Tag Archives: USDA

10 Reasons Why “Local” is Challenging Industrial Food

Over the last several months, I have noticed a change in tone in online conversations (i.e., Twitter, blogs, comments, etc.) regarding local food.  At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but then it became clear.  The “established” sustainable food online community was joined by people from the food industry (farmers, marketers, Monsanto, etc.), putting agendas, visions, and turf front-and-center.

Personally, I think this is a good thing, since I believe all sides need to be considered when initially trying to solve the complex problem of making our food supply sustainable.

Unfortunately, entrenched positions are difficult to get around. Industrial food appears to think that people advocating for sustainable food, whether large or small scale, local or national, are out to get them.  While at the same time, sustainable and/or local food advocates seem to believe that industrial food can’t or won’t change.

What we all need to try to understand is that sustainable food isn’t about industry and advocates.  It’s about consumers and communities. It’s about finding effective solutions to meet the needs of consumers based on where they live and what they value (see Pro Food Is post for list of core principles all interested parties can rally around).

In that spirit, I offer the following list of reasons why I believe “local” is making industrial food nervous. I strongly encourage readers to consider this any opening comment in what must be a constructive dialog. The objective is to get more people from all sides of the problem on the same page, so we can get to work on solving the problem.

  1. Alternative Food Systems: There is no question that local, organic and sustainable are here to stay. How much market share products in these categories will take away from existing food companies is a big question, which is likely one reason why players in the industrial food system are paying more attention.  If I were them, I would be looking for signs of real traction in regional food systems, which could move consumers to a “tipping point” that changes America’s food systems for good.
  2. Location, Location, Location: Given its size, industrial food can’t effectively scale down to meet the spirit of local, but this isn’t stopping it from trying. Consider the multi-million dollar budget and marketing campaign to position Lay’s as a local product. Never mind that Frito-Lay uses two billion pounds of potatoes every year. If it can redefine local, then it can slow or stop the threat.
  3. Values-Driven Movement: Consumers interested in local foods are looking for more than cheap, widely accessible food, whether processed or fast food. They want flavorful, nutritious foods that come from local farmers and processors. They want enriching food experiences. Some want to keep their dollars in the local community to build value, which will drive more local supply. Judging by some of industrial food’s recent actions, it may try to spin its way through this latest challenge. That might work, for a while, but not likely if the local movement stays on course.
  4. Brand Leadership: An important tenet of local is knowing where things come from. In the case of food this means that attribution goes to farms and farmers, not corporate brands. It’s hard for me to imagine how leading food brand companies could give up such recognition in an effort to be local. Consider Disney Garden, a full line of fruits and vegetables offered by Imagination Farms, which licenses the Disney name (see Disney Garden: A Figment of Our Imagination). The packaging is 100 percent dedicated to the Disney brand. If you want to know about the farmers, you have to visit the I-Farms web site and dig down a couple layers. It’s there, but clearly in a supporting role at best.
  5. Traceability: How will industrial food offer transparent traceability (i.e., publicly available information on food sources on demand) to its business?  Can it realistically trace where every item comes from that is used in their products?  As recent food safety scares have shown us, it is very difficult to trace commodity and large-scale food products given the number of hands that touch them between farm and plate, even after weeks or months of effort. In the case of local foods, consumers will easily know where food comes from, and in some cases will know farmers first-hand.
  6. Supply Constraints: Industrial food might have a point when it claims that local suppliers can’t meet potential consumer demands.  This is especially true in concentrated population centers, e.g., New York City, where it’s hard to envision enough local suppliers within 100 miles (often cited as meaning “local”) to feed NYC’s 8.2 million inhabitants.  At the same time, the amount of food being consumed from local suppliers is nowhere close to its potential.  The hard part for large food companies is envisioning how their products, dependent on commodity supplies and heavy processing can meet emerging consumer demand.
  7. Profit Margins: Over the last 25 years, the amount of every consumer dollar spent going to the “marketing bill” (beyond the farm) has substantially increased.  At the same time, farmers have seen their income drop over 40 percent (from $0.31 to $0.19) during that time period (see Is Industrial Food Stealing Farmers Lunch Money?).  There are lots of contributing factors in this shift, but one thing seems clear, reversing course will be very difficult for top-heavy food companies.  Part of the problem with “real food” is that it can’t be marked up much beyond the farm, since the value-add really happens in restaurant and home kitchens.  Perhaps some well-known global brands (e.g., Disney) might be able to pull off premium pricing without adding much value, but those will be exceptions, and may not be that for long.
  8. New Competition: While the market potential of local food sales may be limited by geography, demographics and supply chains, it still represents the type of competition that should make conventional food players nervous.  The development of local food retailers offering disproportionately local foods represents a beachhead for related products to thrive, e.g., sustainable, Fair Trade, etc. Over time, these competitors will be less reliant on the conventional food infrastructure to grow, which will likely result in a wave of “foodpreneurs” taking advantage of alternative food systems (see Slow Food with Entrepreneurial Twist and The Five Stones of Pro Food for more).
  9. Government Subsidies: While recent news regarding the USDA’s support of small and/or organic farms has been encouraging for local food advocates, the vast majority of federal funds in support of agriculture continue to go to commodity crops.  Industrial food producers wanting to shift toward local markets will therefore have to give up at least some of those subsidies when converting acreage to specialty crops (e.g., fruits, vegetables).  The financial impact of losing subsidies may prohibit many large-scale commodity farms from moving toward organic and/or local market supply.
  10. Consumer Demand: Possibly most important is the fact that consumers aren’t waiting for industrial food to “get it.”

