Friday, February 28, 2014

movie review: the end of the line

This week, Marty's Market hosted a screening of the documentary, The End of the Line. Marty's has recently partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to sell seafood that is approved by Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch program, so this was a fitting educational program for them to host. They also are partners with the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium - the first store in the area to do so.

(As a side note - great place to watch a documentary. Comfortable tables, delicious coffee and nice people. Also a great place for brunch - I'm just sayin.)

I've known for awhile about the problem of declining seafood populations, having read Four Fish by Paul Greenberg.The End of the Line is based on a book of the same name by Charles Clover, and challenges the idea that we have operated under for centuries - that the sea is inexhaustible in its resources. (Come to think of it, we've pretty much thought that about land and underground resources as well.)

The film highlights the myriad of issues that overfishing creates - from environmental issues like drastically changed ecosystems. When a  species higher on the food chain collapses, there is a proliferation of the lower species. When those are overfished, there's no way for the system to rebound. Bi-catch is also a big problem - the other sea life that is caught in trawlers and nets in addition to the intended population - making up 1/10 of what is caught. Bi-catch goes back over the side of the boat, dead. Bottom trawlers drag the ocean floor and destroy the life on the sea bed. None of it is so simple as putting a lure on a line on a fishing pole, which is the idea we have about fishing from the recreational fishing that people do as a hobby.

1.2 billion people depend on seafood as a key part of their diet, and many hundred thousands of jobs are dependent on it as well - everything from indigenous fishermen to international corporations. Overfishing might sustain jobs now, but as the populations of the fished species dwindle, those jobs will disappear anyway, since there will be no more fish left to catch. This is where the logic behind quotas and protected areas comes into play - but these are often completely disregarded. Indigenous fishermen in developing nations are also threatened by their own countries selling the rights to off-shore fishing to developed nations. The coastal areas where theses people have fished for centuries are now depleted, making it harder and harder for them to make a living in their own home areas.

The film also touches on farmed fish - often thought of as the solution to dwindling wild populations. But the problem is that farmed fish EAT wild fish. So using aquaculture for a species that eats fish isn't actually sustainable in any way, since it takes many pounds of fish like anchovies, herring and mackerel to feed the farmed fish that seem to be such a great idea. There are also problems with these fish farms polluting and/or contaminating the wider ocean.

One of the ideas this film presents that I hadn't really considered before was how we look at seafood as a different type of life than other animals, like dogs, cats, zoo animals, or even livestock. If restaurants served panda on their menus, the public would be outraged. Endangered species! How can we eat them? But yet restaurants across the country highlight bluefin tuna, which is highly endangered. As a society, we classify the life of animals according to our own use. We wouldn't treat our dogs the way we treat cows and pigs. And we definitely wouldn't treat a panda or cheetah the way we do bluefin tuna. 

So what do you do? The film suggested asking your legislators to "respect the science" - which I think is a great way of phrasing that governments can't let private interests try to refute established scientific evidence. Both the film and Monterey Bay also suggest asking businesses and restaurants - is your seafood sustainable? If they answer that they don't know or say that it isn't, ask them to look into the issue and leave them with a Seafood Watch card. 

Also, if you're going to purchase seafood on your own, choose from the Best Choices list, and from the Good Alternatives list, if the Best Choices aren't available. Look for restaurants and businesses that prioritize sustainability and support those organizations. Download the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch app and check it out the next time you're in the market for seafood.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Next Gen House turns one!

A year ago, I started this blog as a way to create a space where I could explore the issues I'm passionate about - food justice, sustainability, agriculture, clean eating, animal welfare - and answer the question that I'm most often asked when it comes to our lifestyle at Next Gen House. Why?

Here I am, 365 days later, still writing three times a week, working to answer that question and explore these ideas. It's an ongoing project that is grounding and personally enriching. I have many ideas for this space for and I look forward to its development in the future.

One of those ideas is to make a leap that I've put off for awhile and create a Facebook page for Next Gen House. I don't personally use Facebook, so I avoided developing a page for this site. But I don't want to be closed off to the idea of growth and challenge, so you can now visit and interact with me (and hopefully other readers) there.

And here's the fun part. In celebration of a year of posts, I'd like to give a Next Gen House birthday present to one of you. My path to being more aware of what I eat and how that affects me as well as the larger world began when I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and watched the documentary Food, Inc. I want to pass along those important works to someone else. So I'm giving away a brand new paperback copy of the book, as well as the documentary on Blu-ray. 

