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Bittman on Seafood NY Times Today

StriperGuy Jun 10, 2009 06:41 AM

Rather good, nuanced article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/din...

Though short of going vegan/vegetarian pretty much all animal foods have their issues.

  1. c
    Cinnamon Jun 12, 2009 01:23 PM

    As a footnote to this whole discussion... has there been much of a cottage industry or avocation in terms of do-it-yourself, home-based fish farming? (Home-schooling, really.)

    5 Replies
    1. re: Cinnamon
      StriperGuy Jun 12, 2009 01:26 PM

      Pretty tough to do. Lots of necessary infrastructure, not so amenable to small scale.

      1. re: StriperGuy
        c
        Cinnamon Jun 12, 2009 03:16 PM

        I'm thinkin' lobster tanks and maybe a lava light.

        1. re: Cinnamon
          StriperGuy Jun 12, 2009 03:35 PM

          Awesome! Right up my alley. Very important to start with a decent sized "seed lobster":

          http://www.novanewsnow.com/imgs/dynam...

          1. re: Cinnamon
            Fritter Jun 12, 2009 03:53 PM

            I hear that if you play The B-52's often you will have happy rock lobsters.

            1. re: Fritter
              Caralien Jun 12, 2009 06:41 PM

              :)

      2. ipsedixit Jun 11, 2009 01:59 PM

        We should just all face the stark reality.

        We, as a species, are simply going to eat ourselves to extinction.

        It's just part of the natural process.

        Why fight it.

        No species lives forever.

        The dinosaurs died out.

        And so will we.

        So, while you're still around, eat up!

        10 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit
          StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 02:47 PM

          Hmmm the other alternate extreme to veganism.

          1. re: StriperGuy
            m
            MakingSense Jun 12, 2009 10:03 PM

            Or eat only local fish.
            Nothing with more frequent flyer miles than you've got.

            1. re: MakingSense
              Gio Jun 13, 2009 05:55 AM

              The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), along with other local organizations, is sponsoring a Community Supported Fishery program. Local fisherpeople will be harvesting from local waters with a deep committment to
              the "stewardship of the Northwest Atlantic marine ecosystem {which ensures} that succeeding generations will have an equal or better opportunity to benefit from its resources." As a shareholder I will be assured that I'm receiving the freshest fish available in my area from local waters. It all begins next week! I can't wait.

              http://www.namanet.org/csf/cape-ann-f...

              1. re: Gio
                Caralien Jun 13, 2009 05:59 AM

                it would be nice to find a NJ chapter; the closest ones I found were in ME and MA :(
                http://www.namanet.org/csf/locate

                EDIT: spoke too soon; there's an event today in Belmar:
                http://www.namanet.org/events/23rd-annual-nj-seafood-festival-%E2%80%A8
                (the linked site http://belmar.com/seafoodfestival/ is down at the moment)

                1. re: Gio
                  s
                  smtucker Jun 13, 2009 01:39 PM

                  What is really exciting, beyond the points you have made, is that this is the first year of the program locally and over 900 people have signed up to participate. At some point, they will announce the final numbers, but this certainly indicates that some people will make the choice for local when it is an option.

                  I do feel badly for my fishmonger, whom I adore. He will probably miss me over the summer, but I too am excited to get my share on Monday.

                  1. re: Gio
                    m
                    MakingSense Jun 13, 2009 01:57 PM

                    These are great programs! But it's going to take a lot of education to wean people from the nationally published and broadcast recipes and articles about certain varieties of fish, and convert them to local seafood.
                    Everyone is accustomed to the "usual suspects" when they buy and cook fish, or order it in restaurants. Unless they grew up fishing or near the water, many people don't even have a sense of what seafood is really "local" beyond a few major items.
                    It's astonishing to see salmon on New Orleans restaurant menus! Or Dungeness crab next to the Blue Crab in Chesapeake Bay area markets in Summer. Isn't Dungeness out of season?

                    There are a lot of fish in the Mid-Atlantic that most people won't touch with a stick. They're not available in most fish markets and never offered in restaurants. Some are even pretty inexpensive, like croaker, which is available in much of the US. Great eating but when did you last see that in a restaurant? Considered downscale, I guess.

                    I suppose we'll have to readjust our thinking for the good of our oceans, lakes, rivers, and fisheries.
                    Better yet, maybe some people will take up fly-fishing for pleasure....

                    1. re: MakingSense
                      Ruth Lafler Jun 13, 2009 04:08 PM

                      Dungeness is in season in Alaska in the summer. But your point about our global market making us unaware of what's local and in season is well taken.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        m
                        MakingSense Jun 13, 2009 07:10 PM

                        Commercial fishermen in Alaska depend on being able to ship their catch for much-needed employment. I doubt the sparsely populated State of Alaska can possibly eat all they can catch, but this system is really screwed up. They ship Dungeness to the Chesapeake. The Bay can barely produce enough Blue Crab to satisfy local demand but brokers ship MD and VA crabmeat all over the US because they can get more money for it. Then local crabhouses have to bring in Gulf Coast crabs to keep the locals happy. Go figure.
                        BTW, crabs are about 3X the price in the Chesapeake region than in the Gulf area.