One thing that should help industrial food sleep more comfortably at night is that developing regional food systems will not be easy work.  Government regulations continue to hamper local processing, thus impacting supply capacities.  Government subsidies are dominated by non-edible food commodity crops, although smaller amounts of money are being allocated to local, sustainable and organic farmers. And multinational food companies have the capability to saturate the airwaves and print with sophisticated marketing to shape perceptions and drive consumer behavior.

But all of that can, and likely will change over time. So, rather than fight what seems inevitable, it seems time for industry to embrace local, organic and sustainable foods, and work in concert with advocates and innovators to bring the right local, sustainable and other related products to market.

It won’t be easy, but what worth having ever is?

Follow me on Twitter: Jambutter

Farming 101 – Defining Farm Operations

Over the last several months, I have been floating out thoughts about developing sustainable, regional food systems.  I do not view such systems as a replacement of larger-scale farming and food production, but, instead, as a viable, fast-growing, and profitable alternative to our conventional food system.  Like it or not, we need all sizes of farms.

My intention with this post is to develop clear definitions of commonly used terms that can help advance discussions beyond disagreements over terminology, especially regarding sustainability, safety, and quality, which is where I am focusing my attention.

This a working draft. I will refine definitions and add terms based on constructive feedback from people with different perspectives and deeper knowledge. I will repost with updated language, assuming that is warranted.

Family Farm

“Family farm” seems to be the most misunderstood (and misused) term I have come across. In my mind, in its simplest form it refers to the ownership and operation of a farm, but other things get tagged on, e.g., generational, that confuse the term. Family farm does not connote goodness, sustainability, wholesomeness, etc., since there are family farms of all sizes, employing every type of method in the production of food.

Most family farms are small-scale operations. According to the USDA, family farms represented 98 percent of all farms in the U.S. in 2003 (91% small-scale and 7% large-scale), producing around 86 percent of the value (27% small and 59% large). Another way to look at this is that 73% of production came from large-scale family and nonfamily farms.

Factory Farm

Alternatives to family farms are those run by agribusiness, often referred to as factory farms.  Wikipedia’s definition of “factory farming” is “the practice of raising farm animals in confinement at high stocking density, where a farm operates as a factory — a practice typical in industrial farming by agribusinesses.”  Assuming factory farms are exclusively associated with livestock then it stands to reason that they be classified as either animal feeding operations (AFOs) or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – see definitions below.

What isn’t clear to me is what to call an agribusiness operation growing fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. for consumption by people or animals. Is it a factory farm, as well?

Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs)

Agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.

