2/17/11 Nourishing News Roundup

Our weekly roundup of links to headlines we think you’ll want to read…

Sustainable Aquaculture Standards

As we noted in last week’s story about the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, those guidelines hint at the need for environmentally sustainable food without specifying what they mean by “sustainable.” That’s why I was happy to see that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has a draft for sustainable marine aquaculture policies, which is currently open for public comment. “If done wisely, aquaculture can complement wild fisheries while contributing to healthy oceans and coastal economies,” says Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “As we rebuild wild fish populations, we recognize the world’s demand for safe, healthy seafood will continue to grow. Sustainable aquaculture increases our country’s food security.”

Better Fast Food?

Can a pair of former McDonalds execs and one of Oprah Winfrey’s favorite chefs build a healthier fast-food/casual-dining experience. The Los Angeles Times reports on Lyfe Kitchen (as in Love Your Food Everyday–ugh, hate the name…), which is slated to debut in Palo Alto, Calif., this summer. Fried food, butter, cream and high-fructose corn syrup are banned from the menu, which will feature specialties like Niman Ranch burgers and dairy-free desserts.

Lyfe’s team would do well to pay close attention to ingredient quality, especially in light of new NPD Group research into what consumers mean by “healthy” when they eat out.  NPD’s latest survey finds diners are less concerned about calorie counts and more interested in high-quality fresh, natural and nutritious ingredients.

New Rating System

Whole Foods has partnered with the Global Animal Partnership to implement a 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system for its meat, pork and poultry. The scale ranges from Step 1 (no crates, cages or crowding) to Step 5+ (pasture-raised with no physical alterations and entire life spent on the same farm).

While Whole Foods is doing its bit to raise animal welfare standards at the grocery store meat counter, Lia notes in her post this week, more CSAs are adding pasture-raised meat, poultry and eggs to their offerings. Both approaches make it easier than ever to choose sustainable meat.

In Case You Missed It…

Last Saturday, TEDx Manhattan’s event “Changing the Way We Eat” streamed lived and inspired lots of real-time conversation. Missed it? No worries. You can watch (or rewatch) it at your leisure and see for yourself what speakers like filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney (“Truck Farm” and “King Corn”), the Environmental Working Group’s Ken Cook, Laurie David, farmer-activist Karen Hudson, Chef Michel Nischan and others had to say.

1/13/11 Nourishing News Roundup

Proposed New School Lunch Standards

Today, the USDA unveiled new school lunch nutrition standards (the first upgrade in 15 years). Among the proposed changes: more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat and skim dairy products.

Jamie’s Cold Reception

We’re enjoying a balmy, sunny week here in Los Angeles, but we’ll bet British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is finding it chilly. He recently arrived in town to film season 2 of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” for ABC. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Times reports, he was shut out by the Los Angeles Unified School District (they didn’t want to participate in a reality TV circus), so Oliver has opened a branch of Jamie’s Kitchen in Westwood to offer free cooking classes to the public. Ouch! But upscale Westwood seems an odd choice of location, since Los Angeles has its fair share of food deserts that could really use Oliver’s help, but, heck, maybe students from UCLA will drop by for a meal and a cooking lesson. Still, we think Oliver’s boyish charm–the man is willing to run around in a giant pea pod costume, for crissakes!–will melt the hearts of L.A.’s blase, celebrity-chef-fatigued residents.

Research We Love

We’re big fans of the culinary insights by the market research firm The Hartman Group. Among their fave trends for 2011: Spanish smoked paprika (which they liken to vegetarian bacon in flavor and predict will dethrone chipotle chile), 00 flour (how did they know I wanted to experiment with this superfine flour for pizza crust?), hyper-local foraged fare, and avid interest in vegetable cookery.

Time to Clean Your Dishwasher?

Gee, I always figured the dishwasher itself was getting a decent scrub along with the dishes. Not so, according to Apartment Therapy. A regular cleaning helps it run more efficiently.

The True Costs of Farming

Nicolette Hahn Niman (of Niman Ranch) weighs in on the true cost of large-scale agri-business vs. sustainable farming. Los Angeles Times

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

We’ve noted that the USDA has made impressive strides supporting the growth of organics. But don’t expect the agency to turn its back on conventional and GMO agriculture anytime soon. In a statement regarding the environmental impact of genetically engineered alfalfa, agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made it clear the USDA believes there’s room in the field for all kinds of cultivation.

“We have seen rapid adoption of biotechnology in agriculture, along with the rise of organic and non-genetically engineered sectors over the last several decades,” Vilsack said in December. “While the growth in all these areas is great for agriculture, it has also led, at times, to conflict or, at best, an uneasy coexistence between the different ways of growing crops. We need to address these challenges and develop a sensible path forward for strengthening coexistence of all segments of agriculture in our country. All are vital and a part of rural America’s success. All should be able to thrive together.”

Top Chefs in Crappy Little Kitchens

In New York, even top-name chefs often have to make do with cramped home kitchens (New York Times). Feel their pain? Check out our story about the practical space-saving tips in Jennifer Schaertl’s cheeky book Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens.