Why Entomophagy Matters

What is entomophagy? 

I get that question a lot (with the implied “why do you (and should I) care?”), and have worked to reduce my spiel down to an elevator pitch. My goal is to not just define the word, but tell why I care about entomophagy – give a convincing, but simple, explanation of why bugs are the best protein source for ethical and environmental reasons.

So I didn’t quite succeed at creating a quick pitch–there are too many important points to make! I’ll keep working on cutting it down into something that closer resembles an elevator pitch, but for now, here’s my… essay, really, with statistics help from Chapul, Exo, Crik Nutrition, Bitty FoodsBig Cricket Farms, the journal Science, Stanford, and the Coursera course from Johns Hopkins on the US Food system I took a couple years ago (see here, here, and here for relevant notes).

Most meat produced in the US is raised on factory farms, where animals are crammed together in cramped and dirty housing–a hardship for both animals and workers–and which pollute water, air, and soil, and drive down neighboring property values. *

Factory farmed animals are pumped full of antibiotics, chemicals, and hormones, and some farms feed industrial waste containing heavy metals to the animals. The sketchy things fed to food animals are later absorbed by human consumers. Remember, “you are what what you eat eats.” (Michael Pollan) Antibiotic misuse on factory farms breeds resistant strains of bacteria, which are transported off the farm via trucks, workers, meat, fertilizer, and even birds, and cause difficult-to-treat infections in humans. **


(credit: wongaboo; license)

Raising animals in industrial systems is extremely water- and land-intensive. ***

As the global need for protein continues to rise, the industrial farming system becomes less and less sustainable. Insects, specifically crickets, can be a nutritionally, ethically, and environmentally superior protein source to conventional meat.

Crickets are an excellent source of protein and nutrients. They are lower in fat, and higher in iron and magnesium than beef, and are a complete protein source: they contain all nine amino acids essential to human and animal diets.

The environmental footprint of a cricket farm is minuscule compared to an industrial farm system. Pound for pound, crickets produce 1% as many greenhouse gases as cows and three times less waste. Crickets need 8% of the feed and water as cows to produce the same amount of protein, and are much more efficient as a protein source than cows: 100 lbs of feed produces 50-60 lbs of edible cricket protein, vs 5 lbs of edible beef. **** A cricket farm requires 2000x less land than a cow farm.

Crickets have a much shorter life span, and can be harvested at 6 weeks, which is much faster than cows at 18 months. North American farms raising crickets for human consumption feed organic diets without hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides (of course). Crickets are harvested humanely by dropping the ambient temperature to put them into a dormant hibernation-like state, and from there they’re deep-frozen. *****

People in poor countries need access to iron- and protein-rich meat sources, and a resilient system for growing it. Cricket farming could help solve that problem. According to the UN, if edible insects become a part of the mainstream global diet, we can reduce greenhouse gases by 18%, and lower the average cost of food globally by 33%. Other cultures all over the world eat bugs, and Americans are already eating bug parts at some levels in processed foods. Insect protein is the future, so you might as well start embracing it now!

fried insects

(credit: shankar slicense)

For easy entry into the world of eating bugs, try cricket energy and meal replacement bars, cricket baked goods, and cricket protein powder from Exo, Chapul, Bitty Foods, and Crik Nutrition. For 10% off Exo bars, use code HAUTEPASTURE at checkout!

I had a lot of trouble limiting myself to a length that would make for a somewhat effective elevator pitch; hence, the asterisks above, for the following elaborations:

* Most people are aware of the terrible conditions for animals on factory farms, but the conditions can be horrible for workers too: exposure to chemicals, waste gases, particulates, hard labor, and illegals with no rights often must endure abusive hiring practices.

** Factory farms pollute water with waste storage failures and illegal dumping directly into waterways; air pollution comes from gases, particulates, and animal dander, and soil is polluted when waste is applied to land as fertilizer. For industrially produced meat products, the ratio of fossil fuel energy input to food energy produced out can be as high as 35:1, with beef produced in feedlots generally having the most unfavorable ratio.

*** 7% of global water is used to grow grain for livestock, and meat production uses 70% of farmland, 30% of Earth’s surface, and 40% grain grown globally. Meat production is an inefficient use of grain, water, and land: it takes 1000 kg water to produce 1 kg of grain. The grain required to produce 100 kg of beef, pork, and poultry is 700 kg, 650 kg, and 260 kg respectively. So, for beef, it takes 7000 kg of water to make 1 kg of beef.

**** Crickets require about one gallon of water per pound, about 2000x less than cows, 800x less than pigs, 500x less than chickens, 350x less than eggs, even 200x less than vegetables.

***** Usually then they’re boiled to clean them and remove wings and legs, and dried and pulverized into powder. Cricket powder alone is not very tasty, so it’s combined with other powders for cricket flour for baking, or protein powder for supplements.

Celebrity sighting: Joel Salatin at the Paramount


Joel Salatin spoke at the Paramount in C’ville last Saturday morning, and Momma HP and I were there. Here’s the official event description:

Field School of Charlottesville is hosting Joel Salatin for a talk on “Healthy Boys” on Saturday, May 17th at 10:30 a.m. at the Paramount.  Salatin, who is featured in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma as well the documentary film Food, Inc., is a full-time farmer and the owner of Polyface Farm of Augusta County, Virginia.  An outspoken proponent of non-industrial food production, Salatin will provide his thoughts on what we can do to develop healthy boys, through good nutrition, exercise, and raising good food.  Lunch will be provided to all participants following the presentation.  Field School is a 5th-8th Grade middle school for boys “developing well-rounded boys of character and accomplishment.  The event is sponsored by Field Camp, Blue Ridge Swim Club, Ashtanga Yoga, Mudhouse Coffee, and the Local Food Hub.

The bits specific to raising healthy boys weren’t so applicable to us (although Momma HP has a strapping young grandson), but there was plenty of improve-the-food-system and get-outdoors-and-play talk to keep us happy.


My main takeaways

Personal health

Eat real food. He told a vermicomposting story where the worms wouldn’t eat the processed snack food and it survived the composting process intact, and asked us to think about 1) why would we eat something a worm wouldn’t eat, and 2) why we would want to eat food that won’t rot–meaning, there’s nothing alive in it.

