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Category Archives: Env: Food Related

Reminder: Gourmet Garden Cook Off – One week to go!

Just a reminder about next weeks Gourmet Garden Cook Off:

I will be cooking / competing at Sydney Good Food & Wine Show on Friday 22nd June at 12:30 – 1:15pm. I will be on the Chopping Block Stand U20. Any of my readers planning on coming? Id love to meet you!

Anyone wanting a cup of sourdough starter (to get your own sourdough happening) let me know sometime in the next few days so I can get a jar going for you from my stock.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Env: Food Related

 

Free Ranged Eggs

You’ve heard me bang on and on about free ranged chicken and eggs. I’ve discussed the value of free ranged eggs for your health, animal ethics and the economy. To carry the label “Free Range”, producers must comply with a high standard of animal ethics and welfare issues resulting in a higher quality of product. Accreditation labelling ensures that producers are checked regularly for compliance to these standards giving consumers piece of mind.

Free range eggs

Free range eggs (Photo credit: Constance Wiebrands)

Today I wanted to share with you two issues facing Australian consumers but I thought I would share this fantastic chart to help consumers understand the difference between the different egg labels. Perhaps it will clarify some of the ethical issues regarding egg production.

In Australia, there are plans to change the standards for free range egg production from 1,500 chickens per hectare to an incredible 20,000 chickens. The proposed changes also want to restrict chickens to be inside for the first 25 weeks of life instead of being allowed to free range from 5 weeks.  This great article on The Conversation (New standards could make consumers chose between the chicken and the egg) helps explain the issues.

Chickens

Chickens (Photo credit: Allie’s.Dad)

As horrifying as these changes sound, it’s not too late for consumers to vote against the proposed changes. You can sign the Animals Australia petition entitled Don’t let ‘Free Range’ become ‘Factory Farmed and talk to your friends about it. Express your concerns via social media like Facebook to heighten consumer consciousness.

It is not impossible for consumers to stall horrendous political decisions. Just this week, Tasmania announced a ban on battery egg production in its state and has made moves to phase out stall pig production. What a fantastic win for animal ethics and consumerism! You can read about this victory on this ABC news feed and this National Newspaper article.

 
 

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Fruitos

I recently blogged about the delicious produce I recently got from Byron Bay Farmers Markets. That post lead to a wonderful exchange with regular reader, Ragamuffin. It turns out that Ragamuffin lives in Alaska. She related how farmers markets are not available for 8 months a year, and sometimes a trip to the produce store may be 6 hours long. I have never considered how difficult it would be for someone to get fresh produce living in such an extreme climate. I can not relate to that type of restrictions for fresh produce as it is such a huge part of our daily diet here.

Once every week or two, we order a $35 box of fresh produce from Fruitos Direct. On the off weeks, we visit farmers markets. In this way, we are able to access a wide range of local and state sourced produce. We specify what we would like in our Fruitos delivery, and I usually aim to get seasonal fruits and vegetables that the whole family will enjoy. I thought of Ragamuffin today as I unloaded my box. I wish everyone had fair and equal access to such gorgeous fresh produce.

 

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My humble garden

We live in a moderately sized regional town on the northern New South Wales coast of Australia. Our town boasts being the most easterly point of the mainland (at low tide) but Byron Bay, 30 km to the north is the widely accepted most easterly mainland point. We live in a small two bedroom apartment on the first floor. Our apartment block is situated on one of the busiest highways in Australia. A bypass for our town was opened in December last year, which thankfully has had a noticeable decrease to noise and pollution. Living in a small apartment means we have no real recreational space or garden, but we do have a sensational north facing balcony. All in all, I love where we live.

You may have caught my weekly photo challenge earlier this week. It was a photo of my garden. I’ve had to adapt to the lack of space and on mothers day last year, I started my humble little garden. It consists of used second-hand polystyrene boxes commonly used for transporting broccoli. We punched holes in the bottom of the boxes to ensure that there was good drainage. In the bottom of each box, I placed a few sheets of newspaper to stop the soil falling out. We purchased some cheap’ish potting mix from a department store and the rest is history!

