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Eat This Newsletter 058 It’s all connected

24 July 2017

This week’s haul is full of things I obsess about, not because I obsess about them but because they just happened to show up.

First, there’s the whole question of food regulations, which I’ve long maintained are necessary only as a substitute for the trust that comes with knowing who grows your food. Nowhere is this more true than in the organic sector. Once there are rules, there are rule benders, like the “certified organic” egg farm that apparently keeps 3 birds per square foot of floor space, with scant access to the outdoors or any expression of their natural behaviour. And rule breakers, like the companies importing large quantities of organic grain and soybeans that are anything but organic. Sen. Pat Roberts said that “uncertainty and dysfunction have overtaken” organic standards in the US. I’d say that they’ve always been there, baked into those standards.

Then there are fermenting Jews. Sandor Katz was on The Food Programme from the BBC last week, spreading his very sensible gospel. Jonathan Katz shared his own particular version of Fun with Pickles. And a review of a new book, The Joys of Jewish Preserving, from Emily Paster. Meanwhile, I’m discovering that you need more than three plants of Parisian Pickling to get enough cornichons simultaneously to make even a small batch.

To India, and an article by Rahul Goswami on the costs – economic and environmental – of being part of the global economy. Goswami dissects some of the figures on food imports and concludes that “the saving of enormous sums of money can … be had if we but reduce and then cut out entirely the wanton import of food and beverages, and processed and packaged food products”. Self-sufficiency brings its own problems, though, like “high levels of antibiotic-resistance in Indian poultry farming”. And exports of Darjeeling tea are in trouble too.

A new report from Chatham House, a UK think tank, puts India’s problems with globalisation in perspective. Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in Global Food Trade identifies 14 places through which large amounts of food, feed and feriliser pass. A blockage in any one of them, the report warns, “could conceivably lead to supply shortfalls and price spikes, with systemic consequences that could reach beyond food markets”. It also offers advice on how to avoid such blockages.

And, a couple of bits and bobs from some previous guests on the show.

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