Saveur magazine calls Sustainable Cuisine White Papers ďthe
most important, readable little green book with a big green
agenda.Ē Here is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s thought-provoking
essay, excerpted from the book.
The word ďsustainableĒ expresses the obligation that each generation
has to the next to preserve the value of the natural world.
It does not mean we canít use nature. Mankind, a predatory animal,
is part of nature and in my view, the worst outcome of environmental
advocacy is if it results in separating human beings from nature.
God wants us to use the bounties of the Earth to enrich ourselves,
to raise living standards, to build dignified vital communities,
to savor life through all our senses and to serve others, we
just canít use it up! We can live off the interest, we just
canít go into the capital. This broad definition generally leaves
me with a full plate. My own nature is to not be too careful
about what I eat.
I avoid endangered species; monkey brains, shark fins, whale
sushi, sea turtle, and Atlantic swordfish, which, but for
its endangered status, is my favorite food. Otherwise, Iíll
try almost anything on the menu or off the road. Iíve eaten
all kinds of insects and nematodes, caterpillars, snakes,
frogs, alligators, terrapins, sea urchins, octopus, birds
eggs, a mouse (by mistake), wild game including armadillo,
wildebeest, warthog, coons and capybara, and some domestic
animals including horse, dog and guinea pig. I have eaten
road kill and Iím fond of viscera; tripe, tongue, brain and
offal and sweet meats and pate, kidney pie, sheepís eyes and
even airline food. Ironically, bad example has been the professor
of good ethics; my son is a vegetarian and can hardly bear
to sit with me at meals.
Arguably, the most sustainable food is the hot dog since
thatís where they put all the stuff that would otherwise go
to waste. Itís like the Indians and the buffalo, they used
everything. Buffalo hot dogs might be the best bet. Among
all ungulents, buffalo use the prairies without destroying
them. But most hot dogs are neither dogs nor buffalo but hogs
and, nowadays, that means industrial pork which, next to an
endangered species, is the worst food on earth.
North Carolinaís hogs now outnumber its citizens and produce
more fecal waste than all the people in California, New York
and Washington combined. Some industrial pork farms produce
more sewage than Americaís largest cities. But while human
waste must be treated, hog waste, similarly fetid and virulent,
is simply dumped into the environment. Stadium sized warehouses
shoehorn 100,000 sows into claustrophobic cages that hold
them in one position for a lifetime over metal grate floors.
Below, aluminum culverts collect and channel their putrefying
waste into ten acre open air pits three stories deep from
which miasmal vapors choke surrounding communities and tens
of millions of gallons of hog feces ooze annually into North
Carolinaís rivers. Such practices have created a science fiction
nightmare right out of Revelations. In North Carolina, the
festering effluent that escapes from industrial swine pens
has given birth to pfiesteria piscicida, a toxic microbe that
thrives in the fecal marinade of North Carolina rivers. This
tiny predator, which can morph into 24 forms depending on
its prey species, inflicts pustulating lesions on fish whose
flesh it dissolves with excreted toxins then sucks through
a mouth tube. The ďcell from hellĒ has killed so many fish,
ó a billion in one instance ó that North Carolina must use
bulldozers to bury them beneath the rancid shores of the Neuse
River and Pamlico Sound. Pfiesteria causes brain damage and
respiratory illness in humans who touch infected fish or water.
Two years ago, Pfiesteria sickened 36 fishermen and swimmers
and 4 bridge workers who never even got damp.
Industrial farming is also for the birds. Some corporate
farms crowd a million beakless chickens in cramped dark cages
soaking up antibodies and laying their guts out for modern
mengales like Frank Perdue for the duration of their miserable
lives. Itís hard to believe that people who run those animal
concentration camps will even enjoy happiness or dignity in
their own lives.
And the chickens are coming home to roost. Industrial farming
isnít just bad for chickens and hogs, it destroys family farms,
aquifers, soils, and pollutes the air and water. Billionaire
chicken barons Don Tyson and Frank Perdue, like billionaire
North Carolina hog tycoon Wendell Murphy, have used their
market power to drive a million family farmers out of business
including virtually every independent egg and broiler farmer
in America. Each corporate farm puts 10 family farmers out
of business. The same process of vertical integration has
bankrupted 5 out of 6 of Americaís hog farmers over the past
15 years and pushed the final nail in the coffin of Thomas
Jeffersonís vision of a democracy rooted in family owned freeholds.
Industrial meat moguls site their stinking farms in the poorest
communities and pay slave wages to their miniscule work force
for performing one of the most dangerous and unhealthy jobs
Massive political contributions by this tiny handful of billionaire
AG-barons allow them to evade laws that prohibit other Americans
from polluting our waterways. Industrial agriculture now accounts
for over half of Americaís water pollution. Last year, pfiesteria
outbreaks connected with wastes from industrial chicken factories
forced the closure of two major tributaries of the Chesapeake
and threatened Marylandís vital shellfish industry. Tyson
Foods has polluted half of all streams in Northwest Arkansas
with so much fecal bacteria that swimming is prohibited. Drugs
and hormones needed to keep confined animals alive and growing
are mainly excreted with the wastes and now saturate local
Moreover, industrial meat is unsavory. Factory raised meat
and pork are soft and bland. The chicken doesnít taste good.
American chicken is spongy. Itís been around long enough that
people have forgotten how chicken is supposed to taste and
most young people erroneously think you are supposed to be
able to cut chicken with a fork. The texture gives thoughts
of hormones and chemicals.
Since you canít often tell the difference between meat and
fowl from factory and family farms in the grocery store, itís
not always easy to avoid industrial eggs and ham.
Chefs should look for free range chickens from suppliers
they trust and seek out local markets and producers who buy
from sustainable family farms. Those who look will find networks
of sustainable family farms and farmers who raise their animals
to range free on grass pastures and natural feeds without
steroids, sub-therapeutic antibiotics or other artificial
growth promotants and who treat their animals with dignity
and respect. These farmers bring tasty premium quality meat
to customers while practicing the highest standards of husbandry
and environmental stewardship.
One such production is California based Niman Ranch, which
markets the highest quality Iowa and California pork and beef,
antibiotic free and hormone free and ships to retailers and
restaurateurs anywhere in the nation. Livestock are humanely
treated, fed the purest natural feeds (with no animal by-products
or waste), never given growth hormones or sub-therapeutic
antibiotics, and raised on lands that is cared for as a sustainable
resource. Many restaurants list Niman Ranch on their menu.
Sustainable meats taste the best. This is another case where
doing right means eating well.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr
White Papers by Earth Pledge Foundation,
Leslie Hoffman (Introduction),
Paul Newman (Preface)
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Sustainable Cuisine- Earth Pledge coined the term Sustainable
Cuisine to describe ďa derivative of sustainable development
which celebrates the pleasures of food and the diversity of
cultures, while recognizing the impact of food on our health
and our environment. Sustainable Cuisine preserves culinary
traditions and addresses the need to safely nourish a growing
Sustainable Cuisine White Papers is a collection of 39 essays
on the link between food quality, environmental issues, and
culinary traditions. An eclectic group of chefs, farmers,
food writers, environmental experts and others offer food
for thought that is all at once fresh, whimsical and real.