Or think of it as fueling your system with real food. We humans are host to about 100 trillion bacteria–in fact, our bodies are only 10% human–and we need to support those bacteria by feeding them quality food. The influence of gut bacteria on your body reaches far beyond digestion. Bacterial health may be related to chronic disease: malnourished digestive bacteria may allow toxins to leak into the bloodstream, causing a low-level inflammation which may lead to many of the chronic diseases prevalent today. Gut health may be linked to neurological health: “leaky gut” may contribute to depression, and gut bacteria may be able to influence our behavior. Salatin also encouraged the audience (who were sitting in a dark room on a beautiful day, I noted to myself) to get outside and play in the dirt, and pet some animals! Expose yourself to a broader range of microbes.

I recommend reading this article by Michael Pollan for a thorough discussion of one’s personal microbiome: Some of My Best Friends Are Germs. It’s a fascinating and important topic about which science is only just starting to learn.


Food system health

Care about what you eat. We, as a society, have abdicated responsibility for our food production. Why do we spend more time worrying over, for example, who should do work on our house than who produces the food that goes into our bodies? Start a garden and grow some produce, buy from your local farmers markets and small groceries, and even visit area farms themselves to see how the food is produced–and, of course, how the animals are treated. Try to eat food that you can look at and tell what it’s made from. Question the origin of those ingredients you can’t pronounce. Be mindful of what you’re consuming.

Here are some suggestions for simple ways to regain some control over your food.


Food’s impact on American healthcare

Americans are spending less on food and more on healthcare than ever before. 

This article shows Americans’ decreasing spending trends on food; this articleand this one discuss the meteoric rise in obesity and its associated healthcare costs in this country. People are buying more cheap, processed, sugary, chemically food and paying for it with their health. Do you think the two are related? If you doubt it, here’s another article.


And then we took our enchiladas out to Lee Park and sat on a bench in the sun. If you have the opportunity to see Salatin speak, go! Even if the topic seems slightly irrelevant, and especially if they give you lunch.

London’s Smithfield Market

If you’re a market nerd and lover of quirky architecture like me, you’ll love visiting this slightly-off-the-tourist-path gem in London. It’s just a stroll from St. Paul’s (walk down Leather Lane on weekdays to check out the vendors and few food trucks) and near the Barbican and Farringdon tube stations. Go early to see the action–the market closes at 7am. If you miss opening hours, like I did, you can still walk down the wide main corridor and read the informational signs describing the history, and marvel at the architecture and colors. If you want to learn more about Smithfield Market, read on…

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market is the largest and oldest wholesale meat market in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe. Also called London Central Markets, it houses a wide central aisle flanked by 43 temperature-controlled stalls. The market opens at 3am to sell meat, poultry, cheese, and some prepared foods mostly to London restaurants, caterers, and hotels, but anyone may shop there.

Smithfield Market

The site of Smithfield (from “smooth field” for grazing animals) Market has housed a livestock market for over 1000 years–in addition to hosting witch burnings and executions. Before trains, fresh meat arrived at the market on foot, losing valuable weight over the journey. It was estimated that a cow walking 100 miles would lose 20 pounds along the way. Animals began arriving by rail in the mid-1800s, and in the 1868, the current market buildings opened, designed by City Architect Sir Horace Jones, who also designed Tower Bridge. The railroad ran directly beneath the building, allowing for easy transfer of meat from trains to the refrigerated vending stalls, and facilitating movement of fresh meat to consumers around the country.

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market may see some big changes soon, as plans have been submitted to the City of London to convert the market into a mixed used commercial development, with restaurants and retail on the ground floor, topped by six levels of offices. This is not terribly surprising; the prime location is amidst tourist and business districts.

Smithfield Market

The market is open on weekdays from 3am to 7am, but visitors may walk down the central avenue and read the historical signs at any time of day. The area around the market is full of shops, bars, and restaurants, far from what you’d expect to see surrounding a livestock market. It’s worth a visit; I’m looking forward to seeing the market in action next trip!


An Introduction to the US Food System, Week 6: Diet, Food Environments, and Food Access

Here are my notes from Week 6, the final week of the free, online course I’m taking on US Food Systems from Johns Hopkins. This week wrapped things up by discussing the final stop on the food production highway: who is eating the food, and what food they are eating. How can we get good food to more people, and use food to improve people’s lives in ways other than nutritionally? Read previous weeks’ notes here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5. This course was an excellent introduction to food systems and policy, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about those topics.

‘Continue to ask yourself, “where did this food come from?”‘

Lecture: Advocacy for Better Health and a Smaller Footprint: The Meatless Monday Campaign

The Science

  • Heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes–most US deaths caused by those, by far. Sat fat and cholesterol are factors in all 4 of those
  • Meatless Monday: We eat 15% more fat and cholesterol that we should = 1 day a week. Hoover had a Meatless Monday originally, because of insufficient product.
  • Many different reasons to eat less meat:
    • Health, health care crises
      • Studies show shifting protein sources away from red meat reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
    • Environment concerns, climate change
      • Livestock production contributes 18% of all greenhouse gases globally
    • Health and ethical concerns around industrial animal production

The Marketing

  • Monday is natural because it’s the start of a new week, and people tend to live it up over the weekend, so Monday is a day of resolution. Fresh start, reset cycle. Most people in study said a healthy change on Monday would help them sustain healthy habits for the rest of the week
  • Keep it simple, doable, memorable (alliteration), grassroots (not a brand, anyone can use it as they wish)
  • Provide consumers recipes for meatless meals on the website. Make it easy for people to follow, understand
  • Some pushback from consumers, since it’s a campaign to deprive people of something
  • Working to expand reach and visibility, send positive message
  • Allies: veggie burger companies, low-fat companies. Media, promotional dollars create interest
  • Meat industry reaction: not happy! Putting pressure on institutions (school systems) to NOT do Meatless Monday, but their argument is not compelling, but the controversy generates awareness for the MM campaign
  • Celebrities talking about it, chefs including it in weekly menus=huge outreach
  • Next for Meatless Monday: shift focus from individuals to institutions. Provide tools to organizations, get more media coverage. School districts and colleges are important targets, to teach kids and fight childhood obesity. Corporate cafeterias. Sodexo, biggest institutional meal-provider, developing menus and promotional/educational materials. Stores, restaurants too.

