Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

The Benefits of Grass-fed Beef

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

A mural in a museum of natural history might show ancient hunters tracking vast herds through even vaster grasslands. Throughout history, herbivores have been a mainstay in our diets. Our bodies know how to use the dense calories of fats and proteins, rich in omega3 and omega6 fatty acids. As our hunter-gatherer society evolved into an agricultural one, we began to breed quickly maturing, grass-fed cattle to fulfil that need.

When producers discovered the rapid weight gain in cattle fed with corn directly before slaughter, that began to change. Gradually, the amount of time cattle were fed corn instead of grass became longer and longer. To avoid health problems, calves must be raised on grass; energy-rich corn is much too difficult for them to digest. As the cow matures, it is better able to handle starchy kernels.

However, to maintain health on this limited diet, the corn must contain additives such as nitrates and antibiotics. Otherwise, only a third of the herd would make it to slaughter.

In changing the diet of the animals we eat, we change what we eat, our environment, ourselves.

Environmental concerns:

1. Corn-fed cows produce higher levels of methane gas (a greenhouse gas) than grass-fed. Fred Thompson, a conservative candidate for President remarked on the detrimental effect that cattle methane has on the environment.

2. Additives required to maintain the health of the herd often renders manure unusable as fertilizer, so it remains in ponds and pastures, cultivating bacteria which are increasingly immune to the same antibiotics used to keep the next generation healthy.

3. Feed corn in America is often grown in fields that can only produce the needed amounts by adding synthesized nitrates to the soil. Eventually, the land won’t be sufficient even with these additives.

4. Often, feed corn is genetically modified.

5. Fossil fuels are consumed at every step in growing the corn and shipping it to the herd, increasing the carbon footprint along with the energy intensive nitrate production.

Health concerns:

1. The fat in cattle fed by corn is rife with low-density cholesterol, whereas grass-fed beef is high in levels of omega3 and omega6 fatty acids. These are the same fatty acids in fish, which have been linked to reduced cancer rates, better circulation and reduced hardening of the arteries, and have been shown to lower incidents of coronary problems as well as produce lower trygliceride levels.

2. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria bred in unused waste from corn-fed cattle can spread to humans.

3. Omega3 and omega6 fatty acids obtained from fish are often accompanied with heavy metals from ocean pollution. This issue doesn’t exist in grass-fed cattle, and their beef contains a good balance between both fatty acids.

For these reasons and more, the Bread Workshop has decided to serve grass-fed beef from Strawberry Mountain, a co-op of ranchers in Oregon. A unique characteristic of Strawberry Mountain beef is that it is dry-aged to develop rich, tender flavour. We believe this product represents a great example of quality grass-fed cattle.

William Briscoe

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Problem with Sustaining Sustainability

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

The world today is rife with complex issues surrounding sustainability. Few are as complex as the effect of food and related production on our environment. 5% of our world’s landmass is dedicated to food production, with another potential 5% used for biofuel if all present oil supplies were to be replaced.

And the basis of these figures? Corporate agribusiness.

A large portion of corporate agribusiness entails planting monocrops on vast tracks of land that are maintainable only by artificially manipulating the environment through the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. This practice is devastating to biodiversity and drains the land of the much-needed nutrients that would allow reversion to a natural environment. Furthermore, by defoliating much of our most productive oxygen-rich lands and replacing them with crops that create far less oxygen in favour of food related energy, we not only risk increasing global warming, we do it.

Combined with all these factors is the process of relocating the nutrients found in vast, unpopulated lands to densely populated areas where they are either trapped or released into different ecosystems. Often the high levels of soil nitrates and other nutrients overwhelm these ecosystems. The result is sometimes a hyperactive biological hotspot that rapidly burns through one or more of the system’s resources to leave it the equivalent of an ocean’s dead zone.

The apparent alternative to this aggressive agriculture would be the inability to feed our rapidly growing population.

The needs of sustainable biofuels used to replace fossil fuels are growing swiftly in direct conflict with the environment, as is the carbon footprint of new ‘green’ products. Biodegradable utensils, whether they are made from corn or potato, are energy intensive and require vast portions of land for their production. Nitrate runoff enters the watershed and eventually the oceans. They are only biodegradable in compost plans. If they enter our landfills, they may as well be made from traditional fossil fuels.

Frequently and unfortunately, there are no real answers to these dilemmas, and a lack of definitive answers threatens the perceived need to continue developing these technologies. Critics often have solids grounds on which to stand and loudly question many currently purported environmentally friendly concepts. Current development of much-needed knowledge could be halted entirely in order to address the complex problem that we have created for ourselves. Choosing one type of sustainability often comes into conflict with another. Palm oil, for example, is relatively low in production costs, is a healthy replacement for trans fats, but is also responsible for a fraction of our deforested rainforests.