To enter the Next Gen House birthday giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling me either something you have enjoyed on Next Gen House, a way that you live sustainably, or something you'd like to see on the blog in the coming year. I will use to select a winner. The contest ends at 9 p.m. EST, Sunday, March 2.

I purchased these items on my own to give away because I wanted to do something nice. I wasn't paid or perked in any way by anyone to give them away.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Grocery Cart Compare: Whole Foods v. Giant Eagle, week 1

When it comes to grocery shopping, there's an experiment I've been wanting to do for a long time. I wanted to take the time to price match an entire week's worth of groceries to determine if Whole Foods is really so outrageously priced as people like to say that it is. So this week, I wrote down the exact items I purchased at Whole Foods and took my list to Giant Eagle Market District, which is the most comparable store that is "conventional." We have other health food stores in the area, but they are smaller and wouldn't likely be able to get the price comparisons that Giant Eagle and Whole Foods would. (For those of you not from western PA, Giant Eagle is our region's version of Kroger or Publix. Market District stores are special stores with expanded selections of food, and in my opinion are designed to be competition for the dollars of consumers that are looking for more than just the basics.)

I did this with a completely open mind, as a data gathering experiment. So I wasn't out looking for ways to make my own preference of stores "win." And ultimately there are many factors to consider when it comes to where you shop - price isn't the only factor. I also didn't evaluate the quality of the items on taste or on the freshness of the produce, etc.

In some instances, one store did not carry some items that I found at another store, so I did the closest comparison. (For example, Whole Foods had some organic products I purchased and Giant Eagle only had conventional and vice versa.) I noted these differences as best I could.

Also, I should note that I realize that a two-adult, two-income home with no kids to feed has a different grocery budget than many other family configurations. This isn't meant to be a judgment on what you buy or to present what I buy as the "best" groceries. It's merely a price check experiment for one household - not a moral judgment. On to the data.

ItemWhole FoodsGiant Eagle
Organic heavy cream - 8 oz1.99N/A** Conventional heavy cream, $6.29 for 32 ounces
Pepper jack slices (deli)7.99/lb*8.99/lb*rBGH free cheese
Black forest ham (deli)11.99/lb*8.99/lb*hormone and antibiotic free
In-house roasted turkey (deli)12.99/lb*10.49/lb*hormone and antibiotic free
Noosa yogurt2.492.49
Organic fresh sauerkraut2.992/$4**conventional and canned, not fresh
Organic green onions0.991.79
Organic green bell pepper2.99/lb3.99/lb
Organic red leaf lettuce2.693.49
Conventional cucumber0.891.49
Organic Granny Smith apple2.69/lb1.83/lb**3 lb bags, not loose
Conventional Macintosh apple1.69/lb1.99/lb
Cherry tomatoes (US greenhouse)4.493.99**Mexican, artificially ripened
Conventional blood oranges5/$45/$4
Conventional bananas.69/lb*.54/lb*Whole Trade
Organic peanut butter4.995.99
Organic brown sugar3.49*3.99*24 oz pkg v. 16 oz pkg at GE
KIND bar1.492/$3
Organic NuGo protein bar1.594/$5
Organic honey5.496.29
Organic almonds6.49N/A**Conventional only - 6.99
Sourdough boule (bakery)3.994.99**small loaves 3.99, large loaf 5.99 - avg
Organic English muffins2.69N/A**Convention only 3.99
Organic raisins (bulk)3.993.99
Conventional cranberries (bulk)7.993.99

For this week, Whole Foods was the better choice overall. You'll note that for dairy products and deli meat, even though the prices were more expensive at Whole Foods, I chose them as the better option for me, since I don't eat meat with antibiotics or growth hormones, and the same goes for dairy. So if you eat conventional deli meat, you'd want to go with Giant Eagle. Ironically, the better quality cheese was even cheaper at Whole Foods. 

I also made some choices on produce at Whole Foods because of other factors (whole trade, location and method of growth), but some of the exact comparisons were cheaper at Whole Foods and others at Giant Eagle. From week to week, it will likely vary, as different shipments come in and growing seasons across the world change.

I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the prices the same at both places, or very comparable. Also pleased to see that Giant Eagle's bulk section is so large and also gives Whole Foods a run for their money ($4 cheaper per pound for cranberries? whoa!).

This also makes me note - if I had more time, many of the things on my list I could make at home (fresh raw sauerkraut, sourdough boule, English muffins, yogurt). It would be interesting to do a price breakdown of what it costs to buy a loaf of sourdough boule at the bakery v. making one at home, also including the time/labor factor.

