Wednesday, May 06, 2009

USA agribusiness comes to Europe.

This article in the New York Times really bothered me. Why are EU subsidies going to a big Fortune 500 corporation that is driving out local farmers? I didn't even know US based agribusinesses ran farms in other countries until the Swine Flu outbreak. The Mexican farm being investigated as the possible source of the outbreak is American owned.

While it's nice the price of pork has gone down in America, I don't think the cost to the pigs and the environment is worth it.

True local meat is more expensive. But I don't eat meat often and I don't want to support places that treat animals like this:

Every stage of a hog’s life — from artificial insemination to breeding genetic characteristics — is controlled. A handful of employees tend thousands of hogs that spend their lives entirely indoors, under constant lighting, to spur growth. Sows churn out litters three or four times a year. Within 300 days, a pig weighing roughly 120 kilograms, or 270 pounds, is ready for slaughter.
Smithfield fine-tuned its approach in the depressed tobacco country of eastern North Carolina in the 1990s. In 2000, money started flowing from a Smithfield political action committee in that state and around the United States. Ultimately, more than $1 million went to candidates in state and federal elections. North Carolina lawmakers helped fast-track permits for Smithfield and exempted pig farms from zoning laws.

Some of this pork goes Africa. In the article one local African farmer said he can't compete with the cheaper imports so he is going to move to Italy or Spain for work. So weird that this man in a small village is being impacted by the actions of a wealthy company thousands of miles away.

More and more people are trying to be "locavores." To buy foods that are grown/raised near their homes and to support local farmers. I have found it a lot easier to do this since the move to Italy. Other than the occasional avocado and banana my fruit, veggies and meat come from the boot.

Yes it sucks when your favorite foods are out of season but after tasting real tomatoes again, I can't go back.

I read that in the States more people are planting gardens partly due to the economic downturn. It upsets me that so many people don't have access to good fresh produce. When I lived in DC the local supermarket had veggies and meat that was so foul it turned my stomach. Meanwhile in Potomac, MD the Giant Foods was amazing.

Do you garden or go to a Farmer's Market? Why?


gibber said...

Well, you know how I am about gardening...i have my tomato, basil, lemongrass, peppers, strawberries on my deck ready to plant. And my mint, chives, rosemary, tarragon, sage and thyme have already yielded lots of herby goodness.

I don't think dad started gardening to save money or cuz he was a locavore. It's because he knew that tomatoes grown in the garden taste better than whats in the store. Not to mention, it can save you lots of money. And I've grown addicted to that fresh off the vine taste. NOTHING in the store compares to what you find at real farmers markets.

That said, it's expensive to shop at Eastern Market. I hope that this community/urban gardening trend picks up because it is a lower cost way for lower income folks to get some fresh food. And i think it helps greatly that our fabu first lady started her garden and brought in local DC kids to partner with the White House kitchen.

Big Agribusiness is unfortunately a part of life in the states. Makes me said that it's spreading to the boot.

erin :: the olive notes said...

Yeah, I'm very unsupportive of any other country taking up these highly destructive farming any form. The research behind what harmful effects it has to the entire planet is astounding.

One of the most "green" things anyone can do is try to eat as locally as possible.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

gibber - I can't wait to have a garden. Dad's tomatoes rocked. I know people like to clown NJ but it's called the Garden State for a reason.

Eastern Market is very expensive. I agree with you regarding The First Lady's garden. In NYC there are so some great community gardens. I wonder if there is a non-profit that helps fund them in low income areas.

Agribusiness has some very powerful lobbyists. I'm not sure if anything will change. If they could put HFCS in fruit they would.

erin - I read Fast Food Nation and it was the first time I understood the connection between the growth of fast food chains and the need for these massive pig and cow farms. The practices on these farms are horrible.

It annoys me that some companies are moving overseas to places with fewer environmental guidelines and cheaper labor.

Los Angelista said...

