On the Difficulty of Finding Pastured Animal Products

chickens on pasture

Chickens on pasture. Image by MentalMasala.

I was hoping to bring some good news this morning, specifically about a non-profit animal welfare rating service that I found out about at the National Products Expo. There were two animal welfare rating organizations at the Expo, one I decided not to write about because I considered their standards too loose–specifically they do not mandate pasture. The other requires pasture and I was looking forward to recommending them.

This morning, however, I decided to look at some of the farms they have certified and was surprised to come across one that I’ve actually visited. By no stretch of the imagination does the farm in question give their livestock the access to pasture that I was under the impression the rating organization required. Now I’m fully aware that my own backyard chickens would not meet these standards–my yard is simply not big enough and my hens are in a coop/run arrangement all day. But I was hoping for a higher standard from this non-profit rating organization–specifically eggs and meat from a farm that looks like the one in the picture above.

I’m hugely disappointed. And I wish I could be more specific but I don’t want to end up in a lawsuit. Let’s just say that at this point I’m not aware of any animal welfare rating service that I consider adequate. Let’s not even talk about the joke that is the USDA.

I do think there is a entrepreneurial opportunity here for someone to start a reliable third party rating organization. How about we use some 21st century technology?  Just think about how cool it would be to make use of webcams so you could trace and see the farm your food came from.

New Health Food Trends at the Natural Products Food Expo West

Natural Products Expo

This weekend I attended, for or the second year in a row, the Natural Products Expo West. At this massive convention, health food, natural supplement and cosmetic concerns pitch their products to retailers.

And, again this year, I did a lot of intemperate sampling. For the sake of you, our dear readers, I ate every known power bar, sports beverage and processed soy/hemp/chia meat substitute so you won’t have to. It was the human equivalent of being a fois gras duck, except instead of corn pellets coming down the funnel it was all the snack items from a health food store. I washed this massive amount of food down with a hundred different “natural” beverages, all variations on a combination of hemp or soy flavored with the latest, obscure rain forest berry. I may never have to eat again.

The Rise of Quinoa

Natural Products Expo Bag Dump

Phoebe helps sort through all the quinoa swag.

The main theme of Natural Products West this year is the rise of gluten free products. Gluten intolerance is a problem for many people. One out of 131 people have Celiac diseases and a great many more probably have some sort of wheat allergy. However, someone tell me why we have to label products like tomato sauce and raw chicken as being “gluten free?”

Most new gluten free products, everything from pasta to crackers to power bars, use quinoa. The Natural Products Expo’s own trade publication noted that the exponential growth of quinoa consumption in the U.S. has created a situation in which the indigenous people of Peru can no longer afford their own staple food. Peruvians are now eating cheap, processed crap so that we can eat, well, cheap processed quinoa crap.

And if a health food product doesn’t contain quinoa, I can guarantee it will contain either coconuts or chia seeds. Neither of these two products are easy to grow in the U.S. so you can forget about supporting local producers.

Of the hundreds of booths I went past, most were peddling heavily processed junk foods with a “natural” label. And we wonder why the U.S. has an obesity epidemic?

The Ugly
The bizarre booth spectacle award goes to the weight lifting supplement producer that had a scantily clad nurse, an examination table and a ultrasound machine. Retail reps with pot bellies could have themselves oiled up and examined to find their “hidden abs” that would, presumably, be revealed through consumption of a whey powder supplement beverage.

The Good
The good news is that the handful of cool things I found more than made up for all those quinoa power bars. I’ll share those discoveries this week.

Picture Sundays: An Altoid Box EDC

Altoid Box EDC

Reader Ben Wison sent sent an email about his EDC (everyday carry), along some photos,

Wanted to let you see my EDCs. enjoyed your posts, and figured I would share my improvised Altoids tin. The dividers are made from empty tins cut and riveted in place. My next addition is a iron thin envelope under the mints containing a mini survival kit.

Ben promises an update once the mini-survival kit is assembled.

Want to see more EDC “pocket dump” photos? Check out everyday-carry.com.

Got a favorite Altoid box project? Leave a link . . .

Saturday Linkages: Black Soldier Flys, DIY Power Bars and CDFA Thugs are Killing Bees Again

DIY
How to Build a DIY Black Soldier Fly Composter (Video) : TreeHugger http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/how-build-diy-black-soldier-fly-composter-video.html …

Are You A Chicago Gardener? Take This Survey http://greenroofgrowers.blogspot.com/2013/02/are-you-chicago-gardener-take-this.html#.UTo_UPrAm4A.twitter …

My Solar Adventures- DIY solar and arduino projects: How to : DIY Solar Backpack with Solar Mobile phon… http://mysolaradventures.com/2012/06/how-to-diy-solar-backpack-with-solar.html?spref=tw …

Cookin’
How to Make Easy 3-Ingredient Energy Bars at Home Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-easy-3-ingredient-energy-bars-at-home-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-184306 …

Curly Parsley and Arugula Pesto http://www.foodinjars.com/2013/02/curly-parsley-and-arugula-pesto/ …

Bad Ideas Department
CDFA thugs killing bees: Pest versus pollinator? | News | Santa Maria Sun, CA http://www.santamariasun.com/news/9452/pest-versus-pollinator/#.UTo7chMwEko.twitter …

The American Plan to Build Nuclear Power Plants in the Ocean http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/paleofuture/2013/02/the-american-plan-to-build-nuclear-power-plants-in-the-ocean/#.UTfFax5lLoc.twitter …

Good Ideas Department
DRM Chair that works only 8 times: http://hackaday.com/2013/03/04/drm-chair-only-works-8-times/ …

Nature Blows My Mind! This 80,000-Year-Old Aspen Grove Clones Itself : TreeHugger http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/natural-sciences/nature-blows-my-mind-80000-year-old-aspen-grove-clones-itself/ …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Growing Your Own Food is Like Printing Your Own Money: Ron Finley’s TED Talk

Please take a moment and watch gangster/guerrilla gardener Ron Finley’s inspiring Ted talk. I first heard about Ron after he got busted for planting a vegetable garden in what used to be a weed strewn parkway. He’s gone on to plant many more gardens around Los Angeles.

The end of this talk really hit home for me, “Don’t call me if you want to sit around and have meetings. If you want to meet with me come to the garden with your shovel so we can plant some s**t.”

Amen.