Animals Australia: the voice for animals

Animals Australia: the voice for animals
Love life? Love all of life

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Food labelling: inadequate and deceptive

As far as Miss Eagle is concerned, one of the flaws of the inexact science of Economics is the supposition in the Theory of the Firm that the consumer has perfect choice. To Miss Eagle, it is a clear example that most theoretical economists are men who don't go shopping.
This is one consumer who is far from having perfect choice. Perhaps the buyers for retail firms come close to having perfect choice, but this consumer is dependent on making her choice from what retailers put on their shelves and when I am not able to get what I want, I know that the Theory of the Firm has failed to work once again. This is why I take labelling seriously. Miss Eagle is a label reader from way back. She also likes to have a bit of a handle on the companies - both retail and wholesale - who supply her food. Sometimes getting this information is not difficult or strenuous; sometimes it is nigh impossible. This is why Miss Eagle is most concerned about this week's news about labelling: inadequate and sometimes bordering on the deceptive. One thing that the consumer has to jack up on is the weasel words in our food promotion. Organic - can the consumer know or prove that this is a genuine claim. Should consumers be expected to pay a premium for organic food, particularly imported organic food from the USA that sits in cans and jars on the shelves of my supermarket. Natural - This is the word that drives Miss Eagle nuts. What does natural mean? The dictionary gives the following definition:
adjective 1 existing in or derived from nature; not made, caused by, or processed by humankind. 2 in accordance with nature; normal or to be expected: a natural death. 3 born with a particular skill or quality: a natural leader. 4 relaxed and unaffected. 5 (of a parent or child)related by blood. 6 archaic illegitimate. 7 Music (of a note) not sharpened or flattened.
Definition #1 seems to be the one to focus on in relation to food.
When advertising uses the word 'natural' what is the worth of the word. Miss Eagle suggests it has no value whatsoever. Everything we have on this planet has existed in or is derived from nature. Where else did it come from? Outer space? "Not made, caused by, or processed by humankind". Well, everything we have comes from God but how much comes to our table without being processed in some form by humankind? Most farmers use some type - organic or inorganic - of pesticide or herbicide. Then there are the industrial processes to which a lot of our food is subjected. There is human intervention at a variety of levels in our food chain, food processing, and food distribution. How can any marketer then use the word natural with honesty, clarity and exactitude?
Wholesome - How do we know? We don't know when the fruit and vegetables were picked. We seldom know where what we eat has come from, how far it has travelled, and how long it took to get to our table. What do we really know about nutrient content of our food when it gets to us? Can we take industrial processing of food for granted?
As consumers, we have allowed industrial methods of food processing and food distribution to enter our food production without much questioning. Basically, we like to purchase inexpensive food and we expect it to taste good, and we - at least in modern western industrial societies - expect the food to be available in the here and now, in season and out of season.
These factors are not the paramount ones we should be seeking when we are constructing a healthy and nutritious diet.
This is why labelling is so important: whether it is on fresh food or processed food; whether it is the unpackaged food purchased at a deli counter or the fresh food and vege purchased at farmers' and produce markets.
Consumers need to be savvy, demanding, and thoughtful of where their food comes from.
Take a look at food production in Australia. Be aware of how farmers are being squeezed by retail pricing and production costs and inputs. Be aware of how far agriculture and horticulture has retreated in this country and how we have allowed imports - even from the northern hemisphere - to invade our country and our food chain. And above all, let us all - producers and consumers - be aware of the ethics of food production and food consumption and the pressures both sides of the food chain place on humane standards. Why should animals suffer because of our demands for cheap, unseasonal, constant production?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Knox Farmers Market

Miss Eagle is ambivalent about Farmers Markets.
Since Farmers Markets arrived on the scene in their current form in the late 90s, they have had a great impact. Farmers Markets provide an outlet direct to the public for growers and producers - particularly for those growers and producers with new products and innovative ways of doing things.
But what does that mean for better food and ethical eating? A lot of the food is still reliant on the slaughter of animals. Organic meat is still slaughtered flesh.
And if your expectation is that all food/products will be organic: 't'aint necessarily so. Some is, some isn't. But the intent is there to provide high quality food, reasonably priced (not necessarily cheaper), to the consumer in a direct relationship with the grower/producer.
This intent is probably the best thing about Farmers Markets - if, and only if, it helps both the consumer and the grower/producer to ask questions about their food/products.
Miss Eagle likes the direct involvement. One of the problems with modern food production is that consumers in general haven't a clue about how their food is produced and how it comes to their plates. Karl Marx highlighted the alienation of workers from the means of production. Modern food production highlights the alienation of consumers from the production of their sustenance.
Even at a Farmers Market the consumer still needs to be aware and questioning. Take the opportunity to have a conversation with those selling you your food. Your conversation could lead to better and healthier food for all of us.
Boronia Rotary Club organises the Knox Farmers Market at Wantirna Primary School, Melbourne. The next market is on 16 December.

