So, it’s been awhile, but I’ve been busy eating and occasionally (HAH! I mean constantly!) writing about food over at D Magazine. Here’s an article from my latest and one of my favorite ventures interviewing the guys behind Hutchins BBQ in … Continue reading
From my adventures with Feed Me Dallas
At 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House in Frisco, the three main food groups are meat, BBQ, and booze. With a name like Trace “The Rib Whisperer” Arnold and an 80-foot, 18-wheeler smoker rig that can slow smoke more than 2,000 lbs, at one time, there’s no doubt that this pitmaster is pushing out some of the best BBQ in Texas. Still fresh off his appearance on History Channel’s ‘Cross-Country Cookout,’ Trace and his partner Jason Hall just hit their first anniversary with 3 Stacks. After much praise and feedback through the year, the two marked this occasion with a couple tweeks to the restaurant setup and menu.
Now, if you are BBQ purist you live and breathe by the self-service, pay-at-the-register way of life. Upon its opening in February 2013, 3 Stacks looked to embrace this BBQ tradition, but wished to offer guests sit-down dining as well. This concept hybrid meant diners would come through the line to order and once seated, a server would bring beverages and desserts. However, through the year the Frisco community has spoken and 3 Stacks has vowed to commit to full-service dining. Eliminating the cafeteria-line portion of the restaurant, 3 Stacks made way for additional booths, tables, and a new merchandise area to provide customers with the opportunity to purchase rubs and sauces created from “The Rib Whisperer” himself. Additionally, new dishes have been added to the menu including: Fried Dill Pickles, Cheese Fries, Cowboy Cobb Salad, Contessa’s Salad, Beef Short Rib Burger, Brisket Cheesesteak, Club Sandwich, and a BBQ Cuban Sandwich.
We had the opportunity to check out the new renovations this past week and have nothing but praise for the food, atmosphere, and staff.
Food: If you love meat, this is your haven. Ribs, pulled pork, sausage, turkey, chicken, beef tenderloin, and even mahi. This place has it all. Normally places with such a large menu lose sight of quality, but 3 Stacks puts all their lovin’ in every dish and it shows. However, there is no doubt the star of this show are the burnt ends. These nuggets of pure bbq bliss are meat cut from the point half of a smoked brisket with the perfect ratio of succulent fat to crisp to char. The meat actually melts in your mouth.
Be sure to wash everything down with one of their 30+ local and regional beers on tap and save room for dessert. Classic dishes straight out of grandma’s kitchen, 3 stacks serves each of their country treats up in a hot skillet with an extra drizzle of sinful delight. Our favorites are the massive, gooey brownie sundae and the fresh baked apple crisp.
Atmosphere: A dining room well stocked with TV’s to catch any game, everyone is truly family at 3 Stacks. The open area is the perfect setup for throwing back a couple with old friends or making new friends over a basket of fried pickles and smoked wings.
Staff: Keep your eyes peeled for the cook with a big bill cowboy hat and wide eyed grin as you chow down on your grub because you won’t want to miss a chance to chat with the “Rib Whisperer” himself. However, he will most likely stop by your table at some point to make sure everything exceeds your expectations and to fill you in on the 3 sacred rules of bbq (You’ll have to drop in to learn those for yourself). Each staff member is just as friendly and helpful as the next. With a passion to serve up the best bbq around and leave you feeling full, 3 Stacks service is hard to beat.
3 Stacks’ location is not the easiest to find, but it is very much worth the treasure hunt. Our advice: Go eat as much as humanely possible, sip on one of their strong cocktails, and don’t leave without getting to know the man behind the ‘cue, Trace Arnold.
From my adventures with Feed Me Dallas
As busy season fast approaches and the weeks seem to drag out, Village on the Green in North Dallas has your escape to culinary ventures across the globe. A modern community with 200 residential units and luxury amenities, this plaza is home to some of the finest restaurants and boutiques. We had the opportunity to “Dine Around the Green” at four restaurants and ended the night bitten by the travel bug as each seating offered a unique, international experience. Follow our journey to each destination and map out your own foodie getaway.
La Perla d’Italia
Our first stop included a classic Italian setting of wine, cheese, bruschetta, and risotto. Naples native and owner Maurizio Primo grew up crafting the perfect Mozzarella di Bufala out of 100% water buffalo milk and has brought that same craft to the Dallas community. Guests can revel in bliss over the creamy stracciatella and flavor-bursting tomato bruschetta as they peer into the open cheese lab to see each meticulous step behind this dairy sensation.
The pho craze is taking over Dallas and this is the place to get your bowl. A Vietnamese noodle soup of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat, Pho House puts their own spin on it using a slow-roasted brisket that is cooked for hours overnight. The owner personally told us, manners are unnecessary, as you will want to literally slurp down every last bit like it’s your morning bowl of cheerios. Pair it with their refreshing Pama Sake Mojito and you have a flawless balance of flavor.
Moving on, we rolled over to one of D Magazine’s top restaurants in Dallas, Mughlai. This place will instantly hit you with the power of spices the moment you walk through the door. Indian cuisine is one people often stray from, but go to Mughlai and you will quickly realize how the food encompasses flavor, aroma, spice, and seasonality.
To start the meal, we began with a Mango Lassi (a yogurt beverage with mango pulp) that is often served in India to refresh people from the intense heat. We paired these with the vegetable samosas (crisp puff pastries stuffed with lightly seasoned potatoes and green peas) that hid a suddle bit of heat. Next came a hot skillet of grilled chicken kebabs and minced lamb that showcased the herbs of Indian cuisine. But there were two item we had our eyes set on from the beginning: Garlic Naan and Chicken Tikka Masala. Take the chicken roasted in tandoor with a onion tomato masala sauce, pile it generously onto the Naan bread, and let the magic happen.
