Keeping up with the food news

September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Posted by Grace

Right now I’m in Victoria doing some work for Slow Food Canada and Katharine is camping, so I thought I would post some recent food and agriculture news from across Hamilton, Ontario and Canada. Just click on the title to read the full article!

Raising the bar on the coffee bean
The Hamilton Spectator, Meredith MacLeod

Stephen Armstrong simply doesn’t accept that some people don’t like coffee.

He can’t relate to it. It’s incomprehensible.

He’ll find them the right coffee.

It’s only a couple of minutes into an interview with a coffee non-convert when he declares that java has 800 flavour compounds, compared to wine with 250.

What’s not to like?

“Coffee is, hands down, the most complex beverage on the planet, ” says Armstrong, 42, a man with a variety of careers in his past, who’s decided that coffee is the way he can make the world a better place through his company Speakeasy.

Ontario wines in the spotlight
The Hamilton Spectator, Dan Kislenko

A rare doubleheader this week in Vintages includes wine we discussed last Saturday and a special, relatively small one today devoted to Ontario wines.

The ‘conscious carnivore’
The Hamilton Spectator, Dan Kislenko

Ken Vanlith and Madelyn Hamilton have pretty much given up eating beef. But they haven’t turned vegan, and still enjoy a good burger or a juicy tenderloin steak.

The Grimsby couple has simply switched allegiance when it comes to their red meat of choice. Now, it’s bison. Or sometimes elk.

As owners of CottageCookout, they are trying to introduce game meats as an everyday alternative for — as their motto says — “the conscious carnivore.” And they are obviously making inroads judging from the steady stream of customers buying their products or just stopping by to sample them on a recent afternoon at the downtown Grimsby farmers’ market.

Homegrown food long-term security issue
Postmedia News, Randy Shore

The local grocery store is advertising steaks from Australia and lamb from New Zealand.

Even if that grocery store were right next door to a slaughterhouse processing cattle, there is an excellent chance that grass-fed Canadian beef would find its way to a boutique grocer in California before it turned up in a store just steps away. Ditto for local lamb. According to the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, British Columbia imports 375,000 kilograms of lamb and sheep meat a year, most of it from the other side of the planet.

I’m forming intentions as I read Food Secure Vancouver, a report on local food security by the Vancouver Food Policy Council. The report points out that we grow only 13 per cent of our market vegetables in B.C., with the balance coming mainly from California and Mexico.

Organic wine explained
David Suzuki Foundation, Lindsay Coulter

Which would you pick: a glass of wine or an endangered Burrowing Owl (they’re about the same size)?

Sommeliers taste wine seeking notes, aroma, acidity, the appearance “in the glass”, the sensations “in the mouth” and the finish. But when I planned my green nuptials over four years ago, I had more on my mind than the dilemma of red or white (and which guests could not be seated next to each other).

In Western Canada, a lot of local wine comes from B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. It’s a great vacation spot with beautiful lakes and orchards. It’s also home to rare plants and animals of the antelope-brush ecosystem (PDF file) — and a great place to grow grapes!

It’s also one of the four most endangered ecosystems in all of Canada.

Over 60 per cent of antelope-brush habitat has been lost to houses, grazing or agriculture. Today only 3,100 hectares remain, and 88 species are either gone or at risk of disappearing. When wine tasting and buying, keep nature in mind.

Toxic shrimp cocktail, anyone?
David Suzuki Foundation, Lori Petryk, RD, MSc; and David Hadley, MD

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” So claimed Napoleon the pig in George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm. Napoleon could well have been talking about the differences between farmed and wild-caught shrimp.

Much like other farming practices, traditional aquaculture goes back thousands of years. Early shrimp farmers developed a balanced ecosystem where small numbers of shrimp coexisted in ecological harmony with other fish species. This type of early fish farming could yield about 200 kilograms of shrimp per acre in a good year. Today, high global demand for shrimp has led to the conversion of rice fields, salt beds and fishponds for industrial shrimp farms. According to a report by the U.S. public interest organization Food & Water Watch, today’s corporate-run shrimp operations can produce more than 40,000 kilograms per acre. That’s 200 times more shrimp per acre than the small traditional farms produced. As with many other industrial animal-farming operations, our ability to purchase this inexpensive food comes with hidden costs to our health and the environment.

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