Food: A Documentary Pt. 5

groceries in philadelphiaERIC LARSON

Consumers really have a lot of control. It is just they don’t tend to exercise it.  If a consumer truly wants to buy local fruits and vegetables, number one are Farmers’ Markets.  You can’t sell at a farmers’ market unless you are a California grower.  San Diego County is a San Diego grower.  Right there, you know instantly that you are buying locally.  If a farmer ships out of the area, goes to a nutritional packing house, they will only get 19%-20% of the food dollar.  If it stays local and takes the middlemen out of the equation, they might be able to give a better price for the product they sell.

HOST

Tomatoes are the number one favorite fruit among Americans.  As reporter Ed Joyce tells us, San Diego county grows the nation’s largest fine, ripen crop.

ED JOYCE

San Diego County has the largest community of organic growers in the state and nation, with 343 farms growing more than 150 crops.  We wanted to find out what the difference was between organic and conventionally grown tomatoes and whether the way they were grown affect the taste.  While tomatoes might be America’s favorite, they’re also the fruit we’re least satisfied with when it comes to grocery store produce.  So we went to the OB People’s Organic Food Market to talk with the coop’s marketing director, Amber McHale to find out why the store only buys and sells organic tomatoes.  As a disclaimer, I’m a member of the coop.

AMBER MCHALE – Marketing Director, OB People’s Coop

Some crops have been proven organically to have a higher yield of certain of vitamins, not all.  That’s a study that is still ongoing.  But again, for me and for most of these shoppers, it is not the extra added nutrition, although again, we have healthy soya, we are going to have a healthy product.  It’s the lack of what’s not in there: the synthetic, toxic pesticides, those fertilizers.

ED JOYCE

Organic growers say residue from pesticides can be harmful, especially to children.  The EPA recently announced it will begin a series of test on pesticides and their effects on human endocrine systems which regulate growth, metabolism and reproduction.  An environmental group in Washington, DC ranked 43 fruits and vegetables based on the amount of pesticides, but not the toxicity of its pesticide found on them.  Tomatoes rank halfway down the list, with 47% of the tomatoes containing pesticides.  Peaches were the worst offender with 97%.

ED JOYCE

Where do these tomatoes come from?  Do they come from San Diego County, they come from California?

AMBER MCHALE

Right now, all our tomatoes are coming from California.  The jumbos, the cherry and the heirloom are coming locally from BY’s ranch and the Romas are coming from the Central Valley, so it is regional and it is not local.

ED JOYCE

KC Anderson is an organic grower.  He and his mother grow 13 varieties of organic heirloom tomatoes in Valley Center.  It is late in the season, so Anderson’s crop is winding down, but buying locally grown organic tomatoes at a farmer’s market is as direct and fresh as they come.   But do they taste better?

CASEY ANDERSON – Local Grower

They all have different tastes.  I mean, the green zebras, this is fully ripe.  I mean this is what they look like.  They are really sweet but they taste like they have lime drizzled over the top; they are really tangy.

ED JOYCE

When it comes to flavor, it may just be a matter of taste.  However, most tomatoes bought at the grocery store have been picked while they are green so they can survive long trips across the country.  They’re ripened artificially with ethylene gas.   Temperature also plays a role.  Tomatoes won’t ripen in temperatures below 50⁰.  Some varieties are also bred for shape, color and shelf life, not necessarily taste.

In California, most tomatoes are destined for cans.  The state produces 90% of the country’s processed tomatoes.

HOST

Americans eat more per capita than ever before.   According to government statistics, 1/3 of us are obese.  We buy $.99 hamburgers and chicken that cost less than a dollar a pound.  Producers in the food chain tell us we want cheaper food and we want more of it.

BILL BRANDENBURG

Obviously, the consumer vote tells you what it is going to do.  If you are raising something that the consumer doesn’t want, then you don’t sell it.  You are not going to raise it again.  So you will vote.

HOST

And we have voted with our money.  We don’t have enough time to peel our own oranges and we are too busy to find out what’s in our food.

JEFFREY GRAHAM

 

The soccer moms don’t have enough time to do everything that she does and worry about the quality or the source of the fish sticks she feeds her kids.  Then she can look at these websites to figure out how to do this.