Other criteria include: animals are confined for at least 45 days in a 12-month period, and there’s no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season. (Source: U.S. EPA)

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFOs)

According to the U.S. EPA, an AFO that is determined to be a “significant contributor of pollutants” is re-designated as a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).  From there, such operations are categorized by size, which is determined by the number of animals, as well as other criteria (see table).  Approximately 15 percent of AFOs were designated as CAFOs.

Also according to the EPA, “The environmental impacts resulting from mismanagement of wastes include, among others, excess nutrients in water (such as nitrogen and phosphorus), which can contribute to low levels of dissolved oxygen (fish kills), and decomposing organic matter that can contribute to toxic algal blooms. Contamination from runoff or lagoon leakage can degrade water resources, and can contribute to illness by exposing people to wastes and pathogens in their drinking water. Dust and odors can contribute to respiratory problems in workers and nearby residents.

Can Farmers Markets & CSA Farms Really “Grow” Sustainable Food?

Like its cousin, community supported agriculture (CSA), farmers markets offer significant appeal to fans of local, sustainable and organic foods.  And with more than 4,600 such markets across America, along with over 12,500 CSA farms, the retail landscape is changing, if even just a little.

When considering all direct food sales, data released by the USDA Agricultural Census show such sales rose 49% to $1.2 billion in 2007 from $812 million in 2002, an inflation adjusted increase of just under 30 percent.  The number of farms selling direct also increased from 116,733 to 136,817 over the same period, a gain of 17%.  The USDA first began collecting direct sales data in 1997, when 110,630 farms had sales of $592 million.

And while this is impressive growth, the magnitude of direct food sales is still a drop in the bucket of overall farm commodity sales, representing 0.4% of the $300 billion of farm sales in 2007.  This leaves me with the nagging question of how much direct food sales can fundamentally affect the much-desired growth of sustainable food in our country.

Consider the USDA’s recently announced Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), which allocates approximately $5 million for FMPP in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 and $10 million in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.  FMPP is designed to “help improve and expand domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agri-tourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.”

Sounds like a step in the right direction, right?  Yes, until you contrast it with U.S. farm subsidies, which the USDA is required by law to provide to over two dozen commodities, and which were budgeted to reach nearly $17.0 billion in 2006.  The $5-10 million for promoting direct food sales isn’t even in the noise level when compared to farm subsidies. For those wondering how much of that $17.0 billion in subsidies finds its way to specialty crops (e.g., edible fruits and vegetables), here is how the 2006 subsidies were expected to be distributed:

Commodity

US Dollars (in Millions)

Feed grains

$7,573

Soybeans

$3,249

Upland and EIS cotton

$2,636

Wheat

$2,319

Rice

$632

Dairy

$195

Peanuts

$290

Minor oilseeds

$85

Honey

$26

Vegetable oil

$16

Wool and mohair

$11

Other crops

$34

Source: USDA 2006 Fiscal Year Budget

One thing that jumps out is that each subsidized commodity crop was expected to receive more in government subsidies than the largest annual allocation to the FMPP, which clearly shows the entrenched financial interests that sustainable food champions are up against.

What is needed reminds me of a somewhat typical episode of Star Trek (for the record, I am not a Trekkie, so forgive me if I don’t get this just right).  The USS Enterprise has once again found itself in a battle against significant odds.  The ship is damaged and its destruction seems imminent.  Suddenly, Captain Kirk orders his crew to concentrate all the ship’s energy to the front deflector shields to stage a last, heroic counterattack.  It works (it always works) and the good guys win the day.

Sustainable food needs a similar concentrated strategy, one that catches the “enemy” off-guard and unprepared by not hitting them where they are strongest. For example, going after industrial food in the halls of the U.S. Congress plays into their hand, since significant energy will be required to make very little progress (see FMPP). And, rather than destroying the enemy (i.e., conventional and industrial food systems), one goal should be to convert them, thus accelerating progress toward a truly sustainable food system for all.

For me, such a strategy must center on consumers and how they shop for, cook and eat food.  By getting enough citizens (or voters) interested and committed to sustainable food in their everyday lives will be the most effective way to change policy, as well as entrenched corporate interests. The odds are great, but the determination is there to go where no food has gone before…or something like that.