Aided by the Gardenate Garden Calender which tells me what to plant at what times of the year, our veggie garden has become a reality. Last year we harvested bok choy, all manner of herbs, leeks, tomatoes, salad greens, and more. I have just planted our winter crops which I water daily. The baby leeks in my banner photo are actually from my garden! I have just planted our winter crop and soon we will be feasting on leeks, tomatoes, herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano), pak choy, pumpkins, salad greens, broad (fava) beans and capsicums. As a promise of things to come, my heirloom tomatoes produced four beautiful tomatoes ahead of schedule, one of which we picked today!

Stay tuned to this space… I hope to post some photos over time of how my organic crop matures!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Env: Food Related, Env: Sustainability

 

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Byron Bay Farmers Markets

Today Joe and I had the good fortune to venture to Byron Bay Organic Farmers Markets. Usually, we visit our local farmers markets, but we had heard that the ones at Byron was something special, and as it’s a neighbouring town, it’s not too far out of our way. And let me tell you, I am so glad we did make the trip! Yes, it was a little expensive compared to our regular markets, but wow! So much goodness in one place is well worth it. This is our grocery bag. You be the judge and see if you could call the price of our haul.

We got:

  • 500 grams free ranged pork loin chops from Sunforest Farms
  • 500 grams free ranged pork collar steak from Sunforest Farms
  • 280 grams goats cheese – lemon merthyl flavoured from Nimbin Valley Dairy
  • pepper pecorino from Bangalow Cheeses
  • 300 grams tempeh with fava beans and wakame from Byron Bay Tempeh
  • 500 grams brown rice from Nimbin Valley Rice
  • 3 large squash
  • 5 baby corn
  • 300 grams cherry tomatoes
  • 500 grams shiitake mushrooms
  • 250 grams Dutch cream mushrooms
  • 4 passionfruit
  • 2 punnets of blueberries
  • 1 dragon fruit
  • 1 star fruit
  • 5 bananas
  • 5 bunches Bok choy
  • 1 kilo Kipper potatoes
  • 3 large zucchini
  • punnet lettuce seedlings (not pictured)
  • punnet broad bean seedlings (not pictured)
  • punnet bok choy seedlings (not pictured)

Pinny is a local favourite with her produce, jams and preserves. She does can be found at both Ballina (Sunday am) and Byron Bay (Thursday am) Farmers Markets.

How much do you think this would have cost us? Go on, have a guess!  (Please put your guess in the comments section – I am actually interested in what you guessed!) This little bag of goodies cost $80. When assessing the value of these goods, there are a few things to bare in mind:

  • All of these products are fresh. They haven’t been bought in bulk, shipped to a distribution centre, spent a few months in cold storage and then put into retail outlets for the consumers. They were hand-picked within the last day or so.
  • All of these items are locally made. Purchasing these items supported the local economy, and supports local enterprise.
  • All of these items are organic. The carbon footprint of these products will be dramatically lower when compared to commercially produced alternatives. Additionally, organic farming practices are much more sustainable when compared to the alternative.

For most people (us included) this is not a weekly shop. We just couldn’t afford it on a weekly basis, but once a month, for one shop, it is definitely a more sustainable (and economically possible) option. For our family, the price / ethical trade-off is an acceptable justification. Remember what I said recently about you having an incredible weapon each time you shop? The choice is ultimately yours, and  a commitment to just one more ethical shop a month or switching to one organic brand per month is a huge step. So what are you waiting for? Find your local farmers markets, and check it out. You never know… you just might be surprised!

Ballina Farmers Markets (pictured) operate on a Sunday morning, from dawn to 10am.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Env: Food Related, Env: Sustainability

 

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So this Easter…

I just wanted to spend a few minutes to relay to you about our Easter purchases and hopefully influence any last-minute purchases today or for coming years.

Instead of buying Joes grandmother and mother the usual box of Cadbury Roses, we opted to purchase them a jar of Chocolate coated Macadamia’s from the Byron Bay Chocolate Company. The nuts are locally grown and the end product is also locally manufactured. Many towns have small hand-made chocolate businesses utilising locally sourced produce. Instead of supporting large commercial chocolate companies, opt to support small local business instead.

