Tag: big agra

The Many Faces of Aquaculture: An Introduction to Fish Farming

Is there a sight more idyllic, peaceful, and touching than that of a fish farmer tending to his flock? In case you aren’t aware of how fish farming works, here’s a sample day in the life of a fish farmer:

Just before dawn each day, he rises from his water bed, dons his denim board shorts, enjoys a mugful of the fermented fish liver brew he keeps stewing in a bucket beside the front door, leaves his rickety old farmhouse boat, and sets out for a day’s labor. Wherever his paddleboat passes, carp, salmon, tilapia, phytoplankton, algae, and shrimp cease predating each other and crest to greet him. The fish farmer knows each by name and has a wink, chin scratch, and fish flake for every little shy fry cowering behind its mother. At slaughtering time, the old farmer sheds a single, solitary tear – every single time, whether it’s the ornery old catfish with greying whiskers or the months-old tiger prawn just hitting his prime (which, unfortunately for the prawn, is when flavor and texture are at their peak). It’s a simple life, but, all-in-all, an honorable one steeped in tradition, stewardship, and respect for the natural flow of aquatic life.

Okay, okay… how does fish farming really work? Well, it encompasses more than just fish, for one. A more accurate term to use is actually aquaculture, which includes multiple varieties of fish farms, shrimp (and other crustacean) farms, shellfish (oyster, clam, mussel, abalone, etc) farms, and sea ranches (this is the coolest). Let’s dig in.

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Small, and Not So Small, Farms You Can Trust

Shortly after writing the cold cuts post, in which I gave Applegate Farms some praise for being “one of the good ones,” I received an email from a perceptive reader who had a slightly different appraisal of the situation. Applegate Farms, it turns out, doesn’t raise any animals themselves. There’s no farm to visit. They source all their animals from outside farms. Now, there’s nothing wrong with sourcing meat from outside sources, especially when you make a concerted effort to procure good meat from well-raised animals, but I’ll admit that this does change things a bit for me. My idea of the ideal meat producer, however romantic, outdated, or unrealistic it might be, is one that handles every single aspect of the business in house: from raising the animals to feeding them feed grown on site, to tending their pastures, to slaughtering them (or, as the law requires, having them slaughtered at a USDA-inspected “harvesting site”), all the way to curing, slicing, and distributing the meat and related products. I like shaking the hand that castrated the calf, scratched the pig’s snout, and collected the egg, as the other slides me a vacuum-sealed package of short ribs at the Saturday morning farmers’ market.

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What is the Cost of Eating Healthy Foods?

A couple years back I highlighted a Time Magazine photo essay called “What the World Eats.” It was a fascinating visual comparison of what – and how much – representative families across the globe consumed in a given week. (Several obliging MDA readers later shared photos of their own rations.) Revealing on yet another level, the Time feature included the cost of each international family’s provisions. Expenses varied radically as you can imagine with weekly expenditures ranging from $1.23 in Chad to more than $500 in Germany. The three American families, incidentally, reported spending $159 (California), $242 (Texas), and $342 (North Carolina) each. With the talk about rising food prices looming in the headlines again, I found myself thinking about Primal food costs. Is anyone seeing the jump yet? Are Primal folks more or less affected by these periodic fluctuations? Do we, as a Primal group, really spend more than the average American on our food?

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Will Eating Whole Grains Help You Live Longer?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Friday Success Story to bring you a timely and critical look at this week’s Hottest Health Headline. And who better to tackle the research in question than expert study-dismantler Denise Minger? You may remember Denise from the recent article she wrote for MDA in which she went toe-to-toe with a study linking a high fat diet with breast cancer. Today she takes on our nemesis, our foe, our mortal enemy – the Whole Grain. And now, Denise…

A headline-grabbing study just hit the press, and on the surface, it looks like a home run for team Healthy Whole Grain. This chunk of research – officially titled “Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study” – followed a pool of over half a million adults and found that, across the board, the folks eating the most fiber had lower rates of death from almost every disease. But here’s the kicker: The only fiber that seemed to boost health was the kind from grains. Not veggie fiber. Not fruit fiber. Just grains, grains, grains.

Suspicious, eh?

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Dear Mark: Are Hybrid Fruits and Vegetables Healthy?

Dear Mark,

I was wanting to know if there is any danger in eating hybrid foods. I recently tried broccolini and then discovered that it was a hybrid between broccoli and Chinese kale. Is this dangerous to eat? Is it similar to GM? I would greatly appreciate your input on this before I start eating more of it.