Living in the heart of Texas, Dallas residents have high expectations for their Tex-Mex, but Maximo does not dissapoint. Greeted by 3 of their best cocktails, we didn’t think it was possible to fit any more food in our stomachs, but then again we are Texans and there’s always room for Tex-Mex. The cocktail selection included a muddled jalapeno margarita, a Sauza Blue tequila and Texas Ruby Red grapefruit margarita, and muddled blackberry and blueberry mojito. Wary about muddled jalapenos, it ended up being our favorite as it balanced out the tartness of the margarita just right. Food included tableside guacamole, chicken chile relleno, braised short rib with a chipotle mac & cheese, tilapia Cancun, and margarita cheesecake. I love any place that puts the time into tableside guacamole, so that was instantly a hit with our group. Our favorite entree was the tilapia that melted in your mouth with its white wine orange butter sauce. But, the perfect ending to our night came from the margarita cheesecake. Turning one of the most popular Texan drinks into a dessert seems genius and let me ensure you, it definitely was.
From my adventures with Feed Me Dallas
TGIAF (Thank goodness it’s almost Friday). It’s Thursday night, which means it is almost Friday, which means it is almost the weekend. That constitutes some celebratory dinner and drinks. And what better place to treat myself than Meso Maya, where the tortillas are made made fresh daily, the margaritas are bursting with fresh flavors, and the staff is more than excited to share their love of Mexican-Mayan fusion.
I would say I went all out tonight, ordering almost everything on the menu, but that would be a lie. I always order for five and finish it all. Meso Maya does that to me.
To start the night off, I ordered an avocado margarita made with fresh avocado, pineapple, and premium tequila blanco, served on the rocks, and rimmed with a chili salt. The refreshing, smoothness of this blend could easily make someone drink themselves under the table. My partner in crime for the night, Courtaney ordered a Serrano berry margarita. This daring drink is muddled with strawberries, Serrano pepper, and fresh lime juice, that when combined pack a punch of fruit and spice.
Our appetizers included ceviche mixto and queso poblano with brisket. The ceviche combined mazatlan white shrimp, striped bass ceviche, fresh lime juice, jicama, tomatoes, Serrano, cilantro, and avocado. It was light with just the right amount of citrus, which paired well with the star of the show: The Queso. This blend of melted Chihuahua cheese, creamy queso blanco, roasted poblanos, fresh corn, nopalitos, and tender brisket could only be described as the dip of the gods. Did I mention there was brisket swimming in it? In queso emergency, pray to cheesus because this will blow your mind.
Already on the verge of food coma status, I was in a blissful foodie state. With help from our serve, David, we settled on the chuleta de Puerco and cochinita pibil for our main courses. The chuleta de Puerco consisted of a fire-roasted, bone-in pork chop, swimming in a pipian rojo sauce, paired with elote con crema (a kind of creamed corn) and mexican calabicitas (squash). The meat was juicy and tender, but the creamed corn was like sinfully delicious. Though it on the heavier, rich side, I easily finished every morsel. However, the cochinita pibil is hands down my favorite dish. This yucatan-style braised pork is marinated in a paste of achiote, tangy orange and lime juice, herbs, spice, and then wrapped in banana leaves to roast low and slow. Grab one of Meso Maya’s specialty white corn tortillas, pick up a heaping amoun of pork, drag that handful through the heavenly pork juices, and prepare to fall in love as you will not want to forget this tasty moment.
Ready for the button on my pants to pop, I couldn’t imagine the idea of dessert, but we had reached the point of no return. Unable to choose which one to order, we told David to surprise us with his favorite. Well, we were sure surprised, but it was more by the fact that he brought all three desserts out for us to try. My game plan was to just take a bite of each, but that was so very naïve of me. The pastel de moras was a sweet skillet-baked blueberry cake, moist from the Mexican vanilla ice cream and blueberry drizzle. Next, there was the flan de queso, which is a Mexican egg custard with cream cheese, sugar cane caramel, and a dark rum whipped cream. Each bite was light and creamy. But, the pastel de chocolate stole my heart. A warm chocolate rum sauce coated this moist oaxacan dark chocolate cake and went perfectly with the fresh corn ice cream. Who knew a sweet corn ice cream could taste so sinfully good.
The lively atmosphere of the restaurant and downtown location make Meso Maya one of my favorite places to take friends, out of town guests, or simply escape my busy weekday schedule. The central seating room is a walled in patio with stringing lights that offer a magical experience as you indulge in authentic, bold, earthy flavors. The restaurant has another location along Preston Road as well that presents guests with an equally enchanted setting.
Other delightful dishes to note are the carne asada, kobe beef, salmon de coco, any of the Budin Azteca plates, sweet corn tamales, and the sweet plantains. Chef Nico Sanchez ‘s knowledge of food almost outweighs his love for food, so I guarantee anything you order at Meso Maya will leave you begging for more.
I am a FOODIE by birth. I love to cook, bake, eat, share, watch, talk food. Always have, always will. It makes me happy and I know I can make others happy through my love of all things food.
When people asked me what I wanted to do after college, I envisioned a life combining all these things. A chef perhaps? Maybe a food critic? A Food Network personality?! Each route is just as intriguing as the next, but there is one ultimate destination I see…MY very own restaurant. It’s the perfect life just for me, but I’ve had my doubts. Was this just a crazy fantasy?