                        People want what they want when they want it - year round. Kind of silly.
                        Lack of awareness by consumers is a major part of it and perhaps that's bred by the food media which largely fails to treat seafood as seasonal or regional.
                        Sure, you can have crabcakes in Kansas City and Maine lobster in Las Vegas.

                        1. re: MakingSense
                          Veggo Jun 13, 2009 08:42 PM

                          A dirty little secret here in stone crab country (?) is that most of the colossal sized claws are air-freighted to Las Vegas and the Arabian Peninsula.

                          1. re: MakingSense
                            c
                            Cinnamon Jun 14, 2009 10:09 AM

                            Do NOT order king crab in Wyoming. Just trust me on that.

                            What is the name of that huge desert spider they have in Iraq?

              2. SuperFineSugar Jun 11, 2009 05:23 AM

                I think it was a thoughtful article, but didn't Bittman just get wrist slapped only a few tiny weeks ago for chosing red-snapper for the base of a recipe-driven article? Did his fish-revelation just happen between that experience and yesterday's article? I am confused.

                9 Replies
                1. re: SuperFineSugar
                  Ruth Lafler Jun 11, 2009 01:28 PM

                  Yes, it does seem sometimes like food writers' articles each are produced in their own little vacuum.

                  On the topic of farmed fish, I was just reading a proposal from the California Department of Fish and Game (you're getting a scoop, this won't even be released until tomorrow) to allow importation of live farm-raised barramundi into parts of California (for sale live until the time of purchase -- must be killed and packaged before leaving the premises -- presumably this primarily means in Asian fish markets) and to allow aquaculture of barramundi in California. U.S. farmed barramundi is on the Seafood Watch "best choices" list, although foreign-farmed may or may not be raised under environmentally friendly/sustainable conditions.

                  Barramundi is a mild, white bass-like fish that is particularly well-suited to aquaculture because it is fast growing and is tolerant of high stocking densities (presumably without needing antibiotics, etc.). In the U.S. it's raised in closed-system tanks that do not pollute water supplies and do not allow for contact with wild fish populations.

                  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    Veggo Jun 11, 2009 01:39 PM

                    Interesting. I enjoyed barramundi in Australia. Maybe someone from OZ (purple goddess?) can give us some favorite recipes.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      Caralien Jun 11, 2009 02:18 PM

                      I hope someone tells the fish farmers in the South about this. Catfish AND Barramundi? YUM!

                      1. re: Caralien
                        Gio Jun 11, 2009 06:24 PM

                        Whole Barramundi recently made an appearance in our local reasonably priced supermarket. (Reading Market Basket for those in the north of Boston area) and after 2 weeks it was pulled because no one was interested in it. I was too late...dang it. I just didn't have a chance.

                        1. re: Gio
                          Ruth Lafler Jun 11, 2009 08:49 PM

                          I think whole fish are always a difficult sell -- I hope they try again with fillets.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            m
                            MakingSense Jun 12, 2009 10:01 PM

                            Double whammy! Not only was it "whole fish," but consumers weren't familiar with barramundi.

                            Fear of fish is rampant. It's generally expensive so most people are hesitant to buy unfamiliar fish - even fillets.
                            They're going to stick with salmon and things that they are certain that they like and know how to cook.

                            1. re: MakingSense
                              DanaB Jun 13, 2009 04:07 AM

                              I'd rather them be afraid and stay away. Read my post up-thread on fish and fishing. The whole health issue is kind of beside the point now. Fish are going extinct, and only as consumers can we do anything about it.

                              1. re: DanaB
                                m
                                MakingSense Jun 13, 2009 01:47 PM

                                Would so many fish be threatened if they weren't overfished to meet the demands of people who lived far, far away?
                                There was plenty of Chilean sea bass for the inhabitants of the West coast of South America until half of the restaurants in the US began to feature it.
                                The waters of my native Louisiana and the nearby Gulf States were teeming with redfish until Paul Prudhomme made it the "hot fish" and it was soon overfished almost to the point of no return to satisfy restaurants far and wide across the country. Even sport fishing was suspended for a time until it could rebound.
                                We had the same situation with rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay but that population has now returned, although it's being threatened by high levels of PCBs. Commercial and sport fishing is tightly controlled and authorities are prosecuting offenders.

                                State fisheries authorities closely monitor populations and shut down both commercial and sport fishing to control the supply when quotas are reached.
                                It would really be better if consumers ate local fish and used resources from their LOCAL monitors to know what is in adequate supply for consumption. Even safety of the fish varies from area to area depending on local conditions.

                                We should really encourage the consumption of local seafood. It's easier to check from week to week what you can and should be eating.

                          2. re: Gio
                            SuperFineSugar Jun 12, 2009 07:45 AM

                            That's a shame. Barramundi is delicious.