Expanding to Healthy Monday

  • Healthy Monday–more than just meatless–fitness, healthy lifestyle program, quit smoking, etc. Get other medical center communities in on it
  • “The day all health breaks loose” slogan
  • Kids Cook Monday: get families to cook and eat together
  • Worksite Wellness pilot programs underway: eating, health screenings, activity. Promote health and wellness, help organizations design programs
  • Campus Wellness programs: at over 20 college campuses
  • Implement Community Wellness programs
  • National Cancer Institute: Smokefree Monday
  • Monday 2000: calorie consumption awareness

Lecture: Moving Toward a Better Food System

A Canadian perspective

Community food systems, business, and the green economy: The role of food policy councils and nonprofits

  • The food movement’s themes are bigger: policy, social enterprise, non-profit sector, public notions of good health
  • Toronto Food Policy: We live in a world of plenty, and our problems stem from not being able to manage abundance.
    • Food charter: based on “backcasting”: Where do we want to be in 5, 10, 20 years? Where do we start today to get there?
    • The city is in the food business, and citizens have the right to food
  • Food is the largest:
    • Source of pollution
    • Land user
    • Occupational group
    • Employer of child labor
    • Source of poverty
    • etc in the WORLD
  • Food impacts health, economics, environment–everything. It is a public policy issue, not just a consumer issue.
  • Paid staff is necessary, can’t just be volunteers. Keep staff small, encourage civic activism, work with universities, create work-study options.

Functions of a food policy council

  • Issue management for policy innovation. Take a raw concept and test it out, create a pilot program, see if it’s practical, make a policy change.
  • Find common ground.
    • Food is not a zero-tolerance issue (like drinking and driving, sexual harassment, etc). Can change it a little at a time.
    • Many styles. Don’t force a style suitable to another movement to this one.
  • Serve as a catalyst. Help other groups learn to create their own policies, bringing people together to solve their problems.
  • Advocacy. Get out and promote new ideas.
  • Coordinate. Education, getting groups together
  • Support things. Provide support to make things happen.
  • Innovate. Do something with unused capacity.
  • Take a multicultural approach.
  • Don’t take on implementation–create the policy and pass off the implementation part.

Why the food movement is spreading

  • People want to make a difference. “Yes, we can!”
  • We need a way to make sure important issues don’t fall between the cracks
    • Ex: food and water departments aren’t together in City Hall
  • Connections to everything
    • Public health has many side effects. Need to think bigger than the problem and look at the whole system
    • Food links everything together.
  • Food has multiple entry points
    • Form a community around food
    • Everyone eats, at every age and every income level
  • Solving food problems solves other urban problems
    • Ex: reducing miles driven by people getting to grocery store. Widen, repair roads vs using money to make those trips unnecessary by supporting corner stores, farmers markets.
    • Food is the anchor of main streets. Use food to build streetscapes, required for public transit–to engage people. Create living streets with shops and coffeeshops and street vendors and streetcars. Get people to walk and linger. So food is part of preparing a town for public transit
  • Food helps convert unused space to green space
    • Beautify city with edible landscaping. Plant in vacant space, make urban garden, teach young people, inspire community.
    • Unused urban space used for food: green roofs, urban gardens, goat grazing. Bring nature into city–good for people.
  • Help cities build resilience. Resources are becoming scarce–oil, water. Food issues will be a training ground to help build resilience.
  • Food waste as a tool
    • Food waste makes up much of overall waste. About 50% of food is wasted globally.
    • Food packages can be recycled/reused, food can be composted
    • Plastic bags: charge a little for a bag at a store to motivate people to bring reusable bag from home
    • Coffee cups: charge a little less if you bring your own cup
    • Need to look at waste as resource opportunity, not garbage problem. Get producers, ex soda companies, to figure out what to do with bottles, not cities.
    • Give food scraps to farm animals, or compost, don’t throw it away
  • Promote local and sustainable food
    • Local artisans on main streets; money goes to local economy
    • Local businesses create local jobs
      • Celebrity chefs are role models for jobs in new food economy
      • Job skills for youth
      • Jobs in food production
        • Grow rare, high-quality food
        • Get paid for taking waste food
    • Intercultural food
      • Communities have their own food markets
      • Cook globally, eat locally

Food as part of a new, broader concept of health

  • Ottawa Charter of Health Promotion, 1986
  • New ideas about good health
    • Pool fishing event, to intro people to fishing skills who can’t get out into nature
    • Community ovens, to intro people to real food, cooking skills
    • Taking people out of isolation, giving them a skill, making them feel good about selves and have some fun
  • Producers of health, not consumers of healthcare
  • Food connects us to each other, to nature
    • People need to feel connected to where they belong in the world. Community gardens help with connecting to place
    • Farmers markets help people connect to each other
    • Food is associated with most important life events
    • Food creates simple pleasures: you can be poor, but still have fun, eat well
    • Often involves spirituality: grace, mother nature

Reading: The Pleasures of Eating, by Wendell Berry


“The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who therefore is necessarily passive and uncritical–in short, a victim.”

“The consumer… must be kept from discovering that, in the food industry–as in any other industry–the overriding concerns are not quality and health, but volume and price.”

Eat responsibly.

How can we eat responsibly?

  1. Grow your own food, as much as you can
  2. Prepare your own food
  3. Learn the origins of your food, and buy locally as much as you can
  4. Deal directly with the farmer/grower as much as possible
  5. Learn as much as you can about industrial food production
  6. Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening
  7. Learn as much as you can about the life history of the food you’re eating

Foodopoly reading and signing with Wenonah Hauter

Author and activist Wenonah Hauter visited New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville on February 13 for a discussion and signing of her new book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. Ms. Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, comes from a farming family, and is a long-time strategist and organizer for sustainable energy and food production.

Foodopoly reveals the behind-the-scenes lobbying, politics, and corporate power directing our food systems, and argues that consumers and farmers alone cannot fix the problem; a fundamental shift in food politics is required, as well. From the Foodopoly site:

In Foodopoly, she takes aim at the real culprit: the control of food production by a handful of large corporations—backed by political clout—that prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices that people can make in the grocery store.

This talk was also timely for me, as I just got an overview of US food and farm policy from my Intro to the US Food System course. Read my notes here.