For quite some time now, Darrell Lea Chocolates have promoted their Save the Bilby agenda. According to the website, bilbies are a desert dwelling marsupial with large ears, light grey and tan fur and a very distinctive black and white tail. Of the six bandicoot species that once lived in the arid / semi arid areas of Australia, bilbies are the only species remaining. It has national conservation status and is currently listed as vulnerable. Purchasing this particular bilby shaped easter egg helps conservation efforts for one of Australias unique and threatened species. A gorgeous video of bilbies has just been published by the Guardian Newspaper UK.  If you must make purchases from larger chains, opt for one that has some sort of positive impact, such as the chocolate bilby.

As my regular readers are no doubt aware by now, I am fairly anti commercialism, because of its effects on the environment. The impact of Easter eggs for the environment is fairly huge. Most chocolates contain palm oil &/or sugar, and as such, lend to the clearing of wilderness for extensive palm plantations. Check your labels, and try to avoid contributing to this ecological disaster by avoiding products that are utilising palm products. Nestle, for example, are right in the middle of the palm sugar controversy. Consumer digression is advised. Remember: You wield a mighty weapon each time you visit the supermarket.

Easter eggs

Easter eggs (Photo credit: StSaling)

Another alterative is to skip the consumer based exploitations all together! Just this morning I stumbled across this wonderful post by Breanna Peterson Photography. Ry, the boy in question is allergic to eggs. His clever mum ordered in some ceramic eggs which they then died. He looks to have had an awesome time decorating the eggs. Hand blown eggs and egg decorating tips has been around for eons, and such traditions are being lost. I remember using autumn leaves, natural dyes, stocks and other fun stuff to make some awesome designs of hard-boiled eggs which we then took to school in our lunch boxes.  Why not do something special with your kids, and do some all natural dye eggs with leaf prints or flower prints. You just never know… you might also enjoy yourself!

 

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Kangaroo Meat – Environmentally Sustainable or Australia’s Shame?

Recently I promised to write an article about the kangaroo meat industry, and try to present a balanced argument trying to raise some of the issues regarding the industry to public awareness. I published the article on the weekend on my environmental blog The Environmental Rhi-Source. The article is entitled Kangaroo Meat – Environmentally Sustainable or Australia’s Shame? and as it relates to food products, I decided to do a quick post about it here to alert some of my food blog followers about the post.

Photograph by Ray Drew.

 

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Hands on grain; the demand for food.

I have started back at uni today (3rd and final year environmental science student), and am already waist deep. This one particular unit – “Ecological and Environmental Economics for Sustainable Development” asked me to do a reading entitled “The state of the world’s land and water resources for food and agriculture”. The report, ironically, was from the same organisation that I referred to a lot throughout my recent Big Beef Debate post. It is written by the Food and Agriculture Organization (sic) of the United Nations (FAO) and was presented at the World Environmental Summit in Rome during 2011. The assessment asked me to chose one photo from the report and to write my reflections (in a few sentences) about the image tied in to the reading. I have gone way out on a limb and written it from an emotional third party prospective instead of a more clinical scientific view point.  Below is what I have submitted for grading; I hope you enjoy it.

Hands on grain; the demand for food.

Image from: Page 10
Title: Hands on grain; the demand for food.
Name: Rhianna B

This photo speaks to me on so many levels about all of the issues regarding food securities and the underlying problems. It is an unavoidable fact of life; people need food for survival. Currently, mother earth must feed over seven billion mouths and yet she is failing; over one billion are undernourished. By 2050, predictions estimate the world’s population at over nine billion. This population rise will increase the demand for sustenance by 70%. Even if this demand is met at a basic level, it is still estimated that one in 20 people will be undernourished.

And who is to blame? Is it mother earth for failing to provide? Or is it us, her dependant children for abusing the very hands that feed us? A staggering 11% of the available landmass is used for agriculture and 40% of these agricultural lands are reliant on irrigation sourced from underground sources. The utilisation of underground water stores outweighs natural recharge rates. While our rivers contain only 5% of their former volumes we continue to irrigate our fields. Our inefficient farming practices use 70% of the water withdrawals and yet we demand more to meet the needs of growth as cultivated areas have increased 12% in the last 50 years.

