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Posts tagged ‘farming’

Mind Your Own

My parents moved house last week. They weren’t, though, the only inhabitants of their property to relocate. During their final few days of packing, a swarm of bees took up residence in my sister’s old tree house. Unfortunately for the bees, there was no way that they could safely establish a hive there, so my mother called Gerald the Bee Man, who put her in touch with a couple of local beekeepers. They lulled the bees into submission with smoke, and then coaxed them into a new hive over the course of two days. The queen and her underlings will spend the rest of their lives pollinating fruit trees, far away from the temptations of suburban tree houses.

Deciding to remove, rather than exterminate, errant bee colonies has implications beyond the ethics of killing animals and insects. Bees exist not only to make a cheerful buzzing in our gardens and to provide us with honey. Einstein remarked, famously: ‘if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live.’ Although this is something of an exaggeration, I can understand his terror at the thought of the disappearance of bees, both culturally and ecologically.

Bees are invoked, frequently, as metaphors for our societies – the way we live, the way we organise ourselves – and for how we should be. One of the most striking features of researching the Victorian period is the number of references to bees and beehives. During a debate on a new Bees Regulation Bill in the Cape Colony’s House of Assembly in July 1894, one MP objected to the legislation which, he believed, would limit beekeeping in the Cape on the grounds that bees provided the poor with an example of hard work and co-operation:

Yesterday they were treated to various dissertations on the abject misery of the poor white population, and yet they were now asked to consent to the second reading of a measure which would deprive the poor white population of the country of one of the most useful object lessons they could possibly be afforded them.

Describing colonial society as a beehive, Henry de Smidt, the Director of the Census in the Cape, argued for the inclusion of ‘idle’ children in the Census because they formed ‘an integral portion of the human hive, drones though they might be.’

Both men echoed Isaac Watts’s tremendously popular poem ‘Against Idleness and Mischief’:

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.

In Works of Labour or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.

In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.

(I prefer Lewis Carroll’s version, ‘How doth the little crocodile?’)

For the Victorians, the appeal of the beehive lay in its tightly organised and maintained social structure, its strict hierarchies, and its efficient productivity. It was at once a metaphor for a harmonious society and a well-run factory.

Bees are also useful for describing our often fraught relationship with nature: I think of the periodic, National Enquirer-esque hysteria around killer African bees invading the United States. I wonder if the horror of Roald Dahl’s story ‘Royal Jelly,’ where a beekeeper accidentally turns both himself and his baby daughter into bees, was reflective of wider anxieties about the implications of human tampering with nature during the early 1980s.

The decline of bees says as much about us, as it does about bees. But other than providing a series of handy, mutable metaphors, bees and, indeed, other pollinators both wild and farmed, are absolutely essential to our food chain. Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum explain:

honeybees are vital for the pollination of around 90 crops worldwide. In addition to almonds, most fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are dependent on honeybees. Crops that are used as cattle and pig feed also rely on honeybee pollination, as does the cotton plant. So if all the honeybees disappeared, we would have to switch our diet to cereals and grain, and give our wardrobes a drastic makeover.

The disappearance of the world’s bees has significant implications for our food security. Ensuring that we have enough to eat is linked to health of our pollinators.

The decline in European bee populations began in the 1960s, but since the late 1990s, this has both accelerated and spread around the globe. Between 1985 and 2005, managed honeybee populations declined by 20 per cent across Europe, and 54% in England. In the United States, four of the main bumblebee populations have diminished by up to 96%. In Britain, three of the region’s 25 bumblebee species are now extinct, and half of the remainder have declined significantly, some by as much as 70% since the 1970s.

A paper published last month in Science

showed more than half the wild bee species were lost in the 20th century in the US. It made use of a remarkable record made of plants and pollinators at Carlinville, Illinois between 1888 and 1891 by entomologist Charles Robertson. Scientists combined that with data from 1971-72 and new data from 2009-10 to discover the changes in pollination seen over the century as widespread forest was reduced to the fragments that remain today.

They found that half of the 109 bee species recorded by Robertson had been lost and there had been a serious degradation of the pollination provided by the remaining wild insects, with their ability to pollinate specific plants falling by more than half. There was an increasing mismatch between when plants flowered and when bees were active, a finding consistent with climate change, according to the researchers.

So it’s not just various species of honeybee which are dying, but bumblebees and wild bees too. So why are they disappearing?