Then came 2013…
From the rise of my blog to the endeavors of my research project on food systems to my internship at Roast Restaurant in London, I have realized I can make my dreams a reality. Yet, the pieces never really came together until about a month ago. I’ll set the stage for you:
Nestled into a corner of Nekter Juice Bar (one of my favorite Dallas treats) I’m at the center of a full-on common senior year breakdown. Amidst shovels (spoonfuls are for wusses) of my acai banana berry bowl with extra gluten-free granola, I come to the realization my post-grad life holds the future of McDonalds employment and 10 dogs. Que: a phone call from fate.
Within a five minute span, I go from utter dismay to pure bliss to sheer shock as I find myself forwarding a resume, cover letter, and contact information to one of my ultimate foodie idols. Twenty hours later, I am somehow interviewing for a position that essentially fulfills 90% of my life goals. Despite my wide-eye, goofy grin demeanor, we fill the time casually exchanging our favorite local eateries and I take satisfaction in simply sitting across from someone that inspired me along my entire journey up to this point.
Fast forward to present day and you’ll find me doin’ my thang as the newest freelance writer for Feed Me Dallas. Hot off my first assignment where I attended the grand opening of See’s Candies in North Park Center, I am right where I need to be. Between managing social media, attending restaurant openings, interviewing renowned chefs, and writing on the latest Dallas food gossip, it’s a rough life, but hey….someone’s gotta do it.
Food is necessary not only for sustainable purposes, but for identity, culture, tradition, and sociological being. Eating is an everyday act that most take for granted. It connects individuals across the globe through agricultural workers, trade, commercial concerns, weather patterns, financial markets, transport networks, local cultural geography, changing social trends, and the impending crises hitting our current food system. It is one of our most natural acts that impacts not only our survival, but the planet’s survival as well. Sitting down for a casual family dinner, one is oblivious to the global ramifications one meal can have. The meat may have come locally or regionally, but everything including spices, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, rice, and juice are sourced from China to Chile to India to Argentina. Our modern food system has evolved from agricultural communities growing, harvesting, and preparing meals together on a social level to simply paying for byproducts pumped with chemicals. This disconnect from our food’s source has paved way for rising prices, on-going climate change, increasing fuel costs, flaws of the global market, worldwide pesticide pollution, pest adaption and resistance, loss of soil fertility and organic carbon, soil erosion, decreasing biodiversity, desertification, starvation, and obesity.
The geography of food is a field of human geography, which focuses on patterns of food production and consumption on the local and global scale. Through this field, researchers look to uncover and understand unequal relationships between developed and developing countries in relation to innovation, production, transportation, retail, and consumption of food. A key aspect of this is interdependence as everyone is connected in the world’s food system whether that is based on its production, transportation, or trade. InBowling Alone, Robert Putnam describes how Americans have become increasingly disconnected from one another and social structures have disintegrated. This fundamental human nature has a profound affect on the health, safety, and happiness of our society. Our quick, convenient, cheap culture is centered on the idea of food for fuel rather than something of moral and social significance. Food cultures that once treated cooking and eating as central elements in maintaining social structure and tradition are becoming overcome by cultures dominated by cost and convenience of food. Social meals are a thing of the past and cooking is merely an act seen on television and defined by the books garnishing our coffee tables.
In addition, globally the production of food is unequal and unstable. There are two components involved in the sustenance of food that are distributed irregularly: environmental capacity of the area and human capacity. Environmental capacity is defined as the ability to accommodate a particular activity or rate of an activity without unacceptable impact. This is where climate, soil type, and water availability come into place. Human capacity in relation to food production is defined as the size of the population and the amount of agricultural skill within that population. Partnered with financial capital, these two need to be at ideal levels in order for the food system to support the Green Revolution and adequately meet the world’s demand.
The very methods that eliminated starvation and increased the abundance of food across the globe, such as large-scale livestock operations and chemically intensive farming, have degraded the productive capacities of our natural systems to the point that it is unclear how we will feed the nearly ten billion people expected by midcentury or even how long current food production will last. Currently, Canada, USA, and Europe consume the most calories with an average per capita consumption per day of around 3400. Studies focused on consumption patterns in these areas lay the blame on increased caloric intake on soft drink and fast food consumption, and decreased physical activity. Given this information, even if people became smarter at finding more ways to make food, hunger is unavoidable for certain groups because any increase in food served only serves to make populations larger.
For the following few months, I will feature a new blog series to supplement my latest restaurant reviews and cooking endeavors called “Food is…” Each post will detail a different aspect that our food system should be versus what it currently is. I will use academic research along with popular books including The End of Food, McDonaldization, Food Inc., The American Way of Eating, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Food Rules. Coming off my experience from London, I want to compare America’s current food system versus the European food system, how both are unique in their own ways, and how we can build upon each.
Food defines us. We literally are what we eat in regards to values, ethics, character, integrity, and so on. The food market is a product of billions of food decisions. Each individual needs to realize their important role in the food system, so that we may all work together to correct its flaws.
So what are you then…A dirty McDonald’s big mac with a large fry, a refined dish of gnocchi and grilled asparagus from the best italian restaurant in the city, or a home cooked meal of meal of spaghetti squash and tossed spinach salad? Each decision impacts our environment, culture, and society, so choose wisely.
Because It’s The Best Time to Learn
If you ask me what I received for Christmas five years ago or even last year, I couldn’t tell you. If you asked me what I ate or what I cooked, I could describe every detail down to the last crumb of cobbler consumed. I don’t make wish lists for my birthday or upcoming holidays; I make recipe lists. I make lists of possible dinner menus to meet every kind of palette, lists of the best holiday treats for my annual cookie exchange, and lists of every pie I wish to consume on Turkey Day. I look forward to the holidays because it means coming together with family and friends, cooking for the people I love, and of course stuffing my face with all my favorite treats. There is no better way to bond with the important people in my life than over a glutinous plate of slow-roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cornbread, cranberry sauce….and I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Holiday season is a time to relax and enjoy the little things around you, but it is not all fun and games to me. Specifically, Thanksgiving Day is the day I make all my culinary expertise shine. Bringing out the best of the best recipes, managing time down to the last second, and fighting through the aching pains of standing all day, Thanksgiving is my Super Bowl.