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

What I learned from Wenonah Hauter

The Past:

  • The Reagan administration changed antitrust laws, made it easier for monopolies to form
  • In 1996 US joined WTO and NAFTA; those partnerships lead to pressure to deregulate farm policy
  • The 1996 farm bill led to drop in corn and soy prices, saving the big food producers billions
  • ’98 price collapse
    • Congress began subsidies for commodity crops to support farmers
    • Half of small/medium farmer income is from subsidies, so if we get rid of them, we need to fix antitrust policies that keep prices low
  • Subsidies are a symptom of a dysfunctional system, not a cause of it

The Present:

  • About 20 food production companies control most of the grocery store brands
  • They need cheap ingredients, so lobby strongly for reducing and maintaining the low price of inputs
  • Big 4 groceries: Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Target
  • 1/3 of our grocery money goes to Wal-Mart. They may be making an effort to work with smaller, local producers, but logistically, it’s difficult for any suppliers but the very large ones to work them
  • United Natural Foods, Inc is largest US distributor of organic foods
    • Since corp went public, it has focused mostly on Whole Foods and no longer delivers to small buying clubs and co-ops
    • Possibly colluding w/ Whole Foods to drive consumers there?
  • We need to vote with our forks, but also with our votes: keep elected officials accountable

The Future:

  • Need to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
    • US would “harmonize” laws with other (less-regulated) countries, like the EU did when the US and the EU made trade agreement, and the EU’s laws were weakened to harmonize w/ the US’s
  • Tyson and Perdue are trying to change the rules: to raise poultry in Asia, and increase speed of slaughter to 200 birds/min
  • Can’t fix food system without fixing our democracy
  • Need to undo Citizens United (Read more about that here: Overturning Citizens United)
  • Need to be citizens, not consumers

Local Food Hub supplied local apples from Crown Orchard to thank guests for coming

Ms. Hauter was an excellent speaker (even with laryngitis); passionate, knowledgeable, and fluent in the topics discussed. If she comes to your area, I highly recommend you see her. I look forward to reading Foodopoly, and will surely post lessons learned from it on this blog.

For more information, visit the sites below:

Food and Water Watch

Food and Water Watch’s page about Foodopoly

Foodopoly site

Buy the book (or better, go to your local bookstore and buy it)

An Introduction to the US Food System, Week 5: Alternative Approaches to Food Production

Here are my notes from Week 5, the penultimate week of the free, online course I’m taking on US Food Systems from Johns Hopkins. This week we got to the topics of most interest to me, and to this blog: alternatives to industrial animal farming, and the importance of local food systems. If you’ve heard or read Joel Salatin, most of the points below will be familiar. Read previous weeks’ notes here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4.

Lecture: The Sustainable Agriculture Imperative

Michael Heller conducts a sustainable farming practice on Clagett Farm in Maryland, which is owned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Clagett Farm is 300 acres, and produces vegetables, grass-fed beef, and native nursery plants.

Avg distance the food on your plate travels: 1600-1800 mi = excessive use of fossil fuels. Buy local!

Ag is the #1 source of pollution hurting the Chesapeake Bay: >40% of the water is a dead zone

Clagett Farm
Need to plan for:

  • Weed control
  • Pest control
  • Fertility

Sustainable practices:

  • Crop rotation: 5 or 7 year cycles, changing crop each year to restore nutrients to the soil, optimizing for available nutrients, keeping pests under control
  • Cover crops: Helps prevent erosion, improve soil, build fertility, control pests. Just as important as food crops. Fields should never be left bare.
  • Mulching: Weed control, coverage when cover crops can’t be used–cover crops compete with food crops for moisture. Straw provides nutrients to soil, controls weeds by shading sun, controls pests that don’t like to walk across it.

Grass-fed beef

  • Soil rebuilding, naturally: Soils rebuilt by grass and cattle on steep land, or soil “mined” by corn and soy
  • Disease control without antibiotics: Keep cows happy and comfortable -> low stress -> low disease. Closed herd: all cows were raised on farm, except a bull who is quarantined before being introduced to herd. So no antibiotics needed, few health problems.
  • Grass management through rotational grazing: Put cows on a plot, let them eat grass all the way down, then move them to fresh grass. Short grass allows clover to grow. Cows manage grass, so little seeding required.
  • Compost for soil improvement: Winter hay includes manure. Bacteria break down manure, straw, woodchips. Keep pile aerated, warm, dry. Weed seeds in pile killed by heat of bacteria working. Used as fertilizer, rebuilds soil, provides nutrients

Decision-making criteria for sustainability

Adopting new technology, deciding what to offer CSA members, whether to cut hay or let cows eat the grass, etc. Criteria are:

  • Community
    • Interactions with community via marketing; includes farm workers, farm animals, wildlife
  • Economics
    • Don’t let it become the domineering criterion.
  • Control for farmer
    • Does it give the farmer more or less control over what he’s doing? Ex: raising poultry for a corporation, which dictates amount of food, water, light, etc.
  • Control for consumer
    • More or fewer choices for consumer?
  • Energy
    • Let the cows harvest their food and spread their manure
  • Ecology
    • Soil building, water quality. Are we working with or against environmental processes?

Local food systems

Cheap food good for consumer, hard for farmer, leads to consolidation into big corporate farms, less and less % of $ going back to farmer

To bring community to farm:

Buy a share of farm output. Each week shareholders weigh their veggies and bag them themselves.

Grass-fed beef
Buy a quarter steer.

Annual festival
Entertainment, farm tour

To take food to people who can’t get to the farm:
Farmers’ Market, Food Bank, Farmers’ Market coupons for low-income consumers

Video: Out to Pasture: The Future of Farming?


  • Industrial ag degrades, erodes soil, pollutes environment -> can’t support future generations
  • Chickens
    • 8B animals raised and consumed in US each year. Over 7B are poultry, mostly chickens
    • Multinational corps control operations on individual farms
    • Manure biggest problem. Full of nitrogen, phosphorus, heavy metals, antibiotics. Put on soil, runs into waterways.
  • Cows
    • Preserve biodiversity rather than limit it
    • Use animal waste to restore fertility to soil
    • Animals recycle plant materials
    • Cows are not built to eat grain
    • Smaller farms need to move to pasture-based system to stay in business
  • Hogs
    • Produce 5x the waste of a human, with no treatment plants
    • Held in lagoons, sprayed on crop fields
    • Dust causes respiratory problems, liquid gets into watertable
    • Contract producers have to buy facilities, deal with waste, have no control, and are only guaranteed contract for a single flock/herd
    • Easier to keep hogs healthy outdoors: get minerals from ground, nutrients from trees, plants, they’re happier
    • Better meat when they’re kept outdoors
    • Humane treatment: no shockers, can’t kick or mistreat them, no antibiotics or hormones or steroids, have to give them forage, minimum space requirements
    • Hogs have personalities
  • Animals connect us to the earth
  • It’s not (or shouldn’t be) all about the money
  • Need to educate consumers
  • Need to vote with dollars
  • Transform the food system one consumer at a time

Video: The Future of Agriculture, Parts I and II


The Future of Agriculture
Being organic does not necessarily mean you are sustainable.

