Food in the News

I just happened to notice a few news items this week, and thought I would share them with the readers out there in foodblogland.

First Lady Picks First Woman Chef

Laura Bush has chosen a woman to be the new White House Executive Chef. Cristeta Comerford, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, was promoted to the position of executive chef from within the staff of former Executive Chef Walter Scheib III, who as her mentor, was thrilled to see his protege step into his place.

While Women Chefs and Restauranteurs might smugly take some credit for the appointment of the first female White House chef, since they sent a letter to the First Lady, asking that she hire a female chef to serve as a role model to women in the culinary arts, none of the women suggested by the organization were interested in the position, which pays much less than top chefs can make working in the private sector.

But, hey–as far as I am concerned–it is still a reason to celebrate. Besides, the new chef lives with her family in my old neighborhood–Columbia, Maryland, so I feel like I am celebrating the success of one of my neighbors.

Vat-Grown Meat A Closer Possibility

Remember that little article I linked to in my “Meat Comes From Animals: Deal With it Or Eat Vegetables” rant that was about growing meat from cloned cells in a laboratory?

Well, the same researchers are in the news again, because of a paper they recently published in the journal, Tissue Engineering (sounds like scintillating reading, doesn’t it?), and this time, the story isn’t just being reported by a few outlets. It is being picked up here, there, and everywhere, with reporters putting the spin on whether or not this will pose an ethical dilimma for vegetarians.

If no animal died to produce it, is it still a bad thing to eat meat?

While the idea of vat-growing meat doesn’t gross me out like it does some people, I noticed that what they are talking about growing at this time are only processed meats like chicken nuggets and hamburgers.

I don’t eat chicken nuggets now, and I am not likely to start, just because they are grown in a lab without harming any chickens. This is mainly because I am pretty sure that most modern chicken nuggets didn’t start out as chicken either. Maybe the things they sell at McDonald’s and the frozen foods aisles came from alien pods from outer space, but I really don’t think they taste like chicken.

On the other hand, the researchers point out that vat-grown meat will be guaranteed to be free of disease, something which segues nicely into my final news flash.

Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this post.

More Mad Cow Madness

Maybe I will eat vat-grown hamburgers after all, so long as they do it my way: hold the pickles, lettuce and BSE.

Bloomburg reported a few dismaying facts yesterday gathered from the US Department of Agriculture: U.S. government inspectors cited meatpackers more than 1,000 times over a 17-month period for violating rules concerning the removal of tissue associated with mad cow disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Some 1,036 “non-compliance” reports covering the January 2004-May 2005 period were released, the USDA said. The reports document instances of meatpackers failing to properly remove “specified risk materials” or SRMs– brains, spinal cord tissue and other tissues that scientists say harbor the disease.”

Okay, Maybe dismaying isn’t a strong enough word here. How about I use “horrifying” instead?

Oh, but there is no need for alarm. We are assured by Lisa Wallenda Picard, a spokesperson for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that “no specified risk materials got into the food supply.”

Right. I am so sure. This comes from the same USDA that has been a poster child for potentially lethal beaurocratic incompetence.

Why exactly, I ask, should we trust anything that the USDA has to say on the issue of BSE? The entire situation has been bungled from the beginning, and the USDA rules appear to be made more for the cattle industry’s benefit than to actually ensure the safety of the US food supply.

This issue is enough to keep me committed to eating food grown locally by people I know and trust.

And, on this uplifting note, thus ends our first installment of Food in the News.


RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    Comment by markgibson8657 — August 17, 2005 #

  2. And the new lab grown meat will be available in red, white, brown and green.

    Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green Day!

    I am way to scared to say much more about something potentially more horrific than an ingredient list for SPAM.


    Comment by Bryian — August 17, 2005 #

  3. B,

    I was going to (and still may) post on the 1,000+ Non-compliance reports.

    The problem with that report is that we (the reader) have no idea if that number is a high or low number. 1000 Reports filed over a 17-month period translates roughly to 2 reports a day. Having been part of inspections where 2 findings were found, this is not an unreasonable number. Remember, only some of these NCR involved SRMs.

    If one were to get a true picture of the industry, we’d be better served by knowing:

    1) How many people are out there on any given day writing out these NCRs. If there is only 1 auditor finding 2 incidents a day, then there’s a story. If there are 1000 auditors a day, it’s more difficult.
    2) What sampling of meat packing plants were these NCR’s drawn from. Were these NCR’s found at a small percentage of the Meat Packing Plant operations? Or is it a wide spread, industry wide problem?

    A single number means nothing unless there’s another number to compare it with. Mark my words, the real story is in the numbers that are not being reported.

    Comment by Kate — August 17, 2005 #

  4. Bry–lab grown meat cloned from animal cells doesn’t bug me as much as the idea of recombining random proteins and calling it “meat.” I mean, if you can lab grow skin and muscle tissue to use for human tissue replacement, then why not meat? (No real reason, except that it grosses people out.)

    I am really interested in the ethical considerations for vegetarians, though.

    Kate–I completely agree–the numbers that we -don’t- see are the ones that we -need- to see. I wish I knew how to do the proper digging to see if I could get some of those numbers out so that a real statistical comparison could be done (by someone who knows how to do that sort of thing.)

    What is interesting to me is the fact that the USDA doesn’t seem to hide the blazing incompetence that is going on within their ranks. Wow. Fascinating.

    As for inspectors–there are not very many at all. That particular department (I can’t remember where I read this–it might be Ann Cooper’s Bitter Harvest) is understaffed and grossly underfunded and they have been begging for funds to hire more inspectors for years, to no avail.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — August 17, 2005 #

  5. You have such a wonderful blog, with your descriptions and your recipes and your photos. I’m definitely going to bookmark it and come back often.

    Comment by Anna — August 25, 2005 #

  6. Greetings, Anna! I am glad you found me, and will be back.

    I see from your profile that you grew up in Columbus, Ohio–I just moved from close to there, in Pataskala, Ohio, back to Athens, Ohio. So–some of what I talk about in my blog, will be familiar to you, I am sure!

    You live in Utah, now, I see–someday, Zak and I need to travel to the southwest–it is a place that has called us both since we were children.

    I am glad to see you found your home!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — August 25, 2005 #

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