 

HOST

 

Can we actually track our food on the dinner plate to the farm, field or ocean?   Most of it, we can’t.  What happens when that search leads us here?  The video you are about to see is graphic and disturbing.  Last year, a California meat company issued the largest meat recall in history.  143 million pounds of beef was recalled after humane society video revealed sick cows dragged to slaughter.  It is illegal to use sick animals in the meat supply because of the risk of disease.  We had several questions for the USDA when we began our investigation into food.  They didn’t respond to most of our emails or our request for an interview.  We did learn however, that so much of this information is available to the public on government and trade association websites and in the scientific literature.  Maybe we just stopped paying attention because the new mass produced food chain has made life easy and the food we eat cheap or maybe, we just don’t want to know where our food comes from.

 

You can find out more about our food investigation by going to our website, kpbs.org/food.  You can also leave a comment; we would love to hear from you.  For KPBS and Envision San Diego, I’m Joanne Faryon.  Thanks for watching.

Food: A Documentary Pt. 5 has been transcribed by Affordable Grocery, a leading grocery philadelphia provider along with starting a new “feed the homeless” program in the Philadelphia region.

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Food: A Documentary Pt. 4

grocery delivery in philadelphiaA natural, well, just about all the foods you buy is natural unless something artificial has been injected.  Fresh, never have been frozen, the legal definition according to the USDA of fresh chicken means that the internal temperature has never been below 26˚F.

 

Free-range, it doesn’t mean that your chicken was raised like this.  It means that the chicken had access to the outdoors.  But land to roam, time to grow and feed like this organic food comes with a price.  Womach’s chickens cost about $20 each compared to $7 or $8 for a grocery store chicken.

 

CURTIS WOMACH

 

I think a lot of chickens are waste.  If you are paying $.60 a pound of chicken, why does it matter if you’re not making stock from the bones?  There is an American culture where it is like we deserve all the meat we want every day.

 

HOST

 

Americans drink more orange juice than any other fruit juice.  As KPBS reporter Amita Sharma tells us, orange groves had been a part of our history for the past 100 years.

 

AMITA SHARMA

 

San Diego county groves produce 95,000 tons of oranges each year.  Local growers are sending these oranges to India, China, Japan and all countries willing to pay premium rates for San Diego oranges, viewed as some of the tastiest in the world.

 

JONH DEMSHKY – Pres.  & C.E.O., Corona College Packing House

 

The color and the taste of San Diego fruit is quite popular overseas.  Most of our San Diego fruit, we actually send to foreign countries.

 

 

HOST

 

Since we export most of our oranges thousands of miles away as far as Japan, where do the oranges we eat come from?  It turns out that depending on the season, the fruit we consume here is shipped from thousands of miles away, from countries like Australia, South Africa and Peru.  It is we, the consumer, who determined that our oranges trot the globe.  American shoppers like their oranges to be seedless and easy to peel, but San Diego oranges have seeds and they’re thinner skin is tougher to remove.  We also like our oranges to be orange.

 

JOHN DEMSHKY

 

Consumers buy with their eyes.  You can’t buy an orange that is unpeeled, but ultimately, that bright orange color is really a factor of the climate and the temperatures that they were grown in.   But clearly, your San Diego fruit might have had a little bit of green on the top of it, something that we call “regreening” in the industry.  That’s really just a cosmetic issue and it is not an indication of the flavor of the orange at all.

 

HOST

 

In fact, says 79-year old Ben Hillebrecht, “They’re sweet and juicy and they’re just an excellent orange.”

 

Hillebrecht’s family has grown oranges for generations in Escondido.

 

BEN HILLEBRECHT

 

All my life, I have been right here.  If I live to up to December 9th, I’ll be 80-years old.

 

HOST

 

Hillebrecht would prefer to sell his fruit to San Diegans.

 

BEN HILLEBRECHT

 

You can’t make people eat just because they’re grown here.  They can buy a little bit cheaper from someplace else.  Food in America is cheap and you always spend $.10 out of your dollar, $.11 is an average American.

 

But escalating water prices are making it difficult for orange farmers like Hillebrecht to keep on growing, especially with oranges coming from Australia or Brazil.  In fact, the Hillebrecht are turning off the tap on some of their orange trees because keeping them alive is no longer profitable.

 

ERIC LARSON – Executive Director, San Diego Co. Farm Bureau

 

Here in San Diego County, it is tough for farmers to compete.  The land is expensive, labor is expensive and water is very expensive because we import the water from a great distance.  So it makes it very, very difficult to compete.

 

AMITA SHARMA

 

The Hillebrechts family has diversified what it grows and its fallback crop is San Diego’s top food crop, last year the county produced 59,000 tons of this fruit.

 

40% of the avocado sold in the United States come from San Diego county groves like this one in Escondido.  When avocadoes aren’t in season here, chances are the ones you are buying in store came from Mexico or Chile.

 

MIKE HILLEBRECHT – Escondido Avocado Grower

 

But in some ways, that’s beneficial because the consumer can buy avocadoes year round.

 

AMITA SHARMA

 

But Ben’s son, Mike Hillebrecht says that there are downsides to importing avocadoes for San Diego growers.  Again, because of labor costs, local growers pay $8 an hour.  In Mexico, workers earn $4 a day.

Food: A Documentary Pt. 4 is brought to you by Affordable Grocery, the leading grocery delivery Philadelphia company for Southeastern PA.

Food: A Documentary Pt. 3

grocery philadelphiaJEFFREY GRAHAM – Marine Biologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

For every pound of growth of a salmon, it takes approximately five pounds of fish that are caught and ground up and turned into pellets or some kind of feeding way or feeding mechanism to give to these fish.  So 5 to 1.  That is a fairly steep ratio.  What you are essentially doing then and part of the two-way street, the two way argument that is given about aquaculture, as well, is it takes the pressure off the natural populations.  However,  if you have to catch five pounds of fish from the natural environment to rear one pound of salmon for high-end table consumption, then the Arithmetic just doesn’t work out in terms of the long term benefits to the ocean.

JEFFREY GRAHAM

There is a lot of experimentation going on and we do a lot of it here on our species, that is looking to replace that fish meal on the diet, with soy protein or other processing by-products like beef or chicken by-products, basically waste-in-process that can be turned around and used as a protein supplement to replace the fish meal.

HOST

According to the National Renderers Association, cow and chicken by-products, including cattle blood and bone and poultry feathers have been fed to farmed fish for decades.  The association told KPBS that cattle fat, blood and bone meal are being increasingly used in fish diets as alternatives to fish oil and other proteins.  So by now, you might be asking what we asked when we learned fish were eating cattle by-products.   Can fish get Mad Cow disease?  Mad Cow or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE is a neuro-degenerative disease in cattle that can be passed on to humans.   The European countries have banned cattle by-products in fish feed because if fish eat contaminated cattle and cattle eat contaminated fish, there is a risk that in theory, the disease could be transmitted to the food chain.  Here in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of most cow by-products as feed to other cows in 1997.  But the same rules do not apply to fish feed.  However, a new regulation does ban the use of cattle brains and spines in fish feed.  Both contain the highest concentrations of infected material in diseased cattle.  There has never been a case of human contracting mad cow from eating farmed fish.

Meanwhile, there continues to be an ongoing debate over the Omega-3 content of farmed versus wild fish.  Omega-3s are the healthy fats that can help prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  One large grocery chain claims on its website that farmed salmon actually has more Omega-3 than wild salmon.  KPBS put their claim to the test and sent fish samples, wild and farmed to a lab in Oregon.  The test results confirmed that farmed salmon did have nearly twice the amount of healthy Omega-3s as wild salmon, but you have to eat nearly four times the amount of fat to get those nutrients.

Americans eat more chicken than any other meat; about 74 pounds per person, each year.  Most of it is white meat.  Consumers like white meat and so the industry has found a way to give us what we want.

CURTIS WOMACH

These are my fast-growing Kurdish cross, and they’re what are in the supermarkets and restaurants, this kind of chicken.

HOST

Most of the chickens we buy in the grocery are called broilers, a cross between two other chickens, a Cornish and Plymouth Rock.

CURTIS WOMACH

They’re bred to grow really fast and have lots of white meat because see how wide it is and you see the big breast.

HOST

But none of these chickens will end up in a grocery store.  Curtis Womach raises these chickens on a farm just outside of Julian.  Most chickens in a grocery store are raised on a factory floor.  Womach sells his chickens at a farmers’ market.  He decided that he will no longer raise this type of chicken.

CURTIS WOMACH

They can’t physically mate because of all the white meat gets in the way.  They are still chickens and they want to be like chickens but they can’t move.  They would like to go under the trees and the shade but it is too hard for them to walk over there.

HOST

Their breasts are so big, these chickens can barely walk.  Look at this, a different breed and able to run away from our camera.  Chickens are raised mostly on corn, fish meal can be added to their feed, even chicken feather.  Antibiotics are used but it is illegal to use hormones in chickens in the United States.  So when you see labels like these, no hormones added, well it is illegal to add hormones to all chicken.  In fact, it is against USDA regulations to say no hormones have been added unless this line follows, see that line in small print?

Food: A Documentary Pt. 3

Food: A Documentary Pt. 2

groceries in philadelphiaHOST

Studies have suggested corn-fed cattle may harbor more virulent strains of E. coli than grass-fed beef, although a new study out of Kansas State University is now challenging that assumption.

Feed lots have also led to wider use of antibiotics and almost all the beef you buy in the grocery comes from cattle injected with hormones.

BILL BRANDENBURG

Because it is much more expensive to produce beef without hormones.

HOST

Corn makes cattle fat.  Hormones give them more lean muscle tissue.

Bill Brandenburg says that the cattle can grow 10% bigger with hormones.

BILL BRANDENBURG

Without hormones, the cattle will have just a lot more fat in them so they are going to produce a lot more of those upper grades of beef.

HOST

Don’t they have more fat in them because we are feeding them corn?

BILL BRANDENBURG

It is the combination of corn and the fact that what the hormones actually do is the animal produces different ratios of estrogen and testosterone.   The hormones don’t actually go into the blood stream per se, but it causes the animal to produce its own different levels, so it maximizes the production of lean and minimizes the production of fat.

HOST

But if we didn’t feed them corn, isn’t it that corn feed that gives them the fat?

BILL BRANDENBURG

Yes.

HOST

So if we didn’t feed them corn, they wouldn’t necessarily need the hormones to make more less fat?

BILL BRANDENBURG

Well, you can do them grass-fed on without implants and you would still have a product but wouldn’t taste as good as corn-fed beef.  That’s what the consumers in the United States like; it is the flavor and the tenderness that goes along with corn-fed.

HOST

American beef is banned in Europe because of the use of hormones.  Shelton Murinda is an Animal Scientist Professor at Cal Poly Pomona.

SHELTON MURINDA

The Europeans will use what I will call the precautionary principle which simply indicates that if there is not enough scientific evidence, it is better to be on the safe side.

HOST

Isn’t it?

SHELTON MURINDA

It is always better on the safe side if you don’t have sufficient scientific evidence.

HOST

Why do we still use hormones in beef in the United States?

SHELTON MURINDA

The situation is rather different here.  The poison corns have been thrown about.  Some of them are what I indicated the potential side effects.  As far as I know, there has not been enough risk assessment that has been done with relevance to decide the effects of those hormones in the human population.  Not enough research has been done to gather that information, so there is no risk assessment that has been done.

HOST

So why not go on the side of caution like the Europeans?

SHELTON  MURINDA

We rather think differently.

HOST

So will any of these cattle end up on your plate?

SHELTON MURINDA

The chance of getting beef that is raised in California is rather slim, in other words.  Most of it comes from outside California.

HOST

The average American eats about 17 pounds of fish per year.   Half the fish we eat is farmed fish.  That means that the fish was born, raised and fed in a net not far off the coast.  We wanted to know whether farmed fish was as healthy as wild caught fish.  The answer, it all depends on what farmed fish eat.  Just wait until you hear what we are feeding them.

DON KENT

I grew up in San Diego when San Diego was the tuna capital of the world.  You go down at Embarcadero and tuna sanders were tied up next to each other, three deep along at Embarcadero.   That is gone now.

