At the Fork: An Exploration

Hello all!  I know I've been awfully quiet over here.  For the last week and a half I've been up to my neck in the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, and I'm just now able to disengage from those very important events for long enough to get back into some vegan/AR work.

I did so by attending the Whole Foods-sponsored screening last night of At the Fork, a film by John Papola.  Per the website, "Filmmaker and omnivore John Papola, together with his vegetarian wife Lisa, offer up a timely and refreshingly unbiased look at how farm animals are raised for our consumption. With unprecedented access to large-scale conventional farms, Papola asks the tough questions behind every hamburger, glass of milk and baby-back rib. What he discovers are not heartless industrialists, but America’s farmers — real people who, along with him, are grappling with the moral dimensions of farming animals for food."  Hmmm.

I live tweeted the event, and now because I love you have compiled those tweets here.  Enjoy, maybe?

About to live-tweet . This will be interesting, no doubt.

That is, if the theater can figure out how to take all these people's vouchers... 

Made it. Made it. Ribs on the grill three seconds in. Ribfest! Wife Lisa says what I feel: bleeeeegh. 

Visit Animal Place to meet real live farm animals on not a real live farm. Sanctuary mission is to end animal exploitation. 

Have a "human gestation crate" to show people what pigs go through. "This is the price they pay for me to eat my spare ribs" 

Shots of pigs in gestation crates. Obligatory Temple Grandin interview. Indiana mega-piggery that lets people see inside... 

Various farming conditions make it unsustainable to keep pigs outside; legacy farms says pigs can lead happy lives in stalls. 

Filmmaker holds a piglet and is surprised he doesn't scream; then he screams. "Farmer" pulling piglets from a sow's vagina... 

...and clipping their teeth. Legacy farms guy says God gave man dominion over animals, we shouldn't humanize them.  

In to Iowa: $7 per pig is what they profit. 1969 confinement shed footage. More holding of piglets, "processing" them. 

Processing includes injections, tail docking; farmer says "it's not wrong." Pigs weaned at 30 days; market weight @ 6 months.

Now using a shock prod to get pigs onto a truck. I don't know if I'm going to make it through this movie.

There are more corporations in animal farming because we want to pay less for our food. TRUTH. But many of us need to...  

Now a farm that raises animals outside. Pigs frolicking; big red barns. Ethical meat.

So why do you castrate pigs? "It helps the food quality." They crawl into a sow's pen and move her piglets; she's FURIOUS. 

"It seems like it's really an invasive mutilation... and it is I guess." Re the piglet castration. But it's a business...  

And now artificial insemination. Farmer is sitting on her to keep her still; she lets him because she's in heat.

"The consumer has to vote with his dollar" to change industry practices.  

Farmer wants to know what's going through the pigs' heads. "I know you had pork for lunch you jerk." Ha ha ha.

Governor Terry Branstand wants us all to know how great Iowa pork is.  

Will Harris of White Oak Pasture, GA - "Cowboy culture is glamorous" but not best for animals or land.

Animals should be able to express their instinctive behaviors. Hogs are hanging out in a forest. No stalls or crates.

Was bothered most by old way of shipping cattle on double-decker semi - so they built an slaughterhouse on site.

Temple Grandin again, on how to nicely slaughter. Filmmaker: it's a contradiction to care about food animals' feelings.

"Dominion does not mean complete domination." A different farmer who believes animals are sentient; cares about feelings.

1000k cattle feedlot; they can lose dozens of animals a day due to heat. They spray water to cool, so it gets muddy.

While filming from the public road, the feedlot threatens to call the sheriff to make them leave.

Filmmaker John's wife is vegetarian; they fight because she knows this won't change his dinner.

Grandin: ag gag laws are not the thing to do. Change your practices instead. Governor of Iowa says it's "very effective."

Craig Watts: contract chicken grower: "I just felt like the consumer is being lied to." Footage of chicks in a shed.

Broiler chickens grow too fast, are kept too crowded. After two weeks, must focus on culling birds that won't make size.

Wife wants to revive a chick that isn't doing well. "I think I found a lady who's going to adopt him."

Discussion of food labeling. USDA has organic, but welfare isn't really involved. There's "certified humane" and two others.

"Higher degrees of animal welfare are being rewarded in the market" for the first time, says .

Crystal Lake Farms lets chickens actually live outside. "They're being real chickens... Chickens came from jungle fowl."  

And yet, the catchers still come at night to take them to slaughter, carrying the typical five birds per hand.

Next up: mechanized cow milking at Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, Indiana. Don't pasture because food is inconsistent.  

Radiance Dairy, Iowa: cows live on pasture. Produce less milk and live a lot longer; one cow 13 years old.