Think of sustainability as a concept of resilience, rather than steady-state, in the face of the challenges we will be facing in the future:

  1. Energy. Era of easily-obtained carbon-based energy is coming to a close. Oil produces corn that produces ethanol–still petroleum based. Think about energy/profit ratio–there’s not going to be a technological rescuer; we have to redesign systems instead.
  2. Water. Current economy enormously water-consuming. Agriculture draining water reserves at terrifying rate. Most crop production globally relies on irrigation. We need 4L of water a day to live, but we consume 2000L a day through all the food we eat!
  3. Climate Change. Current ag systems highly monocultured and specialized–require consistent climate to maintain productivity.
  4. Ecological degradation. Ecological resources are foundation of any ag system, but ag systems are destroying ecological diversity, most importantly: soils. Can no longer absorb and hold water as well, no longer the has nutrient capacity as when it was biologically active.

An Introduction to the US Food System, Week 3: Public Health and Environmental Implications of Industrial Models of Food Production

Below are my notes from week 3 of the excellent free online course I’m taking through Johns HopkinsRead week 1 notes here, and week 2 notes here. If you’re enjoying these notes, consider signing up for the course. It’s not too late, and I’d be interested to hear what you think!

This set of lectures covers: an introduction to industrial food animal production (IFAP); what are we feeding the animals; the use of antibiotics and arsenical drugs; and the international expansion of these practices.

An Introduction to Industrial Food Animal Production

Industrial food animal production

  • Animal feeding operation (AFO) = animals confined for 45 days per year; no other crops
  • Concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) = >1k animal units = > 1mil lbs of live weight
  • Industrial food animal production:
    • High-throughput production methods
    • One site
    • Controlled conditions
    • Uniform consumer product
    • Small profit margins

Substantial increases in meat production in last 50 years; largest jump in chicken production. Number of farms drops off dramatically as number of animals per farm shoots up.

Majority of poultry and swine facilities (>90%) operate under “vertical integration” model: a large “integrator” corporation owns animals, controls inputs, owns processing plants. Growers under contract and own/manage animal waste.

We’re producing over 9 billion animals per year for human consumption.

What are we feeding food animals?

  • Antibiotics and hormones
  • slaughtered animal byproducts
  • animal waste
  • industrial waste (containing minerals deemed nutritious, but also chemicals and heavy metals)

What do we do with their waste?

Animal waste mostly not treated before being applied to land. Can be stored for a while in hopes of reducing pathogen load. Contains:

  • bacteria
  • protozoa
  • viruses
  • animal dander
  • pharmaceuticals
  • heavy metals
  • hormones
  • nutrients

Pelletized poultry waste: sold in bags as fertilizer

Waste gets into water, air, soil: land application, failed storage systems, waste incineration, animal-house ventilation, direct (illegal) releases into surface waters. Groundwater makes 40% public water supplies and 97% rural water supplies. Other contaminant transport mechanisms: transport trucks, workers, flies, in the meat itself.

Occupational hazards: 5mil workers in direct contact with animals or with waste products; no federal oversight=no OSHA protection; often not given protective equipment; sometimes not given access to decontamination facilities like showers; can take contaminants home to families.

Air contamination from production facilities: gases (ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds w/ unknown risks), particulates, microorganisms, endotoxins, animal dander

Community risks: increased exposure -> asthma, allergies, mental health issues; odors; property damage, housing values drop

Antibiotics in animal agriculture 
Antibiotics used in people, food animals, even crop/ethanol production. All uses contribute to resistance development, but some more than others.

FDA est usage in 2010: 4x more used to treat animals than humans. Using the same antibiotics in animals as in people leads to resistant bacteria which are spread from farms and infect people.

4 purposes (per FDA) for antimicrobials in food production:

  • Teatment: sick animal
  • Control: one animal is sick, treat others
  • Prevention: expecting disease to occur
  • Production: growth promotion (grow faster), feed conversion (maximize amount of growth per unit of feed fed)

Prevention and growth promotion: lower dose for longer, most OTC, most administered via feed, to entire herd. Quantities hard to track because feed mixes are considered proprietary and companies not required to report on it.


  • via natural selection
  • via genetic sharing (horizontal gene transfer). Viruses, sharing via contact
  • via mutagenesis and resistance. New genes created
  • Reservoir of resistance, bacterial altruism: sharing resistance across communities of bacteria

Feed/water administration leads to uneven dosing–mixing feed, animals absorb differently. Over-administration leaves residues in products; under-administration leads to resistance; variable administration leads to mutations, treatment failures

Spread of resistant bacteria via transport trucks, workers, meat, manure lagoons, air, birds, manure as fertilizer on croplands

Consequences: antibiotics no longer work on resistant infections. Hospital stays longer and more expensive.

Denmark eliminated growth-promoting antibiotics in pigs in 1998. Results:

  • increases in weight gain and mortality in pigs
  • total antibiotic consumption down by 50%
  • reduced resistance

US programs: Animal Drug User Fee Act–FDA tracks data; Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act–limit use of medically important antibiotics (not yet politically viable); Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance Act–data tracking (not yet politically viable)

Arsenical drugs
Most common: Roxarsone. In poultry and swine feed since 1940s, for pinker meat, parasite control.

