Trendwire, May 7, 2008

Trendwire, May 7, 2008

TrendWire

Trendwire, May 7, 2008

 

The Food Channel Trendwire
May 7, 2008 • Volume 22, Number 9 • http://www.foodchannel.com
IN THIS EDITION

Changing the Way We Look at the Cost of Food

Everyone is concerned about rising food prices and gas prices. Most experts agree that the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. But it may be getting worse in a way many of us hadn’t expected, since these two hot-button issues are more tightly connected than we might realize.

In a recent article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/26/business/worldbusiness/26food.html), Elizabeth Rosenthal identifies the push that’s likely to come to make imported food goods more expensive for consumers. In our increasingly smaller world, it’s commonplace to ship large amounts of foods around the world. Rosenthal explains, “Under longstanding trade agreements, fuel for international freight carried by sea and air is not taxed. Now, many economists, environmental advocates and politicians say it is time to make shippers and shoppers pay for the pollution, through taxes or other measures.” Imports have increased significantly as goods are brought in from countries with low labor costs and transported with nontaxed fuel. For example—half the kiwis consumed in New Zealand (they’re the national fruit after all) are actually grown in Italy.

Many experts are looking to figure the true costs of all that shipping, and require that consumers pick up the tab, since the emissions from using the fuel is adding to the problems that continue to plague our precarious environment. But it’s not as easy as “start taxing the fuel.” Instead, retailers, wholesalers, and government agencies worldwide may start looking at the full environmental cost of producing a food product by considering all these factors:

  • Labor
  • Materials
  • Water
  • Land use (including any costs associated with pest control or cleanup of pesticides)
  • Transportation (including both fuel and the cost of emissions)
  • Storage and refrigeration (if necessary)

One supermarket chain in Europe, Tesco (http://www.tesco.com/), is looking to create a carbon footprint label, much like a nutrition label, that allows consumers to see the complete cost associated with bringing a particular food product to the consumer.

While some critics claim that taxing imports in this way is protectionism at its worst, government agencies are increasingly concerned about this issue. The European Commission announced plans to remove the exemption on fuel tax for imported foods by 2012.

Ingestion = Appreciation; Can Eating Endangered Foods Actually Save Them?

In a strange paradox, many advocates of a particular species of endangered animals and plants are encouraging people to eat them. OK, we’re not talking about bald eagle fajitas or polar bear pie. Instead, there’s an increasingly popular trend to encourage interest in preserving certain species by encouraging a renewed culinary appreciation of the animals.

In his new book, “Renewing America’s Food Traditions,” Gary Paul Nabhan identifies 93 different foods, commonly used in American kitchens for centuries, that are now in danger of disappearing. Check out http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/04/29/dining/20080430_LIST_GRAPHIC.html for a map and listing of where the different foods have previously been enjoyed. More than just a book, it stands for a movement, in acronym-speak RAFT (http://www.environment.nau.edu/raft/), designed to renew interest in many species of plants and animals that are important to North America culturally, ecologically, and culinarily. According to its website, RAFT is made up of “seven of the most prominent nonprofit food, agriculture, conservation, and educational organizations dedicated to rescuing America’s diverse foods and food traditions (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University, Chefs Collaborative, Cultural Conservancy, Native Seed/SEARCH, Seed Savers Exchange, and Slow Food USA). “The organization is working to give context to these foods, particularly in the form of recipes, designed to encourage people to use (i.e., eat) these foods on a regular basis.

In a related story, many towns in the Hudson River valley area of New York may notice the guest of honor in short supply on menus at annual shad festivals this spring and summer: salmon is replacing shad on many menus. While the festivals are designed to increase awareness and appreciation of the fish, the number of shad spawning in the Hudson River has decreased significantly. Not everyone agrees with that approach though. “On one hand, we don’t want to eat the last of them,” Clay Hiles, the executive director of the Hudson River Foundation, told the New York Times. “On the other hand, it’s very important if they are going to be protected that they be fully appreciated.” At their festival in May, attendees can enjoy shad fillets prepared in several ways, as well as a dip made from shad roe.


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