|Duane A. Lienemann|
Unl Extension Educator
By the time this article reaches the local newspapers, Thanksgiving will be finished and a whole lot of food will have been consumed. It seems to me that most of our Holidays do involve food and that is probably a good thing. Mankind has probably socialized around food since the beginning of mankind with food gatherers and hunters. Food is an important part of our history and of course what we need to survive. It is no wonder that we treat our food with almost a reverence.
I found it very interesting that National Geographic aired a six-hour television series, “EAT: The Story of Food,” which played over three nights, Nov. 21-23 on the National Geographic Channel. You can find the information on the series on the web at: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/eat-the-story-of-food/video . I did find it well done, educational, and humorous at times, and it does take a while to watch the entire series. There was part of the series that was of concern to me which I will explain later. I first want to explore the video and a little background on the effort in this week’s edition.
Throughout 2014 the National Geographic Channel and the National Geographic Society have been exploring the future of food and celebrating our connection to food through a major, multiyear cross-platform initiative. The mini-series episodes are designed to show how the evolution of food has defined cultures around the globe. The initiative grows out of an eight-month series in National Geographic magazine looking at how we can feed our growing world population, including the cover story of the December issue of the magazine, “The Joy of Food.” If you did not get the chance to see the series, there will also be a DVD release of the mini-series on Dec. 16 via http://shop.nationalgeographic.com .
If you have an iPad you might like to download a free app which features a collection of all currently published stories from the magazine’s food coverage since March. You can find the app at: http://natgeofoodapp.com . According to the press release, the app uses rich storytelling, interactive maps, and of course, stunning photography to offer a multifaceted perspective on the challenges – and solutions – to feeding a global population expected to reach nine billion by 2050. Paralleling the magazine series, each topic begins with a simple question, like: “why are people malnourished in the richest country on earth?” But the content that follows quickly explains why the answers are anything but simple. According to NGS director, “by considering a diverse set of food-related issues, National Geographic’s free “Future of Food” iPad App offers a comprehensive examination of the pitfalls -- and potential – of possible solutions.” A short companion video, “Food by the Numbers,” and a world diet interactive are all published online at http://food.nationalgeographic.com . I have to tell you I was impressed with the website http://www.natgeoeat.com . It is kind of fun to negotiate.
As I understand it the network has intended for ‘Eat’ to be not just a television series, but part of a bigger conversation about every person's relationship with food. They hope that by looking at both the past and the future of food, they can shine a light on the issues being faced by millions of families every day. They also offer a recipe guide, with easy-to-implement healthy eating options for families, according to their preview of their efforts. According to their news release, the signature element of the initiative is the launch of a downloadable healthy eating recipe guide, featuring “alternatives to our fast-food way of life from more than 70 actors, athletes, authors, chefs, musicians and explorers,” including Paul McCartney, Susan Sarandon and Wolfgang Puck. It also includes interviews with activists like Michael Pollan; whom I have written about before. That is fine, but I think that many of you know the cuisine leaning of several of these celebrities.
What got my attention first was one of the episodes called “Meat – Its History and Production Methods”, which was the focus of the premiere episode called “Carnivores” which is explained at: http://www.natgeoeat.com/#/meat/1 . Among the interactive website’s tidbits: “In the U.S., a single person can care for as many as 50,000 chickens being raised for meat. Considering it takes a broiler chicken three months to reach market weight, one poultry farmer can produce as many as 200,000 chickens per year!” and “being able to afford a prime cut of meat conveys a higher socioeconomic status.”
In discussing lab-grown meat, chef and sustainable seafood promoter Barton Seaver tells the audience: “So much of the cult of meat consumption in this country is already so divorced from the source of that product to begin with [that] whether it comes from a Styrofoam package or from a lab, I’m not sure we’d ever know the difference.” Another nugget found in a slideshow on the website asks rhetorically: What about the future? National Geographic’s answer: “Industrial meat can't continue to go on because the land cannot continue to support it in a sustainable way. Another source of protein must be out there.” That is right, the just had to bring up the factory farm and “Industrial meat”. There are also references to GMO’s.
I did a little investigating on the partnerships aligned with this effort and found that a major collaboration was with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which, along with other organizations, provided data for articles and graphics. The FAO is the same group that put out the erroneous report that said livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity and that livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. It may also be of interest that another collaborator is the Grace Communications Foundation. That sounded harmless to me until I hit the website http://www.gracelinks.org , which unfortunately pushes the traditional agenda of “No big farm is a good farm! I do encourage you to watch the series and read the articles…and then I will leave it to you to what you think!
The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home