Strapping on my pink floral apron (an heirloom passed down through the generations from my great-grandmother), I take the kitchen by storm starting at 8 am on the dot. Now, I am not naïve when it comes to this great American holiday. I make as many preparations as possible in the days leading up to game day. This ranges from simply peeling and cutting the vegetables before the big day to completely assembling the casseroles, so they just need a quick bake and you’re good to go. However, this year is different than the rest. Christened captain of the turkey, I am now the leader of kitchen operations. A momentous moment in my life, which I feel could only be justified by an appropriate crowning ceremony followed by neighborhood parade; I am officially one of the Bodden/Willig women.
Obviously, I realize this sounds a bit dramatic to most, but that’s only because those individuals have yet to realize the true magic of cooking. I grew up baking with grandma on the holidays, making my family dinner every Sunday, and watching hours of Food Network daily. I live through my passion to cook, bake, and eat everything delicious. Even though cooking may not get your blood pumping like it does for me, it’s a basic skill everyone should know. I believe everyone should learn to cook because it’s good for you, anyone can do it, and it’s the best way to spend time with family and friends. In honor of this upcoming holiday that was based on a great feast, bringing together people of different nations, cultures, and backgrounds and that ultimately paving way for our country, I call people of all culinary backgrounds to lend a hand in the kitchen and have fun with it. Why? Because you can.
Cooking puts you in charge of what you eat. When cooking for yourself or others you see the exact ingredients that make up the food you consume. If you buy ingredients, instead of bringing home frozen or processed food, you will pay more attention to what is in season, which means you will eat food that’s fresher, better for the environment and good for the regional economy. USA Today reported in July that most people are consuming less than half their daily-recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. On average anyone who consumes a 2,000-calorie diet is supposed to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day. I know personally that cooking forces me to pay attention to food groups, keeping a balance diet, and making sure I providing the right nutrition for my body. Additionally, cooking and grocery shopping is one of the best therapies for stress and anxiety. Nothing does my mind better than strolling the aisles of central market, picking out fun new items for a recipe I’ve been wanting to try, maybe stopping to admire the ice cream section for a little, and then hitting the kitchen like there’s no tomorrow. This process helps me slow down and clear my thoughts. It may sound crazy, but you cannot judge until you’ve actually done it. In fact, New York Daily News reported that cooking is a great destresser because it serves as a creative outlet. Debbie Mandel, author of “Addicted to Stress,” states, “While stress can numb your senses, cooking activates them. The sensory experience with aroma, taste, touch, visual delight, and sizzling noises allows for instant gratification.” Another way cooking may relieve stress is knowing that meals made at home rather than a fast-food chain restaurant will not only make your body happy, but your wallet as well. WebMD reported that while 75% of us eat most dinners at home, less than 60% of us actually prepare them in our kitchens. According to New York Times columnist Mark Bittman in his book “Cooking Solves Everything,” almost a third of the calories we eat come from restaurants, almost double the percentage of 30 years ago and seven percent of Americans say they never cook. In fact, Americans spend less time cooking than any other country. America is one of the most competitive countries in the world, so this should be motivation alone.
Most people have a fear of cooking or choose simply not to do it because they think you need a culinary background in order to successful put together a meal. Well fear not because this is where recipes come into play. These step-by-step processes, tell you how much of each ingredient you need, when you need them, and most even have pictures. The next issue is people think cooking takes too long and as Mark Bittman puts it, “We don’t cook for pleasure the way we watch a movie for pleasure. We cook the way we walk: to get somewhere. To get food on the table.” First you may follow recipes and yes the fire alarm might go off and yes you might completely burn your entire dinner, but the more you do it the better you get at it. Eventually you’ll throw away the books, start shopping, open the refrigerator and cook like grandma or anyone with experience. The best example of this is Julia Child. For those of you who do not know her, Julia was an American chef, author, and television personality responsible for bringing French cuisine to the American public in the 1960’s. Julia didn’t discover cooking until age 32 and yet she was still able to achieve awards and milestones most chefs with extensive backgrounds cannot. A great motto to remember from her is, “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” Furthermore, the National Restaurant Association survey reported that a third of Americans think that take-out makes them “more productive.” Well cooking in batches or larger quantities allows you to not only make one cooking effort last three maybe even four nights, but also enables you to freeze meals for later in the month. More than half of America doesn’t cook because they think they can’t duplicate the “taste sensations” of restaurants at home. Well these “taste sensations” are excessive butter, MSG’s, salt and fat. Keeping meals simple at home not only cuts down time, but allows you to get the real taste of the food you are eating without added flavors.
There’s a quote that hangs in my kitchen at home that says, “The kitchen is where memories are made.” The kitchen for me is where birthdays are celebrated, holiday meals are prepared and eaten, countless Christmas cookies are assembled for distribution, my family gathers to share the day’s events, and basically all my best memories growing up were made. This time of the year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite because it means amazing food and coming home to quality time with family and friends. Whether society made it this way or families have always enjoyed a good meal together, holidays events are centered around food between the process of making it to the last piece of pie eaten. This year I vividly remember standing in the kitchen the entire day before Thanksgiving working alongside my mom and grandma, making sure every last crumb was perfect for dinner the next day. Even though my feet are aching by the end, it’s a tradition I am proud to take part in because it allows me to grow closer to the people I love and give back to the people I love. Things may not always go as planned though. One year I tripped carrying the pumpkin pie to the oven and spilt the entire contents across the kitchen floor and another year our black lab decided to help herself the sweet potato casserole. Good or bad, I look back now and smile. These are stories I will never forget. In addition, being a part of the kitchen growing up I learned skills I will use my entire life and pass on to my kids one day. Teaching children how to cook creates a warming atmosphere that opens the lines of communication between parents as well as friends. Cooking quickly leads to laughing and talking as you work to create something together. When you do it with the people that mean the most to you, cooking becomes a fun and gratifying thing.