                    2. StriperGuy Jun 10, 2009 03:52 PM

                      Full disclosure: I mostly eat striped bass, mackerel, and blue fish that I catch myself. None of which I believe are out of fashion with the politically correct fish crowd at present.

                      Seriously though, for the really food correct folks below, with nearly 7 Billion people on our planet today, unless you are a vegan, anything short of that is really just preaching.

                      I ain't a vegan myself, neither am I much of a preacher when it comes to food.

                      43 Replies
                      1. re: StriperGuy
                        Gio Jun 10, 2009 05:34 PM

                        Actually, SG..... what you catch is definitely NOT "out of fashion with" those of us who believe that each person *can* make a difference. I'm not a vegan. Far from it. But I believe that everyone living on this planet should at least make an attempt to try to be a more responsible consumer of what the planet has to offer. In that, I suppose I'm just whistling Dixie. Or in my case, O Sole Mio.....

                        1. re: Gio
                          StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 06:23 AM

                          How do you justify not being a vegan?

                          1. re: StriperGuy
                            Gio Jun 11, 2009 06:35 AM

                            Why do I have to justify not being a vegan? I just like to eat a variety of different foods. Meat, poultry, dairy, seafood.....and vegetables.... I yam what I yam.

                            1. re: Gio
                              StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 06:59 AM

                              "I believe that everyone living on this planet should at least make an attempt to try to be a more responsible consumer of what the planet has to offer."

                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                Gio Jun 11, 2009 07:13 AM

                                I do believe that.... I buy local, organic, meats & produce.... Emphasis on local.

                                1. re: Gio
                                  StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 07:26 AM

                                  This is a bit of a hot topic for me. Better to pay $12 a pound for locally raised, organic, politically correct pork? Or buy $4 a pound pork at the supermarket and donate the rest of the money to Oxfam?

                                  Likewise if you are going to take your statement above to it's logical conclusion veganism which has roughly 1/10 the impact on our planet as does meat eating, is the only logical approach.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy
                                    Gio Jun 11, 2009 07:39 AM

                                    I do my best.

                                    1. re: Gio
                                      StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 08:04 AM

                                      I hear ya. I do think about this stuff quite a bit. I find the usurious prices at Whole Foods rather galling. Organic produce trucked from California is not better then semi-local non-organic, etc.

                                      1. re: StriperGuy
                                        Caralien Jun 11, 2009 09:34 AM

                                        A lot of local farmers are making the changes for becoming organic, but haven't had the funds (or minimum years as organic) to be certified as organic.

                                        I haven't set foot in a Whole Foods in awhile, but I'm lucky to be surrounded by farmland and local meat, dairy, poultry, and other producers (the local bison producer has prices as low as $6/lb; Jersey shore scallops are $12/lb). Organic birds from PA (Bell & Evan's) are $1.69/lb on sale (regular price is $2.69/lb). Hormone-free milk from Halo Farms is $1.09/half gallon. For me, this is within 138 miles, which is considered local by many (if I took out the chicken, it would be within 10-50 miles).

                                        1. re: Caralien
                                          StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 01:52 PM

                                          From the attached web site: "only about 0.5 percent of all U.S. cropland and 0.5 percent of all U.S. pasture was certified organic in 2005."

                                          http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Organic/

                                          Also, keep in mind that the average american can't afford $6 a pound anything.

                                          I really do think a lot of the organic food-loving folks live in a bit of an affluent bubble that is far removed from the day to day lives and dining of 95% of America.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy
                                            Ruth Lafler Jun 11, 2009 02:01 PM

                                            This "it's not affordable" argument has been rehashed many times on this board. The fact is that Americans spend a smaller proportion of their income on food than any country in the world. Perhaps if people actually had to pay the "real" cost of their food (including the environmental cost and the cost of government subsidized animal feed) instead of having access to huge amounts of artificially cheap meat, they'd make more sustainable choices (i.e., eat less meat).

                                            I don't think food has to be certified organic to be "sustainable." As several people have already mentioned, I'd rather buy food from local farms using responsible but not necessarily certified organic practices than certified organic food shipped halfway across the globe.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                              StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 02:15 PM

                                              In principle I agree, but questions whether our whole way of life in cities like NY, Chicago, and LA, etc. essentially could exist if we relied exclusively on local foods...

                                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                                Caralien Jun 12, 2009 04:58 AM

                                                FYI: Chicago, NY, and LA are each cities surrounded by farmland with fresh fish and ranches nearby too. Regional food usually takes into account what is or has traditionally been locally produced.

                                                Local farmers in NJ have started programs with both the schools and food banks for those living in poverty. In CA there are volunteer programs to pick the fruit from decorative trees on personal property to supplement the baskets at the food banks with fresh food. Organic farms are being created in abandoned parking lots in urban areas as after-school programs in NYC.

                                                Americans are not a homogenous group of people.

