes, milk, carrots and oranges for lunch.  However the daycare center said that based on the Manitoba Government’s Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations, the children needed a grain in order to have a balanced meal.  The regulations require that each meal consist of one milk product, one meat, one grain and two fruits or vegetables.  Bartkiw said the daycare center sent her home with a “Lunch Box Supplement Note,” which explained that employees supplemented her children’s meals with a grain in the form of Ritz Crackers.  The center fined her $5 per child.


Cooking with a lesser-known grain: Millet

Casey Seidenberg

Whole grains have been a hot nutritional topic in the past few years.  Much airtime has been devoted to white or refined grains vs. the more nutritionally sound whole variety.  More and more people have even learned how to pronounce quinoa (KEEN-wah).  Although quinoa has asserted its position as the golden girl of whole grains, there is another grain that deserves a chance in the spotlight: millet.  Most Americans either haven’t heard of millet or associate it with birdseed.  Millet is gluten-free, non-acid-forming and non-allergenic, so it’s a fantastic option for people following a gluten-free diet or wrestling with digestive issues.  It also contains protein, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, and insoluble fiber (aiding in digestion and the absorption of nutrients).  Even more important, it tastes good, with a mildly sweet flavor similar to that of corn or grits.  It is also an incredibly versatile food.


Shrimp Parasite Causing Mass Die-Off In Georgia, South Carolina As Black Gill Disease Spreads

Harriet McLeod

The size of wild shrimp hauls off the southern Atlantic coast have plunged in recent months as a parasite has made it harder for the creatures to breathe, according to state wildlife officials in Georgia and South Carolina.  Experts said they believe black gill disease, caused by a tiny parasite, contributed to a die-off of white shrimp between August and October, typically the prime catch season.  The disease does not kill shrimp directly but hurts their endurance and makes them more vulnerable to predators.  In September South Carolina shrimpers hauled in less than six percent of their September 2012 catch.  The August take was down nearly 75 percent from August last year.  Georgia shrimpers have caught fewer than half the number they usually catch in August, September and October.  Reportedly the shrimp is safe to eat as log as it has not spoiled.  The parasite is only on its gills, which come off when the head is removed for human consumption.  According to officials, black gill disease tends to taper off as waters get colder in November.


Pasteurized Lobster Could Open New Markets

CBC News, Huffington Post

P.E.I. is a step closer to marketing lobster that will last up to a month after it is cooked, and that could make it much easier to sell outside of the province.  The Royal Star fish plant in Tignish is working on a process to pasteurize lobster, an idea originally invented in Ireland.  The Island has been working on its own process for years.  The normal shelf life of a whole cooked lobster is about 72 hours.  With the pasteurization process there is a 25-day shelf life.  A taste test of pasteurized lobster in Charlottetown in July 2012 did not go well, but a more recent taste test showed that people enjoyed the taste.  An official announcement is expected soon.


Black Widows Found On Grapes at Supermarkets in Several States

Sara Gates

First bananas, now grapes?  Is no fruit safe?  A Pennsylvania woman got quite a shock recently when she was washing some red grapes and saw a long spider leg creep over the top of one of the pieces of fruit and immediately dropped the colander into the sink.  A spider expert later confirmed what her initial internet search revealed—it was a young black widow crawling on the grapes.  Earlier, an Aldi shopper in Wauwatosa, WI, spotted, “legs moving frantically.”  She wrapped the container in a plastic bag and handed it off to an employee warning that she spotted a red marking on the spider’s abdomen.  As a precaution, Aldi opted to remove all grapes from stores in the Milwaukee area.  There was another incident in a bag of grapes purchased at a Kroger in Brighton, MI.  Black widow spiders often build their webs in grape vineyards.  Known for their red, hour-glass shaped insignia, black widow spiders are venomous and, without treatment, their bite can be fatal, especially in small children ad the elderly.


