Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Musings: On Turkeys, in the Literal and Figurative Sense of the Word

Perusing the cornucopia that is Whole Foods the other day, I was struck by the variety of turkeys being sold. Some were touted as organic, others as GMO-free. Some were fully free-range, while others merely had “access to outdoors.” Still others were vegetarian-fed, but ostensibly caged, while the premium birds were labeled “humanely-raised on sustainable family farms.” A few even had names: Tom.

Whole Foods is where the rich folk shop, and the per-pound-price — ranging from $2.99 to $4.49 — reflected the buying power of the clientele.

Meanwhile, in the big box stores and supermarket chains where the poorer people shop, turkeys were going for just 49-to-69 cents per pound.

And I thought of a New York Times commentary by Mark Bittman, about “don't ask how to feed the 9 billion,” just eliminate poverty, and then they can buy what they need, or feed themselves — through traditional farming only, of course. (Never mind that so many traditional farmers are literally dirt poor.)

And I wondered, so are we going to help everyone get wealthy enough to afford those $4.49-per-pound humanely-raised-on-sustainable-family-farm-turkeys? Which, in a just and righteous society, is how our meat should be produced.

Or will they only be lifted from poverty to the place where they can afford the mass-produced, caged, GMO-and-whatevahs-fed, 69-cents-per-pound turkeys? Which would seemingly only increase demand for factory-farmed meat, since animal protein is typically one of the first foods folks want when they can afford it, as evidenced by the skyrocketing demand for meat in China.

And if GMO crops are suddenly banished, as as some would like, what would that do to the price of food — the grain-fed meat and other basic commodities that fill the grocery stores — and would people who are now on the edge fall into poverty, simply trying to eat?

Or do we tell those in the developing nations that they must curb their desire for animal protein, become vegans, just as they must curb their use of cheap, carbon-producing fuel, so as to help save the world while the West keeps on gorging?

Bittner ended his piece with:

Our slogan should not be “let’s feed the world,” but “let’s end poverty.”

That sounds great, but can Earth possibly sustain 9 billion people living the Western ideal of prosperity, or even non-poverty? Because it's not just about food. It's about protein, energy, stuff.

Meanwhile, on Kauai, where nearly all the food is imported, at great carbon and cash cost, Hawaii Dairy Farms has emerged triumphant, with building permits in hand, for its contested dairy at Mahaulepu. The Department of Health signed off on the proposal, despite warnings of grave environmental consequences by those who prefer resorts, condos and shopping centers to agriculture.

HDF, which wants to use the Kauai dairy as a pilot project to see if its rotational pasture method of raising milk cows can be replicated across the state, won an important victory in being able to proceed without having to do an environmental assessment— a requirement that could prove economically unfeasible and burdensome if it became a precedent for doing agriculture on ag lands.

Still, to placate those who have fought the dairy to the point of filing suit, HDF will voluntarily complete an EIS, which will be submitted to the DOH for review. It will explore the full potential of the farm — the original proposal of 2,000 cows, rather than the modification to 650-699 cows announced in July.

In an announcement sent to those of us who haven't talked shit about the dairy, and thus are considered part of the “ohana,” HDF spokeswoman Amy Hennessey noted:

It is disappointing to witness the continued misinformation and threats made by dairy opponents against something many local people, including the ag community, support but may be hesitant to speak out about in the face of aggressive opposition.  Our hope is that our whole community can come to some peace about how agriculture, residents and the visitor industry can live in harmony so that we can create a bright, sustainable and secure future for Kauai.

It's good to have such hopes, though the sad reality is that opponents likely will not be placated even by the EIS they demanded.

Amy linked to an article on agweb about efforts to revitalize dairy farming in Hawaii, which just 30 years supplied all its own milk. But when imports began in 1985, the state lost its sustainable dairy industry and now ships in most of its milk from California, for a consumer price of about $6 per gallon. The article referenced a Star-Advertiser commentary by Kyle Datta of Ulupono Initiative, who wrote:

If we allow a resort on reclassified agricultural lands on Kauai to demand buffer zones miles away from its property – affecting even Important Agricultural Lands – there are serious implications to Oahu and Maui, where development and agriculture are in closer proximity. Most of the prime agricultural lands in these counties will vanish.

Which leads us to the committee assignments for the newly elected Kauai County Council.

Mason Chock has been named chair of the planning committee, while seed company-hater Gary Hooser is vice chair. But Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kualii and Ross Kagawa are also on that committee, comprising a majority that can keep Mason and Gary in check.

KipuKai will assume chairmanship of economic development and intergovernmental relations, where Gary pushed Bill 2491 and was maneuvering to create a ground water management area for the Puna district, which includes Lihue. Gary is now in charge only of the Public Safety committee.

Ross is chair of the public works committee, while JoAnn Yukimura will lead housing & transportation. Arryl will head up the budget committee — arguably the most important on the Council. Quite a plum for a freshman Councilman, though it's not unreasonable since he is an accountant by trade.

There's been a lot of talk about possible conflicts of interest, what with Arryl working for Grove Farm and Gary pushing the anti-GMO agenda of his HAPA organization. I've done some research into that, which I'll get into in another post, since this one has gone on long enough.

Instead, I'll leave you with a short video clip that offers an example of failing spectacularly, but not miserably, since a reader took me to task the other day for asserting that an anti-GMO candidate had “failed miserably” in her election bid, spending $50,000 only to come in 11th out of 12th

I pick my words carefully, and purposefully.

Like this one: Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Happy Turkey day to you. Gobble gobble!!

Anonymous said...

Ditto!!! Enjoy! And....Mahalo!

Anonymous said...

Haha - "vegetarian-fed turkeys," and "access to outdoors," indeed! Crazy that we have such a gullible, elitist bunch that actually believe this stuff!
You're correct, Joan, that "vegetarian-fed" essentially means that they have no real access to forage (such as outdoors where there are bugs, such as beetles, lizards, centipedes, grasshoppers,grubs, worms, etc.). Essentially, these turkeys are confined in huge turkey houses and fed grain (as in vegetarian) - no different than how turkeys are produced commercially. So, what a nice value-added product WholeFoods gets for simply labeling it "vegetarian-fed."
According to Organic labeling standards, saying "access to pasture" does not verify that animals actually do go out to pasture.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for.
The Council will be looking at ways to tax everything in their budget. Kauai is broke.