Eating Grass-Fed Beef isn’t as Climate-Friendly as You May Think

Photo by Justin Sullivan for Getty Images


On the sustainability of beef…

Of the many terms attached to our burgers and steaks, “sustainable” and “grass-fed” often sit next to each other. But a new study finds that raising livestock on grassy pastures is far from sustainable and doesn’t have the climate benefits proponents have claimed.

“Can we eat our way out of the climate problem by eating more grass-fed beef?” Tara Garnett, of the Food Climate Research Network at Oxford University in the UK, and her colleagues asked. The answer, they found, is no.

Eating grass-fed beef doesn’t get climate-conscious carnivores off the hook.

Read on at Inside Climate News.

Tucson’s Seed Library Fosters Food Sovereignty in a Desert

Photo via pnmralex from Pixabay

This Arizona library circulates seeds….

In front of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library in Tucson, patrons can claim round concrete landscaping beds for free and create their own gardens with seeds from the library’s seed collection. Some of the three-foot-wide planters are festooned with exuberant jungles of squash, flowers and trellised bean plants, while others look more Zen garden than vegetable garden.

In addition to books and DVDs, in 2012 the Pima Country Public Library system became one of the first in the nation to circulate seeds. Aspiring gardeners can look up varieties electronically, put seeds on reserve and check out 10 packs at a time. Availability changes with the seasons: By mid-September, tomato seeds are long gone, but many other seeds — including dill, arugula, cucumbers, the flat white teardrop shapes of squash seeds, and the small dry beads of tepary beans — rattle in paper envelopes. Participating branches offer support as well as seeds, such as gardening classes, brochures, and, of course, books. The greenest beds flourish with flowers, herbs, vegetables and an idea: That public libraries can be resources for local food growers as well as local readers.

Read on at High Country News.

A Battle to Save the World’s Favorite Treat: Chocolate

Photo by Mónica Quesada Cordero for The New York Times

On diversifying chocolate…

The trees of the International Cacao Collection grow here in an astonishing diversity of forms, bearing skinny cacao pods with scorpion-stinger protrusions, spherical green pods that could be mistaken for tomatillos, oblong pods with bumpy skin resembling that of the horned lizard — all in colors ranging from deep purple to bright yellow.

Within each of these pods are seeds that yield something beloved by billions: chocolate.

But despite this diversity, few cacao varieties are widely cultivated, and that’s a problem: Like many other crops, cacao is under constant threat from diseases and environmental challenges exacerbated by our tendency to grow only a few varieties with similar or identical genetic traits and defects.

Read on at The New York Times.

Brexit Won’t Cripple UK Food Industry – It Might Raise Wages Though

Photo by Matt Cardy for Getty Images


In light of Brexit, UK faces a similar problem to the U.S. in terms of farming and immigrants; raising wages could be a solution….

We have a repeat of the complaint by the farming and food industry that Brexit is going to cripple it. The argument is that lots of EU nationals work in the sector, after Brexit they won’t be there and whaddawegonado? The answer being that those businesses will have to raise wages in order to get British people to do those jobs. This is not exactly rocket science here. But the complaint is still being made:

More than a third of UK firms in the ‘farm to fork’ sector are warning their businesses are “unviable” without access to EU workers after Brexit.

Read on at Forbes.

Growing Concern: Organic Farms Need a New Generation to Keep Them Alive

Photo by Liz Hafalia for The Chronicle

On the struggle to find the next generation of organic farmers…

Advocates of Bay Area agriculture and organics have been waiting to learn the fate of Star Route Farms since owner Warren Weber put his 100-acre Bolinas farm up for sale in 2013.

When news broke this month that the University of San Francisco has purchased the property that was the state’s first certified organic farm, many responded with enthusiasm. “It’s a symbol of the importance of farming and of farmland conservation,” said Jamison Watts, director of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. Not only is the land going to remain a working organic farm, but the university plans to use it to educate students.

Yet if the sale is an omen of the future of farming in the Bay Area — and organic agriculture in particular — it’s a hard one to read. The unconventional nature of the deal, rather than the institutional buyer that purchased the land, may signal a future that Bay Area food lovers can look toward.

