In Food at Least, Progressives Winning Out

April 8, 2017


And maybe that’s the most profound change of all…

New York Times:

Consider granola: The word used to be a derogatory term. Now it’s a supermarket category worth nearly $2 billion a year. Kombucha was something your art teacher might have made in her basement. The company GT’s Kombucha brews more than a million bottles annually and sells many of them at Walmart and Safeway. And almond milk? You can add it to your drink at 15,000 Starbucks locations for 60 cents.

Just as yoga and meditation have gone mainstream (and let’s not get started on designer Birkenstocks), so have ideas and products surrounding health, wellness and eating that play like a flashback to the early 1970s.

Co-op staples of that time — the miso, tahini, dates, seeds, turmeric and ginger that were absorbed from other cultures and populated the Moosewood restaurant cookbooks — now make appearances at some of the most innovative restaurants in the country, where menus are built around vegetables and heritage grains. Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise; and kale, the bacon of the clean-eating moment, is now routinely heaped on salad plates across the land.

The hippies may not have won the election, but they are winning the plate. (Or rather, the bowl.)

“The counterculture is always ahead of what’s happening in mainstream culture,” said Peter Meehan, the editorial director of Lucky Peach magazine. “It’s as true in any creative field as it is in food.”

He also cited recent scientific findings on the microbiome and the notion that health may be affected by bacteria and other microbes living in your intestinal tract, which are in turn influenced by what you eat. “People are recognizing that this important biodiversity inside of us has been diminished and are seeking strategies to restore it for immune function, digestion, mental health and everything else,” he said. “So people are seeking out bacteria-rich foods.”

In fact, a kombucha- and tempeh-making business just opened near Mr. Katz’s home in Cannon County, Tenn., population 16,000. “It’s not just happening in New York, San Francisco and Portland,” he said.

Inside Climate News:

The carbon footprint of the average American’s diet has shrunk by about 9 percent, largely because people are eating less beef, according to a new report.

Changes in the American diet—lower consumption of not only beef, but orange juice, pork, whole milk and chicken—meant that the average American’s diet-related greenhouse gas emissions dropped from 1,932 kilograms in 2005 to 1,762 in 2014.

The analysis “just shows that small changes in our diets have impacts,” said Sujatha Bergen, a food specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “There’s a very concrete association between reduced red meat consumption and reduced emissions.”

The biggest contributor to the reduction was a decline in beef consumption of about 19 percent over the course of the decade, adding up to a cumulative reduction of 185 million tons of climate change pollution. Total emissions cuts from dietary changes were 271 million tons. During that time, overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions averaged more than 6 billion tons a year.

Despite the improvement, the dietary changes pale by comparison to overall American emissions from a wealthy lifestyle. The average American has a carbon footprint of about 16 tons and the average U.S. car accounts for roughly 5 tons of emissions per year. China is the world leader in total carbon pollution, but the average Chinese citizen is responsible for less than half the contribution of the average American.

Americans eat more beef per capita than any other country except Argentina and Uruguay, and beef still contributed more than a third of the United States’ diet-related climate emissions — about 34 percent in 2014.

Business Insider:

But in recent years Kroger has ramped up its supply of organic foods in a bid to steal market share from Whole Foods and other niche grocers such as Sprouts Farmers Market and Fresh Market.

Kroger now devotes several aisles in its stores to organic and natural foods and offers a variety of organic meat and fresh produce. The chain has its own line of organic goods under the “Simple Truth” brand, and it’s prices are about 15% cheaper than Whole Foods’ prices, according to a study last year.

The expansion into organics has paid off.

Kroger’s sales of organic and natural food totalled $16 billion in the past year, compared to $15.8 billion at Whole Foods, according to Barclays.

Common Dreams:

A man who applies pesticides to Iowa fields for $14 hour might not seem a likely organic enthusiast. But when I met Jim Dreyer last fall, and he mentioned the backyard patch he and his wife had planted with vegetables in the spring, he told me he didn’t use any pesticides. When I asked him why, Dreyer surprised me: “I don’t want to eat that shit,” he said. When I went grocery shopping with his wife, Christina, she surprised me, too, by picking out a bag of organic grapes even though she was paying with Snap – food stamps – for exactly the same reason.