Rob Smart is a food entrepreneur focusing on regional food systems and consumer retail experiences. He blogs on alternative food systems at Every Kitchen Table and Civil Eats (guest blogger), and micro-blogs on Twitter as Jambutter.

Further Reading:

Problems for Hog & Pig CAFOs?

With all the talk of swine flu (H1N1) and the potential for a pandemic outbreak, I am trying to better understand the state of hog and pig farms in the U.S., as well as how changes in such operations might be playing into today’s swine flu scare.  In particular, what role are concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) playing, either directly or indirectly.

Here are some interesting highlights from recent press releases, news articles, and blog posts that give you a clear sense of where the public debate is heading.

The Guardian:  In 1965, for instance, there were 53m US hogs on more than 1m farms; today, 65m hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities. This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.

National Pork Board: Animals are housed in temperature-controlled facilities that are scientifically designed to ensure the health and safety of the herd. Modern pork production practices keep the animals clean, safe and protect the animals from predators, disease and extreme weather.

The Green Fork: Here’s the connection: if a commercial flight is a prime breeding ground for airborne infectious disease, consider the digs of modern hogs. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms, bring together tens of thousands of animals in quarters that make a sold-out 747 look spacious. 

Pork.org (National Pork Board web site): Swine Flu or North American Flu? [Clearly, it is in the pork industry's best interest to not let this potential pandemic influenza outbreak be tied around pork's neck, which is why they are trying to get the name changed. Assuming it turns out not to be due to pork or (importantly) CAFOs, I would tend to agree, but it seems too late to change things.]

The Independent: Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precautionary measure against the spread of swine flu even though no cases have been reported here yet, the Health Ministry said. [For perspective, the U.S. has 65 million pigs, so Egypt’s pig population would easily fit within a single CAFO “farm”.]

UPDATE: Adding Nature Network: Priming the Pump of a Swine Flu Pandemic - In a region of only 3,000 people it’s estimated that 60% of the population fell ill with swine flu symptoms as early as February of this year. As the Guardian newspaper reported yesterday [see above], the H1N1 virus was confirmed in this area when a sample from a four-year old boy was sent for analysis earlier this month. As of now, this is the earliest confirmed case of swine flu in the world.  What is also significant about the location is that the area around La Gloria is home to one of the largest industrial pig farms in all of Mexico.

UPDATE: Adding Beyond Green: This intriguing notice posted to the International Society for Infectious Diseases by Columbia University researchers suggests that the current swine flu outbreak may be a “reassortment” (i.e. rearrangement) of existing swine flu viruses and not a swine, avian, and human influenza combo.

Clearly, there is a lot at stake, which is at least partially explains why there is so much jockeying for position on who is to blame, what the pandemic should be called, and so on. Here are a few hog and pig facts from the USDA to keep in mind as each of us draws our own conclusions (from Ag Census data):

  • As of June 1, 2008, there were 66,768,000 hogs and pigs in the U.S., 19,400,000 of which were found in Iowa (29%) and 10,100,000 in North Carolina (15%). [In 1984, there were 54,072 hogs and pigs on U.S. farms, indicating a 123 percent increase over the last .]
  • In 2008, there were 73,150 hog operations in the U.S.  Places with 2,000 or more head accounted for 85.1 percent of the inventory. [In 1984, there were around 420,000 hog operations, which shows a decline of over 80 percent.]

What stands out to me is a 123% increase in the number hogs and pigs, living on 80% fewer farms, since 1984, along with increasing food safety issues, whether MRSA, swine flu or otherwise.  There is also the fact that 70 percent of all antibiotics are applied to livestock to help them survive living in concentrated operations.  The deck appears to be stacked against industry on this one, but we all know that industry won’t give up without a good fight.

Bottom line for me is that we must identify hazardous links between industrial food and food safety, and correct all problems that jeopardize the health of people and the sustainability of our environment.

Swine Flu News Round-Up

Trying to stay on top of the latest pandemic scare is a full-time job, and not mine necessarily, but I have read several informative and interesting articles and posts that I have summarized below.  In pretty much every case, these posts/articles include some great information and debate in the comments section.