                                                1. re: Caralien
                                                  Ruth Lafler Jun 12, 2009 09:26 AM

                                                  There are urban farms and school gardens in California, too. And apparently urban farms are big in Detroit. If you look around, there's a lot of prime growing space that's being used exclusively for growing grass and other ornamentals. If cities wanted to get serious about being food self-sufficient, I think they could find a way to do it. In the last few years I've seen a lot of stories about very creative ways people are growing food in cities: "guerilla gardeners" who are growing food on median strips; neighborhood gardeners who are asking their neighbors if they can grow food plants in their yards in exchange for some of the produce, etc. I did a volunteer day at a local urban farm, and when we went to the house in the neighborhood where we were going to be installing a garden (actually just two large raised planters), the house next door had chickens -- we talking an urban neighborhood in Oakland!

                                                  I got a little more serious about having a vegetable garden this year, and in a few weeks I'm going to have to start either giving food away or preserving it. Last night I went out to "thin" the basil and ended up with enough for two cups of pesto! During WWII, my then-teenaged father and my grandmother grew a ton of vegetables in their 50x50 back yard victory garden.

                                                  When we've had this argument before, people have pointed out that historically even regions that don't have the benefits of year-round growing conditions were food self-sufficient. Of course, very few people would want to go back to eating nothing but preserved foods in the winter, but our ancestors managed to survive that way.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                    Veggo Jun 12, 2009 10:05 AM

                                                    But our ancestors who died in year 1900 averaged 46 years of age.

                                                    1. re: Veggo
                                                      Caralien Jun 12, 2009 10:30 AM

                                                      My great grandmother, born 1886, died in 1991. Some people simply live longer and healthier lives than others, and I know that convenience foods were not part of her diet. She didn't suffer health issues attributed to obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. even with a Germanic diet which used a lot of sugar, whole eggs, butter, cream, and white flour--particularly in the cakes she would make for impromptu birthday celebrations even when it was no one's birthday.

                                                      My ancestors and relatives who did die at younger ages (>50) usually did so due to war, but most were simply deaf or lame as a result.

                                                      1. re: Veggo
                                                        Ruth Lafler Jun 12, 2009 10:50 AM

                                                        Yes, but the "average" included a high death rate for children under the age of five, a high death rate from diseases that for all practical purposes don't exist anymore in the U.S. or can be easily treated with modern drugs (in particular, antibiotics), and a high death rate from childbirth, which has been drastically reduced.

                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                        StriperGuy Jun 12, 2009 11:50 AM

                                                        Community agriculture is something I can really get into. As opposed to the WF deal. Still not convinced you could support a city the size of NY or LA with food sourced within 100 miles but hey.

                                                        For the 1st time in my life, as of a year ago, I have a lawn. What a catastrophic waste of time, $ and natural resources. I am negotiating with my downstairs neighbor, we share the yard, to tear up a good chunk of it next year and grow veggies.

                                                        To veggo below and Ruth's comment. People died younger because of childhood disease and infectious disease, not diet at least not in much of America. Keep in mind 75 years ago things like Polio, Smallpox, and Tuberculosis were more or less death sentences, now all at least treatable, preventable, or in the case of smallpox eradicated.

                                                        1. re: StriperGuy
                                                          Ruth Lafler Jun 12, 2009 12:16 PM

                                                          And again, let me point out that in the US the rate of death in childbirth in 1900 was 1-1.5 per 100 live births in 1900 and about 1 per 9,000 live births in 2000. Considering that women gave birth more often in those days (no reliable birth control, high infant/child mortality, which meant to raise two or three children to adulthood you might have to give birth five or six times), a woman's chances of dying in childbirth over her lifetime were about 1 in 8.

                                                    2. re: StriperGuy
                                                      DanaB Jun 12, 2009 12:09 PM

                                                      Chicago and Los Angeles at least could do fine with local-only, with exception to tropical foods such as coffee and bananas. New York State has a lot of farmers who are on the cutting edge when it comes to sustainable ag as well. I think it depends on your definition of "local," but sustainable food produced within a couple hundred miles of those metropolises is quite easy to find.

                                                      I live in Madison, a short two hour drive to Chicago, and Wisconsin is one of the largest providers of organic produce, dairy and beef in the country. If Chicago markets stocked midwestern products instead of importing from CA, it would go a long way toward both supporting local farmers and cutting down on the carbon footprint of your food.

                                                      Plus, if the rest of the country had anything close to the number of farmers markets that Wisconsin does, the argument that local/organic is expensive would be exposed for the sham that it is. You can eat very economically -- at least during the growing months -- from farmers' markets. Obviously, unless you live in CA where they grow year round, during winter months we all will have to make some concessions on locally-grown fresh produce, but if you stick with what's seasonal (i.e. in the fall/winter, go for apples instead of strawberries from South America, or root veggies like potatoes, carrots, turnips, and other winter vegetables that keep well like cabbage, brussels sprouts and winter squash), even on the produce front you can stay pretty local in the winter, even in a place like Wisconsin. Diary/Eggs/Poultry/Meat all can be produced in the winter.

                                                      Striper, you should read Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," which documents her attempt to eat locally for a year. It's quite interesting both on the issue of cost and availabilty of locally and sustainably produced food.

