Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Turkey Droppings

From Canada to India, many countries give thanks at the end of harvest time, and the United States is famous for its Thanksgiving Day traditions. These links might give you a bit to chew on as you prepare to celebrate:

** Most turkeys this week won't be so lucky, but the two presidential birds--currently named Drumstick and Wishbone--will fly from their Minnesota farm to the posh life in the Washington, D.C., Willard Hotel. Rooms there range from $200 to $3,500, and we're not sure what berries, nuts, and cracked corn go for on the room service menu. The National Turkey Federation will pay the bill. These birds have been trained by 4-H members who know how to get a bird ready for a presidential pardon--they use country music, worm grubs, and anything shiny. 
** The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast is down from last year’s. 

** But buyer beware. Some folks are willing to pay more for "heritage turkeys," but fake ones are causing a problem.

Step Two: Let turkey chill in sink for 4 hours.
** On Thanksgiving Day, nearly 90% of American homes will feature a turkey, but not many take on the "whole food" mentality--parts of the turkey are unused. This company has a "beaks and butt" theme, as they ship all parts of the bird--from innards to tail--to various places around the world.  

** Not all turkeys are happy about the attention this time of year. This short video is a compilation filled with turkeys getting even. And this even shorter clip shows that a turkey might need a hug sometimes, too. 

** If Thanksgiving brings on a nostalgic twinge, get in the Wayback Machine to visit a time when traditions were low tech, no frills, and all analog.

by dan gogerty (top pic from dailymail.co.uk and bottom one from imgur.com)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dr. Ramaswamy Calls for Research and Warns of Existential Threat

Ag expert Sonny Ramaswamy
We have an existential threat,” he said. “It’s happening now. Typically when we frame our conversations about the topic of food and agriculture, we frame them from the perspective of ‘in the year 2050’ and we’re all going to wait with bated breath and something bad is going to happen. Well, it’s happening right now.”

Sonny Ramaswamy—the USDA’s Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture--says the current “existential threat” is nutritional security, drawing a difference between that issue and food security. He says in many cases, there isn’t as much of an issue with availability of calories, but rather the quality of those calories.

But that doesn’t change the fact that he and others see a lingering issue that needs the attention of everyone from farmers to the federal government. Ramaswamy said looking at all aspects of the research value chain--including distribution--needs to be promoted and encouraged.

“It’s not to say that all we need are transformative discoveries; we need a whole bunch of Ph.D.s running around discovering all new knowledge,” Ramaswamy said. "If that knowledge ends up in a book or a journal or whatever, it’s worthless. We’ve got to translate that knowledge into innovations and solutions and deliver it.”

That, he said, should be done through the cooperative extension system. In the past, it has had experts at the local level to interact with producers, but Ramaswamy said, “We’ve lost one-third of our footprint in our extension efforts across America.”

“We should all wake up and smell the coffee and be very, very concerned that we’ve allowed our extension community to lose its ability,” he added.

Dr. Ramaswamy's comments above come from an agripulse.com article. When contacted by CAST, Ramaswamy added these observations that he shared at a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies conference:

"The ecological footprint of our global food systems is pretty significant. To wit, 80 percent of the consumptive use of fresh water is in the food we eat; about 17 percent of the energy we use is in the food we eat; almost a quarter of the greenhouse gases we produce is the result of the food we eat; and almost 80 percent of the ammonia we produce is the result of the food we consume. 

In the current context of knowledge we have, we must reduce this ecological footprint, and NIFA has articulated a stretch goal of reducing the same by 50 percent within the next 20 years. We will need to work really hard to crowd source the best intellectual and monetary resources--from academia, the private sector, the governmental sector, and the nongovernmental sector--if we are to achieve this goal.

Indeed, I like to say that to produce our food, we will need to use less water, land, and energy as well as fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics, and we must attempt to decarbonize our food systems to the extent possible."

Note: in the pursuit of credible, science-based research, CAST provides peer-reviewed issue papers, commentaries, and task force reports online. Check here for forthcoming publications