Map of the Food Supply Chain by County in the United States

“Food consumption and production are separated in space through flows of food along complex supply chains. These food supply chains are critical to our food security, making it important to evaluate them. However, detailed spatial information on food flows within countries is rare. The goal of this paper is to estimate food flows between all county pairs within the United States. To do this, we develop the Food Flow Model, a data-driven methodology to estimate spatially explicit food flows. The Food Flow Model integrates machine learning, network properties, production and consumption statistics, mass balance constraints, and linear programming. Specifically, we downscale empirical information on food flows between 132 Freight Analysis Framework locations (17 292 potential links) to the 3142 counties and county-equivalents of the United States (9869 022 potential links). Subnational food flow estimates can be used in future work to improve our understanding of vulnerabilities within a national food supply chain, determine critical infrastructures, and enable spatially detailed footprint assessments.”

-Xiaowen Lin, et al. “Food flows between counties in the United States.” IOP Science. July 26, 2019.

h/t Fast Company.

Food Busker’s Cult Food Stories

“There is a unique collection of dishes in the world that illicit a fervent following from their devotees. Producing almost religious veneration in their preparation and consumption, Cult Foods generate queues, make restaurants and crash Instagram. John Quilter aka Food Busker will take us on a journey to uncover the history of theses dishes. We’ll hear him speaking to friends, experts and fans to find out the whys, the wheres and the hows in an attempt to unpick the secrets to creating Cult Food. John will also attempt to make the dish himself, sharing any pitfalls, funny mistakes and successes along the way.”

Food Busker’s Cult Food Stories and RSS feed.

Eat [and Drink] Less Plastic

Drink water from your tap. Drinking water is one of the biggest contributors to microplastic ingestion, but bottled water has about double the microplastic level of tap water, according to Mason, making it a poor choice for those who want to consume less plastic. Some bottled waters have also been found to have high levels of PFAS chemicals. Mason says that unless you know your tap water is unsafe, you should opt for that over anything in a plastic bottle.”

-Kevin Lorea, “How to Eat Less Plastic.” Consumer Reports. August 13, 2019.
  • Drink water from your tap.
  • Don’t heat food in plastic.
  • Avoid plastic food containers.
  • Eat more fresh food.
  • Minimize household dust.
  • Reducing plastic pollution is going to require government intervention.

Open question: Does microplastic pollution and its effects on hormones and reducing fertility an existentional threat to the human species?

How to Turn Our Garden’s Bounty Into Community

“As someone who finds it hard—so so so hard—to ask for help, because it makes me feel vulnerable, weak, and in debt, which in turn has historically led to being abused, bartering is a safe exchange. Bartering equalizes exchange. There is no counting the change, because there is no change to give. Bartering involves consent; the exchange of two items must be deemed acceptable by agreement between two traders. You need. I have. You have, I need. You want. I want. We both want…

…Money disguises dependency. Money makes a rich person feel like they have all the power. That they don’t have to depend on anyone, for anything. What do we do in the face of this power? What can we do, other than protect ourselves from each other?

—Christine H. Lee, “How to Turn Our Garden’s Bounty Into Community.” Catapult Magazine. March 5, 2019.

Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes and the Fight For Real Cheese

“In the UK, over the course of the 20th century, we managed almost completely to destroy the institutions and infrastructures of expertise. So, a lot of my job is just looking for answers to questions. Factory cheese is very different from farm cheese, and the main question we are trying to address is: How do we rediscover or re-create a working knowledge of the mechanics of farmhouse cheesemaking? Even just a decade ago, there was a virtual consensus that cheesemaking was simply what you did to milk, this very standardized raw material that was transformed by the magic that occurs in the cheesemaking vat. What distinguished farm cheese was only that it was made on a smaller scale, by hand. Today, we’ve totally broken away from that viewpoint. Our view has become a lot broader. We still need to understand the make: How can we coax the full potential out of the milk, and allow it to express itself fully rather than covering it up by insensitive methods? But—and this is the part we’d barely imagined—how do you produce milk that actually has something interesting to say? Fresh milk tastes milky, but making cheese has the capacity to reveal its latent characteristics. Without any lab equipment, it’s possible to make something that explores the good milk’s latent chemical and microbiological potential. That potential is determined by the way the milk is produced.

—Bronwen and Francis Percival. “Obsessed: The Fight for Real Cheese.” SeriousEats.com. September 2017.