Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Bacon--A Sizzlin' Issue Indeed

Update October 2013: According to this site, mathematical calculations actually prove everything is better with bacon.

Update August 30, 2013:  In the last few years, bacon has been incorporated into everything from lip balm and bar soap to dessert and even cocktails. Now, a car company offers a way to give a bacon flavor to your automobile.

Since my blog below was published, another Bacon Fest occurred, complete with a Bacon Queen wearing a dress made completely of bacon. Sizzlin'!!  Anyway, if you missed this entry last year, it might be a good time to see the event from a pig's point of view. And no, this is not anti-bacon--Wilbur would probably have liked bacon if he didn't know where it came from. It's just having fun with a topic that seems to have become an obsession--Baconmania.

Wilbur's Lament 

(a guest editorial by Wilbur, E.B. White’s famous pig from Charlotte’s Web)
Bacon is the i-Phone of meat. It’s cool, it’s social media trendy, and everyone wants it. Fast food restaurants sprinkle it on ice cream sundaes. Famous chefs feature it. And ads on television make it sizzle so succulently you can smell it in your living room.  Modern day “Madmen” know there’s nothing like bacon to get a couch potato up and moving toward the fridge.
This all makes me nervous. I was headed for the holiday ham chopping block some years ago, but a brilliant spider named Charlotte saved me with her command of the English language. She turned me into “Some Pig,” and for a while, I was “Terrific.”  Now the only word to write above my barn stall is “Paranoid.”
Charlotte left me with an egg sac full of baby spiders, but I need her now to explain why bacon has become such an obsession. Restaurants offer bacon cupcakes, bacon sushi, bacon ice cream, and many more sizzling items. The Twittersphere mentions bacon so often I suspect it’s part of some college drinking game. And bacon is even the focus of conventions—more like baconpaloozas, if you ask me. The annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Iowa is an example. Attendees at last year’s festival ate 6,000 pounds, or the equivalent of 96,000 strips. That’s piggin’ out way too much.
I know pigs have a reputation of being fat and lazy, and back when people read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, we were also looked upon as power-hungry and conniving. But I thought those days faded when Porky Pig stuttered his way through Looney Toons, and Babe played his academy award-winning role in that famous movie. We were lovable for a while, but then television dealt us a lethal blow—Homer Simpson.
In one episode, Homer tells his daughter Lisa that pigs are a “wonderful, magical animal.”  He did not mean that in a good way. Another of Homer’s many pork-obsessed quotes will give you his basic tone.  

Homer: I’ll have the smiley face breakfast special. Uhh, but could you add a bacon nose? Plus bacon hair, bacon mustache, five o’clock shadow made of bacon bits, and a bacon body.
Waitress: How about I just shove a pig down your throat?
(Homer looks excited)
Waitress: I was kidding.

Baby pigs are cute, and even though we mature into a type of stately homeliness much as humans do, we’re not drop-your-coffee-mug ugly like, say, the armadillo or naked mole rat. Sure, we have beady, pink eyes and moist, protruding snouts. But I’m not sure why so many people look at us and see only strips of bacon. We’re just as intelligent as your pet dogs, and we would grudgingly learn how to catch a Frisbee and lick your faces if that means a stay of execution from the bacon factory.

I don’t like to tell folks what to eat. Why, even Charlotte was a carnivore. But I end with a suggestion. If you can’t live without the smell and sound of bacon in the morning, consider a bacon substitute. How about turkey bacon, mutton bacon (makon), or veggie bacon (fakon)? Anyone care for a TLT—a Tofu, Lettuce, Tomato sandwich?        by dan gogerty  (Wilbur image from; bacon sundae photo from

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Eating is hazardous. Not eating is fatal."

"Academic papers are not dead."