  • FDA set levels in 1951 that are still in use despite known health risks
  • Arsenic stays behind in chicken and in manure, in both toxic inorganic form and organic form
    • Chicken manure sometimes fed to cows
    • Chicken manure sometimes burned for energy
    • Runoff into waterways, taken up by seafood
    • Arsenic stays behind in treated soil
    • Crops can take up arsenic
  • Unknown type (inorganic/organic) in chicken meat
  • Approx 11 tons of arsenic released per year, but we don’t know where it goes

Inorganic arsenic = Carcinogen, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, skin, neuro, immunologic, bad, bad bad

2011 Pfizer suspended sale of Roxarsone in US pending further study, but still sells internationally–due to FDA study prompted by public concern, showing inorganic arsenic in chicken livers.

Lack of regulation. Legislation: 2009 Poison-free Poultry Act–no progress. 2010-12 MD bills–finally progress in 2012. Why 2012? FDA study showed inorganic arsenic may be present in chicken meat; report showing arsenic may stay in soils and groundwater and may be environmentally unsustainable; advocates/organizing -> not wise to feed an animal we intend to eat an arsenic-based drug!

Histostat (nitarsone) is another arsenic-based drug, used to fight a turkey disease. May be a loophole for continuing use of arsenical drugs in chickens in MD.

Food animal production abroad
Chicken production way higher in China. US #2
Swine production same
Cattle production: US#3

–so it’s not just us

US integrator companies expanding internationally. Could be fewer regulatory protections in other countries. Workforce, environment, drugs. Ethical considerations: food could be for export, not for consumption in that country–the citizens just have to deal w/ waste.

Reading: Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America

A report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production

Notable quotes:

    • At the end of his second term, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about the dangers of the military-industrial complex—an unhealthy alliance between the defense industry, the Pentagon, and their friends on Capitol Hill. Now, the agro-industrial complex—an alliance of agriculture commodity groups, scientists at academic institutions who are paid by the industry, and their friends on Capitol Hill—is a concern in animal food production in the 21st century
    • …The ratio of fossil fuel energy inputs per unit of food energy produced averages 3:1 for all US agricultural products combined. For industrially  produced meat products, the ratio can be as high as 35:1 (beef produced in feedlots generally has a particularly unfavorable energy balance)
    • Recently, animal scientists in Europe published a set of standards to define basic animal welfare measures. These include five major categories, which must be taken in their entirety: feeding regimens that ensure that animals do not experience prolonged hunger or thirst; housing that ensures resting comfort, a good thermal environment, andfreedom of movement; health management that prevents physical injury, disease, and pain; and appropriate meansto allow animals to express non-harmful social behaviors, and other, species-specific natural behaviors
    • The Commission’s technical report on economics in swine production showed that the current method of intensive swine production is only economically efficient due to the externalization of costs associated with waste management. In fact, industrialization leading to corporate ownership actually draws investment and wealth from the communities in which specific ifap facilities are located
    • The Commission’s six primary recommendations:
      • Phase out and then ban the nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials
      • Improve disease monitoring and tracking
      • Improve IFAP [waste handling/treatment] regulation
      • Phase out intensive confinement
        • The Commission recommends the phase-out, within ten years, of all intensive confinement systems that restrict natural movement and normal behaviors, including swine gestation crates, restrictive swine farrowing crates, cages used to house multiple egg-laying chickens, commonly referred to as battery cages, and the tethering or individual housing of calves for the production of white veal.  In addition, the Commission recommends the end to force-feeding of fowl to produce foie gras, tail docking of dairy cattle, and forced molting of laying hens by feed removal.
        • Not all of the systems that employ such practices are classified as “cafo”s, as intensive confinement can occur in facilities that are not big enough to be classified in that manner
        • Unbeknownst to most Americans, no federal regulations protect animals while on the farm. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act was enacted to ensure that animals are rendered “insensible to pain” before slaughter, but poultry are not included under its protection despite the fact that more than 95 percent of the land animals killed for food in this country are birds
      • Increase competition in the livestock market [via anti-trust laws]
      • Improve [independently-funded] research in animal agriculture

An Introduction to the US Food System, Week 2: Food Systems, Food Security and Public Health

“The food system is run by people who know nothing about health, and the health system is run by people who know nothing about food.” — Wendell Berry

Below are my notes from week 2 of the excellent free online course I’m taking through Johns Hopkins. Read week 1 notes here. Again, these notes are just what I type up while listening to the lectures, and aren’t fancified for posting here.

This set of lectures covers: Food security introduction, food system definition, history of food production and its effect on society.

Food Security

Exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient safe, nutritious food for health/activity needs, with implementation via sustainable methods.

The right to adequate food is a human right.

History of concept: in 70s, hunger was seen as a food problem, so focus was on ensuring adequate food supply and stabilizing food supply. 83 addition: securing access to food for anyone who needs it; 86 addition: adequate food to fuel active and healthy life; 96 addition: Rome Declaration signed by 176 countries declares reaffirmation to everyone’s right to food.

UN Millennium Development Goals: first goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Cut each in half by 2015. Progress on each as of 2004, but poverty slow to improve in W Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, former SSRs, and hunger slow to improve in S Asia, sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods of Food Production for Food Security

Soil (topsoil quantity), water quality, natural resource sustainability

  • Erosion of topsoil–depth from 21″ 200 yrs ago to 6″, on farmland
  • 60% freshwater used goes to crop irrigation
  • fisheries fully exploited or in decline/collapsing; overfished by 25%
  • industrial production methods affect small farmers and retail, and rural communities

World food production is adequate to feed everyone, if distributed equitably. More than enough food calories per person is currently available. 1 billion (1/5 of total) undernourished/underweight. But 1 billion suffer from diseases of overnutrition (diabetes, heart disease, obesity)!

More people could be fed if people relied on grain-based diet rather than animal protein-based (American-style) diet, that is more equitably distributed.