At Fair Oaks, calves are taken almost immediately away from mothers, to keep them from bonding. Veal crates.  

Wife: "I don't know why you can't hold on to the compassion" when you sit down to eat. He explains that the feelings fade.

Now egg-laying hens in battery cages with automated food and water. Least expensive product for the consumer, worst welfare.

Grandin: this large scale egg production is very efficient, but also very fragile. Exploration of bird flu epidemic.

Pasture-based egg farms largely avoided the bird flu epidemic.

Pasture-raised eggs are more expensive because of labor and land costs. Egg Innovation in KY is trying to scale up pasture.

Of note: like all movies, the music is very emotionally manipulative. It's telling you how to feel. Pay attention to it.

Wayne Pacelle says we should eat more vegetables and treat farm animals more humanely. Ok.

Filmmaker John enjoys a pulled "pork" jackfruit sandwich. Mark Bittman talks about "vegan before seven."

Belcampo Farms cattle ranchers refer to cows as beef, say raising them is a predictor/prey relationship. Call it killing.

Now county fair. 4H participant kid says pigs "just like dogs." Pigs are named Hopper and Copper. "It sucks" when they go.

Kids talk extensively about how much it hurts to raise pigs and then see them go to slaughter.

Filmmaker John has decided to become a conscious eater. Fairly vegetarian message at the end here, though not quite explicit.

Challenging us to take the "at the fork" challenge, reducing animal products and sourcing humane ones.

The end. I really have to think about whether to recommend this movie. Sure is hard to watch for the already converted.

Thinking back on - was there a single person of color in that movie? Seriously asking.

And that's all she (me) wrote.  I'm still processing my conclusions on this movie.  On the one hand, it does clearly show some brutal truths about how most animal farming is done - even on "humane" farms.  On the other, it promotes continuing consumption of animal products, though it does also promote reduction and seeking out more responsible production.  I just don't know.  What do y'all think?



It's long past time for y'all to hear a voice and perspective other than mine on this blog, don't you think?  As such, I'd like to hear from you.

Are you:
  • a person of color in the New Orleans area?
  • vegan, considering veganism, trying to go vegan, or do you interact with vegans in some way (such as running or working in a restaurant)?
If so, I would love for you to write a guest post for New Orleans in Green or be interviewed, or both, on your experiences engaging with the New Orleans vegan community and veganism in general.

Interested? Please shoot me a message on facebook or via email (bastian613 at gmail) and we'll get started. I can't wait to hear from you and to amplify your voice!



The Logistics of Local: How Local is Local?

Now that we've established that there are personal, socio-economic, and environmental benefits to eating locally, let's look at what "eating locally" really means.

What does it mean to eat local?  It's not just one thing.  In my mind, local foods can fall into three broad tiers:
  • Tier 1: Foods that are locally grown, caught, or raised (though I don't eat anything caught or raised);
  • Tier 2: Foods that are locally produced or processed; and
  • Tier 3: Foods that are locally sold.
A food can be any combination of these three tiers.  I see this as a hierarchy of local superiority: Foods that are locally grown and processed and are being sold by a locally-owned shop are at the pinnacle of locality, meeting all three tiers.  Other levels of local have value too, of course;  all levels are superior to foods that were grown and processed non-locally and are being sold by a non-local chain.

Let us look at some local products to flesh out this idea. Hoffstadt tomatoes purchased at Winn-Dixie meet the first and second tiers but not the third; so better still are Hoffstadt tomatoes bought at Rouse's, while Hoffstadt tomatoes bought at a Crescent City Farmer's Market achieve superlative local status for New Orleans.  The same holds true of other locally grown and processed items such as Three Brothers Farm sugar and Jazzmen Rice.

Esses pastas and VEGGI Co-Op tofu are great examples of foods that are processed locally from foods that were grown elsewhere.  While they fail to reach tier 1 status, largely because wheat and soy aren't really grown on the Gulf South, purchasing them from local sources makes these foods solid local choices.

Inevitably most of us will purchase foods that are neither locally grown nor produced.  We all also need non-food products that can't be sourced locally - there is no locally grown and produced toilet paper, just for starters.  In these instances, many of us can at least choose to keep revenue in our communities rather than funneling it out of state by shopping at Hollygrove Market and Farm, Dryades Public Market, Crescent City Farmer's Markets, Sankofa, the New Orleans Food Co-Op, Rouse's supermarkets, and other such locally owned outlets.  However, it's important to remember that choosing where to shop is not a luxury that all of us have.

There are of course other implications about the people to whom these spaces are available, which will be a discussion for another day.