I am intrigued enough by the results of my findings that I am hoping to continue this series regularly (as long as I am able to get to the two stores to do it!), since we buy different grocery items most weeks. Plus, this also gives me an idea if it would be better for me to shop around. Typically, I only shop once and at one store, because frankly running errands in crowds drives me insane. But to save significant money, I would probably make the effort. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Real Life CSA: winter share 6

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have read that I was pretty excited about one item in particular - Bloody Mary mix. Well, it has arrived.

Ironically, I'm not even really a Bloody Mary fan. I have only had one in my life, and it was on a golf course at a work event. So probably some cheap tomato juice and bottom shelf vodka. But ever since having brunch at Meat & Potatoes and seeing their Bloody Mary bar, I have wanted to try one. A good one. Somehow I don't think Clarion River Organics will disappoint.

So after that rapture, let's get to the other goodies.

Pea shoots are a great addition to salads, so they will spruce up the lettuce and other greens. Carrots are always a great addition to salads too, but we also use them for making stock and as sides. Garlic never goes to waste in this house.

Mutsu apples are also called Crispin apples - they will be snacks, most likely. Cabbage might make it in some soup or haluski - maybe with the recipe provided by Penn's Corner

We've also really enjoyed the other products outside of the realm of regular produce. The tomatillo salsa that we got a few shares ago was ah-mazing, so I'm pretty psyched to try this farmer's market version.

Another fun addition this week was the popcorn. I am my grandfather's granddaughter, and enjoy salty popcorn above most other snack foods. I especially like it cooked in coconut oil - Mark's specialty. 

We officially signed up for Penn's Corner's full spring/summer/fall CSA, too. We have loved being customers of Kretschmann's for several years, so we didn't switch for any other reasons than convenience of pick-up location and the desire to try other farms and their offerings. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

introducing Stormy, the newest member of Next Gen House

Last night we welcomed a new member of our family - a male, orange marmalade cat - who we named Stormy. Stormy is actually short for Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All, which is a reference to a joke from Doctor Who that makes us laugh every time we see it. (To view this moment from the episode, click here. It will make more sense and the name will be less weird, but still geeky.)

Stormy comes to us from Best Furry Friends, a local adoption group. We met him, ironically, on our way to the Humane Society to look at cats for adoption. We stopped by our local pet store (Pet Supplies Plus at Settlers Ridge) to get some supplies, and as we passed an aisle end-cap, a little furry paw reached out of a cage and "snagged" Mark. We stopped and looked into the big eyes of this beautiful little cat and well, kind of fell in love. 

We put in an application on the spot, to adopt this cat and his sister, Joy, who was also on site. After talking with the adoption group, we found out that Joy already had a family ready to adopt her, but our little orange buddy was available, as well as some of his "siblings" from a group of cats orphaned together. 

We were interested in two cats, particularly getting ones that already knew each other. After we were told that one of Stormy's siblings would do best in a child-free home because he's deaf (and needed for that reason to be adopted with one of his "siblings"), we were sold. That cat's name is Winter - he's all white with one green eye and one blue. And we will be bringing him home soon too - once his ear infection is all cleared up.

Stormy seems to be acclimating pretty well, after really not enjoying the car ride home. (Sorry that Carnegie's roads are all jacked from the winter, Stormy.) He has come out to play with us and get some attention a few times in between hiding behind the tubs of Christmas decorations (which Mark has dubbed his Fortress of Solitude). We know he just needs to get used to our house and all the sights, sounds and smells. But if his purring and desire for petting and scratching is any indication, he's going to love Next Gen House. We have only known of him for a few days and only brought him home last night, but he's already a part of our family.

Once he gets used to our house, I hope to be able to really take some good photos of him - especially to show off the gorgeous pattern of his coat. But only when he's ready (and if he likes having his photo taken as much as I do, probably never). Thanks Best Furry Friends, for giving us the opportunity to love and care for Stormy!

Monday, February 17, 2014

reading this week

Some exciting local stuff this week, as well as national news. There's never a shortage of headlines in the movement for sustainable, just food. 

What's New in 2014? Sustainable Seafood (Marty's Market blog)
Marty's Market, a local store in Pittsburgh's Strip District, has made a pledge to only sell seafood approved by Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch in an effort to focus on sustainable seafood. This is awesome for a lot of reasons. In addition to the post linked above, check out their post on the importance of sustainable seafood here. I'm going to Marty's on Feb. 26 to view a screening of The End of the Line, a documentary about the problem of over-fishing.