In the constant chaos of papers, finals, soccer practice, and other dramas of life I find my solace in the kitchen. Cooking to me is a symbol of empowerment, family time, a healthy lifestyle, good times with friends, and so much more. It plays a strong role in all of our lives, so why not make the most of it and embrace it. You may not get butterflies in your stomach like I do when I think about cooking, but everyone can find something they love about it. Like Julia Child said, “Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”
I love meat. It’s an unwavering love that runs deep through the heart of my stomach. Whether it’s beef, chicken, pork, or lamb, I want it all. I love a big, fat burger with all the toppings that drips juice (of holy water as I like to call it) down your hand upon each bite. I love a perfectly cooked medium rare steak with just the right amount of char. I love a tender lamb lollipop that never lets my taste buds down with its intense, unique flavor. I could go on for hours, but I will spare you before you begin to drool on the keyboard as I may or may not have already done.
Now that you know how deep my love of meat runs, you will understand how much it pains me to say WE MUST STOP. Not completely, but to a large extent, we must stop producing and consuming the amount of meat we do. As our current food system already struggles to maintain the world’s constantly growing population, the world’s meat demand is simply unsustainable.
Where We Are
Three million years ago, our ancestors were the Australopithecus, a group that lived in the prehistoric African forest and ate fruits, leaves, larvae, and bugs. The adaption of large teeth, powerful jaws, and oversized guts were necessary for the coarse, fibrous plant matter that was hard to chew and even harder to digest. One million years later came the Homo Erectus as climate change forced our ancestors out of the trees and into a new food strategy. Still somewhat of an omnivore, Erectus now used crude weapons to hunt rodents, reptiles, and even small deer. All creatures develop feeding strategies that target the most calories for the least effort. With fewer plant calories available it was only natural to turn to animal food, which give a far greater caloric return on investment than plants do and are easier to digest. The real significance of this change stemmed not from the quantity of calories meat supplied, but the quality. Meat is the ideal building block for meat, so as our ancestors ate more meat, their bodies grew larger and their brains were more developed; brain size nearly tripled and body size nearly doubled.
Currently nearly 42 kilograms of meat is produced per person worldwide, but meat consumption varies by region and socioeconomic status. In the developing world, people eat about 30 kilograms of meat a year. The United States has just 4.5% of the world’s population, but estimates about 15% of global meat consumption. Americans consume about 33 grams of meat a day, which equates to three quarter-pound hamburgers. In developing countries, meat consumption totals to only 80 grams a day. Many believe certain countries, such as India, do not consume meat for cultural and religious reasons, but this is an ignorant assumption. A majority of countries have lower meat consumption rates due to economic issues and the fact that they simply cannot afford it. As the world GDP rises, this is quickly changing.
Food security is a rising problem even for developed nations. By eating less meat, resources such as agriculture would free up and good farmland would increase to feed billions of hungry people. The consumption of animal protein, such as meat, milk, and eggs, grows consistently each year at an alarming rate. Poorer nations are becoming richer and shifting their diets to include these more expensive products. This may seem like a positive note, but animals are resource intensive. While animals consume directly or indirectly up to 80% of the world’s agricultural land, they only supply 15% of all calories. Globally, livestock produces 37% of the world’s methane and more than 55% of the agriculture sector’s emissions come from the rearing of livestock.
McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of ground beef in the United States and they want their meat to taste the same everywhere. This means that even if you are not eating at a fast food restaurant, you may still be eating meat produced by this system. Similarly, the ground beef commonly found at your local grocery store is a mixture of thousands of different cows. This makes the likelihood of contamination and disease far higher.
Where We Want to Be
People are constantly on the look to spend less money. A simple solution to this is meatless meals, which not only saves dollars, but calories and fat as well. A plant-based diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, nuts, vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients. Vegetarians generally eat fewer calories and fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate 4 ounces or more of red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause during a 10-year period than those who consumed less. This study extends to sausage, lunchmeats, and other processed meats as well. Generally poultry and fish have a lower risk of death.
In saying that, most people are wary on the idea of cutting out meat from their lives because it may require more planning to find sources of protein, it may not be worth it, or they just simply like meat far too much to quit. I fully respect all those concerns because I have experienced them as well. In regards to the first issue, protein is an easy source to find in foods that are healthier and just as tasty or better than Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, most adults need about 50 to 175 grams of protein a day. The Dietary Guidelines for American recommends choosing a variety of protein foods, which may include eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. The fats in meat, poultry and eggs are considered solid fats, while fats in seafood, nuts and seeds are considered oils. Guidelines suggest replacing proteins that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories.
Cutting meat consumption is as easy as “Meatless Mondays” in the household. In May 2009, the city council of Ghent, Belgium proclaimed that the citizens should avoid eating meat on Thursdays. Around the same time, Baltimore became the first city to serve only vegetarian meals once a week in public schools.