BIOSURVEILLANCE: Swine Flu in Mexico- Timeline of EventsIn addition to briefly explaining how Veratect is set up to track animal and human infectious disease events, this post provides a time line of the swine flu outbreak beginning on March 30, 2009.

USDA: Statement by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Regarding Human Cases of Swine Influenza A (H1N1) - Short statement assuring U.S. citizens that the swine flu virus is not transmitted by food, e.g., eating pork or pork products.

MOTHER JONES: Swine Flu: Bringing Home the Bacon - With every pandemic scare, there is much to gain…if you happen to be a big pharmaceutical company with certain patented drugs.  This article flashes back to the avian flu scare in 2005 and projects potential winners and losers in 2009’s swine flu scare.

GRIST: Swine-flu outbreak linked to Smithfield factory farms - Points out the lack to date of the mainstream media specifically mentioning potential connection between Smithfield’s Perote pig CAFO and the swine flu outbreak.  Of course, we are seeing plenty of federal officials telling the masses that everything is okay.  And, on Twitter, I received a tweet from the Iowa Farm Bureau claiming that CAFOs are not the cause.  Let the finger pointing begin.

HUFFINGTON POST: Mexican Lawmaker: Factory Farms Are “Breeding Grounds” of Swine Flu Pandemic - Discusses the validity of claim that is has been scientifically demonstrated that people can not get influenza virus from pigs, nor by proximity to swine operations or consumption of pork meat or products. Provides points and counter points from several sources, adding to the confusion of where the latest pandemic threat originated. Money quote from Kirby (author): “There is no proof that this illness emerged on a Mexican hog factory farm, or in Mexico, or even in hogs. But we do know that Mexican pigs with swine flu are being destroyed. And we know that Mexican lawmakers think that CAFOs are making people sick.”

NEW YORK TIMES Flu Outbreak Raises a Set of Questions – Addresses question of whether the fatality rate of the swine flu outbreak is being correctly calculated. Avoids any discussion of potential sources of the swine flu, but touches on importance of today’s antibiotics, anti-flu drugs and mechanical ventilators in minimizing fatalities.

FAST COMPANY: Where’s is Swine Flu?  - Uses Google Map mashup to track swine flu cases. Interesting to see how Internet and technology are bring information to us in highly information rich forms.

School Lunch: From Malnutrition to Obesity in 50 Years

How times have changed in America’s public schools.  An editorial in today’s New York Times gives us an historic perspective of the federal school lunch program since its inception nearly a half century ago.  The program was initially implemented to fight malnutrition, but now faces the opposite challenge of fighting obesity.

Federal rules that govern the sales of these harmful (junk) foods at schools are limited in scope and have not been updated for nearly 30 years. Until new regulations are written, children who are served healthy meals in the school cafeteria will continue to buy candy bars, sugary drinks and high sodium snacks elsewhere in school.

Fortunately, Congress seems to be waking up to this problem. A bill introduced by Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, would update nutritional standards and give the Department of Agriculture broader authority to promulgate new regulations for food sold in schools that accept federal food subsidies. Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has said that he will introduce similar legislation in the Senate.

Let’s hope so for our children’s sake, as the stakes are increasingly high.

Over the last four decades, the obesity rates for adolescents have tripled.

While they’re at it, perhaps they can begin addressing the problem of school kitchens not having the equipment and/or funding necessary to prepare meals from scratch, preferably utilizing local and sustainable foods.  These functional kitchens can then provide the added benefit of getting students engaged in the cooking process.

10 Ways to Save Real Food

Yesterday, I wrote about a confluence of factors that helped create the substantial sustainability problems our food system now faces (see “The Rise and Fall of Nutritionism Ideology“). The post’s title suggests that the “Fall” has occured, but we know better.  I was simply setting up today’s post which describes one coordinated strategy for accelerating what I hope is nutritionism’s eventual decline.

My suggestions primarily focus on the marketing side of food, since people like David Murphy at Food Democracy and others are attacking food related issues at the legislative and policy level.  There are obviously overlaps where lobbying Congress and the Administration will be required, and I look forward to joining coalitions of sustainable food advocates fighting for the necessary legislative changes.