Bees on a wall in Woodstock, Cape Town

Bees on a wall in Woodstock, Cape Town

Scientists all over the world are still trying to answer this question. Initially, the dramatic decline in bee populations from around 2005 were ascribed to a mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder – also called Marie Celeste Syndrome – where whole, apparently healthy, beehives seemed to die overnight. In 2007, a third of beehives in the US were wiped out in this manner. In the same year, ten million bees were reported to have died in just a fortnight in Taiwan. In the winter of 2007/2008, a fifth of British beehives disappeared too.

It’s unlikely that there is a single cause for CCD. A combination of factors arising from climate change, depleted habitats, decreasing biodiversity, and widespread pesticide use, have placed ever more stress on the world’s bee populations. Last year, the varroa mite was linked to the global decline in bee numbers:

Varroa destructor has spread from Asia across the entire world over the past 50 years. It arrived in the UK in 1990 and has been implicated in the halving of bee numbers since then, alongside other factors including the destruction of flowery habitats in which bees feed and the widespread use of pesticides on crops. Bees and other pollinators are vital in the production in up to a third of all the food we eat, but the role the mites played was unclear, as bacteria and fungi are also found in colonies along with the viruses.

But the mite’s arrival in Hawaii in 2007 gave scientists a unique opportunity to track its deadly spread. ‘We were able to watch the emergence of the disease for the first time ever,’ said Stephen Martin, at the University of Sheffield, who led the new research published in the journal Science. Within a year of varroa arrival, 274 of 419 colonies on Oahu island (65%) were wiped out, with the mites going on to wreak destruction across Big Island the following year.

The European Union has proposed a partial, two-year ban on the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops to limit the decline of European bee populations:

Scientific evidence has mounted rapidly since March 2012, when two high-profile studies found that bees consuming neonicotinoids suffered an 85% loss in the number of queens their nests produced and showed a doubling in ‘disappeared’ bees who got lost while foraging. Neonicotinoids have been fiercely defended by their manufacturers, who claim there is no proof of harm in field conditions and by farming lobbies who say crop yields could fall without pesticide protection. Some neonicotinoid uses have been banned in the past in France, Italy, Slovenia and Germany, but no action has yet been taken in the UK.

The removal of the hive from my parents’ garden made me wonder to what extent CCD has affected South African bee populations. And the answer – I think – is that local bee numbers appear not to have declined as dramatically as those abroad. I’d like to qualify this statement heavily: this is the conclusion I’ve drawn after a morning’s worth of fairly thorough research. I’m not a melittologist (obviously) and I may well have missed a few vital and obvious studies.

Bees are certainly under threat in South Africa. As the South African Bee Industry Organisation notes, habitat loss and the arrival of foreign parasites have taken their toll on bee populations.

Also since 1990 a problem has emerged caused by the movement within South Africa of colonies of the endemic Cape honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis) to regions outside its natural distribution. The interaction between these Cape honeybees and colonies of the other honeybee species in South Africa proved to be disastrous. The so-called Capensis Problem caused extensive damage in the beekeeping industry in South Africa.

Interestingly, though, South Africa’s bees seem to be more resilient to the threat posed by the varroa mite. The mite was first identified in the Western Cape in 1997, having probably entered the country in contaminated hives offloaded at Cape Town harbour. It then spread around the country, even infecting wild bee populations. But only a small minority of bee colonies have collapsed so far.

Why? Well, local bee species may have developed ways of repelling or resisting the mite. Also, South African bees, although under increasing stress, don’t have to contend with the same range of threats as do those abroad. A 2009 survey of the density of bee populations all over the world concluded that ‘Genetic diversity and colony densities were highest in South Africa and lowest in Northern Europe’. The authors of the study suggest that these differences correlate with climate – bees in more temperate regions tend to be healthier than those that are not – but also with the fact that South African bees are able to roam across far bigger wild habitats:

African subspecies disperse via long-distance migratory swarms, leave the nest in response to disturbance or disease (absconding) more readily, and have a faster generation time and smaller colonies than European honeybees. These traits promote population gene flow and high genetic diversity, boosting effective population sizes in Africa.

Agriculture, with its pesticides and low biodiversity, seems, then, to have an impact on the health of European bee populations.

We’re already beginning to feel the impact of the decline in bee populations:

The most dramatic example comes from the apple and pear orchards of south west China, where wild bees have been eradicated by excessive pesticide use and a lack of natural habitat.