However, figuring out the full impact of meat consumption on global food security goes beyond simply forgoing that extra pork chop at dinner. Certain computer systems track and calculate how buying decisions multiple across the farming systems, global supply chains, and food markets. Specifically, the IMPACT model, developed in 1998, looked at what may happen in 2020 if rich nations cut half their meat consumption to what it stood at in 1993. Research showed that as meat demand fell, prices declined and meat became more affordable, which consequently led to an increase of 13% in per capita meat consumption for developing countries. This led to a “meat equity” that provided more substantial nutrition for these poorer nations; however, the poor did not necessarily get much more grain, their largest source of calories. Cereal consumption rose by only 1.5%, enough grain for 3.6 million malnourished children, but far from the amount of grain needed to make a sufficient impact of food security.
This issue stems from another reoccurring problem I discussed in my last post, grain-fed livestock. When farmers produce less meat, corn and soy demand drops and grain becomes more affordable. For certain countries such as Africa this is great news, but many countries do not eat corn, but rather rice and wheat. You may wonder why farmers do not switch to growing wheat then, but those same underlying factors come back into play. Climate, soil, and water availability limit a farmer’s ability to easily switch crops.
The foundation of all meat consumption problems stems from the consumer; it always comes back to the people, their habits, their behavior, and their choice. Persuading people to change is a reoccurring struggle for the world and it may take many solutions to make it happen. One stair is to tie taxes to meat’s carbon footprint. This means the tax on beef could total higher than that of chicken or fish, but it is based on the idea of more grain for those further down the food chain. The next stair deals with the removal of subsidies for meat producers. For example, a beef exporter indirectly subsidizes meat consumption by not charging consumers for the farmland or natural resources destroyed by ranching. Lastly, large campaigns directed at consumers that bring together big names on the political and celebrity front should emphasize the health benefits of reducing calories and animal fats. Disease prevention and health care costs are some of the leading concerns of the public, so why not play off these issues to build support on such a vital, overlooked problem.
Cutting meat consumption is a small solution and contribution to the world’s overall food dilemma, but it is one of the many necessary steps required to make positive headway.
McCarthy, Kerry. “We need to eat less meat – and the G8 should say so.” News Statesman, 14 June 2013. Web. 1 Nov. 2013. <http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/06/we-need-eat-less-meat-and-g8-should-say-so>.
Rayner, Jay. “Should we all eat less meat?” The Guardian. The Observer, 8 June 2013. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/08/should-we-eat-less-meat>.
Stokstad, Erik. “Could less Meat Mean More Food?” Science 327.5967 (2010): 810-811. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. <http://www.sciencemag.org.proxy.libraries.smu.edu/content/327/5967/810.full>.
As crazy as it seems, humans are not built to eat grass. We cannot graze off the evergreen terrain of this Earth without our stomachs churning with revulsion and our bodies refusing to function. However, one could say our species likes to live on the wild side, as we do eat a little bit of grass each day. Three-quarters of all human nutrition comes from wheat, rice, and corn, which are all grasses. The exception to these foods is that we are actually consuming their seeds, the dense package of complex carbs that comes from annual grasses. On the other hand, perennial grasses, which are more common, pack a large proportion of their energy in their roots, stems, and leaves; the building block for these is cellulose. Humans cannot convert cellulose to protein, but cows, sheep, and other mammals can because of the resident bacteria in their highly specialized fermentation stomach machine, known as a rumen.
The animals we raise, farm, and consume are meant to feed on grass. Grass-fed beef comes from animals that eat perennial grasses all their lives. Grain-fed beef, what is most commonly sold in supermarkets, comes from cattle that possibly began as grass-fed at some point, but transitioned to corn and other grains, typically in a confined feedlot, for most of the animal’s life. Logically, as one chows down on a Big Mac, they think back to the origin of this high-end meal and envision a picturesque scene of the once blissful cow, roaming Old McDonald’s abundant acres, eating greens like there’s no tomorrow. I am here to say that this is far from reality.
Where We Are
Since the 1950s, it has become routine practice to add low levels of antibiotics to the feed or water of healthy poultry, cattle, and swine to promote faster growth and prevent infections that tend to occur when animals are housed in crowded, unsanitary quarters. In fact, 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States are used in animals rather than humans and 83 percent of those are given to healthy animals, not to treat the sick. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the “overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animals” as a major source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are affecting humans in a major public health crisis. Additionally, bacteria are resistant to multiple antibiotics, leading to incurable or difficult to treat infections.
In addition, Corn is high in starch, low in roughage, a poor source of calcium and magnesium, and unnaturally acidic, so it is evident to why this grain would upset a cow’s stomach that is suited for a diet of cellulosic grasses. Grains are not only harmful to the cow’s stomach, but allow a wide range of parasites and disease, such as E. coli to foster and grow. One of biggest issues the world faces today is not about boosting food supply, but reducing food demand – particularly on meat. Meat is resource-intensive with 16 pounds of grain for every one pound of meat and 50% of global grains fed to livestock.
Wheat prices have doubled in the past year, mainly because corporations use grain to feed their livestock. One of the biggest challenges the world faces is not about boosting food supply, but rather reducing food demand, especially for meat. Rising grain prices may help make meat less attractive in addition to any outbreak of food-borne illness, but Americans have and will always return to meat. Corn is a cheap means to not only feed animals, but make animals fat as well. It has allowed America to drive down the price of meat (over 200 pounds per person per year), which makes our carnivorous diet possible. This cheap resource translates into an expensive end product when one considers the environmental and health costs.
The current food system uses 19 percent of all the fossil fuel consumed in the United States, more than any other sector of the economy. Twenty-three millions tons of chemical herbicides and fertilizers are used in crops. To make the fertilizer to grow the corn that feeds just one feedlot steer during his short life (14 to 16 months) takes about 284 gallons of oil, or 1.2 gallons per bushel. This scenario is only worsened by the fact that the federal government heavily subsidizes corn. Over the past decade $50 billion has gone to the corn industry. Our modern factory farming is the accumulation of huge surpluses plus the USDA’s encouragement to feed this surplus corn to cattle.