Eating nuts may make you live longer, Harvard study says

Food News Journal

According to a 30-year Harvard study, regular nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer or heart disease—in fact, were less likely to die of any cause.  Researchers tracked 119,000 men and women and found that those who ate nuts roughly every day were 20% less likely to die during the study period than those who never ate nuts.  The benefits were seen from peanuts as well as from pistachios, almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts.  The researchers did not look at how the nuts were prepared—oiled or salted, raw or roasted.  As a bonus—nut eaters stayed slimmer.  Observational studies like this one can’t prove cause and effect, only suggest a connection.  Research on diets is especially tough, because it can be difficult to single out the effects of any one food.  People who eat more nuts may eat them on salads, for example, and some of the benefit may come from the leafy greens.  The Harvard study did separate analyses on smokers and non-smokers, heavy and light exercisers, and people with and without diabetes, and saw a consistent benefit from nuts.  Many previous studies also tie nut consumption to lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and other maladies.


MSG, Seasoned For A Comeback

NPR Staff

Umami, that savory fifth taste—in addition to bitter, sour, sweet and salty—has become a sought-after flavor in the culinary scene.  Not quite so loved is the umami additive monosodium glutamate—MSG.  For decades it’s been vilified, maligned and, some say, misunderstood.  In 1908, a Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, who, according to legend, was sitting with a bowl of seaweed soup made by his wife.  He wondered why the soup tasted meaty when there was no meat in it.  He decided to go to his lab and try to isolate whatever gave his soup its meaty flavor.  He called the flavor umami, from umai, meaning delicious in Japanese.  Ikeda isolated the seaweed compound and evaporated it down to crystals.  He recognized the meaty taste when he put the crystalline form on his tongue.  The MSG he began producing in 1909 became popular in Asian cooking and other cuisines.  Then came 1968 and a Chinese-American doctor named Robert Ho Man Kwok, who wrote an article for The New England Journal of Medicine.  He reported symptoms he experienced after eating Chinese food—tightening of the skin, heart palpitations, feeling flushed–and attributed them in part to MSG.  MSG’s popularity plummeted, despite a lack of evidence of any substantial harmful effects.  According to Natasha Geiling, who has written a history of MSG for Smithsonian Magazine’s Food and Think blog, “the general scientific consensus seems to be that on an empty stomach, and in very large quantities, there is a small subset of the population that shows real sensitivity to MSG.”  Meanwhile umami—the meaty taste that MSG is designed to deliver—has seen a resurgence in the foodie community.  Many Chefs are using natural glutamates—which are not chemically different from the ones found in MSG—to enhance their food.  MSG may ride that wave back to respectability.


Introducing The World’s Greenest Wine Bottle (It’s Paper!)

Laura Neilson

Would you be more inclined to drink wine from a box if it had a bottle’s shape?  Quality aside, the most compelling reason to consider a non-glass approach to wine packaging might be the production and environmental benefits.  The bottles, composed from compressed recycled paper, are basically the same idea as wine in a box, with an interior sleeve that keeps the liquid from seeping through.  Wine purists may shrug off the idea, but it’s pretty hard to ignore the sustainable benefits of going with paper over glass.  Each bottle consumes only 15 percent of the energy required to produce your standard wine bottle.  What’s more, these empty paper bottles weigh in at only an ounce, translating to a drastically reduced carbon footprint when it comes to shipping.  The bottles, designed to hold up in watery ice buckets for up to three hours, also have better insulation properties.  Paperboy is expected to launch at Safeway grocers in early 2014.


Paleo: That’s not really what Cavemen ate

Dave Shaw, NZ Registered Dietician and Nutritionist

Paleo eating has become the diet de jure in many health circles.  It’s a meat heavy eating plan, essentially allowing you to chow down on as much bacon as you want.  But it’s based on a skewed understanding of what our caveman ancestors actually ate.

Cavemen didn’t eat meat everyday.  Cavemen would have only come across meat sporadically in the thrill of the hunt.  Cavemen were closer to being vegetarians, rather than omnivores.

Cavemen didn’t eat modern Paleolithic foods.  Cavemen didn’t eat bacon or sausages.  It would be more caveman-like to munch on some insects and rodents.

Cavemen ate everything available.  Paleo advocates seem to think our ancestors evolved to eat one type of diet and our bodies are designed to process only certain types of food.  The environment affected the availability of different foods, especially if you were living on the coast rather than inland.

Cavemen weren’t afraid of fruits.  Yet fruit has no place in the Paleo plan.  Fruit and berries were nature’s dessert, not poison.