The Knox Farmers Market was formerly at St Joseph's in Boronia Road. The new venue means everything is well laid out and last Saturday was a beautiful sunny and cloudless day after a week of extremely cold and unseasonal weather.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Apples, Raisins, and Rolled Oats

Miss Eagle's favourite breakfast at the moment is an Apple and Raisin Porridge cooked up in Soy Milk with, when cooked, a little sugar and some more Soy Milk. Miss Eagle doesn't get too rapt in breakfast cereals (although winter has always found her well into the Uncle Toby's Rolled Oats) - but this one is worth a comment. It is scrumptious!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Spicy Peanut & Vege Noodles

This is yummy. It is based on the recipe for Spicy Peanut Soup in Vegan Cooking for Health. The recipe is below followed by Miss Eagle's adjustments.
Ingredients - Serves 6
30ml/2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed (Miss E loves garlic - she used 5)
5ml/1 tsp mild chilli powder (Miss E isn't big on chilli. Use to taste)
2 red peppers, seeded and finely chopped. (Miss E used one large capsicum)
225g/8 oz red carrots (Miss E used one medium carrot)
225g/8 oz potatoes, peeled and cubed (Miss E used 3 kipler potatoes, unpeeled, cubed)
3 celery sticks, sliced
900ml/1 1/2 pints vegetable stock
90ml/6 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (Miss E used more than the 90ml)
115g/ 4oz cup sweetcorn (Miss E skipped this because it doesn't agree with her)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Roughly chopped unsalted roasted peanuts, to garnish. (Miss E used extra unsalted peanuts crushed - in a plastic bag - with a rolling pin in the soup itself for extra crunch)
1. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion and grlic for about three minutes. Add the chilli powder and cook for a further 1 minute.
2. Add the peppers, carrots, potatoes and celery to the pan. Stir well, then cook for a further 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in the stock, peanut butter, and sweetcorn until combined.
4. Season well. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Adjust the seasoning before serving and sprinkle with the chopped roasted peanuts, to garnish.
Miss Eagle decided that this looked so wonderful as a sauce that she added rice stick noodles to the pot and cooked until noodles were tender. This is a great and tasty comfort food.

My life: it is a'changing

Food from Oz has been silent for nearly four months. Something happened in August which has taken quite a bit of thinking about - including thinking about where Food from Oz fits. In August, Miss Eagle went to the desert. See more about it on To the Desert (linked on the sidebar). Miss Eagle was visiting a sheep station when she came across a situation which struck her, shocked her to the core of her being. Why this should have been so, Miss Eagle doesn't know. Miss Eagle has worked in a meatworks and continued to eat meat. Miss Eagle is not naive in regard to the realities of agriculture and raising animals for food. About ten years ago, she was even vegetarian for a period as a response to the inhumane inclusion of animal products in feed for herbivores. The current situation, however, struck deeper, penetrated spiritually. This was the line in the sand. Enough was enough. The word that came out of this was "Respect". Miss Eagle, when she returned home, blogged the word and it was met with another word "Ahimsa". Miss Eagle remembered this word. Miss Eagle is a scholar of religion and she knew what ahimsa meant. Again, for some strange reason, this had not connected with the original event and the emergence of the word "Respect". Now it all sunk in. It all came together. And issues of respect kept coming into her life and consciousness. Firstly, there was the elimination of all animal flesh with the exception of food from the sea. The exception was because of certain health necessities but Miss Eagle is keeping a watching brief and - if it is possible - seafood will be eliminated too. Miss Eagle has taken care for some time with the species of fish eaten and the quantities because of the stripping of our oceans and poor fishery practices. Secondly, Miss Eagle is endeavouring - with mixed success - to eliminate eggs and dairy products from the menu. Difficulties here are finding a reasonable and palatable substitute for cheese and the needs of others in Miss Eagle's life. It is early days though and Miss Eagle is reasonably hopeful of sorting out this situation. So why has Miss Eagle not edited her blog to take into account this new respect for ALL life. For two reasons: firstly, in a time when people are generally ignorant of their food - where it comes from, its history, how to prepare it - Food from Oz has tried to address this situation in a traditional manner. This general principle will continue with the provision of cooking tips and recipes. Miss Eagle is learning herself - although off an extensive base - and would welcome input of an instructive and constructive nature from others walking the same path. Secondly, it is good to remember from where once has come. That is one of the values of a blog - one can return to former thoughts and consider how much has changed on the way to the present. So, dear Reader, Miss Eagle hopes you will bear with her. It would be nice to have you on the journey too.