The feeding of massive quantities of grain to animals and the market’s dependence on cheap fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases that are linked to the changing climate. Agriculture contributes about 30 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions after land conversion impact, which is far greater than transportation emissions. Tillage systems used to grow grains release carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane by triggering the decay and erosion of topsoil.
Where We Should Be
Today, you can find grass-fed beef, lamb, and even bison in standard supermarkets. It is a movement that continues to grow as consumers become more aware and demand increases. Restaurants, such as Hopdoddy’s Burger Bar, are taking notice and transitioning to grass-fed sourced meat. The options are there for consumers, but it is up to the public to make the right choice.
Feeding cattle grain, not only changes the texture of the meat, but taste as well. Paul Roberts (The End of Food) interviewed an Italian farmer who proclaimed people come from across the globe to eat the meat from his cattle because they cannot find that flavor anywhere else. His cattle feeds off the surrounding area’s grass, which is specific to that region, climate, and environment, making the flavor of the meat unique. It is only natural that a steak served in Brazil taste distinct from that of one served in Italy.
Furthermore, the USDA grades beef in a way that reward marbling with intramuscular fat. Corn is deceptive in that it gives cow’s meat this well-marbled look, but it is simply saturated fat that cannot be trimmed off. In contrast, grass-fed meat is lower both in overall fat and artery-clogging saturated fat. With added advantage of providing more and healthier omega-3 fats, the meat is four times higher in vitamin E. Ultimately, grass-fed meat is associated with lower heart disease and cancer risk.
Consumers as well as producers believe the biggest hurdles to modern grazing methods are the cost and efficiency. Still, modern grass farmers almost universally rely on a managed intensive rotational grazing, which outworks an industrial-scale grain production. Polywire fences confine a herd of around 60 cows to a small area (one-quarter acre) for typically 12 hours. The farmer then moves the fence, cycling through a series of paddocks every month or so. Rotational grazing forces cows to eat all the available forage, including the plants they would typically leave untouched, which ultimately produces more beef or milk per acre than laissez-faire grazing. A grazer can produce more money than a subsidized corn farmer because he can produce about two steers per acre. This same acreage grows 3,000 pounds of grain used to feed a single steer in a feedlot.
Additionally, Grassfed beef translates to a healthier ecosystem. Shallow-rooted annual grasses, such as corn, wheat, and soy, are further depleting the soil of critical minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iodine that are vital to maintaining the proper biological matrix our agricultural system needs. Yet, perennial roots lift nutrients back into the system, making them available to plants and everything else up the food chain. Pure prairie builds up organic matter as perennial pastures can restore the richness of soil in about a decade. Perennial crops not only pull methane and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stash them in the soil, but also are often better at sequestering carbon than forests are. A cow’s diet can extend beyond the field. Farmers can give leftover vegetables to cattle, which is beneficial both economically and environmentally. Likewise, the conversion of cornfields to perennial grasses can significantly reduce the devastation of aquatic life from fertilizer and herbicide-heavy runoff.
Just by switching cattle’s diet from corn to hay in the final days before slaughter, the population of E. coli reduces in its manure by as much as 70 percent, but this is not the solution to the current problem. When cattle are shipped to these ever-popular feedlots to be fattened on grain, they immediately begin to lose the omega-3s stored in their tissue. Consequently, the meat from feedlot animals typically contains only 15 to 50 percent as much omega-3s as that from grass-fed cattle. In saying this, antibiotics are allowed for certain grass-fed certification programs, USDA Process Verified for one and not the American Grassfed Association. Use Label Lookup when shopping for groceries to distinguish certain claims from others and what claims on meat mean.
Grass-fed meat may involve more effort, money, and/or time, but if we care so much about what we eat, then we should care about what our food eats as well. Every consumer has options though. One can wait for a sale at the grocery store and stock up, which may not save a lot initially, but this savings accumulates throughout the year. Next, find a local or regional farmers’ market with grass-fed vendors. Lastly, look to buy direct from a farm. The Internet is the key to everything. Research the location for your nearest provider or find a company that can source the meat directly from the farmer to you. One such company that I have discussed in prior blog posts is Greenling.
Likewise, ths price increase in grass-fed beef could result in less consumption of meat, which is an entirely separate argument to the downfall of our food system.
“Meat Production Continues to Rise.” Worldwatch Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. <http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5443>.
“NRDC: Top 10 Reasons to Eat Grass-Fed Meat.” Natural Resources Defense Council: The Earth’s Best Defense. Natural Resources Defense Council, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. <http://www.nrdc.org/living/eatingwell/top-10-reasons-eat-grass-fed-meat.asp>.
Roberts, Paul. The End of Food. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.
Sisson, Mark. “The Differences Between Grass-Fed Beef and Grain-Fed Beef.” Mark’s Daily Apple. N.p., 7 Apr. 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. <http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-differences-between-grass-fed-beef-and-grain-fed-beef/#axzz2i5Ctjsr3>.
‘Organic’ is a term tossed around with little understanding or real conception of what it actually means. Does organic automatically mean safe? Are organic foods really worth the high prices? Is there a future in genetically modified foods? These questions and many more are constantly bounced around with little resolution. Currently, there is no definitive evidence that organic is necessarily healthier or safer than conventional food, but research shows that a strong organic diet does reduce exposure to pesticides and increases exposure to antioxidants.
Where We Are
The USDA National Organic Program adopted the definition of “organic production” as “a production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” Guidelines state that “production must use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.” This does not ensure that products are completely free of residues, but methods do try to minimize pollution from air, soil, and water. In 2011, organic sales reached $30 billion, or 4.2% of all U.S. food and beverage sales, according to the Organic Trade Association.