Thanks, Angelina

Thanks, Angelina, for the question. It’s a good one, because even when we don’t explicitly seek out the obvious hybrids (broccolini, pluots, apriums, etc.), we’re still exposed to them. In case you didn’t know, hybrid fruits and vegetables are created by cross-pollinating two closely related species of the same genus or two cultivars or varieties within the same species. Though we’re talking about the artificial, man-enabled variety in today’s question, this phenomenon happens quite frequently in nature. Random hybridization is essentially how new species of plants arise – stretched out over time. Artificial hybridization operates on the same principle as natural hybridization, only with authorial intent.

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GMOs: Safe for Consumption?

We’ve examined the arguments for and against GMOs in the past. Indeed, there are reasonable and valid points to be made on both sides of the issue. Nonetheless, we concluded that there are just too many red flags to support the industry’s direction in GM technology. Not only do GMOs drive the use of naturally occurring and regionally suited seed varieties into the ground, they lock farmers (including those in developing countries) into a legal deal with the devil – one that often comes back to haunt them. Their rampant subsidization further encourages farmers to raise the same garbage grains and other “staple” crops that undermine our public health. And then there are the nagging, unsettling questions about our physiological response to these organisms. What happens exactly when you eat plants grown from seeds that are synthesized with everything from bacteria to fish to herbicides? What happens when you eat the animals that ate these crops? How much do we really know about these GM crops? With that in mind, a good reader sent this recently published study my way. See what you think.

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Is Organic All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Several months back, a major study comparing the nutritional value of organic food to conventional food made the rounds. Organic food, it found, was “no healthier” than ordinary food. There were no significant “differences in nutrient content,” and the study’s authors found “no evidence to support the selection of organic over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.” Hmm, so there were “differences,” but they were “unlikely to be of any public health relevance.” Okay – even if I accept that the differences were unimportant, there was a major, glaring qualifier: “nutritional superiority.” Going organic, then, doesn’t suddenly change the essential composition of a plant. A grape remains a grape (small differences aside), whether you use artificial pesticides or “natural” pesticides. I buy that, and I don’t think many people who support organic are arguing that industrial organic farms produce purer, more “appley” apples than conventional farms. They’re simply wary of ingesting the artificial chemical cocktails applied to conventional crops.

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The Dirty on Dirty Cow Poop: E. Coli

E. coli, that plucky little strain of intestinal bacteria, has popped up in the news again. You’re probably pretty familiar with its recent appearances (Taco Bell, packaged spinach, alfalfa sprouts, and most famously ground beef – all pretty Primal foods, except for, well, one of ‘em). You may even be alarmed at its apparent ubiquity in our food supply. This time, though, you have no reason to fear it – it was traced back to a Danville, VA Nestle plant pumping out infected cookie dough – unless you’re having one of those hazy 80/20 days where it’s more like 20/80 and you wake up covered in wrappers with that weird chemical film in your mouth that can only come from processed junk. If that’s the case, you might want to exercise caution.

So what is E. coli, exactly?

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The Problems with Conventionally Raised Beef

As mentioned in our Red Scare commentary a few weeks ago, beef gets a seriously bad rap these days. “Saturated fat!” the status quo shrieks, running in all directions, hair on fire, arms flailing, gnashing their teeth. Let’s set the record straight here. You know our decidedly pro-fat leanings. No need to go any further there. But what else is there to like about beef? To its credit, beef offers among the biggest boost of protein per ounce of any traditional food. (Yes, insects and other underappreciated delicacies in some cases offer more. We’ll let our good readers fill in the options here.) To boot, beef is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, phosphorus, selenium, as well as iron, potassium, and riboflavin. In its best form (and we’ll get to that), it also serves as a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (more on this in a minute) and omega-3 fatty acids. (See why we were so compelled to defend red meat’s honor?)

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The Truth on Truvia

For better or for worse, we’re hell bent on finding or concocting the “perfect” non-caloric sweetener in this country. Call it the spirit of creative innovation – or capitalist enterprise. Call it incessant perpetuation of Americans’ bad eating habits. Call it a pragmatic step toward at least a more healthful alternative for what people will eat regardless.

First it was the pink packets, then the blue, then the yellow, and now the pleasantly, nature-inspired white and green foliage-designed envelopes. Truvia is a lucrative marketing merger of the “true,” (the essence?, the genuine?, the handy emotional affirmation?) with the herb stevia and all its natural (or novel) associations, depending on your familiarity with the natural foods (er, dietary supplement) arena.

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