                                                      Changing the perception that local/sustainable = too expensive for the average person is one of the hurdles that the entire movement has to surmount for more people to consider it an option.

                                                      1. re: DanaB
                                                        Caralien Jun 12, 2009 12:52 PM

                                                        DB: Thanks for the book recommendation! I just reserved it at the library!

                                                        1. re: DanaB
                                                          c
                                                          Cinnamon Jun 12, 2009 01:21 PM

                                                          Hey, in Los Angeles I see bananas right out my kitchen window. (But yeah, there's not enough humidity here, and I'd opt for Costa Rica or Colombia or wherever for soil for coffee and bananas.)

                                                          1. re: Cinnamon
                                                            DanaB Jun 12, 2009 01:42 PM

                                                            You reminded me that I, too, had a banana tree when I lived in Los Angeles, but I never found them very palatable and the tree was mostly ornamental. Now if you really wanted to eat local *and* tropical, I think the place to be would be Hawaii.

                                                            1. re: DanaB
                                                              Veggo Jun 12, 2009 01:53 PM

                                                              Maybe a missed opportunity - fresh banana leaves are wonderful for baking fish, especially pibil style.

                                                    3. re: StriperGuy
                                                      NYCkaren Jun 11, 2009 02:03 PM

                                                      StriperGuy, that is partly true. But not entirely, or why would WalMart carry organic food?
                                                      I don't always buy local/organic/humanely reared/sustainably fished, etc. Sometimes I can't afford it. I am far from affluent. But I try, and I'm not the only one who does. I don't believe for one minute that 95 percent of Americans pay no attention to these issues.

                                                      1. re: NYCkaren
                                                        StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 02:14 PM

                                                        WalMart only carries organic in markets that demand it (in the same coastal bubbles far removed from the lives of most Americans) and they are actually scaling back their organic offerings. See this article:

                                                        WalMart scales back organic offerings:

                                                        http://naturalfoodsmerchandiser.com/t...

                                                        1. re: StriperGuy
                                                          Ruth Lafler Jun 11, 2009 02:56 PM

                                                          "Coastal bubbles" are not "far removed from most the lives of most Americans" -- they're where "most Americans" live. The majority of Americans live in cities in coastal counties. I just heard a news story about that recently, although I couldn't find the right combination of key words to google it. I did find an article from 1995 that said that 54 percent of Americans lived in coastal counties with the number project to grow to 70 percent by 2025, which puts us exactly halfway there.

                                                          The myth that "real" Americans live in small towns in the American heartland is just that: a myth. It was more true 50+ years ago when 20 percent of Americans lived/worked on farms, but the midwest has been depopulating, while coastal cities have been exploding.

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                            StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 07:09 PM

                                                            There's coastal and there's coastal. I do think there is a big difference between the 54% of Americans who live near the coast, and those who shop at Whole Foods and consider organic veggies a major priority.

                                                            1. re: StriperGuy
                                                              Ruth Lafler Jun 11, 2009 08:47 PM

                                                              I'm just saying that your characterization was wrong on several points, mostly in portraying interest in organic foods as being isolated in specific geographical areas and in who or who doesn't live in those areas.

                                                              Isn't Whole Foods based in Dallas? Dallas is neither literally coastal nor particularly known for the socio-economic and political attitudes you're using "coastal" as a code word for.

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                Caitlin McGrath Jun 11, 2009 09:12 PM

                                                                Austin, I believe.

                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                                  Ruth Lafler Jun 11, 2009 10:01 PM

                                                                  Ah, so it is. Well, still not literally coastal but definitely a bit more "coastal" in the sense that StriperGuy was using it.

                                                                2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                  StriperGuy Jun 12, 2009 07:04 AM

                                                                  Please excuse the lengthy diatribe below:

                                                                  Funny that you mention it, because I spent some time thinking last night. Reconsidering, I agree it is not at all a "coastal" issue, but rather a socioeconmic one. In retrospect my use of the word coastal was indeed code for the top 1/3 of the economic spectrum who have the luxury to worry about these things.

                                                                  Big picture I support sustainable, low pesticide, minimal fertilizer farming as just plain good business. You can produce healthier food with less impact on the environment for less money. At my local farmer's market my favorite vendor is a non-organic Hmong farm, because they have some of the most gorgeous and interesting produce and their prices are good.

                                                                  The groovy stand next door with organic carrots for $3 for a small bunch, not so much.

                                                                  The near-religious pursuit of "organic" food by the Whole Foods crowd is, largely a socioeconomic issue. Organic is a luxury and marketed largely as such. Though Caralien makes some excellent points that it need not be, the reality for most is to the contrary.

                                                                  You don't find a lot of organic food or demand for it in the South Bronx, rural Arkansas, the South Side of Chicago, East LA, or even Lowell, MA. Folks in those places are more concerned with putting food on the table or gas in the SUV for better or worse.