Rather than wade into such political battles, my focus is on a “death-by-a-thousand-cuts” strategy, where regions, retailers and consumers have the power to ultimately rule the day. The following list outlines the major components of that strategy.  I strongly encourage any and all comments, suggestions, etc. to these recommendations, especially if you see something missing!

  1. Food Labeling – Reinstate the Food, Drug and Commerce Act of 1938′s “imitation” label requirement, which may be the most important label for consumers since it instantly identifies fake food.  Taking the food industry head-on faces steep odds, so I am recommending a new breed of food retailers applies such labels on its shelves, moving consumers’ focus from products and packaging.
  2. Industry-Sponsored Research - Outlaw the use of nutritional claims from “independent research” funded by corporate interests, unless the sponsoring companies are listed as the lead in the study.  As long as industry is able to regularly shift its “nutritional orthodoxy” using the sophisticated marketing of these studies, consumers will be kept off balance and less able to make informed decisions on a regular basis.
  3. Regional Food Systems - Accelerate the development of regional food systems that expand the production of sustainable crops and livestock, and allow for affordable local and/or regional processing of those foods, e.g., slaughterhouses.  States and regions should also evaluate land use laws, land trusts and other measures to preserve (and hopefully expand) valuable crop land.
  4. Consumer Access - Rapidly expand consumer access to regional and other (e.g., Fair Trade) sustainable foods, including raw foods and lightly-processed products.  While farmers markets and CSA programs are very popular right now, we must develop new retail formats that bring food to a greatly expanded customer base (see Why Community Supported Agriculture Isn’t Enough).  One caution: This may require some regional foods be temporarily diverted from restaurants and institutions (except K-12 schools) until supply can catch up.  A happy problem to solve!
  5. Food Experiences - Create intimate food buying experiences to build consumer confidence in cooking at home and positively reinforce such behaviors over time.  For example, many farmers market shoppers state that they enjoy talking to the farmer that grew the food they are buying.  It gives them confidence in the food and makes them feel good at the same time.  Now imagine replacing the farmer (who I hope will grow even more real food) with chefs and cooks capable of creating similar positive experiences around cooking that same food.
  6. School Kitchens – Bring cooking back to every school kitchen in America and utilize as much local food as possible, including food harvested from edible schoolyards.  This will help reacquaint a generation with real foods and where they come from, and will be made even more powerful if it is accompanied by a creative and fun “farm-to-table” curriculum.
  7. No Food Marketing Zones – Progress is being made in some school districts already, e.g., NYC, but what I am recommending calls for the removal of all branded food products and related advertising from K-12 schools (exceptions: branded foods used in school kitchens).  Our children need “safe zones” where industry can’t reach them, and where they can objectively learn the pros and cons of different types of foods. District by district we can do this!
  8. No Fast Food Zones – Ban fast food restaurants within an appropriate distance from schools, making it inconvenient or impossible for kids to get there and back during lunch time.  The more we can do to “expand” healthy food options for the children the better.
  9. Low-Income Programs – Provide financial incentives for low-income households to purchase sustainable food by making benefits go further when making such purchases.  While this may require additional funds be made available up front, improving the diets of children and parents in these households offers significant returns on the investment, e.g., better health, better grades, etc.
  10. Food Pyramid – Tear down the long standing food pyramid, which simply repackages the food industry’s play book, and replace it with a message that encourages people to eat less, which is what the U.S. Senate initially recommended in 1977 before an onslaught of industry pressure got them to back off.  We could also channel Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  Or we might consider Harvard’s alternative Healthy Eating Pyramid.

The common theme running throughout these recommendations is improving how consumers (households, really) interface with food at the point of purchase.  Currently, the typical American consmer is at the mercy of the “nutritional industrial complex” that Pollan describes.  What I am envisioning are innovative retail experiences that answer to consumers, not food giants or the government (except as required by law, of course), thus giving consumers back the control over their experience with food.

Thanks to Foodimentary (via Twitter), I have a new favorite quote from J.R.R. Tolkien that sums up this post rather nicely…

If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.”

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