James Mcwilliams's Blog

April 13, 2011 (All day)
A case for why free-range animal agriculture resembles nature only as much as pornography resembles real sex.

It's the strangest thing. Whenever I'm on a panel discussing meat production I seem to be strategically pitted against someone who produces meat through sustainable and more humane ("free range") methods. What's so strange is the response I get when I bring up the following conundrum: even if an animal is raised under favorable conditions, we still kill the creature for our benefit and, in so doing, confront a serious ethical dilemma...
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March 1, 2011 (All day)
B. R. Myers's much-discussed condemnation of foodies and the writers who enable them is, in many ways, a masterpiece of invective. Globe-trotting gourmets, sanctimonious Slow Foodsters, and gonzo adventure eaters all come in for their share of Myers's signature drubbing. Critics of the piece have chided him for cherry-picking examples in order to caricature the food movement. This seems like a fair enough assessment. But the point of a polemic isn't to be balanced. It's to provoke thoughts, spark discussion, and, in some cases, even strengthen the movement it's criticizing. It's in this spirit—the spirit of continuing a dialogue—that I leap into this scrum.

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February 16, 2011 - 2:24pm

The USDA's recent decision to (re)deregulate genetically modified (GM) alfalfa has sent a shock wave of panic through the organic foods industry. Samuel Fromartz explained to Food Channel readers how "the move has been opposed by organic farmers and consumers because of the strong possibility that genetically modified alfalfa will cross-pollinate non-GM alfalfa." In essence, organic growers (who produce between .5 and 1 percent of the nation's alfalfa) could have their product contaminated by gene flow from genetically modified seed and, as a result, have their hard-earned organic designation undermined. Of course, this seems terribly unfair. 

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November 22, 2010 - 12:19pm

On November 7, The New York Times ran a front-page story by Michael Moss exposing what appears to be yet another sinister example of bureaucratic hypocrisy in the tainted world of food regulation. The USDA, according to Moss, has assumed the contradictory role of warning Americans against a high-fat diet while, at the same time, promoting the consumption of heart-clogging cheese products. Worse, as Moss implies, American taxpayers are the ones funding this corporate-friendly doublespeak.

Michael Moss is an ace reporter. His work on the meat industry for the Times has been unmatched. I'm a fan. In the case of this cheese story, though, Moss obscured an important point, one that dampens the outrage you might have felt if you'd received Michael Pollan's tweet that "our...

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