At present, there remains a sizable problem with biofuels as used as replacements for fossil fuels. While they are more efficient and cause fewer greenhouse gases, they are still carbon-based and therefore won’t eliminate the problem of global warming. Many fear the focus on biofuels will usurp funding for solar, wind, and hydroelectric energies, as well as decrease focus on effective city planning and conservation, all of which could truly address the issue. Specifically in relation to food, this means how food is transported from producer to consumer, often with at least one reseller as middleman.

We strive to not only present these issues but to reveal their true depth and all the complications therein, so we as food consumers are better equipped to make our own choices, using our own judgment.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Buying Beef: It’s more than what’s for dinner

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

A purchasing prospective on choosing beef

When I first began using Niman beef, it was a small ranch owned by Bill Niman and Orville Schell on the mesa north of Bolinas. At the time, Bill’s efforts were still focused on moving hamburger meat (a continual issue for producers new to the venture) and with a quick call, would personally deliver 5lbs to my restaurant door.

More than 20 years later, Niman beef has grown into a national brand sold by mail in the Williams Sonoma catalogue. I saw it move from using the cutting facility at Golden Gate Meat in San Francisco to utilising its own cutting plant on East 14th in Oakland. In that time, its distribution and sales have been taken over by Del Monte meats.

As a purchaser, I always try to balance the many considerations in choosing a product: Loyalty to a long-time purveyor, the food philosophies of the restaurant, environmental factors, taste, availability, price, and order cycles, though not necessarily in that order. Planning a cross-country roadtrip on horseback would perhaps take less effort.

Recently, a new supplier approached us with offers of sustainable, local and humanely raised meats. We had had dealings before when he worked for Bassian Farms, the company that supplies us with Rocky Jr’s and Eden Heritage pork, and was well aware of our buying needs and priorities.

One item he brought to our attention was grass-fed beef from Oregon. In many ways, it was a hard switch for me. I grew up during the zenith of corn-fed beef in America, and that is the flavour I had always associated with the best possible beef. I believe this is an ingrained habit on my part, not a fact written in stone, and my desire to be a part of the change to a healthier, more natural and sustainable product weighed heavily on my choice. I’m happy to say the taste spurred me right along.

While I still hold the greatest respect for everything Niman Ranch has done to expand people’s consciousness on meat production, I am looking forward to a new relationship with our conscientious supplier.

I hope you will, too. Try our new grass-fed beef and as always, let us know what you think.

Rober Mott
-sustainability coordinator and purchaser

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

What we think about food

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Our beliefs about food, eating, and community

The America of my childhood was a vastly different country. My family grew 80% of the food we ate. My mother cooked 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. Most of us grew up on or near a farm, or had friends and relatives who did. Chances are good that if you were a child then, you visited a farm. There was an intimate and direct knowledge of where and how the food we ate was produced.

Because of the converging trends of urbanization, suburbanization, globalization, and industrial models of agricultural production, most Americans today never see where or how the food they consume is produced. Because of our busy schedules and a basic lack of skills or practice, many people rarely cook. With ever increasing reports of mad cow disease, e. coli, and salmonella, with widespread concern for the environmental and economic destructiveness of our industrial model of agribusiness, a great uneasiness has descended on people about food and eating.

Our personal and cultural history teaches us that food and eating is supposed to be something that heals us, enriches our lives, and brings us together as family and community. But the reality of present day food consumption too often leaves us instead confused, scared, and harried about how and what to eat.

We at the Bread Workshop love food. We like how it tastes. We like the individual people who produce it and bring it to us. We like the act of cooking and like for the people who eat what we create to gain pleasure from it. Many at the Workshop have families and most of all we want to provide good, wholesome food that will bring them together at mealtime for all the positive social energy that simply sharing food can provide.

We are committed to using high quality ingredients that whenever possible come from local sustainable farms and producers. Where applicable, we firmly support fair trade sources for imported goods. We are committed to treating these ingredients in a safe, healthy manner. We are not ideologues. We don’t believe we should dictate to our customers whether they should be an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan. We do want to offer our customers a range of foods that will let them enjoy delicious, conscientiously prepared meal no matter what their particular dietary persuasion may be.

Food has become a controversial issue. People debate constantly about what it means to be organic, natural, fresh, sustainable, or environmentally friendly. Everyone has their own personal views of these complex issues, and sometimes it seems as if the science and politics surrounding them changes by the week. We will never be able to satisfy every customer’s feelings about the choices we make and the ingredients we use.

But what we promise to do is to take these issues and each and every customer’s concerns seriously. We want to have an ongoing dialogue with our customers about why we make the decisions we do. To facilitate this we are creating a sustainability center in the café that will present some of the informational resources used to shape our decisions for our customers to peruse, and will be a place where customers can give us important suggestions and feedback.

The Bread Workshop believes in healthy, strong communities and good food. We are committed to having our business support both.

Robert Mott
-sustainability coordinator and purchaser

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)