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I was invited to give a series of lectures at Duke and Berkeley last week on the connection between food and climate change. Audiences were a mix of faculty, students and community members. Each time, the questions were wide-ranging but I’ve been thinking most about one. I challenged the notion of describing some food or diets as ‘vegetarian’ and an undergraduate called me on it. Along with eating appropriate portions and reducing foodwaste, eating less meat and cheese are the most important steps a climate-conscious eater can take. Why not call out ‘vegetarian’ options then? Here’s my logic – what do you think? With some ethnic exceptions, vegetarian options often mean “absence of meat.” Roasted vegetables are rarely at the center of a ‘veggie burrito.’ In East Asian eateries, “vegetarian” could be translated as “with tofu” – bowing to the […]

Last night Governor Schwarzenegger passed a bill (SB 1420) that will require chain restaurants in California to post calorie information on their menus and menu boards by 2011. All chains with 20 or more locations must offer information about calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium content for each menu item. Beginning July 1, 2009, they will be required to have brochures with this nutrient breakdown for customers who request it. So far this type of legislation has been enacted in cities (including New York, Seattle and San Francisco) and counties nationwide, but this is the first statewide mandate of nutrition labeling. Consumer groups and health organizations may be rejoicing that this is a landmark step towards the fight against obesity. However, many health professionals will agree that this is by no means the magic bullet. We all know that obesity […]

Today was our fourth annual Eat Local Challenge – an event when all Bon Appetit cafes across the country make a meal completely of local ingredients. When we unveiled the Eat Local Challenge program in 2005, it was with some trepidation. Bon Appétit’s philosophy has always been to empower our chefs and managers to do what’s best for their guests and clients. We never send out menus from “corporate” or tell our people what to celebrate. The Eat Local Challenge marked a change in that every Bon Appétit café was asked to hold a similar event on the same day. At headquarters, much discussion took place around the question of whether this would be perceived as contrary to our core philosophy. It quickly became clear that our worries were unwarranted as chefs and managers around the country took the loose […]

Paul’s entry below does a great job of laying out the facts. The Humane Society of the United States has also partnered with Free Range Studios to create a fun way to educate voters about this groundbreaking proposition. Check out Uncaged. – Maisie Greenawalt, Vice President PS – I’m also a huge fan of the Meatrix. Be sure to watch all three installments.

We’re proud to welcome Paul Shapiro, senior director of The Humane Society of theUnited States’ factory farming campaign, as today’s guest blogger. The plight of the animals we raise for food in this country rarely enters the forefront of our societal consciousness, but Californians are now learning a whole lot more about what these animals go through. That’s because they’ll soon cast their ballots on Prop 2—the Standards for Confining Farm Animals initiative—a measure endorsed by Bon Appetit Management Co., the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Food Safety, United Farm Workers, the Consumer Federation of America, and authors such as Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. This moderate measure merely seeks to provide certain farm animals with enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs. It really is that basic. Unfortunately, the […]

Bon Appetit Management Company CEO Fedele Bauccio recently completed two years on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. It was a moving experience that very much affected the way Fedele sees our food system. Each time he visited an animal production facility, he’d return to the office with a list of directives for us and questions to ask our suppliers. We haven’t been able to address all the issues he’s raised but we’re on an interesting and challenging road thanks to Fedele’s leadership. One of Fedele’s strongest messages to the Commission was that they needed to get the information into the hands of the consumers. In an attempt to just that, the Pew Environmental Group has launched a website supporting the campaign to restrict antibiotic use in animal agriculture. There is a link to the Commission’s website and […]

I spent Monday and Tuesday in New York City at a conference entitled Carbon Footprinting & the Supply Chain. I was asked to speak on “engaging consumers.” While I have been getting pickier and pickier about accepting speaking gigs, simply due to a lack of time, I accepted this opportunity because I was intrigued by the audience mix – representatives from everything from ConAgra to the World Bank, Nike to the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture. The two day session was packed with presentations – I counted 43! Here are some of the tidbits that struck me as worth writing down: Cadbury carbon footprinted their Diary Milk bar – 70% of the emissions are from the cows. They (Cadbury, not the cows) estimate that packaging accounts for only 1% of emissions Nancy Hirshberg from Stonyfield Farm says Futerra’s Greenwash Guide […]

I could be accused of being too picky. I briefly met a vendor who struck me as sincere in her contention that the product she lovingly creates by hand truly qualifies as ‘sustainable food.’ Full of ‘natural’ sugar (instead of high fructose corn syrup), milk and flour from local farms, the ‘artisan’ ice cream sandwich I reached for in today’s heat was a bit too sweet for my taste, and far too over-reaching in its maker’s claims. The front of the label said ‘sustainable’ in bigger font than ‘made from local ingredients.’ Flip it over and the back label said “Portland, OR.” A great town, but 600 miles from where I bought the product. Those farms certainly weren’t ‘local’ to me, and I know the product had to be delivered in a refrigerated truck. Sugar and milk – numbers 1 […]

This past weekend saw San Francisco host the inaugural Slow Food Nation, a four-day celebration of producers, farmers and food, and the tenets of Slow Food International, that all food should be good, clean and fair. Over 60,000 people attended, including an estimated 50,000 at the Civic Center Plaza. In addition to the open-air food festival, supported by Civic Center’s outdoor Marketplace and Slow On The Go Food Stalls, and the Victory Garden planted on the grounds of City Hall, the weekend also featured a thought-provoking series of panels called Food for Thought. Over 14,000 people attended these political discussions, where the issues addressed included global climate change, rising energy costs, healthcare, working conditions for farmworkers, as well as the many challenges facing the effort to re-localize the food distribution system. As a new addition to the Bon Appetit team, […]

“USDA Organic” and “Marine Stewardship Council-certified” are the two most prominent “eco-labels” that ensure a measure of environmental responsibility consumers can count on for agricultural and wild seafood products, respectively. Developed by third parties with significant input from thoughtful advisors, these labels provide a certain hedge against spurious claims of environmental responsibility that cuts through the growing clutter of ‘green marketing.’ But how valuable are eco-labels and are they doing more harm than good? In the current issue of Conservation Biology, Jennifer Jacquet and Daniel Pauly argue that market-based initiatives, though well-intentioned, “unduly discriminate against small scale fishers for their lack of resources to provide data for certification.” The Marine Stewardship Council’s seal of approval for wild-capture fisheries, which is emerging as the ‘gold standard’ certification, draws particular attention. “The MSC bias against small-scale fisheries is neither intentional nor unacknowledged, […]