Sketpics claim that pesticides found in our food fall well below federal safety guidelines and that bovine growth hormone used to increase a cow’s milk yield is perfectly safe, but federal guidelines do not take into account what long-term exposure can have on the human body. Pesticides, in particular, are made to kill organisms. From that description alone, one can assume the consumption of foods sprayed with such chemicals could and will cause harm to the body. Recent field studies show that organic produce, not only tastes better, but contains much higher levels of phenolic acids, a secondary plant metabolite that can act as potent antioxidants that prevent cellular damage.
Several years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual could patent a living organism, which ultimately lead to the gene revolution of the food system. A recombinant cow’s hormone could boost milk output and a manipulated corn plant could kill pests on its own. Nonetheless, there are limitations to this phenomenon. Breeders can see resulting traits, but not underlying genes, which gives them little control over the experimental outcome. However, transgenic technology can overcome limitations by selecting superior parents and crossing only these plants or by supplementing either one organism’s DNA with genetic material from another organism or manipulating an organism’s existing DNA. Many consumer safety groups protest transgenic technology, but the FAO, World Health Organization, and U.S. National Academy of Sciences have found no evidence that transgenic food ever caused adverse human health effects. Transgenic crops are only planted in six countries, the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, and South Africa, and almost none of the developing countries because such countries cannot afford the required inputs.
Genetic engineering is not a solution to food and agricultural problems, but offers hope for herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and virus tolerance. Pamela Ronald, professor and Director of the Laboratory for Crop Genetics Innovation and Scientific Literacy at the University of California, expresses that the Union of Concerned Scientists’ major concerns lie with GE’s diversion of resources from the pursuit of more promising technologies, not its possible risks. GE technology has produced no commercial crops with multi-gene traits such as improved yield, nitrogen-efficiency, and water-use efficiency, which are essential traits to solving productivity challenges. In fact, conventional breeders are more successful in producing steady increases in drought tolerance and nitrogen-use efficiency.
Where We Should Be
Chensheng Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health argues that the simple lack of funding for this kind of research mixed with the obvious higher prices of organic food, paves a golden path of opportunity for skeptics to persuade people to believe cost and effort are not worth it. While studies on either side of the debate deliver mixed messages on the actual healthfulness of an organic diet, both generally agree it typically contains fewer pesticides than conventional produce. A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2006 showed that within five days of substituting mostly organic produce for conventional produce in children’s diets, pesticides disappeared from the children’s urine.
The price of conventional food is cheap because current subsidies go to the overproduction of crops such as corn, rather than research for more sustainable, organic practices. In addition, when bought in-season, organic produce becomes comparable in price to conventional produce because there is less of a need to pump fruits and vegetables full of chemical enhancers. Some suggest organic food is just as susceptible to bacterial contamination as regular food and this is true. A recent string of salmonella deaths sourced from both organic and nonorganic peanuts indicates organic meat and produce are just as susceptible to bacterial infection as other foods. However, that type of contamination happens after harvesting and has nothing to do with how food is grown.
Paying more for organic produce, milk, and meat is a trade-off many find well worth it in order to avoid exposure to chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and milk from cows given bovine growth hormone. However, what do the families with stricter budgets do to enjoy such pleasures? With no definitive evidence in one direction, individuals that are unable to enjoy the organic luxury should focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed food, meaning more fresh food and whole grains. Families can refer to the Environmental Working Group’s list of the “Dirty Dozen,” foods with the highest pesticide concentrations, and the “Clean 15,” foods with the lowest pesticide concentrations. An ideal strategy for those with tighter budgets is to buy organically when it comes to food on the “Dirty Dozen” listing.
On another note, one cannot always trust the “organic” label. Organic does not mean food is sourced locally and in a lot of cases, organic food is imported from countries where regulations are not as tightly enforced as in the U.S. This goes back to the idea of eating local. By staying connected with your food, you know more about the people who produce it, where it came from, and how it was produced. You foster a relationship that promotes safe, sustainable practices. This ultimately leads to a more ethical system that relies less on heavy chemicals and pesticides. Look for organic produce outside the nearest specialty store, such as your local farmers market. You will find lower prices as well as a direct link to the people producing the food you buy. In addition, most people forget you can actually grow most the food you buy. Paul Roberts of The End of Food, asks his readers to question what foods they could actually reproduce if the global market were to shut down. Growing your own food may be a little more time consuming, but it shaves hundreds of dollars off a regular grocery budget and reconnects you to an important part of your daily life.
In regards to genetic engineering, the world should mirror the stance of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Taking the middle ground approach, the organization has no initial objection to GE technologies, but in keeping a critical eye on GE applications, they may accept some applications and reject others. The Union believes GE will play a role in the future of agriculture, particularly in helping crops resist insects and viral pests, but the most powerful approach to a productive, sustainable system is a system based on practices such as crop rotation. GE approaches deserve appropriate consideration as a solution, but only in special situations and when paired alongside conventional breeding and crop rotation. Early examples of biotechnology, such as that of Monsanto, have turned off many potential supporters. The public must educate themselves on issues such as genetic engineering and its potential in food’s future, in order to make the right decisions for our future as a whole.
“National Organic Program Definition.” Organic Trade Association. N.p., Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ota.com/definition/nosb.html>.
Roberts, Paul. The End of Food. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.
Ronald, Pamela. “The Truth About GMOs.” Boston Review. N.p., 6 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.bostonreview.net/forum/truth-about-gmos/modest-response>.
“Would We Be Better Eating a Mostly Organic Diet?” Wall Street Journal. N.p., 16 June 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2013. <online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324063304578525342828282504.html>.