The Value of Local

Before I embark on the New Orleans Eat Local Challenge, spanning throughout June, I want to explore whether eating locally is worthwhile.  Is there really a benefit to eating locally?

The benefits of local food have been lauded for decades, albeit with a few detractors rearing their heads.  Among the enumerated pluses are: supporting of the local economy by keeping money with your neighbors rather than funneling it out of the state or even the country; bolstering small local farms, which are generally far more diverse and less environmentally degenerative than their industrial counterparts; and eating food that is prime in both nutrition and taste.  Even mainstream publication Consumer Reports has noted that, if nothing else, eating locally is a nationwide trend that likely offers a variety of positive side-effects.

Local food is often promoted as a more sustainable way of eating.  Per Sustainable Table, the "the leading sustainable food resource for consumers", "[s]upporting local/regional food systems helps support local, sustainably run farms, can help protect our health and the health of our communities, and helps stimulate local economies." 

The benefits of "eating locally" are not universally accepted however.  Philosophers Peter Singer and Jim Mason tear the idea apart pretty thoroughly, in fact, in their book The Ethics of What We Eat.  Singer and Mason identify three primary reasons to eat locally: 1) to help local economies, 2) to support family farming (thus beating back industrial farming), and 3) to protect the environment.  They then proceed to disagree with 1 and 3.

On the first point, they argue that it's more important to support poorer farmers in developing nations than our local farmers.  To this argument I must call shenanigans.  They use an example that it is better to help developing world farmers feed their children than to help farmers in San Francisco put their children through college.  To this I'll say two things: a) I don't live in San Fransisco; pretty damn far from it in fact.  b) When we purchase produce grown in developing countries, precious little of that money goes to the people who grew it.

To wit, most of the produce sold falls into the globally shipped category, and yet the farmworkers involved in that trade are still unconscionably poor.  Why?  Because it is the middle men who keep the money.  It never gets to the producers - why would they share it when they don't have to?  The farther the food travels, the smaller a portion of the profits the farmers actually see.  Buying more of this food will not give these people more money.  Only changing the system will do that.  Thus, shorter chains are better for farmworkers.

While the philosophers don't dispute that buying locally helps to preserve small family farms, they explain that locally grown produce can be more environmentally destructive than produce shipped long distances.  To make this point they do the carbon footprint math on hothouse-grown tomatoes vs. those vine-ripened and then shipped - and indeed the hothouse come out as the villain.  This supports the idea that it is best to eat locally and seasonally, an idea which I'll agree with fully.  Luckily, there is nearly always local produce naturally in season here in Louisiana.

Singer and Mason also fail to address the most self-serving of the benefits of eating locally: local food tastes better and is more nutritious.  This isn't just sales pitch nonsense.  Because local produce is picked later in the ripening process, travels far less distance, and spends less time in storage, it generally offers more dense nutrient content and better flavor than "conventional" counterparts.

Sustainable Table agrees that there are issues with making "local" the only bar against which food is measured, noting that "industrial food in disguise" can be "greenwashed" or "localwashed" to seem more sustainable than it is.  After all, as I've mentioned before, even mega-piggeries are local to someone.  Buying locally also doesn't guarantee that farmworkers are treated or paid well.  However, "plenty of local food is produced according to the highest sustainability standards."  It is important, then, to know where your food comes from - but to know more than that as well.  Fortunately, when you are at a Farmer's Market you can just ask.  I dare you to try that at a chain grocery store. 

Finally, it's important to note that arguments against local food sourcing often fail to recognize just how fragile our global food system is.  Any interruption of that global system, whether it be weather events, fuel shortages, crop failures, or any other disruption of any one of the many carefully timed moving pieces of the food system can cause catastrophic food shortages, and no part of the world is immune.

As economist Andrew Simms noted in his essay "Nine Meals from Anarchy," "[c]ivilisation's veneer may be much thinner than we like to think."  Local food structures are more resilient in the face of these pressures in a number of ways.  For example, shorter food chains provide fewer opportunities for troubles such as fuel shortage or blockage of transportation routes, and small local farms hold far more biodiversity making them less susceptible to crop failure.

Eating locally is not a perfect answer to all of our food system woes.  Of course it isn't - there is no such thing.  Regardless, it has value and is a worthwhile pursuit.

Aren't you glad we put that to bed?  I am.  Let's get on with eating locally!

The photographs accompanying this post were taken at the French Market Crescent City Farmer's Market, held every Wednesday from 1pm until 5pm.


Let's Eat Local!
NOiG Joins the Eat Local Challenge

Hi all!  I hope you all enjoyed NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week - I know I did.  The meal I had at Sneaky Pickle the night before Veggie Fest will not soon be forgotten, that's for sure!  And how cool was Veggie Fest itself?!  Great weather, great music, great food, great people.

