Week 11 Blog Post- Chicken

Going into this book, I had a pretty deep understanding of how to raise chickens (both for eggs and for meat) in an ethical manner- where they eat plenty of grass, bugs, and nourishing food daily with enough space to live a healthy and comfortable life. I have helped my parents to process meat birds (or broilers), so I also know how to ethically process a chicken so that they experience as little pain as possible. That being said, disappointed but not surprised that big chicken brands, such as Tyson and ConAgra, exploit their workers and their produce. Raising chicken ethically is not very profitable. As the book mentioned, the biggest costs in raising chicken are feed and labor. Even though $25 for a whole chicken may seem like a lot of money for an organic chicken, the profit margin on that bird is minimal. In order for massive companies to want to sell chicken, they are going to exploit workers and use the cheapest feed possible to make their profit margins much bigger and reach their monetary expectations. In addition, these companies alter their chicken by adding fillers and breaking it down into less parts to make bigger profits on the whole bird.

I thought it was really neat that the book gave a historical background on the chicken industry. It’s cool that Delmarva was at the start of the industrial chicken industry. I didn’t know that the big chicken brands contracted growers to build industrial chicken houses and raise the birds for market. Reading their stories was frustrating, because they are paying to raise chickens and going into significant debt doing so. It made me mad that these companies require expensive and unnecessary “improvements” to chicken houses that put these workers in danger of bankruptcy and financial crisis. In addition, these growers rely on the corporations to provide birds and feed, and the corporations are incredibly unreliable in their supplying of birds and feed. It is difficult to plan your work schedule and subsequent income when you do not know what to anticipate and when supplies will arrive.

Similarly, reading about the exploitation of workers was harrowing. Tyson led fierce antiunion campaigns, caused significant medical issues for its workers, and exploited the labor of unauthorized immigrants. Aside from the horrid worker conditions, the social security card scam that the company regularly does is gross. Workers also don’t have much longevity at these jobs because of the carpal tunnel, back and shoulder pain, and overall serious injuries that develop while working at a factory farm. In addition, Tysons has faced lawsuits over child labor, which was only discovered because the children were involved in accidents. As glad as I am that Tysons faces lawsuits for their gross negligence and worker safety violations, it’s frustrating that the fines they are forced to pay are simply reflected in the prices of their chicken at the grocery store. Instead of effecting change within the system, hard-working people end up paying twice for Tyson’s actions.

The chapter about environmental repercussions was interesting, because the Sierra Club has had a handful of lawsuits against Tyson’s and other big chicken corporations. Even raising chicken on a small scale produces a lot of chicken poop, and it takes planning to make sure that you don’t oversaturate your soil with nitrogen. These large-scale factory farms produce an insane amount of chicken poop every day, and there is also the issue of what to do with the heavy volume of blood from processing. Clearly, these companies did not want to find a solution that benefitted anyone but themselves. The byproduct from these birds that is dumped into lagoons has big impacts not just on ecosystems, but also on potable drinking water as the waste seeps into nearby rivers.

Overall, I learned a lot about the large-scale chicken industry and the companies that define it. While I was reading this book, I looked up the companies under Tyson’s umbrella to see which chicken nuggets I needed to leave alone (because the whole book made it pretty unappetizing) and I found that a large majority of the recognizable grocery store brands are attached to Tyson’s. What’s worse is that the companies not under Tyson are likely under ConAgra or other big chicken corporations with a history of exploitation and abuse.

“The origins of food …determine prevailing notions of taste.” pg 8 Thought this was super cool! That there is not only a differing of opinion on what “tastes good” but also what is “in good taste.” Made me think a lot about the reception of particularly pungent foods like blue cheese, century eggs, and natto. I love all of them, but many people’s acceptance of one is contrasted by revulsion to the others, even though they have similar funky depths and complicated (therefore in many circles sophisticated) methods of preparation.

“Our [American] foodview is not informed primarily by place, or taste, but by the ability to purchase a consistent product, or even more generally, a commodity. Commodities are not perceived as sensual objects, capable of evoking pleasurable and meaningful moments.” pg 15 Again, I’m fascinated by this. I hadn’t realized this, but I do the exact same thing when shopping despite otherwise thinking of myself (half-deprecatingly, as discussed later in the chapter) as a foodie. But then again, brand loyalty is a real thing in the US! When asked, a lot of people will spout not just that a certain food tastes better (though they may not be able to identify that “better” as being via a certain location of production) but that the brand itself is in “better taste” due to better business practices, such as being fair trade or organic. There’s a moral superiority there.

I thought the juice tasting for children was a very cool idea! (pg 46) Reminded me a lot of what I used to do with the Dr Yum project with preschoolers, though in that case the goal was primarily to introduce children to new fruits and vegetables and methods of preparation. But a lot of the work I did in preschools as a cook and educator was also to help kids overcome fears of exploring new tastes, textures, and methods of preparation that they may have been unfamiliar with. I would have loved to incorporate this sort of teaching/tasting process to that curriculum!

I was unable to get very far into the Vermont chapter due to time constraints, but I was still interested by what I read. I found it interesting that though the overall dairy industry declined, organic farms grew– the implication being that larger farms consolidated and got even larger, even as more small farms popped up in ideological opposition.

I was, however, struck by the lack of discussion (at least as far as I got in, about halfway through the Vermont chapter as I write this post; I woke up at 6 this morning to try and finish it) about the disorganization of early organic farm certifications. The ethnography largely covers the late 60s-90’s, during the emergence of the organic movement. However, organic certification was and in many respects remains deeply inconsistent. There are many labels that can mark a farm as being “in better taste” than industrial agriculture, but they do not have consistent requirements for certification. Some require no pesticide use, while others have a maximum threshold for use. Some require not just ag methods but also labor practices to be ethical, while others have no limits on how you treat your human workers, leading to human rights violations on farms that otherwise are in good social standing. I would like to see more exploration of that.

Week 10 Blog Post- A Taste of the Place

This reading really reminded me of my dad, because of his connection to French cooking and the consistent concept of terroir and goût de terroir, which are inherently French. I appreciated the application of terroir and goût de terroir to wine and cheese in the beginning, because it helped me to understand the terms from the start. In chapter one, the notion of taste and place (and also time) through the lens of different wines reminded me of memory foods. Certain wines can transport you from a dark classroom to a sunny vineyard in France, much like memory foods have associated nostalgia. Similarly, the gastronomy of place made a lot of sense to me in the context of agriculture. Brillat-Savarin said that quality of flavor is linked to where the partridges come from and how they are fed. This reminded me of the difference in honey across different locations, because the flowers and vegetation that bees collect nectar from affects the flavor of the honey. The honey from my neighbors and the honey from Target tastes vastly different, because my neighbors’ honey is very local to us and the Target honey is likely from halfway across the country. I thought it was really interesting that the majority of the French countryside is still made up of small family-owned farms, because that concept has a high value placed on it in French culture. It was surprising to me because it has a high contrast to American agriculture, which is a large-scale, corporate adventure concentrated in very few hands. American culture left the image of the paysan behind in the 19th century, shifting towards highly centralized modern civilizations, while France remains split between these identities. Because of their split identity and value on fresh and local food, French people have a cuisine that relies much less on globalization than American cuisine. French people buy their daily bread from the vendor down the street, while Americans buy their bread pre-packaged at the grocery store once a week. I really liked chapter 7, because it was all about connecting farmers and chefs and it reminded me a lot of what my parents are doing at home. My parents are homesteading, but not to the degree that Gould defines. It is more reliant on incorporating outside food sources and not as religious as Gould’s idea of homesteading, although it is very rewarding for my parents to be close to their food sources. I found the bit about the Lazy Lady Farm comforting and hilarious, because she is consistently busy and expanding her product range based on customer requests. The terroir in her food must be really strong because her practices seem very organic and incredibly localized. I understood her struggle with finding a butcher, because so many butchers have closed within the last 20 years that finding a butcher within an 50-mile radius is difficult, especially if you are looking for someone who will make a specialized product. I thought the chapter about Vermont Maple Syrup was interesting, because of the legal implications around labeling. Until 2005, anyone could label their maple syrup “Vermont Maple Syrup” so long as there was some sap from Vermont. Despite this legal loophole, any grocery store customer who sees that label would believe that it is 100% Vermont maple syrup. This goes back to the association of quality with place, much like the French association of quality with an AOC wine from Bordeaux.

Taste of the Place

The Taste of the Place reading was very insightful and was pretty deep. In my opinion, it was the most complex reading so far this semester. In the introduction, the author introduced the idea of the French term terroir, meaning the taste of the place. It’s the idea that along with every taste there is a sense of knowing the place of origin, such as its locality, temperature, and even soil. The author went on to compare France and America. They said that due to the United State’s large use of globalization and presence in free-market trade we have lost our sense of terroir. The author had a powerful quote, where they equated getting food in America is as mindless as getting gas for your car, we put more emphasis on convenience as opposed to taste and quality.

In the first chapter, the author talks about the origin of terroir. She talks about how grapes introduced the possible link between a particular taste to a place and time. Since then, connoisseurs in France have studied the idea. Also, in this chapter, she talks about the work and research from Kolleen Guy. Guy researched the link between champagne and terroir. Guy wanted to give champagne a new “marketing” twist. They had the idea that champagne could have a similar link to terroir. Guy mentioned that mostly, champagne was a drink that the wealthy and elite would enjoy, but champagne put an emphasis on the boujee label, rather than giving credit to the tough blue-collar work done by the workers in the field. Also in the first chapter, the author mentioned a fellow author by the name of Curnonsky. The main theme of Curnosky’s work was educating professional chefs and cooks about the origin of the food and riches of different regions. This put an emphasis on the link between foods and particular regions supporting Amy’s theme of Terroir. There was a quote in the reading claiming that France had 30 distinct terroir or regional specialties. This quote stuck out to me and made me think of any possible terroirs native to Fredericksburg or the local area. (I couldn’t think of much) 

In chapter 5, the author talks about living in Vermont and connecting Terroir or Taste of the Place to the state of Vermont. The author mentioned how as time passed, Vermont had a serious decline in regards to agriculture and farming. This was due to the huge transition from agriculture to industrialization. The author did mention that the demand for milk and cheese rose as more people made the jump in careers, which I found to be very interesting. The author went on to mention the VFN, Vermont fresh network, which connects local and organic farmers to restaurants and chefs. I thought this was really cool. The idea gives the food an emphasis on Terroir and creates a taste of the place. The VFN puts an emphasis on giving a closer connection between producers/farmers and consumers. VFN was a great idea, but it did face some issues. One of the main setbacks was the inconvenience of the farmer delivering the food. They said that it was easier for chefs to buy from a national food distribution brand than to shop locally. I enjoyed reading the story about one of the success stories through the VFN, where Leslie and her restaurant, Smokejacks put an emphasis on farm-to-table and supporting local farms. They specialized in local cheeses and gave their product a taste of place. It was cool to see that there are over 200 restaurants that are involved with VFN. 

In chapter 6, the author talks about the differentiation between the taste of place and brand. The author wanted to start the conversation about brand support and the use of local farms. In the reading, the author mentioned that most food spends days and thousands of miles traveling from farms and factories to our plates. She went on to talk about how huge brands and restaurants that have a large backing and support still use national distributors. She mentioned how fresh the food would be if they instead backed local farms and farmers. She went on to talk about Vermont’s famous maple syrup that is distinctly connected to the place of origin. She talked about the study done in Vermont involving maple syrup and tying it to a place. They found that there isn’t much differentiation in taste based on the place of origin of the syrup. This idea opposes the way the french tie tastes and places. This is due to maple syrup having a “uniform taste.”The author concluded the chapter talking about an organization from Piedmont, Italy called, “Slow food”. This group puts emphasis on the tastes of the region. This group was dedicated to tasting food. They even grated an event that stretches over the course of a week where they basically become connoisseurs and eat slowly and focus on the taste of the food rather than the sustenance. 

Overall, I enjoyed this reading. It was a little lengthy, but it definitely made me rethink the foods I eat and start drawing connections between tastes/flavors to locations or cuisines.

The Taste of Place Blog

This reading was interesting, yet dense. I found it very interesting that the author addresses the complexity of the word Terrior. The term is difficult to translate from French and is often up to discernment and is subjective. I liked how the author described terrior as a connection between taste and place/origin. The original use of the word unites taste and nature. Even though the word is originally French, the author goes further to say that terrior is a localized food specific to a specific area or region. With the growth of global markets and economies, local and regional food production has greatly decreased in the 21st century. This is also a side effect of tastes changing and evolving worldwide. I also found the common thread about class and society interesting in how people in history, but also now interact and are influenced by the food they have access to. The case study of the many companies and organizations in Vermont was interesting to see the author take the French word into the American context and address how food and products can be localized within the North American context.

The taste of the Place blog

This was again another very interesting reading that explored the concept of taste with the places around us. The introduction, although broad, brought up some interesting points. It reminded of how globalized our world is becoming especially with food and foods that were regional specific before, you can now find around you. But taste is still very much tied to places and cultures no matter where they travel. Discussing “the taste of France” was interesting because I feel like a lot of the time it is seen as the basis for all fine dining and even the basic cooking skills. But seeing how it developed and seeing how it has become the pinnacle of cooking techniques it an interesting journey. The chapter on Vermont and the Fresh Food Network definitely drew me in because I love reading about anything farm related. Vermont has never been the place where large commercial agriculture would sprout up, besides large scale dairy farms. But with the addition of organic farming and truly making a push for it in Vermont, this became a major place for organic agriculture to thrive. The creating of the VFN allowed for these small farms to thrive and connect with the community in Vermont. However, the last chapter reminds us that the food system is ever globalizing and everything is becoming a brand or commercial staple and we ask ourselves how we handle that process?

March 10, 2022 Blog Post “The Taste of the Place”

Overall I found “The Taste of the Place” by Amy B. Trubeck to be both informative but also quite “dry” at times in my opinion, so I will simply talk about the sections of the reading that I found most interesting to me, instead of what I didn’t much enjoy. The Gastronomy of Place was quite insightful, but also compelling since the concepts of “cuisine” as well as “Haute Cuisine” were discussed in what I would call a more detailed and informative manner than the Mintz article that myself and my partner had to teach in the beginnings of the semester. The way Trubeck describes and discusses the disparities between the economic classes within old France, was a much greater way of describing the origins of cuisine and how it can be a purely social construction based on the economic status of those that participated in the system. The division between aristocratic cuisine inventions, by that I mean the types of ingredients, methods of cooking, and presentation all where designed to please the palate of an upper class individual while the cuisine of the peasant class was the bear minimum of survival in that they had to get creative with what little grains, oats, meats, and vegetables that they were able to acquire in order to stave off complete starvation. This specific section of the texts really showed how little Mintz explained the concept of cuisine and Haute cuisine in my opinion since Trubeck gives a much clearer, detailed, and organized explanation of the concept of cuisine in the culture of old France. The section titled “Member Stories” that began on page 195, was another great section due to the author’s inclusion of specific Vermont farms and restaurants, and giving brief to decently long descriptions of what made each of these locations unique to the Vermont ecosystem which I found most compelling due to the fact that by giving us their names it allows for more independent research on our end if we so choose to continue learning about said establishment. The story of “Lazy Lady Farm” and how it has grown and how the owner Laini Fondiller has developed her skills at cheese making both abroad and within the United States is an excellent example of how foreign methodology and techniques can be honed, and transplanted into a new environment in this case Vermont, and can lead to the creation of a thriving business and new culinary tastes in a region. In particular the use of “terroir” to describe her cheese by David Hale is where French concepts and techniques continues to underline and develop many news techniques within the food industry to this day. Fondiller’s choice to preserve the methods of cheese making based on her original instruction in France shows a deep respect and love for the craft as a whole where in today’s mega-corporation styled economy the use of more efficient methods are highly valued over the more traditional ways which in eyes of Fondiller erases the origins of the styles and the history there within. Chapter 6, “The Next Phase” touches on a subject that I still continue to contemplate even after my reading of it has concluded, and that subject is the one brought forth by Mr. Murphy “Food is local as long as it is knowable.” This concept of “knowing” a food which I took as being the act of understanding where, and how a specific food product came to be and using that information to make and informed and happy purchase is what I am basing my own opinions on this matter. One of the examples given is commodification of Vermont Maple Syrup, and the idea of a unified “Vermont Brand.” As I am writing this blog post I have opened my own food cabinet and inside is two and a half bottles of sugar free “Vermont” Maple syrup. The idea of knowing a place and relating it to its specific taste is something that I am actively doing now, since I choose to keep buying this specific “brand” of syrup due to its specific taste of which I extremely palatable and as a result I know that this flavor, this taste is distinctly from Vermont. The culture that has evolved within Vermont pertaining around their maple syrup was quite informative in that it clearly breaks down a number of preconceived notions I had, and then proceeds to build up new ones, such as the classification of the syrup between different grades paints a new image similar to that of Wine which is something I never thought about simple maple syrup.