It is us who have bled the rivers and aquifers dry with our abusive farming practices. And it is us who must unlearn outdated farming practices that strip the soil of nutrients. These loss nutrients end up in the ocean only to cause damage to the life there. To regain what was lost, we load our fields with unnatural substitutes who benefit us at the cost of biodiversity.

At the dawn of a new era realise the damage we have done. The value of the very land we require to sustain us increases beneath our feet. Its proximity to water and the soil nutrient composition determine its availability to us. The rich acquire the fertile land and can maintain its high yield with their wealth and modern agricultural practices, hopefully undoing the sins of the forefathers. The poor can only access the barren fields remaining, with little or no money to improve its potential, further degrading it with their lack of options and poverty.

The rich, with their fat bellies and wallets are sustained by greed while nearby, our poor cousins starve. If only a little of that money could be redirected. If only our governments would make a stand, develop a higher farming standard and support us. If only…

 

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The Big Beef Debate

I had originally written this at the bottom of my Kranksy and Roast Veggies post, but decided to make it a stand alone post. I would love to say that the meal in question was ethical, but I don’t think the Kranskys were. Although the company itself was ethical, the ingredients list “meat including pork”. I can only assume that there is beef in the mix, which for us is highly unethical. This is not a meat source we would normally purchase, however, it was left over from the party and I decided to use it rather than waste it. So why is beef bad, Rhianna? Let me explain why as simply as I can. For simplicity, I am only sticking to three main issues; Water, land degradation and air pollution. I assure you, there are five times as many issues associated with cattle production, but I don’t want to write a paper on such a gorgeous day as today!

This photo I took in 2006 on the bank of a river in Candelo, NSW. I call it the three judges.
This photo I took in 2006 on the bank of a river in Candelo, NSW. I call it the three judges.

Water:

Climate change and land use issues are starting to impact on the availability of clean water used for drinking, cooking and bathing. Of all sources utilising water resources (people, industry, agriculture ect), the beef farming industry is the largest water consumer. Although global estimates vary largely, it is internationally accepted that the water used to produce one kilo of beef is roughly 20,000 litres of water (2500 gallons per pound). Think about it; the cattle raised for human consumption must be fed and watered. The feed they eat (soy, hay ect ect) must be watered to grow just like any crop. There is a lot of water involved in the slaughtering and  butchering processes. In fact, every aspect of bringing you a piece of meat to the table has involved large quantities of water. This water is now unavailable to people for consumption, and as a result, people in may countries dehydrate while cattle drink.

Furthermore, the use of underground water stores (such as the Great Artesian Basin) have been depleted to near exhaustion all over the world to (directly or indirectly) water cattle. While this doesn’t initially seem like a bad thing, the geology and water infiltration rates result in these aquifers requiring centuries to refill. Current extraction rates are exceeding recharge rates, and this gap is only increasing. The natural flow of water within the GAB is estimated at just one to five meters annually. That is exceptionally slow for an aquifer that is estimated to cover some 64,900 cubic kilometres (or a quarter of the Australian land mass).

Land Degradation:

In the USA, approximately 50% of agricultural lands are used in beef production. Similarly, beef production in Australia extends to approximately half (yes, half!) of the entire continental landmass. Once forestry and natural land cover is cleared for agricultural purposes, it leaves it exposed to degradation. Degradation is a generalised term to describe many forms of declining land quality which has far reaching effects for humans and indigenous fauna and flora. I have chosen just three to speak about here at the moment, however, you should be aware that there are MANY more complications that arise directly from land clearing such as biodiversity issues (flora and fauna survival and extinction complications), land use competition (shortage of land for other forms of agriculture and housing) and direct soil issues (nutrient loading, exhaustion and shifts).