Cavemen ate carbs.  The focus should be on the amount, timing and type, rather than a blanket ban.

Cavemen weren’t training for specific sports.  But some personal trainers and athletes advocate Paleo to boost performance.

Cavemen lived shorter lives.  So why try to eat like them?

Cavemen ate organic and free-range.  Modern primal eaters appear to be the opposite.  Factory farmed chickens, light deprived pigs and farmed salmon swimming in their own excrements is not organic or free-range.


Meat Mummies: How Ancient Egyptians Prepared Feasts for Afterlife

Christopher Joyce

A meat mummy is a section of animal prepared as if for eating, then bandaged and placed in a sarcophagus by ancient Egyptians.  Egyptian royalty, even after death, got hungry.  And royalty deserved something more than oats and tubers.  How do you prepare meat for a trip to eternity?  In ancient Egypt, human mummies were preserved with special ointments and treatments to make that journey, so maybe the same was done for the victuals.  Scientists in England and Egypt employed high-tech chemical detection equipment to see what kind of residues they could find on what remained of the meat mummies found in Egyptian tombs, but long ignored by Egyptologists.  The researchers found some meat mummies that were treated and dried with salt.  And then they discovered one meat mummy (beef ribs, sans jus) had apparently been rubbed with “balms” made of pistacia resin (think pistachio tree sap) as well as fat or oil.  In other cases, there were chemical residues of what appeared to be beeswax.  Might there be another Indiana Jones’ movie in the offing—Raiders of the Lost Meat Locker?



5 Futuristic Food Trends

Liz Neporent

If we are what we eat, it’s about to get very weird.  There is a revolution taking place that’s reshaping the idea of what makes it onto your plate and into your stomach.  Here are five food trends that will soon be bringing the future to a kitchen near you.

3D Printed Food.  In the not-too-distant future the “D” in 3D printing will stand for doughnuts, drumsticks and deviled eggs.  Several companies are already experimenting with printing foods like chocolate and pasta by mixing together a series of dry ingredients to use as a sort of edible ink.  Currently, most 3D food printers can only print out basic foods that require only one or two ingredients.  Experts are working towards printers that have the ability to print up exactly what the consumer craves.  3D printed edibles have the potential to revolutionize space travel.

In-Vitro Meat.  Earlier this year, Dutch scientists grew hamburger from the muscle tissue of a cow and invited journalists for a taste test.  Reviews were mixed but it’s early days for lab-grown meat.

Tomato, Potato.  What would you call a plant that grows tomatoes up top and potatoes down below?  The breeder of just such a plant, British seed catalog Thompson & Morgan, has settled on the name TomTato.  The multi-tasking plant is not genetically engineered in the modern sense of the word.  Instead it’s a hybrid made by grafting the two plants together.  The ketchup-and-fries potted plant will only be sold in the UK for now.

Molecular Gastronomy.  By cooking with a pinch of physics and a dash of chemistry, chefs can transform the tastes and textures of food.

Soylent.  Rob Rhinehart, CEO of Soylent, said that many people find food preparation boring and expensive.  His answer is a 33-ingredient, grayish-colored liquid supplement designed to provide all the essential nutrients.  And it can be customized for preferences, allergies and disease management.  Because it is classified as a supplement rather than food, it is not regulated by the FDA.  Production is relatively inexpensive and scalable, Rhinehart said Soylent has the potential to help solve the food crisis in the developing world.


Taste Simulator Lets You Try Virtual Food (Yes, Seriously)

Sara Gates

Ever see a photo of chocolate cake that looked so yummy you wanted to taste it right through your computer screen?  Believe it or not, that may soon be possible.  A team from the National University of Singapore says it has developed a “digital taste simulator,” called the Digital Taste Interface.  The device has silver electrodes that deliver current and heat to the tongue—tricking your taste buds into thinking they’ve just encountered something tasty.  According to the lead researcher, Nimesha Ranasinghe, thus far salty, sour and bitter sensations have been successfully generated.  Ranasinghe’s prototype requires users to hold the taste simulator to the tongue.  But future versions may be small enough to fit easily inside the mouth or on a stick, like a digital lollipop.


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