Food security exists when people have physical and economic access to sufficient safe, nutritious, sustainably produced, and socially just (to producers) food to meet their dietary/cultural needs and activity levels

New threats: biofuels, climate change, increasing meat production

Ingredients of the US Food System

“How we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” –Wendell Berry


  • Scope and magnitude of US food system: 1 billion acres agricultural land + >2 billion food animals
  • Influences + Inputs -> Activities [production, processing, distribution, retail, consumption] -> Outcomes

Early History

  • Humans 150,000 years ago. Hunter-gatherers.
  • Agriculture 11,000 BCE (fertile crescent and other areas)
    • motivated by glacial conditions?
    • motivated by larger/denser populations?
    • more work for more stable/abundant food supply (10-100 more calories per acre)
    • 4mil global pop before agriculture grew to 50mil in 1000 BCE, and 200mil in 1 CE
  • Settlements around agriculture grew to towns and cities. Uruk=world’s first city, 3000 BCE, 50k people
    • Now that they don’t have to hunt/gather, people can focus more on art, literature, technology, politics, social classes
  • Periodic famine in Europe as population grows exponentially
    • Famine drivers
      • pop growth, resource degradation, climate, drought, conflict
      • early farmers often depleted soil fertility
        • plow -> erosion
        • Dust Bowl in 1930s from erosion
    • Population growth sustained by
      • Imported crops from the Americas–improved nutrition
      • Refrigeration improves lifespan of food
      • Transportation network improvements
      • Nitrogen fertilizer in the 1900s increased output big time


Industrialized agriculture is less labor-intensive, makes food/farming cheaper, encourages consumerism by leaving more money in people’s pockets to buy stuff

Union Stockyards in Chicago for slaughter, process, packing, distribution. Largest in country in 1900. Inspired Henry Ford’s auto assembly line.

Characteristics of a factory:

  • Specialization
    • More efficient to focus on one thing. Skills, tools, facilities
    • Monocultures of corn or soybean (over half cropland is devoted to those two)
  • Mechanization
    • Simpler, more routine work can be replaced by machines
  • Standardization
    • Different facilities can better work together if specs are standardized
      • Grow chickens to same size so machines can handle
      • Sell meat of a certain size to restaurants
  • Technology + inputs
    • Special feed, breeding techniques to grow animals faster, bigger, cheaper
    • Chemicals, drugs, fossil fuels use increased
  • Economies of scale
    • Operations grew to gain efficiency in mass production
  • Consolidation
    • Trend toward larger and fewer facilities. Machines mean fewer workers needed. Smaller farms can’t afford same technology, economies of scale.
  • Concentration of control
    • Extent to which a small # of corps control most of the sales. Merging, buyouts.
      • Top 4 beef processing firms control over 80% of market
      • Pork: top 4 control over 2/3 of market
      • Corn: top 2 control over 1/2 of market
    • Those firms have power to influence how food is produced and who produces it

1950-2000 production on US farms doubled. US Agriculture is the most efficient in the world.

Some examples of external costs

  • Animal welfare
  • Environmental degradation from chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers)
      • Dead zones
      • Algal blooms

    Fertilizer can reduce soil fertility in long run

  • Pesticide exposure to animals and humans
  • Loss of biodiversity
    • Irish potato famine: only one type of potato, wiped out by a pathogen
  • Climate change from greenhouse gas emissions

Alternatives to Industrial Agriculture

What is sustainable ag? Meet current needs while not hindering future needs.

  • Economically viable
  • Ecologically sound
    • Native plants, recycling organic waste to enhance soil fertility
    • Resilient to droughts, pests (diversify, build healthy soil)
  • Socially just
  • Willing to use technology where appropriate

An Introduction to the US Food System, Week 1: Introduction to Food Systems, Equity and the Environment

“If you eat, you’re involved in agriculture.” – Wendell Berry

Here are my notes from week 1 of the free course I’m taking from Johns Hopkins on the US food system. So far I’m really enjoying it! These notes aren’t proofed or reorganized, just dumped here from Evernote for your educational pleasure. I hope you learn something; I know I did, and will be expanding upon some of these points in later posts.

The Vicious Spiral

Poverty – Population growth – Environmental degradation (PPE spiral)
  • Extreme poverty in the world is decreasing
  • Projected population growth mostly in developing nations
    • high: sub-saharan africa, bolivia, afghanistan, pakistan
    • Low: canada, brazil, most of europe, russia
  • Hunger declining but still too high
    • Most in Asia/Pacific,then sub-Saharan Africa
    • 1 billion of 7 billion total people are undernourished
    • Food prices spikes due to fuel prices going up, more crops used for ethanol

Equity and Global Ecological Footprints

Global pop: 7bil as of 10/11
  • 2bil overweight or obese
  • 1bil undernourished

Resource extraction increasing in emerging economies; 75% of pop live in countries where resource extraction > resource capital

Water quality/quantity:

  • Extreme scarcity in sub-Saharan, India, Nepal, SE Asia, Lat Am highlands
  • Chemical pollution bad in US, China
  • Dead zones from excess fertilizer: poultry production belt (NC, deep south), Europe’s concentrated livestock farming
Degradation of soil:
  • US farm belt (MS valley) very degraded
  • Iowa, for ex, loses soil at unsustainable rate–some areas >100T of soil per acre. Rich, fertile topsoil being lost to industrial farming techniques/overcultivation
    • Soil carried down MS river and lost at sea


  • Same area of soil degradation in N Amer shows high loss of biodiversity
    • Focus on corn, soybeans
  • Sub saharan, latin america bad
  • Industrialized countries w/ 15% pop used 50% fossil fuel, mineral resources; developing countries increased fossil fuel use by 40% in last 10 years
Biocapacity: capacity of ecosystems to produce useful biological materials and absorb human-generated CO2

Biologically productive land: cropland, grazing land, forest, fishing ground. Declining

Most of world at margins of using more biocapacity than is being replenished. In 2007: 151% Earth’s biocapacity used. Some countries ok: Lat Am, Canada, Russia

Diet, Food Production, and Global Health

Double burden of disease: healthcare systems of low/middle income countries overwhelmed by same old communicable diseases plus new chronic diseases from diet/less activity. Obesity has doubled globally since 1980. Diabetes type 2, cancers, heart disease, stroke. 80% of type 2 diabetes is in developing countries.

Undernourished mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, India, Mongolia, even China.

Food distribution:

  • US produces and uses vast majority of corn
  • Europe most wheat
  • US/Europe most meat, dairy, way more than India/China
  • US consumes 800kg grain per capita per year. Compare to 400 Italy, 200 China. Most of our grain goes to feeding livestock.
    • 700kg grain = 100kg beef
    • 650kg grain = 100kg pork
    • 260kg grain = 100kg poultry
    • 1000kg water = 1kg grain! So 700,000 kg water = 100kg beef; 7000kg water = 1kg beef

Federal subsidies: meat and dairy 73.8% of all subsidies. Fruit and veg .37% 

US meat consumption since 1961 increased 70%. 223lbs per person per year. Global demand for meat should double from 1990-2020. Global consumption since 1961: 82% increase. FDA says we don’t need all that protein and meat. US men consuming 170% of recommended protein; women 127%. Lot of room to reduce consumption.

