Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chemicals in Poultry Processing Raises Health Concerns

According to this report in the Seattle Times, U.S. Agriculture Department health inspectors say poultry-processing plants are increasingly turning to potentially toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals to remove contaminants that escape notice in faster processing times approved last year by the government agency.

This means that rather than actually inspecting poultry for contaminating material like fecal matter, they are upping the use of chemicals to kill off bacteria. Chlorine and peracetic acid are two of the most common. This is causing respiratory distress - possibly death - for workers in poultry processing factories. And it's going on your dinner plate.

While procedures vary among plants, in a typical scenario, high-powered nozzles first shoot water and chemicals into the interior of a bird and along its surface. Next, the bird moves through one or two spray cabinets, where it is showered with other chemicals. Finally, it is chilled and soaked, usually in chlorine and water.

The USDA does not conduct research into possible health risks that chemical treatments pose for consumers of the poultry products. Instead, it relies on the chemical review and approval process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA also does not research health risk, but relies on data provided by the chemical manufacturers.

Would they obfuscate?
So let's get this straight.

Poultry processing time has increased to as many as 140 birds a minute. Since inspecting them at that speed is impossible for factory workers and USDA inspectors - if they were available, birds are sprayed with an increasingly exotic array of chemicals to remove bacteria. Then they are soaked in chlorine water before packaging in BPA plastic. Finally, no one really knows the short or long-term health effects on consumers.

What could go wrong?

I also write a blog about ways to keep family pets healthy - Aimee's Law. In fact, my attention to my pets' health led me to the benefits of fresh, organic, local, sustainable food.

The conditions that factory-farmed food animals endure before slaughter are bad enough. But giving your Thanksgiving turkey a soak in your swimming pool before cooking is too much. I wouldn't feed factory-farmed poultry to a dog, much less my family.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tell TX Senate to OPPOSE SB 1233

The Animal ID bill, SB 1233, has been scheduled for a vote by the Senate this Thursday.

If passed, the Texas Animal Health Commission would be authorized to adopt federal regulations, including requiring every chicken to have a permanent leg band with a unique identification number when it is sold or moved to a new location. The agency would also be authorized to adopt whatever federal animal ID regulations are created in the future, including new regulations on horses, sheep, goats, cattle, bison, and more.

The passage of this bill would create a substantial time and cost burden for small farmers, ultimately making it more difficult for them to remain viable sources of local food for the community. 

Please call your State Senator to oppose SB 1233! Click on the post for more details.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bakers, Start Your Ovens to Benefit West, Texas

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens! The same caring Austin crew who baked their hearts out in 2011 to benefit Japan and Bastrop, Texas are organizing once again to bake for West, Texas, the village of 2,000 people that was engulfed in disaster after a factory caught fire and exploded on April 17.  

After raising over $11,000 for Japan tsunami survivors and nearly $13,000 for survivors of Bastrop,
Texas wildfires in 2011, the group will bake up a storm to aid the community of West, Texas, where a fire and explosion has so far claimed the lives at least 14 people and injured more than 200 residents.
Austin Bakes for West is scheduled for Saturday, May 4th. The bake sale is modeled after Austin Bakes for Bastrop and Austin Bakes for Japan. Proceeds from the sale of cakes, pies, cookies, candy and other baked goods will go to AmeriCares‘ relief efforts in West, Texas. Everyone is invited to participate however you are able.
For complete details on the bake sale and to keep up to date on locations and logistics, volunteers and promoters can link to the group's online giving page here, or to You can also find Austin Bakes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at #AustinBakes.

Kathryn Hutchinson, Austin Gastronimist

Austin Bakes is organized by Kathryn Hutchison, a well-known foodie, writer and photographer, with plenty of assistance from other big-hearted Austinites. For more details or to help, email Austin Bakes.

To help West, Texas in advance of the sale, you can make a gift to AmeriCares relief efforts via Austin Bakes secure online giving page. You can also schedule an appointment to give blood at the Blood Center of Central Texas.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Love Me Some Anchovies - LATimes

Okay, so you leave them off the pizza, but can you imagine Caesar salad dressing without them? Me either. So here's how Sang Yoon, chef and owner of Lukshon and Father's Office, creates tantalizing dishes that star anchovies.

My absolute favorite anchovy product is known simply as fish sauce. If you're a fan of southeast Asian cuisine, you know what I'm talking about. Fish sauce is a pretty basic ingredient. Anchovies fermented with salt and water. But the resulting liquid is a clear, amber-hued complex flavor bomb from heaven. Rich with natural glutamates, fish sauce transcends the humble ingredients from which it's made and becomes a versatile and important flavor-building block.

The amazing thing about fish sauce is that it can be incorporated into many recipes without adding a "fishy" flavor. It's that unsung hero role. Think about the flavors of yam neua (Thai beef salad). Tart, spicy, salty. A perfect example of fish sauce bringing intensity and flavor depth without showing its oceanic roots.

Think of an intensely flavored yellow or green Thai curry -- the flavors of coconut, lime and spices all in harmony. Taste any fish? Probably not. But fish sauce is probably in there, and you probably didn't notice it. That's the beauty of fish sauce. You wouldn't know how important it is until it was missing.

But fish sauce can also play the lead. A perfect example is a classic green papaya salad, made with a dressing that is just a careful modulation of fish sauce, sugar, lime and chiles. In a dish like this, the salty anchovy component is simply playing off the unripe fruit but is powerful enough to shine against the tartness of lime and searing heat of bird's eye chiles.

And despite the salt-curing, anchovy is one of those fatty fish such as salmon and tuna that are good sources of EPA and DHA. Heart smart.