                                                                  Perhaps not as health or cost-smart as the better educated of us likely to frequent this board, regardless of our annual income. But for the average household (including multi-earner households) earning less than $50,000 a year, organic food is a luxury and not a real option.

                                                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Househol...

                                                                  The reasons for this are multi-fold. Education, crappy corporate agribusiness via Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, farm subsidies which favor mega-farmers, etc. I agree with other posters that if the U.S. price of beef reflected the actual cost of production (minus corn subsidies, environmental costs, and heaven forbid our highly subsidized highway system) beef would rightly be much more expensive. Somewhere along the way the American cowboy ethic of the ginormous steak on every table for cheap money became an American ideal, almost a birthright. For people on a tight budget, they'd like that steak 1X or 2X a month and they want it cheap. That's just reality.

                                                                  The state of food in America is symptomatic of larger societal issues.

                                                                  The healthy diet for all: fruit, veg, grains, nuts, and a touch of animal protein or good vegetable protein is what we were all eating 3,000 years ago. Getting back to a diet like that will take huge socio-cultural shifts.

                                                                  Dining out, I am fortunate to have that luxury, always drives me a little whacky. Because what I crave with most meals is a big pile of veg, some tasty starch and a nice morsel of fish, beef, chicken,etc. But instead I'll get half a chicken, (or 12 ounces of beef) 6 string beans, and mashed potatoes with enough butter in them to equal my monthly consumption at home.

                                                                  In short pushing for "organic" or politically correct fish is missing many of the larger issues at hand. It may make some of us feel virtuous as we fill our shopping baskets, but it is really a tiny drop in a larger ocean.

                                                                  Hounds want to make a difference, call your congressman and try to get the corn subsidies abolished. Volunteer to teach some healthy cooking classes at the local public high school. Heck tutor at the local public high school, some of those kids might learn to aspire to a better, healthier, tastier, more sustainable world for all of us.

                                                                  1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                    DanaB Jun 12, 2009 12:30 PM

                                                                    I replied to many of your other points above, but on the fish issue, it really is reaching a crises point. I'm actually in a graduate agricultural and resource economics program, and we read the article that the NY Times story linked below was based upon, and it's predictions are dire:

                                                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/03/science/03fish.html?ex=1320210000&en=1cbe6153c8bdfebd&ei=5090

                                                                    Going out of your way to eat only the fish labelled "green" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the least one can do, given the circumstances. Personally, I just don't eat as much fish as I once did, either in restaurants or at home. When I do eat it, I treat it as a luxury and am willing to pay extra for a variety of fish that is not in danger of extinction. I NEVER eat farmed salmon, as at least in the Pacific Northwest, it is wreaking havoc on the life systems of the wild salmon populations. Farmed salmon is the equivalent of feedlot raised cattle -- devastating environmentally.

                                                                    http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/content/media/MBA_SeafoodWatch_FarmedSalmonReport.pdf

                                                                    There have been very positive movements in regulating fisheries in sustainable ways, especially in New Zealand, by using individual quota systems. Regretably, the United States is behind on this curve, in large part because of opposition from the very same fishing communities that are fishing themselves out of a livelihood in the meanwhile. Recently, the Alaska halibut and king crab fisheries have gone to ITQ systems, with extremely positive results. Here are a couple of articles with more info on the subject:

                                                                    http://fiesta.bren.ucsb.edu/~costello/research/CatchShares/

                                                                    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14762-guaranteed-fish-quotas-halt-commercial-freeforall.html?feedId=online-news_rss20|

                                                                    http://www.economist.com/science/disp...

                                                            2. re: StriperGuy
                                                              c
                                                              Cinnamon Jun 11, 2009 09:59 PM

                                                              This is an interesting New York Times map of where organic farms are concentrated. (It doesn't say organic consumers per se.)
                                                              http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/05/03/business/03metrics.graf01.ready.html

                                                              The accompanying article does note: "Organic vegetables now account for 5 percent of all vegetable sales ... Even if demand, which has lagged in the South and other Sun Belt states, picks up, the Agriculture Department requires a three-year waiting period for farms to win organic certification."
                                                              http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/business/03metrics.html?_r=1

                                                              I did find this 2005 map of organics demand at farmer's markets around the U.S.:
                                                              http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/orga...

                                                          2. re: StriperGuy
                                                            Caralien Jun 11, 2009 02:16 PM

                                                            SG: the vegetables, fruit, milk, eggs, and ice cream from the local farms are cheaper than what's found at the grocery store--WF, ShopRite, or otherwise. I'm not talking about Union Square's Farmer's Market, but places such as the Trenton Farmer's Market (and shared parking location of Halo Farms), which is popular with people from all walks of life.

                                                            In most cities (and countrysides) worldwide, the open market is the cheapest place to purchase goods which have a tendency to be fresher than those in the stand-alone stores. If one needs to bargain, that too is acceptable. Farmers, in general, are not rich people.

