Can We Afford to Pay U.S. Farmworkers More?

Giving the 3.5 million workers picking produce on American farms a raise to match the $15 an hour many fast food workers are fighting for sounds unaffordable, right?

Not really. According to University of California-Davis agricultural labor economist Philip Martin, the likely additional cost to American shoppers of that wage hike would be about $20 a year.

“Farmers don’t get much of the retail dollar, and then of course farmers don’t give everything they get to workers,” Martin says. “So it’s fractions times fractions, and you get down to a relatively small share for farmworker wages in retail food cost.” And Martin says that means that ...

The Global Cooking Class That Promotes Diplomacy

When Razi Jafri, an Indian-American from Detroit, saw a Facebook post about a cooking class with an Iranian chef, he knew he wanted in on it. “I love cooking for people and I love looking at different types of cuisine,” he said. Plus, said Jafri, a fellow with micro lender Kiva, he was fascinated by Persian food and diplomacy; he’d followed the Iran nuclear deal closely. This would be perfect.

The catch? It required an application, and if Jafri made the cut, there would be no trip to a formal kitchen. Instead, he’d share a lesson over a Google Hangout with eight or nine others.

The unusual set-up is ...

6 Ancient Cooking Tools Sri Lankans Can’t Do Without

Every day, Swarna de Mel is up at 5 a.m., pulling tropical herbs from her garden, harvesting dinosaur-egg-sized jackfruit, and cracking coconuts with a hatchet in preparation for curries, spicy sambols, and mallum salads. You’d expect her home to be filled with the smells of exotic spices—cumin, cardamom, chilies, and loads of black pepper tickling the nose. But the scent is neutral, the kitchen is quiet, and de Mel is nowhere to be found. And then the dishes suddenly appear.

That’s because she’s been cooking outside, not far from her jungle of a garden. Many Sri Lankan families have two kitchens: the “rough” kitchen outside, and the pantry, or ...

Yum or Yuck? How Spinach Has Divided Us

Among America's most under-appreciated holidays is March 26—officially, National Spinach Day.

Spinach is not a vegetable that most of us would expect to have a celebratory day. After all, generations of kids have turned up their noses at it. In a famous New Yorker cartoon of 1928, a mother tells her curly-haired tot, “It’s broccoli, dear,” to which the kid replies, “I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.” You go, kid.

Historically, spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is Persian. It probably originated in Iran, where it was known as isfanakh, which means “green hand,” and was prized as a kitchen herb. From there it traveled east to China, where ...

A Bowl Full of Jelly Bean History

No Easter basket is complete without a sprinkling of jelly beans—though, to be fair, these chewy little tidbits aren’t America’s top pick in Easter-basket candy. Number one is the chocolate bunny, of which 90 million are produced every year; and number two is the appalling, but popular, marshmallow Peep, now available in the form of chicks, rabbits, and eggs. The jelly bean trails behind in third place, but it’s still a pretty hefty third. Collectively, every Easter, we munch up 16 billion of them.

Jelly beans have been a year-round treat for well over a century—though no one knows just exactly when they first arrived on the American candy ...

The Next Step in Animal Welfare? Breed a Better Chicken

A little-noticed program that was announced last week by the Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit that works with farmers and retailers to improve animal welfare, asks chicken farmers to change the breeds of the birds they are raising to a more hardy, slower-growing breed. And it may just have the potential to remake the market for chicken in the United States.

If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this: About a decade ago, the same group persuaded one retailer to buy only cage-free eggs, at a time when keeping laying hens in ranks of small, stacked cages was the only way of doing business. Today, 10 states and 35 major food ...

Another Nation Trims Meat From Diet Advice

Nutrition advisers in the Netherlands took a progressive step this week, one that will likely further stoke conversations about the relationship between a healthy diet and a healthy planet. And their sights are set squarely on meat.

The Netherlands Nutrition Centre says  it is recommending people eat just two servings of meat a week, setting an explicit limit on meat consumption for the first time. The recommendations come five years after a government panel weighed the ecological impact of the average Dutch person’s diet, concluding last year that eating less meat is better for human and environmental health.

The Nutrition Centre, a government-funded program responsible for making food-based dietary guidelines, took those conclusions and presented them ...

Scientists Say Go Wild to Preserve Crops for the Future

With apologies to Matt Damon’s character in The Martian, when it comes to feeding a hungry, hotter planet, the Idaho potato alone isn’t going to cut it.

Unfortunately, many of the staple foods that humanity relies on are at risk from climate change. So plant scientists are increasingly looking to genes from wild relatives of domesticated crops for traits than can help our familiar potatoes, bananas, and rice adapt.

The problem is, we’re missing about 70 percent of the genetic material we need, according to a study released this week by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

“If we want to have at our disposal all the possible options for improving these ...

The Truth About Fake Sugar Is Complicated

Will Splenda give you cancer?

The short answer: probably not. A new study found an increase in certain kinds of cancers in male mice given large doses of sucralose, the sweetener in Splenda, a popular sugar substitute. The lowest dose in the study the equivalent of a 150-pound human eating 350 little yellow packets every day. That’s about 12 times the FDA's maximum recommended intake.  And it’s one study, contradicted by the research that came before.

But the long answer is a case study in what’s wrong with nutrition research, and why simple answers to burning questions are so elusive.

Up until last month, there were over 100 studies conducted on the safety ...

The Simple, Edible Pleasures of Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Travel down the rural backroads of Ohio, Indiana, or Pennsylvania, and you're likely to pass a horse-drawn buggy or see a team of horses pulling a plow through a field. Both are sure signs that you're in Pennsylvania Dutch country, also frequently referred to as Amish country.

But first, let's clear up some misconceptions about the people who live there: Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, and Mennonite aren't interchangeable terms. "Pennsylvania Dutch" refers to the descendants of German-speaking settlers from Europe who settled in the U.S., mainly in the 18th century. While that includes many Amish people, not all Pennsylvania Dutch are Amish. Some are Mennonite, Brethren, Lutheran, or adherents of ...

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