HOST

Don Kent is president at Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute.  Here, they are developing new ways to farm fish from the hatchery and now, to your table.  Hub Sea World wants to establish the largest fish farm off U.S. Coastal waters, five miles west of Mission Bay.  Kent sees it as a boon to the local economy and a way to take pressure off depleting fish stocks.  The debate over fish farming has traditionally been about how to do it in a way that doesn’t contaminate local waters.  Hubbs believe that by establishing nets five miles off the coast where the water is deep and the current is swift, it can minimize contamination concerns.  But there is another issue, fish also eat other fish.  If farmed fish are fed fish, the practice could deplete dwindling stocks.  So the challenged is to find other sources of fish food and fish oil to feed farmed fish.

Food: A Documentary Pt. 2

Food: A Documentary Pt. 1

grocery delivery in philadelphiaHello everyone!  I’m Joanne Faryon.  Welcome to this Envision San Diego Special: Food.  It is something we take for granted.  After all, California is the largest supplier of food to the country.  Grocery store aisles are stocked with just about anything we care to buy: chicken for less than a dollar a pound, steaks the size of a dinner plate, every species of fish and fruits and vegetables, no matter the season.

It may seem as though the cost of these groceries continue to rise.  But we actually spend less money on our food than we did a couple of generations ago.  Just how all of these foods make its way to the grocery store and your dinner plate is the subject of tonight’s investigation.

We’ll also tell you why it is relatively cheap to buy beef, chicken, and even fish.  Some of it, you may not want to know.  But at the end of the program, we hope you walk away a better informed consumer.

Forty million pounds of San Diego oranges are on their way to countries as far away as China.  13,000 head of cattle are being fattened in Imperial Valley.  One in five will be slaughtered for sale in Japan, the others distributed across the country.   In Mission Bay, scientists are trying to figure out what to feed farmed fish.  Thos cattle you just saw, well, they could be on the menu.

The food chain doesn’t look like it used.  Fish no longer eat fish.  Cattle eat corn even though it can make them sick.  Chickens eat fish and fish are eating cows.  Even chicken feathers become food.  We grow oranges but send them away because they are too hard for us to peel.  The ones we eat come from Australia.  Just how do they get to be this way?  Is it good for us?

Tonight, we look at the food we eat from the dinner plate to the farm, field and ocean and how our demand for cheap food and more food has altered the food chain.  A food chain that is motivated by making the greatest amount of food for the cheapest cost, in other words, efficiency.

Americans consume nearly 20% of all the beef in the world, but only make up about 5% of the world’s population.  In 2008, the U.S. slaughtered more than 34 million cattle; slightly more than the year before.

We wanted to know whether we were keeping track of where all those cattle came from and where they all ended up.  In other words, if you bought a steak in San Diego, could you trace it back to the ranch?  So we followed the chain and what we found was a fast-growing corn-fed, hormone and antibiotic injected animal that likely travelled thousands of miles before it ended up at your table.   Most of the 1.4 million dairy cows in the state are also destined for your table as hamburger.

Let’s start at the beginning.  In Southern California, most cattle start out like this, eating grass on a pasture.

JIM DAVIS – S.D. and Imperial Valley Cattleman’s Association

In the 40s and 50s when my grandfather was running cattle here, he would basically sell his cattle as two or three-year olds that would be taken to market here in San Diego County and then distributed here in San Diego County.

HOST

It doesn’t work that way anymore.  Now, cattle are raised on grass for six months, and then sold at auction to another rancher, usually out of state.  We don’t have enough grass or rain to feed all our cattle year round.  Once they are sold, they’ll live another six months on grass and then sold again.  This time, they go to a feed lot.  Large pens where cattle are sent to be fattened before they are slaughtered.  This one in Imperial Valley houses 13,000 animals.   It is considered small.  Some are home to more than 100,000 animals.  Cattle spend four or five months here.  They’re fed mostly corn.  The U.S. introduced cattle into feed lots and corn into their diets after World War II.  Both had a dramatic effect.  The animals grew faster and fatter.

Broc Sandelin is an Animal Scientist Professor at Cal Poly Pomona and a third generation cattle rancher.

HOST

Is there any research that says that they have a tough time digesting corn?

BROC SANDELIN

I’m not familiar with any example.  I’m not a nutritionist so I really don’t know for sure, but I’m sure you could probably find something for you, if you want to.

HOST

Is it easier for them to digest grass than corn?

BROC SANDELIN

Yes, because this is what they’re naturally eating and that is grass.

Food: A Documentary Pt. 1