A Valuable Reputation (New Yorker)
A story about a scientist who studied the effects of atrazine for Syngenta, one of the largest agribusinesses in the world. You can guess how this turned out.    

For lower-income students, snow days can be hungry days (NPR)
Way too many children in this country depend on being at school to eat breakfast and lunch - meals they wouldn't otherwise get at home. 

Kroger accused of being not-so-honest in 'Simple Truth' chicken labels (Reuters)
Grocery giant Kroger is under fire (and being sued) for labels that claim their chicken is humanely raised, when the birds are actually raised in standard confinement agriculture operations. Truth in labeling continues to be a big problem in this country.

Also, save the date for the 8th Annual Farm to Table Conference in Pittsburgh - March 21 and 22 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, downtown. This year's theme is "Food Sources." We attended this last year and met a lot of great local vendors and farmers, as well as some great speakers.

Don't forget - I'm raising money for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank by running the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 4. Read more about it here and support ending hunger in our community.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

creating a root cellar in a city basement

Our basement has been a source of aggravation for me for awhile now. It's not finished, has a very low ceiling and a cement floor, and somehow, a full bathroom. It also contains a boat load of junk, enough cardboard to function as a shipping company, our laundry machines, chest freezer and other various house necessities, like the furnace and hot water.

We also try to store food down there - not just our canning preserves and a few shelves of alcohol - but produce like squash, onions and garlic. Since we have lived in this house, we've just put the produce downstairs, thinking it was a cool, dark place and that it would just miraculously function as a root cellar, preserving the veggies for a long time.

Well, it hasn't done that. We lose a decent amount of produce to the compost pile - squishy squash and soft, moldy onions. Something isn't right down there when it comes to the storage of veggies. So I made two goals:

1. Finish the simplifying project I started last fall by finally doing a complete overhaul of the basement's contents as well as a new layout that optimizes the space and gives us room for food storage, laundry, general storage and a work area for Mark. 

2. Figure out what the heck is stopping us from being able to use the basement for storage of whole vegetables and rectify it. (Is it the produce? It is something I'm doing? Is it the temperature or humidity or light?)

I ordered a book from the library called Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel, which seems to be the go-to text in the world of root cellaring and homesteading. It's comprehensive enough that I'll probably purchase a copy myself.

It covers everything from digging an actual classic root cellar into a hillside to modifying small spaces and awkward city basements. I am considering the option of turning our unused basement shower into a makeshift root cellar/cold storage for produce. (For the record, I would not remove any of the functionality of the shower for any future owners of this house, since I'm banking on the dream of having land of our own some day.) There are other options, such as building cold boxes to surround basement windows and using the steps between the basement and the dorothy doors out to the yard. Once I see what kind of space we're working with when the extraneous crap gets removed, we'll know better what option works for us.

I also realized that I need a hygrometer as well as a thermometer to determine what the humidity levels are in the areas where I'm going to store produce. Since the authors correctly point out that produce is always changing and undergoing its biological processes, heading toward rot and decay, it's important to make sure the environment around the vegetables does everything to retard that process that it can.

I'll probably also use this book as a guide for exactly how to store what type of vegetable or fruit. I think one of my big mistakes is grouping everything together, when each item has an optimal storage method, etc. I will also look into using those white styrofoam picnic coolers to create sand boxes, essentially, for some of the foods. Might be kind of fun to go down to the basement in the dead of winter with a little sand shovel and go digging for a turnip.

Have you ever experimented with cold storage of produce or root cellaring? If you've got any tips, share them in the comments. I can use all the help I can get!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

backyard chickens in winter

If you live anywhere that sees the change of seasons, you've been having a rough winter. (Come to think of it, some people have had a rough winter who never see snow. I still feel bad for people in Atlanta sleeping in CVS.)

When we've had the polar vortex days and the heavy snow fall and the ice storms, a lot of people ask "how are the chickens handling the snow?" 

Well, in short, just fine.

(One of the black australorps, the laying champions of the world.) 

We went through a period in the late fall/early winter where molting and the reduction of the daylight hours made all four stop laying - we got only a few eggs over that time. This seemed to be happening to a lot of people this year.

Thankfully, one of our black australorps is a laying champion and she started up again, even during the short winter days. Both black australorps are back at it, and just recently we got our first green egg in months, from one of the americaunas.