I used to go to the farmer's market in Hollywood all the time till they jacked up their prices a ton due to $4 gas. The prices haven't come down yet, so I get some stuff there and some stuff at Trader Joe's/Vons/Ralphs. The local stuff always tastes better than something that came on a truck from somewhere else.

I just started my own little garden of lettuce, tomatoes and carrots in some little raised planters. Can't wait till it grows. And as far as these insane cow/pig farms go, I think they're disgusting and I can't even imagine eating meat out of them. I wonder will more folks become vegetarian after this.

J.Doe said...

I'm also from NJ. You can't beat those Jersey grown tomatoes and since I live in an apt with no balcony and no land i run to local farmer's markets. The food is often more exspensive there, and smaller, but much tastier.
In the winter I do hit the supermarkets for produce, but am never quite as satisfied and sometimes quite grossed out by what is called tomatoes there.

glamah16 said...

Dont get me started about some of these grocers in the city. Fortunately I have choie and car, but some aren't as fortunate and rely on the corner store selling crap. The global impact of these huge US agribiz is amazing. And unfortunately being a locavore is consisdered elitist and unpratical for many still. Hopefull we will finf balance in this world.

Deidre said...

I grew up on an organic farm - and it always came as a surprise to me that people didn't have their own peas frozen in their freezers. Like people BUY FROZEN PEAS? wha!?

Now that I live on my own - in Australia - I go to the farmer's market for all my veggies and have a (very teeny tiny) herb garden in my kitchen.

I think it's super important to know where your food comes from. I'm a vegetarian so I never think about meat - but always buy organic eggs.

There was a super good article in the NY times about a year ago called "why bother?" by michael pollan.

babyboyla said...

I remember how much better the food was when I was in italy when I was over there. Living in the Detroit area is sad because they don't even have decent supermarket's in the city you have to travel 15 miles to find a have way decent one. Most people here are force to shop at these cheap markets or , sad to say ,dollar stores!
they shop at these because it's more affordable , but they just don't get that the food is worst for them!
I'm looking forward to tasting fresh food again!
I've been trying slowly to get my mom and grandmother to try healthier foods, my grandmother is trying , my mom on the other hand ? :-(
Living in or near a city where the economy is depressed is really sad.
If you think the country or city has it bad, just come to detroit.
I love the city and it's people , but there are some real problems that are going to take a change of minds here and you know how hard it is to get people to change there ways.
Looking forward to moving to roma in the fall ! :-)
Dave B

joanne at frutto della passione said...

I make a point of buying locally grown meat, dairy and produce. Where and when possible I also aim to buy local products like olive oil, wine, vinegar, etc. I shop at a coop and belong to a farming coop (together with neighbours) for seasonal fruit and veg. Sometimes I find myself buying some megamonster brand (Mccain oven chips - it's an addiction) but it isn't the rule.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

los angelista - I remember how expensive the farmer's markets were in L.A. and Whole Foods was bananas.
I don't know if more people will become vegetarian to protest the way farm animals are treated. Look how many people eat fast food everyday despite knowing it's bad for them. They just want food that is fast, and cheap. I don't think they really care where it comes from.

j.doe - winter tomatoes are sad. They taste like cardboard. You are so right about Jersey tomatoes. Let's not forget the corn and peaches. Amazing.

glamah16 - I really don't understand the elitist label thrown at people who love food. I'll have to to do a separate post about that. It's a shame to see some of the food that is sold in city markets (and at usually higher prices). grrr

deidre - I read Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food" and thought it was fantastic. I'm going to do a search for the NYT article you mentioned.

david b - I fear things are only going to get worse in Detroit as the auto industry continues to fall apart. It's great that you're trying to get your mom and grandmother to eat better. It's not easy to break old habits. Sometimes people think healthy = no flavor.

joanne - a farmer's coop sounds amazing. A friend introduced me to a farmer friend of hers who has amazing olive oil. There is a great cheese/dairy coop near my apartment.

That said I'm no saint. I do buy Coke once in a while but at least it's made here too. ha