                                                            And the chicken? I purchase whole chickens. If I were to go for boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenders strips, that would quadruple the price, minimally. I've never paid more than $8 for a whole roaster chicken (and that was B&E on sale); it can feed a family of 4, and with a side of potatoes, greens, etc., would amount to *at most* $15; serve less chicken, more potatoes, and the cost would be less. Pasta is less than $1/lb. A 10-20lb bag of rice--including Jasmine--is cheap, and lasts months. A lot cheaper than pre-packaged food. I've learned how to bone a chicken, and/or skin it, but usually simply roast it, with plenty of leftovers including bones to make stock. The high average cost for dinner isn't due to people buying locally produced food, but purchasing pre-packaged food low in both nutrition and taste.

                                                            Jacques Pepin has numerous books on how to cook simply and eat well on a budget, and they're a joy to read.

                                                            1. re: Caralien
                                                              StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 02:40 PM

                                                              Well said. Gotcha. Points well taken.

                                                              1. re: Caralien
                                                                Ruth Lafler Jun 12, 2009 09:42 AM

                                                                Yea, Caralien is making good points. What's really expensive is packaged/processed foods -- look at, for example, the cost of a pound of Cheerios vs. a pound of rolled oats. And yet, that's what a lot of poor people buy.

                                                                The profit margin in "value-added" products is huge, which is why agribusiness/megafoodconglomerates push them so hard. I saw again last night the commercial touting the benefits of families eating dinner together, then pushing some kind of package meal product. The message: Buy our expensive over-processed foods if you want to do right by your children. Disgusting.

                                                            2. re: Caralien
                                                              Rmis32 Jun 13, 2009 07:16 PM

                                                              Wow, 10-50 miles. For me to eat THAT locally, I'd have to be a cannibal.

                                                              1. re: Rmis32
                                                                Caralien Jun 14, 2009 05:46 AM

                                                                RM: You're in Brooklyn? There are community farms nearby, within a 50 mile radius (Princeton is within 50 miles--we moved from Bay Ridge in September), and that includes many of the NY & NJ farms, seafood from the shore, etc. I also passed many people fishing under the Verrazano Bridge while walking our dog.

                                                                You may want to check this link:
                                                                http://onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.typep...

                                                                1. re: Caralien
                                                                  StriperGuy Jun 14, 2009 07:02 AM

                                                                  Under the Verrazano they were almost definitely fishing for Stripers aka Striped Bass.

                                                        2. re: StriperGuy
                                                          c
                                                          Cinnamon Jun 11, 2009 08:04 AM

                                                          I disagree that it' would hypothetically be the only logical approach, though yes raising livestock requires more resources than raising tofu.

                                                          1. re: Cinnamon
                                                            StriperGuy Jun 11, 2009 02:00 PM

                                                            Full disclosure, I am an omnivore myself, but I believe in understanding the impact of what we all do here on earth.

                                                            This site is a bit on the fringe, but it really does slam home the cost of eating meat:

                                                            http://www.consumercide.com/js/index....

                                                            1. re: StriperGuy
                                                              c
                                                              Cinnamon Jun 11, 2009 06:06 PM

                                                              Raising livestock also has a huge impact on water supplies... but no I don't see veganism as the only logical approach (to follow through on what you'd mentioned Gio said), and my apologies for the pedantic hair-splitting. There are plenty of other approaches from a societal or individual-action point of view that could be taken. And though I suspect this is kind of preaching to the choir :) plenty of people who do consider their health to benefit from meat-eating would not consider having to go vegan logical (or palatable, like some of the other societal-individual options).

                                                              By which I mean no slight to those who are vegans/vegetarians who've reached their own conclusions about what they want to eat and think they should eat.

                                            2. NYCkaren Jun 10, 2009 01:54 PM

                                              The recipes that went with today's Bittman piece look good. I'd like to try them all.

                                              1. Gio Jun 10, 2009 09:08 AM

                                                Eat Bottomfeeders... those fish which are lowest on the food chain. Eat shellfish, smelts, herring, Arctic char; barramundi, Pacific halibut, jellyfish, mackerel, mullet, wild Pacific northeast seafood . Eat local, day boat, hook and line seafood caught by your local fisherpeople.

                                                Do NOT eat bluefin tuna, shark's fin, farmed salmon, abalone, swordfish, cod, Chilaen sea bass..... long-line caught, bottom-trawled.

                                                Read Taras Grescoe's "Bottomfeeders." You'll never eat overfished, illegally caught, unethically produced seafood again.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: Gio
                                                  s
                                                  sibeats Jun 10, 2009 03:18 PM

                                                  I find this whole subject so confusing. I'd like to eat only the right kinds of fish, but when I go to the fish store and look at what's available, I have no idea what the correct choices are! Please explain why farmed salmon is so bad. Thanks for any clarification!

                                                  1. re: sibeats
                                                    Caralien Jun 10, 2009 03:41 PM

                                                    high levels of PCBs
                                                    http://www.healthcastle.com/farmed-sa...

                                                    1. re: sibeats
                                                      Caitlin McGrath Jun 10, 2009 03:47 PM

                                                      sibeats, I find the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide very helpful in terms of explaining what seafood and fish choices are sustainable.