As far as water, we use a heater system that Mark rigged up, which uses one of those holiday cookie tins with a light kit attached to the side. The light bulb warms the tin and keeps the water from freezing. We just use Chinese takeout containers for their water in the winter since they are easily refillable and seem to help the water stay in liquid form. 

However, they do like to knock it around from time to time, and one day this winter found me in my dress clothes on the way to work, crawling into the coop to recover it. 

Way to stick your face in her butt just as I snapped the photo, lady.

As far as snow, they aren't big fans. We try to keep areas of the backyard shoveled so they can walk around a bit without being up to their beaks in snow. We usually have a path from the coop to the deck, where they like to hide for a wind break and to be close to the house, which gives off some warmth. Their feet are sensitive to cold, so they prefer to stay out of the snow, but I've seen tracks around, so I know they aren't completely averse. 

Now ice? That's another story. The ice storm we had recently had them going nuts, clucking away and making all kinds of noises because they were irritated that they couldn't walk well. I had to bring hot water outside to de-ice their coop (and took a spill myself) to even get the door open, so when they realized that they couldn't step outside and get any traction, they made an unholy racket.  

In the cold, they huddled together a lot and hung out under the deck to get a wind break. We give them extra scratch when it's going to be a very cold night so they have food to be digesting while they roost. 

They'll be happier when they can poop all over the yard and get back on top of the compost pile, but they're doing fine. I think I'm more sick of the winter than they are. But who isn't?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Real Life CSA: winter share 5

More variety in this share - and more pasta!

Eggs will supplement our chickens' eggs. (The Americaunas haven't really layed in months.)

As a big pasta lover, this lemon pepper rotini will make a great dinner - possibly with some sauce that involves goat cheese.

Although the goat cheese would also go really well with this hot pepper jelly (which I accidentally labeled jam up in the top photo). I didn't realized I liked hot pepper jelly until a friend brought her dad's homemade jelly to a party with brie and puff pastry and it was delightful. So many uses for this stuff!

We've been enjoying fresh lettuce with each of these shares. If we get this again, I'll take a photo of the whole bunch, so you can see how they cut the lettuce when it's grown hydroponically. 

Onions and potatoes will be pantry staples and the same goes for the dilly beans. Apple cider we'll drink up - we like to mix it with club soda for fizzy apple cider with a little bit less sweetness.

As for the beets, I might try to be ambitious and find another recipe to test that I might actually like. If not, we'll give them to someone who likes them or compost them!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

online petitions - effective tool or just armchair activism?

In the age of social media, online petitions were almost inevitable. What better way to marshal support for a cause than to use social media to push the agenda, in hopes that it go viral?

I've signed a few online petitions before, mostly related to food issues. But does that really accomplish anything, or is it just armchair activism - an easy way to assuage our uncomfortable feelings about whatever the injustice is that the petition aims to combat?

Petitions that are sponsored and/or backed by advocacy groups are more likely to have legs. That is, they are using a collection of signatures to advance their already existing lobbying efforts. These groups exist outside of social media and have at least some power to get issues in front of legislators. 

But what about the petitions that are just started by a random person with an issue? I've been emailed petitions to sign to save just about every animal species under the planet, to take every ingredient out of every processed food, to make dolls and toys for kids of all shapes and sizes. (Recently, a White House petition to deport Justin Bieber received enough responses that the White House will have to issue a response.) 

A lot of these issues are good causes that I support in theory. But a lot of them are slightly misguided. For instance, the petition to take artificial colors out of M&Ms so as to not expose children to those chemicals doesn't make any sense to me, since children really shouldn't be eating any M&Ms at all, or at least not enough to make a difference. It's worse to be exposed to those chemicals through the processed foods kids eat at every meal. So why try to get companies to change already unhealthy products to still unhealthy products? 

Shouldn't we be petitioning the FDA and USDA to help us get chemicals out of our food supply, as opposed to individual companies? Consumers can also choose to not purchase M&Ms if they aren't happy about the ingredients. If you don't like the ingredients in Subway's bread, don't eat at Subway and if you choose, let people know why you don't. But most Americans can't go completely off-grid and stop buying their basic food supplies at grocery stores. So shouldn't we be petitioning the government to make our general food supply safe and not just asking for one specific product to remove a specific ingredient?

I think it makes people feel like they are involved in activism when they share petitions and stories on social media. And really, they are. It's a good thing to spread information and raise awareness, and I take part in that myself on a regular basis. But before you sign online petitions and expect them to make a difference, really think about whether or not that petition has a likelihood of affecting change, or if there's a better way to go about it. 