Food and Power in Hawaii

I found this weeks reading very interesting because of all of the different ways it analyzed organic farming. Starting with the chapter on the farmers markets helped to understand what the food industry was like in Hawaii. While looking at all the different types of markets that they have, I couldn’t help but compare it to the different types of markets that I’ve spent time at. It seems like most of the ones I have been to are more like the private markets because they are more of a social activity that brings in more people. But each of the types of markets serve a different demographic. Despite there being multiple different markets in many different locations on the islands, people of native Hawaiian descent especially, are still facing food insecurity. Despite many markets being open most of the week, these people do not have access to grocery stores, much less the farmer’s markets. Chapter seven talked about women in organic farming which was interesting to learn about because I feel as if we hear a lot of Organic farming but not specific struggles within it. Organic farming itself is inherently labor intensive and costly. But especially when examining women’s roles within it, we realize just how difficult it is for these women to succeed. Most of them started these farms to become their own bosses, however they still have to work off the farm to support themselves. There are an abundance of issues that come with being a woman in organic farming, however these women set an example so that more women will want to participate in organic farming. Lastly, chapter eight was also interesting to me especially because WWOOF is a program that I would love to participate in in the future. The introduction of this program in Hawaii simply makes sense. Finding labor that is cost effective for these farms that are already tight on costs, is a difficult thing. By bringing in these volunteers, it helps keep these farms running without having to pay the high cost of labor. There are pro’s and con’s with these types of arrangements, as there are with most. The farms obviously receive volunteer labor from people who want to learn about organic farming, and the volunteers learn and get experience on these organic farms. However, some of the volunteers get stuck with mundane tasks that they feel are not what they came here to do, but the farms also need these types of tasks done to keep the farm running. But in the end if there is proper communication between the hosts and the volunteers, people who volunteer receive an experience that they want and the farms receive labor that they need in order to keep the farm afloat.

Food and Power in Hawaii Blog Post

This weeks reading of Food and Power in Hawai’i” Vissions of Food Democracy by Aya Hirata Kimura and Krisnawati Suyanata was very eye opening to me. The book describes not only the impact that farming in Hawaii has on the community and culture, but also to the whole region itself. In chapter 4, Farmers’ Markets in Hawai’i, there is discussion on whether or not farmers’ markets are good for the people of Hawai’i or not as it brings in tourists but hurts low-income families due to the rising prices to equate with the increase popularity. Here we raise the question: is it better to have a open-market or a private-market. While the open-markets provide for greater economic opportunity for farmers, it hurts the locals economically wise and deteriorates the culture of food in Hawaii. This is solved with private-markets that are generally for communities and low income families in Hawaii but may hurt the farmers overtime with the lower cost goods. It is interesting to me as I relate this with other Island hot-spots for tourism such as Bermuda or the Bahamas as a lot of their income comes from tourists, especially in the food industry. How may their culture or farming styles differentiate to Hawaii’s to adjust with the increased tourism?

Chapter 7, Women Organic Farmers in Hawai’i is a interesting chapter as it discusses the role played by women in organic agriculture and the challenges they face. These include hobby farm vs. real farm, organic or commercial motivations, and community-oriented tensions. Later on after the chapter we are introduced with a essay from Michelle Galimba which discusses her role on the island as a family ran farm business that provides beef to a wide variety of local restaurants.

Food and Power- Blog Post

This book provided me with me an educational insight into farmer’s markets impact on communities and individuals. In chapter four, the author talked about farmer’s markets and how they offer their products to all sorts of individuals of class and lifestyle. The author highlighted how important the farmer’s markets are to Hawaii and its community in comparison to other communities. These markets are one of the main ways individuals in Hawaii can have access to fresh food. There is an effort in Hawaii to increase the amount of markents in hopes to have substainable farming in the future. This chapter talked about the different farmer markets and what they offer. There are four different catagories of markets such as: Anything Goes Markets, private markets, people’s open markets and Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation-Sponsored Markets. The author dove deeper and started talking about Farm security vs Food security. In this portion of the book the author discussed how native hawiians have a hard time reaching the food markets and are in a food desert type situation. The barrier between them and fresh food can cause major health issues such as obesity and heart issues. The author ended the chapter talking by talking about how the “food situation won’t change overnight”, but they are raising awareness and pushing for substainable farming in Hawaii.

In chapter 7, the author discussed women in Hawaii’s agriculture and farms. There has been a large increase in women working in agriculture over the years, particularly in organic farming. Organic farming is becoming very popular and has huge ramifications in the US economy. It was interesting to hear the farmer’s stories. The author interviewed several women farmers and it was cool to hear how most of them started their own farms and weren’t just married into a farming family. The author went on to discuss the issues with organic farming that affected these Hawaain farmers such as GMO’s and pests.

This reading was very interesting. It showed how much Hawaii and it’s communities rely on farmers markets and local produce.