Read on at SF Gate.

Quinoa: Harvesting Bolivia’s ‘Superfood’

Photo via Aljazeera

The story behind your quinoa salad….

A staple food in the diet of millions throughout the Andean states, quinoa has 36 percent more protein and 73 percent more fiber than wheat. Its protein content covers all eight essential amino acids and it has high levels of iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as B vitamins riboflavin and folic acid.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva, quinoa could help “fight against hunger and food insecurity”.

The UN declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. But four years on, Bolivian quinoa has suffered some setbacks.

Prices have fallen dramatically as new competitors, such as Peruvian farmers who, with the aid of synthetic fertilisers, produce two harvests a year instead of the one harvest in Bolivia, where synthetic fertilisers aren’t used, enter the market.

Read on at Aljazeera.

This Giant Automated Cricket Farm is Designed to Make Bugs a Mainstream Source of Protein

Photo by Aspire

Could crickets be the next sushi?

Inside a new building in an industrial neighborhood near the airport in Austin, a robot is feeding millions of crickets, 24 hours a day. The facility–a 25,000-square-foot R&D center that opened this month for the startup Aspire–uses technology that the company plans to soon duplicate in a farm 10 times as large. It’s a scale that the startup thinks is necessary to begin to make cricket food mainstream in the United States.

Eating bugs–or at least products made from bugs–has been growing in popularity. For a few years, it’s been possible to buy cricket snacks such as protein bars made with cricket flour or cricket chips (like Chirps) at some grocery stores or online. But for insect food to fulfill its sustainable promise of supplying protein without the massive carbon and land footprint of beef, it will have to be much more widely available, and more affordable. Aspire believes its farms can make that possible.

Chirp on at Fast Company.

How Midwestern Farmers Could Help Save the Gulf of Mexico

Via Pushart


On the connection between farming and water quality…

If you pay state taxes in Maryland, you fund a program that gives farmers as much as $90 per acre—$22,500 annually for a typical corn operation—to plant a crop that’s not even intended for harvest. This absurd-sounding initiative cost the state’s coffers a cool $24 million in 2015.

Yet I come not to expose a government boon­doggle, but to praise an effort crucial to saving our most valuable fisheries. Let me explain.

Every summer, an algal bloom stretches along the Chesapeake Bay, the most productive estuary in the continental United States. As the algae dies, it sucks oxygen from the water, suffocating or driving away marine life. Cleaning up the dead zones would lead to more productive fisheries, increased tourism, and higher property values—benefits that would total $22 billion per year, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Read on at Mother Jones.

No Sanctuary, Fewer Farmhands: How Dairyland Suffers Under Trump Agenda

Photo by Darren Hauck

How Trump’s immigration policies are harming the dairy industry…

As one of the state’s largest industries and the core of its Cheesehead identity, dairy production is heavily dependent on immigrant workers.

Farmers say few if any U.S. citizens apply for these jobs. In addition, while farmers who grow seasonal crops such as blueberries can bring temporary workers into the country under the H-2A visa program, the dairy industry does not qualify because cows must be milked year-round.

Driscoll and some other farmers say the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown is making it harder to find workers. In Trump’s first 100 days, Immigration and Customs Enforcement made more than 40,000 arrests nationwide, about 35 percent higher than the same period last year. That has affected the Midwest region, including Wisconsin.

Read on at Reveal.

No Offense, American Bees, But Your Sperm Isn’t Cutting It

Photo by Megan Asche / Courtesy of Washington State University

The trouble with honeybees in the U.S….

According to the WSU research team, the root cause of the U.S. honeybees’ vulnerability to varroa is a dwindling gene pool that has left them short on genetic traits that help honeybees resist varroa elsewhere in the world.

“Honeybees aren’t native to America,” Cobey says. “We brought them here. But the U.S. closed its borders to live honeybee imports in 1922, and our honeybee population has been interbreeding ever since.”

Read on at KQED Science.