Well guess what?  June is going to be just as exciting!  The New Orleans Eat Local Challenge is challenging itself (ha ha) to be more vegan-inclusive this year.  I've joined the challenge (yes, at the ultra-lenient level but still).  I hope you do too.  Note that it does cost $25, but you get some nice perks in return.

Also, I hope you can join in on some of these awesome vegan-friendly events - I hope to be at a number of them myself!  All of this info is also collected in a Facebook event called NOiG Joins the Eat Local Challenge!
What a month, eh?!  Will you won't you join me for this awesome intersection of local foods and veganism?  I hope so!


Announcing the NOiG 2016 Scavenger Hunt WINNERS!!

Friends, it's the moment you've all been waiting for.  Via random drawing, the winners of the NOiG Scavenger Hunt are:

THIRD PLACE WINNER: "Donutt Monut"!!
Ms. Monut got her entry in on time - just barely! - and did an admirable job searching the city for all the items.  In the process, she discovered our unofficial City Bird, the feral chicken!  She also solved the bonus item riddle.  And discovered some fabulous local vegan art to boot!

SECOND PLACE WINNER: a *tie* between Maggie Dyer and Alan Berg!
These two explored the city together, and from the looks of it had a great time doing so.  I think they'll enjoy sharing some lovely chocolates and exciting cookbooks.

and FIRST PLACE WINNER: Adrienne "Ajax" Johnson!

Adrienne is a pro at vegan scavenger hunting, being a 2014 champion at the sport.  I hope you enjoyed your chocolate Adrienne, and I hope you enjoy your prize pack even more!

Congratulations to all the winners!  And many thanks to everyone who participated.  I hope you all had fun and discovered some new vegan things around town.  Please come see me at my Nola Veggie Fest table to collect your prize!  Or if you can't, holler at me and we'll arrange a drop-off for this week.

Didn't participate and are now full of regret?  Don't worry!  There's always next year.

See y'all at Veggie Fest!


NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Vegan T-Shirt Day at Nola Veggie Fest

Can y'all believe it?!  The 2016 Nola Veggie Fest starts TOMORROW, May 7!  I'm sure you know by now that I'll have a table, doing a thing I'm hilariously calling "I'm Vegan in New Orleans - Ask Me How!"  It's gonna be fun.

Tomorrow is also the last day to find your scavenger hunt items, many of which can be spotted at the Fest itself.  Do you have your set together yet??

It also just so happens that Veggie Fest starts this year on May Vegan T-Shirt Day!  Stop by NOiG's table at the Fest wearing your best vegan tee, and I'll take your pic and post it to the worldwide event* so we can show the world Nola's veggie pride!

*only if you want me to!

As it so happens, there'll be NOiG shirts for sale too.  :)



NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Sneaky Pickle Veggie Fest Pre-Party!

Oh my word y'all, Veggie Fest is almost here!  Can you feel the excitement?  I seriously can.  Let's be excited together, tomorrow night at Sneaky Pickle at 8pm!  You can reply to the Facebook invite here.

Come search for NOiG scavenger hunt items 3, 4, 9, 10, and 14 in the NOiG scavenger hunt while eating some of the very best vegan food in town and getting PSYCHED for Veggie Fest weekend!


NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Bubble Tea at the Bar!

Happy Wednesday!  I hope you're all having as much fun this week as I am.  And the fun continues for the rest of the week and on into the weekend!

As part of NOiG's Scavenger Hunt Week, join us at Namese for a bubble tea, or maybe some pho?  We'll be there tomorrow, May 5, beginning at 6pm.  You can reply to the Facebook invite hereCome search for NOiG scavenger hunt items 3, 4, and 13 while bubble tea-ing or having a lovely dinner.


NOiG Scavenger Hunt Week: Vegan T-Shirts at Twilight!

Hello!  I hope your week is going swimmingly.  Anyone wanna take a walk?  As part of NOiG's Scavenger Hunt Week, join us in the park tomorrow, May 4 - and wear your very best vegan t-shirt!  You can reply to the Facebook invite here.

Come search for NOiG scavenger hunt item #3 - it should be pretty easy with this event! If we're lucky we'll find #2 as well.  Meet us on the steps of the New Orleans Museum of Art wearing your favorite vegan-themed t-shirt! Once we're gathered we'll walk around Big Lake showing our vegan pride. Dogs welcome!

Rain plan: Let's walk through Lakeside Mall and show Metairie how it's done!  We'll meet in front of the Macy's inside entrance.