                                                      The main page of the guide explains what the issues are for each fish:
                                                      http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx

                                                      The regional guide pages have charts showing which things to avoid and which are sustainable. You can also choose by region to see what might apply for your area of the country, and there is a pocket-size version of each you can print out and take with you to the store.
                                                      http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                        s
                                                        sibeats Jun 11, 2009 08:00 AM

                                                        Thanks so much, exactly what I was looking for, a quick easy reference guide. No more farmed salmon for me!

                                                        1. re: sibeats
                                                          Fritter Jun 12, 2009 05:25 AM

                                                          Many sushi places utilize farmed salmon because it has fewer parasites and worms.
                                                          Kampachi is deep water farmed off the Kona coast and an excellent fish.
                                                          I'm not a farmed fish fan but IMO balance along with informed choices are the order of the day.

                                                          1. re: Fritter
                                                            s
                                                            sibeats Jun 12, 2009 08:01 AM

                                                            Well it sounds like you have to go fish by fish. From what I read, farmed salmon contains high levels of PCBs, while other farmed fish are fine, like arctic char, catfish, etc. Sounds like there are so many variables at play, how it's fished, where it's from, there is no way that all that information is available at the local fish store, or at least the person behind the counter won't know everything. Makes it very difficult to figure out what to purchase and eat.

                                                            1. re: sibeats
                                                              Fritter Jun 12, 2009 09:09 AM

                                                              The internet helps a lot making informed choices thanks to web sites like the the MBA seafood watch and sites like this.
                                                              I agree you often can not count on those who work at a fish counter to be overly helpful.

                                                    2. re: Gio
                                                      susancinsf Jun 10, 2009 07:32 PM

                                                      To Gio: most of your reply is right on, but I do disagree with listing abalone among the 'do not eat' category. At least here in California, unless it is poached, it is either farmed, and a Seafood watch best choice:

                                                      http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                                                      or something either you caught yourself, or a friend did. (which is also ok, recreational limits are very well regulated).

                                                      Of course, California's budget problems means less money for Fish and Game wardens, and apparently poaching is already on the rise (per a recent article in one of our local papers, though I don't have the citation handy). Basically, as Seafood watch notes, unless you caught it yourself be very wary of anything bigger than a few inches (as that would mean it is poached). Farmed abalone are little guys.(and fine to eat.

                                                      )

                                                      I do endorse the Seafood Watch as a great guide, per Caitlin's post below.

                                                      Bottom Feeders has great information, but I find it difficult/ponderous to read, though I have tried several times. Still sitting on my coffee table waiting for me to try again. OTOH, I recently bought Mark Bittman's Food Matters as a present for hubby. I haven't started it, but he is really getting a lot out of it and enjoying it.

                                                    3. Veggo Jun 10, 2009 07:27 AM

                                                      For that heart-driven article, I have a better opinion of Bittman, who I disliked after he trashed Mexico City after only a weekend tour.
                                                      The global harvest of wild fish peaked in 2006, and is flat lined. Farmed fish accounts for 47% of human fish consumption, and is the only source to provide for any increase in demand. (Yes, we are still good at birthing babies). 60% of farmed fish is from China, with unclear quality controls. Ultra- green people bash fish farming because of water diversion, fish poop downstream, and necessary pesticides so workers don't die from malaria. But they offer no constructive solutions.
                                                      Any constructive ideas out there?

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Veggo
                                                        Caralien Jun 10, 2009 08:43 AM

                                                        Eat local.

                                                        Eat farmed catfish, which is good for the economy and the environment (and doesn't taste like grassy dirt):
                                                        http://deltafarmpress.com/mag/farming_catfish_industry_vital/
                                                        http://www.saveur.com/article/Our-Favorite-Foods/Pride-of-the-Delta
                                                        http://fishcooking.about.com/b/2009/03/03/a-catfish-by-any-other-name.htm

                                                        Find ways to eat/use/consume the giant Nomura jellyfish (it would be great if someone could do what Paul Prudhomme did with the *then* abundant red snapper, although the marketability of jellyfish might be harder to come by):
                                                        http://www.pinktentacle.com/2006/08/chefs-prepare-for-annual-giant-jellyfish-invasion/
                                                        http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/20...

                                                        1. re: Veggo
                                                          c
                                                          Cinnamon Jun 10, 2009 08:43 PM

                                                          Find ways to farm fish where they're fed decent ingredients, so that the oils they produce contain good amounts of Omega-3 like wild fish, rather than having a fatty acid profile more along the lines of corn-raised beef. (But that don't impact the wild fish population adversely through overuse of wild fish in feeding of farmed fish. Bittman gets into that and the possible future divergence of farmed fish into two idea camps, on the second page of that great article.)

                                                          1. re: Cinnamon
                                                            Veggo Jun 10, 2009 08:56 PM

                                                            I agree. And the world's reliance on China to do the job "right" is misplaced. Potential for aquaculture in Africa is abundant, but the hurdles are severe and outside of the scope here.

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