Food & agriculture – June 24

June 24, 2013

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Order Your Chicken Rare: Nearly Lost Breeds Make a Comeback

Rebecca Flint Marx, Modern Farmer
In 2007, Paul Bradshaw was scouring farming blogs when he noticed something funny: people wanted chickens. But not just any chickens. They wanted Coronation Sussex chickens, a breed native to England for two centuries but rarely, if ever, found in the U.S. Sensing opportunity, he tracked down “this crazy guy” in Australia who raised Sussex chickens and agreed to sell him some eggs.

“So I raised these things,” Bradshaw recalls. “I didn’t have any grand plans. But then I put them up for auction on the Internet, and the first pair sold for $4,500. A hen lays 200 eggs a year. I was making $100 off of a pig, and all of a sudden I can hatch out 20 Coronations a day. And thus the Greenfire Farms chicken addition was born.”…

He caters to a finicky crowd: Eighty to ninety percent of Greenfire’s customers, Bradshaw says, are backyard hobbyists. Backyard hobbyists tend to get classed as dilettantes more concerned with the aesthetic appeal of the $1,500 chicken coop they’ve ordered from Williams-Sonoma. Not so, says Bradshaw. “They have very specific ideas of what they want in a chicken. They want the best. They’ll pay $1,000 for a chicken if they know they’re getting the best.

“They’re hardcore,” he says. “They weigh their eggs and count them, and they’ll butcher a chicken. They’re serious about retaining the food value of these birds, and that’s really kind of our market.”
(5 June 2013)

Qatar’s Renewable Energy Solution to Middle East Food Security Problem

Andrew Holland, Energy Trends
From late 2007 through 2008, the global price of food saw an unprecedented upwards spike in prices, measured by the UN’s food price index, a broad measure of food prices. That spike was followed by another one in 2010 through early 2011 (see chart).

Here in the United States, we hardly felt the pinch at all. Food prices for the average American in the grocery store have almost no link to world food prices – as marketing, transportation, and processing can account for up to 80% of the total cost of food in the grocery store. However, major grain importing countries are sorely affected by these price spikes. For instance, as the Egyptian government continues to negotiate a new IMF loan, a sticking point is that over 9% of its total budget outlay is devoted to subsidizing food…

The Qatari government, like on many areas (al Jazeera, the Syrian civil war, the 2020 FIFA World Cup), has been the most proactive in the region in addressing its food security challenges. In 2008 Qatar begin the Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP) in order to address the problems of food insecurity through increasing domestic production.

The Qatari program aims to utilize seawater in order to make the arid desert bloom. The problem is that desalinating water is very energy intensive – and that has been a limiting factor in utilizing it for the relatively low-value irrigation (as opposed to high-value drinking water). The QNFSP aims to meet this energy challenge by utilizing renewable energy to desalinate the water. Logically, this makes sense; while there’s little water in the desert, there is more than enough wind and sun. Qatar aims to use these techniques to move from its over 90% dependence on imports to being able to produce 70% of its food at home. If successful, this model promises to be exportable across the region…
(5 June 2013)

New York’s ‘Food Recycling’ Program Could Be The Future Of Waste And Energy

Annie-Rose Strasser, Climate Progress
New Yorkers’ food scraps will soon be turned into electricity, thanks to a new initiative announced Sunday by the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new “food recycling” program will call for the construction of a composting facility in the New York region to take 100,000 tons of food waste a year — just one tenth of the total one million pounds created by New York residents annually. Compost will be turned into biogas, with the express purpose of helping the city lower its electric bill.

The launch of the program will be voluntary, and city officials estimate that 150,000 homes will take part, along with 600 schools and 100 high-rise buildings, the New York Times reports. By 2015 or 2016, however, officials hope to have the whole city on board…
(17 June 2013)

15 Websites Saving the Environment by Changing the Food System

Staff, Food Tank
Each of these 15 websites deals with major problems in the food system, exploring the complex relationship between food and the environment. Please share this list with friends and family to spread knowledge of how food choices impact the environment. This is, however, only a sample of the many great sites that should be checked every day. Which ones would you recommend?

1. Beth Hoffman for Forbes Online – In Forbes Online, Hoffman pays close attention to the role of businesses in affecting food systems, particularly with regard to corporate responsibility, and analyzes their impact. Beyond that, Hoffman also features valuable news and information about the food industry for consumers.

2. Civil Eats – Civil Eats promotes critical thought about the American food system, advancing the benefits of sustainable agriculture as a way “to build economically and socially just communities.” Drawing on the contributions of over 100 writers, Civil Eats features innovations in food justice, environmental sustainability, and consumer health….
(7 June 2013)

Local Foodshed Mapping Tool for New York State

Staff, Cornell University
Welcome to the Local Foodshed Mapping Tool main Page! This instrument is the product of a larger USDA CSREES funded project entitled "Mapping local food systems potential in New York State." This project, hereafter referred to as the "Mapping Local Food Systems Project." investigated the capacity of agricultural land in New York State to meet the food needs of the state’s population centers. The Local Foodshed Mapping Tool is an internet map server (IMS) that provides a means for interactively exploring results from this study.

Project Overview: The Mapping Local Food Systems Project was initiated to better understand the capacity for New York State to supply its own food needs. To this end, the goal of this research has been to develop models for evaluating the food production potential of the state’s agricultural land relative to the food needs of its population. To achieve this goal, we have created a collection of models that use spreadsheet-based approaches, geographic information systems, and linear optimization to answer questions about the capacity of land to meet human nutritional needs. These tools have been applied in the context of New York State but are designed to be adaptable to other geographic areas…

50,000 bumblebees die after neonicotinoid pesticide use in Oregon

Staff, Beyond Pesticides

Just as Pollinator Week began last week, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees, likely representing over 300 colonies, were found dead or dying in a shopping mall parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. Authorities confirmed Friday that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of a neonicotinoid pesticide, dinotefuran, on nearby trees. Then on Saturday, it was reported by The Oregonian that what could be hundreds of bees were found dead after a similar pesticide use in the neighboring town of Hillsboro.

According to the Xerces Society, this is the largest known incident of bumblebee deaths ever recorded in the country. Bumblebees, which are crucial to pollination of multiple berry and seed crops grown in the Willamette valley, have recently experienced dramatic population declines, a fate that is similar to other pollinators. Dan Hilburn, Director of plant programs at the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), told Oregon Live that he’s “never encountered anything quite like it in 30 years in the business.” The incident highlights the difficulty of permitting in commerce such a highly toxic material that indiscriminately kills beneficial insects.

A recent study, An overview of the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoid insecticides, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, documents that neonicotinoid persistence in soil and water can cause broad and far-reaching impacts on ecosystem health, much of which have undergone little scientific scrutiny. The author asserts that world leaders have failed to meet their commitment made at the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity – to achieve a significant reduction in the rate biodiversity loss. He points to neonicotinoids as a potential cause of this failure, due to their long-term persistence in soil and water. He specifically points to soil dwelling insects, benthic aquatic insects, grain-eating vertebrates, and pollinators as being in particular danger from the use of these chemicals.

Tags: composting, food security, Heritage Breeds