Intergenerational equity and Food production impacts

  • Rapid land and soil degradation
  • Water table lowering
  • Antibiotic overuse – drug resistant bacteria
  • Fish stock depletion and more factory farmed fish
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Climate disruption
Industrialized agriculture: started in 19th C for efficiency, speed. Monocropping, pesticides, fertilizer, water.
  • Fertilizer overuse = nitrogen/phosphorus pollution
  • High use of non-renewable resources and reliance on fossil fuels
  • Agricultural subsidies
  • Artificially inexpensive fuel and water
  • Hidden costs of food = externalities
Production needs quality soil and good rainfall but that’s unevenly distributed.
  • 2/3 water use worldwide is for irrigation
  • Irrigated land produces most crops, and amount of irrigated land growing


  • 220million metric tons of fertilizer used per year globally in 2020
    • Most chemicals not tested
    • Crops only absorb 1/3 to 1/2 of applied nitrogen
  • 6mil metric tons of pesticides used per year globally
    • chemicals enter food, air, water stream and could give us cancer
    • 1 billion lbs pesticide per year in US
      • that’s 20% global production for 4% global population
    • Roundup resistance (glycophosphate). At least 10 species of weeds now.
      • Monsanto controls 96% soybean market w/ Roundup resistant soybean seeds

Energy use

  • 1kcal output requires 3kcal input on avg farm
  • Feedlot cattle: 1kcal output requires 35kcal input!
  • Over 80% US energy consumption for food production (2002)
  • Most greenhouse gases from meat (30%); processed foods/snacks (25%); dairy (18%); cereals & fruit/veg 11%; chicken/eggs/fish 10%

Industrial agriculture and biodiversity

  • Current rate of loss 1000 species a year!
  • vs Paleolithic rate of 1-2 per year
  • Amazon, 2000-2005, deforestation: 60% for cattle farming, 33% small-scale agriculture, 1% large-scale agriculture
    • 1% has ballooned in recent years due to soy production
    • Also sugar cane, maize production
    • Soybeans here predominantly shipped to China to feed hogs, essentially shipping water to china in the form of soybeans
  • Threat to food supply: monocropping = more susceptible to disease, drought, pests
    • Industrial animal farming = loss of genetic biodiversity in livestock
    • Species go extinct
    • Spread of pathogens (west nile, dengue)
    • New pathogens emerge
    • Balance of species controls pests (why crop rotation is used)

The role of food animal production

1/32 of the Earth’s surface suitable for raising food. Must raise food for 7bil people.

Meat production inefficient use of grain, water, land, but accounts for 70% farmland, 30% Earth’s surface, 40% grain grown globally

  • 7% global water for grain for livestock
  • 70% herbicide and 37% pesticide in agriculture used for livestock feed
  • half corn grown in US used for animal feed (1% for human feed as actual corn)
  • Grain use ahead of production; global stocks decline (China became a grain importer) (450mil hogs grown and consumed each year in china)
  • Africa and Middle East require more grain
  • Ethanol production the major threat to availability of grains for human consumption since late 2005 (largely driven by subsidies)

Industrial food animal production:

  • one corp controls everything from hatching to slaughter.
  • animals raised in CAFOs
  • feed controlled by corp, not contract grower
  • grower is left with waste and carcasses, paid at end of cycle by weight of animals
  • livestock outnumber humans 5:1 in US
    • 2002 10bil animals slaughtered for food in US
    • 93% chickens worldwide
    • 20% of worlds animals consumed in US
    • 5 tons waste per capita
  • CAFO vs public health
    • antibiotics = resistant bacteria
    • emergence of new foodborne pathogens
    • chemicals enter foodchain through diets of animals
    • CAFO ruins communities
    • health threats apparent in CAFO neighbors, workers (asthma, injuries)
    • climate change
      • 18% greenhouse gas production worldwide, more than anything incl transportation
      • 37% methane emissions (20x worse than CO2)
      • 65% NO2 emissions (286x worse than CO2, and lasts 114yrs in atm). FERTILIZERS.
  • Precautionary principle: if something is suspected of endangering humans, the proponent of the activity, not the public, should bear burden of proof
  • How to feed everyone sustainably?
    • small farms currently support 2bil people globally; improve biodiversity and soil quality; decrease poverty
    • need to advance technologies and make them free
    • govt investment
    • invest in women farmers
    • infrastructure improvements: roads, storage facilities, refrigeration, surplus mgmt
    • diet: can’t sustain meat consumption increase, but need access to iron- and protein-rich meat sources
    • resilient food system: elasticity, recoverability, buoyancy

 Reading: Food: The growing problem


  • At least 30% of global food is wasted; people are too poor to buy it. Highest rates of hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa; most undernourished in Asia
  • Percent hungry dropped for decades, but 2008 food price crisis reversed trend
  • Available calories per person has increased (family size decreasing, pop growth should plateau in 2050), so we will be able to support higher pop, but water is limiting resource
  • Some studies say we’ll have enough land by converting land farmland in Lat Am and Afr without hurting forests, protected areas, urbanization. But others say we should intensify existing farms
  • Sustainable intensification: doing more with less, improving techniques, less water, less chemicals. Need more public investment in farming practices.

Free online course: An Introduction to the U.S. Food System

Yesterday I began a free online course from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health through their OpenCourseWare program. It’s a 6-week, at your pace course called An Introduction to the U.S. Food System. Each week’s module contains video lectures, related readings, and a quiz. I’m halfway through the first module’s lectures, and I am very pleased with the course format and the information delivered thus far. It feels like a serious course, not something quickly thrown together and dumbed down for the masses. Here is the list of weekly modules:

  • Week 1: Introduction to Food Systems, Equity and the Environment
  • Week 2: Food Systems, Food Security and Public Health
  • Week 3: Public Health and Environmental Implications of Industrial Models of Food Production
  • Week 4: Food and Farm Policy
  • Week 5: Alternative Approaches to Food Production
  • Week 6: Diet, Food Environments, and Food Access

I’ll post interesting tidbits here, but it’s not too late if you want to sign up yourself! Click here to go to the Coursera site.