I thought about Jim and Christina last week, and my surprise at their organic habits, after Walmart announced it will be adding 100 new organic products to its shelves this month. For as long as I can remember, “organic” has been synonymous with affluence and conscious consumption. Partly, that’s because organic foods are typically 30% more expensive than conventional items. But part of it is our assumption about who exactly buys organic and why. Typically, it hasn’t been families like the Dreyers, who are raising three kids on Jim’s $14 an hour and can’t really afford it. So we tend to think that people who buy organic food are part of a select group: urban, well-meaning, affluent, educated “foodies”.

This is a pernicious myth. In reality, the poor actually consider organic food more important than the rich, according to top researchers – and organic isn’t a “select” phenomenon at all. Three-quarters of American shoppers buy organic food at least occasionally and more than a third do so monthly, according to industry analysis by the Hartman Group. When researchers asked why shoppers didn’t buy organic more often, two-thirds said it was because of the higher price.



20 Responses to “In Food at Least, Progressives Winning Out”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Sorry – but I don’t believe a word of this crap about diet reductions, beef and GHG reductions. The referenced article itself talks about problems with the math with the statistics used.

    And let’s be frank – can we trust ANY stats on beef and GHG’s? Almost everything I have seen on the topic is highly questionable if not highly processed bologna. From the reference article, we get this beaut:

    ” beef still contributed more than a third of the United States’ diet-related climate emissions — about 34 percent in 2014.”

    The entire meat industry is something like a third of total agriculture GHG emissions. Which means, folks, that vegetable farms are the big problem. Two thirds of our food GHG emissions comes from vegetables!

    You really want to do something about AGW? Stop eating kale. Or wheat. Or tofu. I’m kidding – because even the bogus exaggerated stats vomited out by this article about supposed GHG emissions savings are *miniscule*.

    If you REALLY want to do something about AGW – stop thinking about food and start thinking about fossil fuels and how we can most quickly make them obsolete. Remember fossil fuels? They are the problem. Not cows – who spend almost all their lives eating grass – grass that does not require a thimbleful of gasoline to grow.

    And we can’t make fossil fuels obsolete until we build the RE tech to replace them.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Personal change by the people who care enough to make it can’t possibly do enough to save us. It’s important, yes, and isn’t completely separate, but runs a distant second to the political changes we need to make.

      Although of course we need to do everything we can to reduce GHGs everywhere, that 2/3 of agricultural emissions caused by growing plant foods provides the vast majority of food for the people who need it. Meat eaten mostly by the rich causes a disproportionate amount of CO2e, and pasture causes even more than grain-fed beef because of the methane emitted through longer lives, while it often takes up good land and other resources that could be providing many more people with food they need if it were growing plant foods for people.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        ” Meat eaten mostly by the rich”


      • “pasture causes even more than grain-fed beef because of the methane emitted through longer lives” have a reference for that? Pasture fed beef is low tech, doesn’t have the mechanised aspect of the cultivation of annual grain crops and subsequent damage to soils, release of soil stored carbon, or the natural gas component of nitrogen fertilisers applied liberally to broad acre crops. Pasture is a carbon sink. I don’t know the land types used for farming beef in the US, but in NZ they largely aren’t suited to arable farming.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          “pasture causes even more than grain-fed beef because of the methane emitted through longer lives” “

          Ummmm…… what?

          Because ALL beef is pasture-fed. Some beef is also grain-finished.

          “[pasture]often takes up good land and other resources that could be providing many more people with food they need if it were growing plant foods for people.”

          Good grief. The world does not have a food production shortage problem. We have a food distribution problem. Pasture is not taking up badly needed space which needs to be used for the vegetable agriculture you blithely accept as completely justified, as you simultaneously spout misinformation about evil beef – the foodstuff of the 1%.