Carl Winter's slogan about eating is not as dire as it seems. As a matter of fact, anyone who meets this 2012 winner of the Borlaug CAST Communication Award soon realizes the man doesn't know the meaning of negativity. However, he wants consumers to understand the realities of nutrition and food safety, and he is willing to use his talents--from respected academic researcher to crowd-pleasing musician--in order to get his message across.
"People need to keep eating fruits and vegetables," Dr. Winter continually stresses. "And false information can scare the public so they end up not eating nutritious food." A food science specialist from the University of California--Davis, Winter emphasizes the importance of scientific research. "The academic paper is not dead. It gives us the groundwork and credible facts. If you don't have the science, gimmicks don't work."  

But Winter, the self-proclaimed Elvis of E. coli, has no qualms about using gimmicks if that helps him spread science-based knowledge about the food we eat. "I was a member of a band, I was influenced by the satire of such groups as the Capitol Steps, and I enjoy writing my own parodies of famous songs." Winter has used hits from the Beatles, Billy Joel, and many others to spread his food safety gospel. He even wrote a parody of a Weird Al parody when he turned "Eat It" into a raucous lament about a young man who eats all the wrong things.  

"We are the microbes, my friend." Winter's food science parody.
Winter has given nearly 200 live performances at conferences, trade shows, and public gatherings during the past several years. He has distributed more than 30,000 CDs and DVDs, while his website music attracts thousands of visitors.
An obvious multitasker, Winter is the author of two books and more than 100 publications. He serves on committees, teaches communication courses to graduate students, and testifies before the U.S. Congress on pesticide/food safety issues. He is serious about the need for quality research, but he gets most animate when talking about his courses. "I love teaching," he said. "It's important, and it keeps me sharp."

That was evident on October 17. He kept an early morning audience awake and bouncing at the CAST/CropLife gathering, and everyone from dignitaries to agriculturalists to 4-H members ended his session with a song stuck in their heads.  

Dr. Winter left them humming in Des Moines, but by that afternoon, he was on the Iowa State University campus delivering a factual research presentation to a group of faculty and grad students. In his campaign to make "eating less hazardous," the winner of the 2012 Borlaug CAST Communication Award will do anything to communicate information about nutrition and food safety.  by dan gogerty

Friday, October 12, 2012

Agriculture, Awards, and “Gettin’ It Done”

Norman Borlaug UPDATE:  March 26, 2013---click here for an article about the celebration of Norman Borlaug's 99th birthday and the statue going up at the beautiful Hall of Laureates. Also check out the World Food Prize site for more information. The blog entry below--from last October--provides a bit more about this fascinating agriculturalist and global hero.

This week’s blog features information and links about the World Food Prize and the Borlaug CAST Communication Award. The reason? These events are part of concerted efforts to communicate the importance of agriculture and its mission to feed the world. The award winners inspire others to work toward these goals—they and the hundreds of other participants involved with these events are part of the hands-on spirit of agriculture.  
Norman Borlaug got his hands dirty while developing wheat varieties and working in field labs, and his efforts are credited with saving millions of people. But he knew it would take more to thwart mass hunger.  In the 1980s, he “envisioned a prize that would honor those who have made significant and measurable contributions to improving the world's food supply. Beyond recognizing these people for their personal accomplishments, Borlaug saw the prize as a means of establishing role models who would inspire others.”  Since then, dedicated enthusiasts such as Ambassador Kenneth Quinn have turned the World Food Prize into the “Nobel Prize of Agriculture.”
During the week of October16-20, world leaders, scientists, and agriculturalists will gather in Des Moines, Iowa, for the twenty-sixth annual World Food Prize Forum. The prize honors outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food throughout the world. The 2012 World Food Prize will be awarded to Dr. Daniel Hillel for his role in conceiving and implementing a radically new mode of bringing water to crops i­­n arid and dry land regions--known as "micro-irrigation."

More than 1,500 participants from at least 70 countries are expected to take part in the week-long World Food Prize series of events, including the Iowa Hunger Summit, the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium, the Laureate Award Ceremony, and the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. Click here for information about the World Food Prize.

