Warm Water May Spell the End of New England’s Iconic Cod

New England's stocks of cod—the fish that fed colonists and launched the United States' first industries—have collapsed almost past the point of recovery, despite aggressive catch restrictions that should have allowed them to rebound.

On Thursday, scientists speaking at a conservation event in Washington, D.C. disclosed why: The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99.9 percent of the rest of the oceans. It is happening so quickly that it has harmed cod's ability to replace its numbers even though fishing had almost ceased.

"In warm years, each female cod produces fewer one-year old fish, and that these young fish are less likely to reach adulthood," Andrew Pershing, ...

To Grow More Crops, Cultivate the Birds and Bees

There's a point of view about raising crops that you hear a lot: if we're going to feed the nine billion people who are expected to be inhabiting this planet in the year 2050, we will need to expand and intensify the farming we do now. That means producing at least twice as much food, at a time when the yields of major food crops are falling.

And doubling down on production is a problem, because there is not much land left. Most of what could be cultivated to grow food is already being worked; more than a third of the world's ice-free surface is devoted to crops. Finding new spaces to ...

California Gets Tough on Widespread Use of Antibiotics in Livestock

California is about to become the first place in the United States to put tough legal restrictions on the ways farmers can give antibiotics to livestock, going far beyond what new federal rules allow.

The controls come courtesy of a law that has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, which he will sign by Sunday. Bill 27 (prosaically titled, "Livestock: use of antimicrobial drugs") represents the only legislation ever enacted in the U.S. that puts enforceable limits on antibiotic use, gives a state agency oversight of how farmers use the drugs, and prescribes fines if they go beyond what is allowed. (Update: Brown signed the bill one day after this was published, Saturday, Oct. 10.)

That's ...

Peanut Poison Case Warns Food Companies to Take Salmonella Seriously

The owner of a peanut processing corporation that knowingly shipped deadly contaminated products was handed 28 years in prison Monday evening, an unprecedented sentence—the harshest by far in any food safety case. And it could cause food companies to think twice before putting profit over risks to human health.

In Albany, Georgia, U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands told Stewart Parnell, former owner of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), that his actions—which resulted in the deaths of nine people from Salmonella and the illness of at least 714 and possibly many more—"were driven simply by the desire to profit." Sands also sentenced Parnell's brother, Michael Parnell, to 20 years ...

Our Swine, Ourselves: ‘Pig Tales’ About How We Treat ‘Lesser Beasts’

The relationship between pigs and people is one of the longest ones in our human history: as longstanding as our relationship with dogs or horses, or even wheat or barley. Pigs are smart—but they are also delicious. What we do to pigs, in the name of producing their delicious protein as abundantly and cheaply as possible, challenges us as a culture that loves animals, but also loves to eat them.

Two books published this year explore where pigs came from, how they ended up in modern intensive agriculture, and whether there might be hope for change. Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig (Basic Books), by historian ...

Contrary to Popular Belief, the Modern Pig Has Many Parents

How did the pig we know and love get to be a pig?

The standard story, beginning with Charles Darwin and filled out with the evidence from bones in archaeological digs, is that humans domesticated the smart, tasty pigs we eat now from the tough, toothy wild boars that lurked in forests. That would have happened about 9,000 years ago, as part of humans' transition from living in mobile hunter-gatherer groups to settling into villages to farm.

But the availability of molecular tools that can pry into the DNA of organisms is causing a long-accepted history to be re-examined. In a new paper published in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers from four countries ...

Georgia Chef Takes Food From Farm to Plane and Beyond

Linton Hopkins—restauranteur, entrepreneur, much-lauded chef—is sitting at a quiet back table in his flagship Atlanta restaurant, eyeing a salad. And fretting.

The salad is small, chunky and colorful: cubes of cucumber and tomato, crisp shards of olive bread, a swath of aioli underneath, a drizzle of dark vinegar and grass-green olive oil. It is a modern take on a panzanella, an Italian peasant dish that uses the juices of ripe summer tomatoes to revive stale bread.

If he were making it in his restaurant kitchen and serving it to his restaurant customers, Hopkins could control the dish exactly, prepping the panzanella just far enough ahead to deliver it at the ...

A Craft Booze Boom Begins in Minnesota

I wasn't expecting cocktails when I climbed out of my car on an industrial side street on the Northeast side of Minneapolis. I wasn't, in fact, thinking about drinking at all: I was on my way to my favorite knife shop, and booze and sharp edges don't mix. But as I glanced across the street to check for traffic, an unfamiliar scent drifted past me. It wasn't truck exhaust or road tar, the normal smells for that part of town. It was yeasty and sweet, with an undertone of burnt sugar and a top note of evergreens and lemon. I swiveled, wondering what the source might be, and ...

Chicken Farmers Make the Leap From Factory to Pasture

It's never too late to change something that's not working for you. That's what farmer Teresa Herman has learned.

Herman's grandparents raised chickens. So did her husband's. So did their parents, and just about everyone else they knew in their tiny town of Taylorsville, North Carolina and in rural Alexander* County surrounding them. When she and her husband began farming themselves, in 1996, it was natural for them to turn to chickens too. They built some "houses"—long windowless barns that can hold 30,000 birds at a time—and signed on to the contract-farming system that everyone they knew lived under. Under the rules, laid down in the 1930s, they would own ...

Sardines, Both Beloved and Reviled, May Be Vanishing

About once a month, for family reasons, I go to Maine. The family is deep in central Maine, in a tiny town with no market, bar or restaurant—so to prep for the trip up-country, I try to fly in and out of Portland, which has a killer distillery, a vast amount of craft beer, and great restaurants.

A few weeks ago, I stopped for dinner at Boone's Fish House and Oyster Room, a 100-year-old waterfront property that was left derelict in the 2000s and revived two years ago. Listed among the appetizers, there was a dish that instantly obsessed me:

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