    • Salinity: Naturally occurring  soils and their sediments containing iron sulfides (principally pyrite) are known as Acid Sulphite Soils. When these soils are exposure to oxygen (for example, by drainage or excavation to use as pasture lands) Sulfuric Acid is generated through natural, unavoidable chemical reactions. The land degrades to a point where it is unable to sustain organic life. The reversal of this effect is timely and costly. It many be centuries before the damage is undone, and until it has been reversed, the land is unusable for any purpose.
    • Compaction: Over time, the heavy traffic of cattle compacts the soil on which they graze. This compression of soil results in a reduced rate of water infiltration (ie: the ability and rate which the land absorbs water) and makes it more difficult for flora to establish. This has a trickle down effect; i) plants have a hard time growing in the hardened, condensed soil and less water is available to them, ii) fauna has reduced amounts of food available to them, increasing competition and loss of biodiversity and iii) more land is required to produce crops to feed cattle, as it is less likely to grow naturally in their pasture lots.
    • Run Off: Farming and agricultural activities requiring the removal or disturbance of ground cover predisposing the site to erosion. This results in a wicked cycle of events, all linked to this clearing;  i) loss of sedimentation through water run off which eventually travels through storm water drains ending up in rivers or the sea, ii) nutrient loading in water ways and the sea results in algal blooms (blue green algae) which deplete the water of oxygen, eventually result in fish kills and iii) the lost nutrients need to be replaced so that the crops (that support the cattle) grow – enter fertilisers.

While searching for an image for this article, I rediscovered this photo which I presumed had been lost. This is my father with his pet cows on his property at Candelo, NSW, in 2006. I think this is the last image I have of him before he died.

Green House Gasses:

Our understanding of the green house gas effect is that certain gasses act to form an atmospheric canopy that trap solar energy near to the earth’s surface. This in turn causing a change in the air closest to the earth’s surface, gradually increasing surface temperature through a processes commonly refereed to as global warming. In a United Nations paper released in 2006, beef production was named as the number one producer of green house gasses. It specifically named carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide. It estimated that beef production accounts for up to 22% of the worlds entire green house gas omissions directly related to climate change. That is a whole hell of a lot of climate change attributed solely to cattle! 

So, what’s it all mean? Generally speaking for the environmentally concious, the negative impacts of cattle farming outweigh the tasty steak on your plate. One study reported by the University of Chicago suggested switching from the average meat-based diet to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet will reduce your personal carbon footprint by 0.97 tons. I am not suggesting that everyone becomes vegetarians over night. Small steps is what we need; start Meat Free Monday’s in your home. Once you are comfortable with having a totally vegetarian day in your regular diet, introduce Pulses Thursday. Just reducing your meat consumption to zero two days a week will have a huge positive result on the environment in which we live.

By-Note: I started to list my sources, but most of it comes from my undergraduate studies as an Environmental Sciences student. I am sure that there are dozens of papers that would verify what I’ve said, and if pushed, Ill get to the text books and fine them for you. Sing out if you need clarification.

Sources:

Bell, A.W., Charmley, E., Hunter, R.A. and Archer, J.A, (2011). “The Australasian beef industries—Challenges and opportunities in the 21st century.” Animal Frontiers, Inc. Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from http://animalfrontiers.fass.org/content/1/2/10.full

Dunn, C. (2012). “Measure your food’s water footprint.” Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/measure-your-foods-water-footprint.htm

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (2006). “Livestocks role in water depletion and pollution.” Conference papers presented at Rome, Italy. Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e04.pdf

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (2006). “Livestock in geographic transition.” Conference papers presented at Rome, Italy. Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e02.pdf

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (2006). “Livestocks impact on biodiversity.” Conference papers presented at Rome, Italy. Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e05.pdf

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (2006). “Livestocks role in climate change and air pollution.” Conference papers presented at Rome, Italy. Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e03.pdf

Hoekstra, A.Y, Prof., and Chapagain, A.K, Dr. (2012). Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from www.waterfootprint.org

McDermott, M., (2009). “From Lettuce to Beef, What’s the water footprint of your food?” Retrieved 18 Feb 2012 from http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/from-lettuce-to-beef-whats-the-water-footprint-of-your-food.html

http://www.vegsource.com/articles/pimentel_water.htm

Could you please take a moment to answer this survey

 

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