Dr. Carl Winter

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology has become significantly involved with the annual World Food Prize event, and during a Wednesday, October 17, morning session, CAST will present its Borlaug CAST Communication Award (BCCA). With Croplife Foundation helping to sponsor the award, CAST EVP/CEO John Bonner will present the impressive BCCA sculpture to Dr. Carl Winter. A well-known scientist, writer, and speaker, Winter will not receive his award passively. The man is known as an entertainer, and he won’t be able to take hold of the trophy without turning to the songs, parody, and humor he routinely uses to inform others about nutrition and food safety. For a taste of his methods, click here for a short bio and example of his parodiesby dan gogerty
Check the CAST website for information about these awards and for access to ag publications and news items.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Texting Cows and Exotic Fast Food

March 2014 Update: Another company has created sensors for cows that will "text" information to the farmers. Once again, a the main purpose is to find out when the cows are in heat. For another look at the situation, read on...

Doc Callahan, retired professor, part-time farmer, and full-time pontificator, receives countless inquiries about the food we eat, and after hours of deep thought, he provides the road apples of knowledge that help fertilize the mind. This week, Doc looks into texting cows and kimchi-flavored donuts.

Dear Doc,
I heard about Swiss farmers who receive text messages from their milk cows. I was having trouble picturing a Holstein with opposable thumbs until I read that implanted sensors transmit the messages. The thing that disturbs me most is that the information lets the farmer know when the cow is in heat. Sounds like an invasion of privacy to me.  Soured in Spokane

Dear Soured,
Don’t get in a twitter about all this. The farmers say that because of greater milk productivity demands, their cows have dropped in reproductive activity. The implanted sensors measure heat, and the text messages let the farmers know if the time is right for artificial insemination.
Animal rights proponents object because they think the cows’ reproduction problems are due to stress coming from their “juiced” diets and increased milking demands. I’m not an authority on this because when I was a kid on the farm, we had only one milk cow—a Guernsey named Bossy, of course. She never seemed stressed even when a sleepy-eyed, uncoordinated thirteen-year-old came in the stall to milk her before school. One thing I know for sure--she could communicate without a cell phone. If I pulled rather than squeezed, Bossy had a quick right leg kick that could send the bucket flying. And occasionally she swept her long, frayed—and mucky—tail right at my head while I was working away on the three-legged stool. That was her way of texting “BLOL”—bovine laughing out loud.
As for the Swiss farmers, I recommend that they ask themselves, “What would Heidi do?”  Doc

Dear Doc,
            My ag student friend recently returned from study abroad in Asia. She says the Wendy’s chain in Japan serves lobster-and-caviar burgers, and a Dunkin Donuts in South Korea offers cheese-monkey-banana donuts. Why don’t I have such choices here in Wisconsin?  McBored in Madison

Dear McBored,
            Many fast food corporations adjust their menus to local tastes. I understand that cultural sensitivities mean they do not include beef in some areas of India, and several countries will not allow pork on the menu. But your question intrigued me, so I found some menu items in a foodie story that puzzled me. Truffle-grilled chicken in Singapore and foie-gras burgers in Japan? Seems they should be items in a French establishment. Instead, fast food restaurants in France offer Darth Vader Burgers. Other countries seem to go for the zen effect. Places in China provide the yin-yang burger, and in the Netherlands, you supposedly can purchase a McMood burger. In Amsterdam? Hmmm. That’s good mood food.
            Like you, I’m from the Midwest, and the fast food chains were only starting when I was a kid. That was back when ketchup was king, and mustard was an exotic condiment. But things change, so don’t get frustrated. Ask your local burger joint to start with something regional—maybe a brat-and-cheese-flavored burger called the McBadger. Wait--on second thought, that might lead to roadkill connotations, and you don’t want the new menu item to bomb. After all, that Dunkin Donuts your friend visited in South Korea discontinued the kimchi croquettes they once offered. What a shock. Donuts with the flavor of fermented cabbage, garlic, and chilis didn’t make the grade. Bon app├ętit, Doc
by dan gogerty (cow photo from and burger photo from