Asking Subway to change its bread isn't going to do anything to reform our food system. Take the time you would spend on online petitions and contact your legislators or write a response when legislation or FDA/USDA rules are up for public comment. Spread those messages on social media. It's awareness of the scope of the real issues in our food supply that will ultimately make a difference.

Monday, February 3, 2014

make it yourself: morning glory muffins

I've been interested in getting back into baking more regularly. I used to bake constantly, but as I've tried to stay away from excess sugar, it's become harder to justify making cake after cupcake after cookie. So I've turned to our King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book for some healthier alternatives. 

This weekend I tried morning glory muffins - made from whole wheat flour and a melange of other healthy ingredients. More than I've ever tried to pack in a muffin before, certainly!

The dry ingredients are just whole wheat flour and some brown sugar, plus the usual leaveners and salt, and ginger and cinnamon for spice.

The most time consuming part of this - even more than the baking itself - was grating 2 cups worth of carrots and a cup of apple (I used braeburns from our CSA). The chickens were pretty happy with the carrot shavings and apple peels!

Added to the carrots and apples (plus some raisins which were soaking in hot water, but were gross looking from the murky water and thus not really picture-worthy), were walnuts, coconut and sunflower seeds.

Wet ingredients were canola oil, orange juice, vanilla and eggs. No butter, which helps keep the calories and fat down, too.

The batter was quite thick and chunky. It definitely wasn't an airy muffin, since it was hand mixed and less air was worked into the batter.

The cookbook said this made 12 muffins, but I'm thinking they meant the large muffins, because it made 24 standard size, coming in around 176 calories each, with a lot of fiber, protein and fruits and veggies. 

These are great breakfast muffins, because they are hearty enough to keep you full for longer than a typical sugar packed muffin would. And probably would make good snack muffins as well, since they aren't going to give you a sugar rush in the afternoon.

If you're interested in baking with flours other than regular refined all-purpose flour, definitely check out this book. Every recipe I've made in this cookbook has tasted good, and it helps you remember that whole wheat doesn't have to taste like cardboard! I plan on trying out some whole wheat honey biscuits next - they are calling me!

I wasn't paid or perked by King Arthur Flour to say good things about their cookbook. They have no idea who I am. And the link for the cookbook was for your convenience, not an Amazon affiliate link. Full disclosure.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

book review: Foodopoly by Wenonah Hauter

I added this book to my list of reads after I realized that the author is the executive director of Food & Water Watch, an advocacy organization I follow quite closely. I was expecting it to contain about the same types of information that I usually find in books about the food movement. Interesting and informative, but not much new.

Well, I was wrong. Foodopoly did have some familiar themes, but the level of research and explanation in this book blew me away. Hauter's main argument is that while focusing on changing consumer behavior and "voting with your fork" is important and has its benefits, no large scale change will happen without complete reform of the faulty industrial, corporate-controlled agriculture system that we have now. 

What this book does really well is explain how we got to where we are, and what the factors are that contribute to it staying this way (and getting worse). I expected a book with such an extensive and thorough notes section to be dry, and while it did take me longer to read than some other food books, it's because there was so much information to absorb. 

Reading Foodopoly really hammered home for me how much of a privilege it is to be able to buy food from local farmers, living in an urban area where many farmers are able to make a living by providing food direct to consumer. I was reminded that many small and mid-size farms across the country do not have direct-to-consumer sales as an option, and are forced to grow commodity crops where they are paid less than the cost to produce and to work within monopolistic corporate systems. 

This book covers antitrust laws through this country's history and the impact that deregulation has had on food and farming in America. Though I knew that many organic producers have been taken over by giant food conglomerates and that only a handful of corporations control all sectors of our food chain, reading Hauter's logical explanations of what happens behind the scenes makes you realize that this country has allowed business to be the watchdogs of our public health and welfare.  

Foodopoly also covers genetic tinkering - not just genetic engineering of plants and animals, but synthetic biology and the groups that are trying to use government money to actually create life for profit. Here as in other places in the book, compelling evidence and meticulous research support her arguments. 

The only thing I felt this book lacked was a "now what" at the end. I was waiting for a chapter on practical ways to support the kind of large scale political movement she describes, especially after the book fired me up so passionately about moving beyond just supporting our CSAs and avoiding processed foods, etc. I do have a goal to write to my legislators more often this year, and I'll continue to try to read up on legislative and judicial instances where public comment is needed. If you're looking for research and facts to back up the feeling that our system needs to be fixed and not just consumer behavior, Foodopoly is a fantastic place to start.