Walmart Chooses Words Carefully on Animal Welfare

The press release about Walmart's new animal welfare and antibiotic positions landed in my inbox last week. I care a lot about those things, so I clicked through: “As part of its animal welfare position statement, Walmart will not tolerate animal abuse, supports the globally recognized “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare, and is committed to working with supply chain partners to implement practices consistent with the Five Freedoms.”

Given that conventionally-raised livestock has precious little in the way of freedoms, I thought five would be a big improvement, and these particular five are important. They’re the guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals, developed by the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Committee:

  • Freedom from hunger and ...

What Global Trade Deals Mean for Your Dinner

If you don’t have a specialty butcher yet, make friends with one quick, because soon grocery stores may not offer as much information about where their meat comes from. I recommend second-generation butcher Pam Ginsberg, mine for 15 years, at Wagshal's in Washington, D.C.—but more on her in a minute.

First, the big picture: Last week the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against the parts of America’s 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills (a big pack of food and agriculture laws that gets revised every five years or so) requiring Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on all meat and produce sold in America. That means those mandatory signs around U.S. grocery stores allowing ...

Ethical Eating: The Plants (and Animals) Are Watching Us

Are some things too smart to eat?

Maybe. Most of us aren’t comfortable at the thought of chowing down on such bright sparks as dolphins, chimpanzees, kangaroos, or border collies. Then there are pigs, which researchers point out are inquisitive, attentive, social, and (relatively) sharp as tacks. And what about the octopus, which can outwit mazes, solve puzzles, and open the caps on child-proof pill bottles, a skill that eludes a lot of otherwise competent human adults?

But there's also a whole other realm to consider: the plant kingdom. Are plants just so dim-witted that vegetarians are off the ethical hook?

Not so fast. Plants, it turns out, are smarter than they look.

Botanist ...

Turning Waste Into Wallets, One Salmon Skin at a Time

Unless you live under a rock, you know food waste is a big global problem. We throw out about 40 percent of what we grow or harvest in the U.S. France is now requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity, dumpster diving has become a sport, and American chef Dan Barber is showing us what top chefs can do with food waste with his project, WastED.

But one area has been largely left out of the popular movement: the oceans.

When fishing boats go out on the ocean, they don't come back with the pristine little fillets we buy at the grocery store. There are heads, tails, spines, scales, skin, and other nasty ...

New Hope for Weight Loss May Grow on a Chinese Vine

Thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii), a deciduous and largely poisonous climbing vine native to China, Taiwan, and Myanmar, may hold the secret to getting skinny, at least in mice.

study published this past week in the journal Cell found that a compound called Celastrol, extracted from thunder god vine root, caused obese mice to spontaneously and voluntarily go on a diet. Celastrol-treated obese mice ate 80 percent less food than the control (non-treated) mice, and after three weeks of Celastrol treatment, the formerly fat mice had become positively svelte, shedding on average 45 percent of their body weight. The icing on the cake: Celastrol also decreased mouse cholesterol ...

Shepherd of Social Media Sheds His Secret Identity

In January 2012, a distinctive new voice and eye joined the cacophonous chorus on Twitter. The account was called HerdyShepherd1, where “Herdy” stood for Herdwicks, a tough, rare breed of sheep raised for millennia in the mountains of England’s Lake District. The pseudonymous shepherd behind the account deployed a smartphone camera and an acerbic, thoughtful voice to give followers a glimpse of the harsh beauty and hard work that make up a way of life unchanged for thousands of years.

Fast forward three years, and HerdyShepherd reveals his real identity: 40-year-old James Rebanks, whose family have been farming in Cumbria, the last province on England’s west side before you get ...

Your Shot: Getting Our Global Grill On

Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer in the United States, and marks the time many of us finally fire up the grill. But there’s so much more we can throw on there than just hot dogs and hamburgers. From pigs heads in Mexico, to octopus in Greece, to bananas and sweet potatoes in Laos, check out our gallery, a visual tribute to the global grill.

10 Takeaways From the Dietary Guidelines Summit

Get a room of food scientists, dieticians, and politicians together to discuss 571-page eating rules for a few hours, and you can be sure there will be a lot of opinions.

Today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans Summit was held at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C. headquarters in conjunction with The Ohio State University. It was an opportunity to debate the proposed guidelines the government will use to form policy and educate the public for the next five years. The guidelines will influence everything about food, from school lunch to prison meals to food stamp benefits to the pamphlets your doctor gives you about how to lose 15 ...

Why Your Bloody Mary Tastes Better on a Plane

Who among us has never complained about airplane food?

Today’s in-flight offerings tend to be so common, so bland, so offensively inoffensive. The gluey chicken or the dense pasta? If the plastic tray offerings weren’t so good at breaking the monotony on an hours-long flight, the answer for most people, on the ground at least, would be "no thanks." Unless, oddly, it involves tomatoes. More on that in a minute.

But airline food has a deeper story. There’s a reason every item served on board, from ginger ale to a dinner roll, was chosen to fly. Each one tells a story about the history of flight and of human taste.

Take ...

Bug Off: Why Insect Eating Is More Gimmick Than Reality

Bugs are the hottest new trend in food!

Sound familiar? It should. Almost two years ago, in the wake of a FAO report on edible insects, National Geographic, along with everyone else, was writing about how bugs could save us all. Even before that, in 2010, Dutch entomologist Marcel Dicke gave a famous TED Talk and co-wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal advocating for entomophagy (a fancy word for bug eating).

Look around.  Is everyone eating fried mealworms?

I didn’t think so.

I’m a bit conflicted about insect consumption. I will freely admit to being a little squeamish about anything worm-shaped and wriggly. But crickets? Specifically the enormous, invasive camel ...

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