          Thank you for illustrating for us all just how absurd and even self-contradictory are the arguments against beef.

          Waiting on the edge of my seat for first mention here of the hideous environmental poison known to anti-beefers as “animal waste”, which is known by the rest of the world as organic manure.

          • Yep, when the natural gas and Phosphate run low, manure will be the new gold.

          • funslinger62 Says:

            Having a hard time cutting back on meat consumption, Gingerbaker? Is that why you downplay the problem meat consumption is causing?

            Animal agriculture is just as much a problem as the transportation sector. Now I know why you so detest a carbon tax. You don’t want to pay more for your precious meat.

            You are in favor of solutions that you agree with and that cause you no strong discomfort, but f-ck the other solutions. You are the biggest hypocrite I’ve met in a long while.

    • lesliegraham1 Says:

      “cows… spend almost all their lives eating grass…”

      Actually, in the US at least, they spend almost all of their lives in a pen with a couple of hundred other cows – eating dried alfalfa, concentrates and hormones.
      All of which requires a lot of fossil fuel to produce and ship around – as does beef.

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    I suspect eating less beef is not mainly because people are more thoughtful or more concerned with health or ecology or any such thing (though that would make people eat less beef and more organic food) but because the middle class is disappearing as we split into a smaller and smaller foamy layer of increasingly rich people on top of the huge wave increasingly poor people. People can’t afford to eat as much meat.

    And while the diversification of food is good, and the turn to organic food is crucial for any number of reasons, it seems a lot of that’s happening because capitalism co-opts everything, adopts any trends without regard for their usefulness to society and sells to whoever will buy it because it’s trendy. Cultural badges, traditional food or clothing, cheaper foods or more industrial ways of producing them… it’s all the same to capitalism. Whatever can be objectified, commodified and be made profitable is useful to capitalism’s prime directive–to turn all living beings into dead trash. Turning rainforest into palm oil monoculture and soy feed monoculture (decreasing actual ecological diversity)… to expose people on the coasts to more flavorful ways of eating lower meat diets is a temporary stop on the way to more homogenization, more industrialization, more blandness and more profit, and if it’s less healthy for people and planet, capitalism doesn’t care and will try its hardest to make everyone not care through the psychologically sophisticated manipulations of advertising.

    As people, local and state governments and the social good aspects of federal government become poorer, advertising replaces education and the changes become statements not of self-expression but of automatonic compulsion as directed from above. We’ll solve this crisis largely to the extent that we can stop buying that.

    • funslinger62 Says:

      If we want capitalism to do the right thing then we must make the wrong things more expensive. Bring on a carbon tax that is appropriately high enough and the problem is solved.

  3. When is “growthism” going to be seen as an issue? 9% decrease in diet related emissions per capita between 2005 and 2009 oddly matches the 9% growth in US population from 295.5million in 2005, to 323.4million in 2017.

  4. Tom Bates Says:

    All the organic movement proves is if enough people are mentally ill and enough lies are told you can get rich selling anything even if the thing sold is simply hot air.

  5. Gingerbaker Says:

    What is going to happen to the smug moralistic crooning of people about the carbon footprint of evil beef as the transportation sector becomes electrified and all food production and transport no longer has much of carbon footprint?

    Will we still be subjected to breathless exhortations to train ourselves to enjoy eating insects? Will having a hamburger no longer be looked upon as equivalent to biting the head off a kitten in the public square?

    Or will nothing change? Because this Crusade has never been about solid facts and good thinking, but is yet another demonstration of the desperate need of conflicted people to feel superior to others.

    • webej Says:

      I’m convinced eating insects may be in our future. As I understand it, our ancestors and our intestines are ideally suited for way more insect protein and nuts than grain agriculture has brought.

      I have thought ever since I was a teen-ager that if they could, they would grow meat in cultures on the meat packing floor, dispensing with the animal altogether.

    • funslinger62 Says:

      The only one denying the facts about the severe costs to the environment caused by the animal agriculture sector is you.

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