In recent years, farmers have been forced to hand-pollinate their trees, carrying pots of pollen and paintbrushes with which to individually pollinate every flower, and using their children to climb up to the highest blossoms. This is clearly just possible for this high-value crop, but there are not enough humans in the world to pollinate all of our crops by hand.

Looking at the comparative good health of South African bees suggests ways in which the global bee population could be increased. Limiting the use of pesticides, increasing habitat for bees by planting wild flowers and leaving areas of uncultivated vegetation on farms, and finding ways of preventing the spread of parasites, will all assist in encouraging healthier bee colonies. All over the world, campaigns and organisations have emerged to lobby for the protection of bees, and the coolness of urban beekeeping is linked, I’m sure, to wider concerns about declining biodiversity.

A world without bees, is a world which will struggle to feed itself.

Further reading

Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum, A World without Bees (London: Guardian Books, 2008).

Creative Commons License
Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Food Links, 14.11.2012

The political implications of food shortages.

Cargill’s profits are up 300%.

It’s time to rethink our food system.

Can only organic farming feed the world?

Can Britain farm itself?

Global wheat and maize stocks are set to fall next year.

War rations.

Rising food prices are changing shopping habits.

How not to feed the world.

Mark Bittman’s dream food label.

On healthy school meals: rejected by pupils, and far too good. (Thanks Lindie and Lize-Marie!)

Sustainable food in hospitals.

There’s a shortage of yams in Lagos.

Literature and carbohydrates.

The most astonishing interview with Christopher Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated.

The long history of chicken soup.

Favourite meals of famous writers.

AA Gill is magnificent on the Michelin guide. (Thanks, Jane-Anne!)

Five steps to teetotalitariansim.

A cultural history of the whisk.

How good are Heston Blumenthal’s ready meals?

Flying frozen chicken.

What to eat on the frozen tundra.

Sylvia Plath’s recipe for tomato soup cake.

How to cope with the bacon shortage.

Where to find truffles in England.

On tipping.

Bizarre new flavours for Pringles.

Japanese chewing gum wrappers.

The legend of the potato king.

Jean-Christophe Novelli goes after Nigella Lawson.

It’s time for the spaghetti harvest.

These are courtesy of my Mum:

Outrage about the exclusion of pizzerias in Naples from Italy’s most influential food guide.

General Tso’s chicken by Fuchsia Dunlop.

Food Links, 21.03.2012

How food aid for Somalia disappeared.

Around 70% of the antibiotics used in the US are on animals, not humans.

A Marmite shortage in New Zealand.

Hamburger wrapping paper.

The Greek potato movement.

Science + Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter, a series of lectures from the Harvard School of Engineering and Science, is now available on the iTunes U app.

The return of Britain’s forgotten foods. (Thanks, Simon!)

Everything you need to know about coffee in three minutes.

The Way We Ate.

Low carbon cuisine.

The Bike-a-Bee.

Eating penguins in Antarctica.

Could football fans go vegetarian?

The periodic table of meat.

Can bagels save Detroit?

The craze for Downton Abbey-themed dinner parties.

Edward Hirsch on cotton candy.

International cheese consumption. (Thanks Sarang!)

Cooking from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband (with Bettina’s Best Recipes), published in 1917.

The complex world of soy products.

Paula Deen announces that she’s also the spokeswoman for a…Diabetes drug. Funny, that.

A useful guide to the shelf life of a variety of foods. (Thanks Mum!)

A vegetable orchestra.

Some fantastic posters on food produced by the American government during the Second World War.

Book plates: crockery inspired by favourite novels.

Very useful: on powdered and leaf gelatine.

Eight TED talks on food policy.

Delhi’s restaurant revolution.

The mac-and-cheese-o-matic.

The taste of sound.

Pasties of the world.

The politics of koeksisters.

A guide to Ethiopian cuisine.

Brave New Food

The TV series which I most want to watch at the moment is Portlandia. Set in Portland, Oregon, it satirises and celebrates the city which originated the ur-hipster. It includes a scene in a restaurant – which I’ve watched only on youtube, alas – in which a couple questions their waitress about the provenance of the chicken on the menu. Assured that it’s free range, local, and organic – partly because their waitress provides them with its papers and name – they leave the restaurant to have a look at it:

This is hilarious because it so closely mimics reality: the menus which list the provenance of all the produce used in the restaurant; the farmers’ market stalls with photographs of happy animals pre-slaughter; the recipes which insist upon free-range, organic ingredients.

I laugh, but I’m as implicated in this hyper-sensitivity about where my food comes from, and how it was treated before it arrived on my plate. I don’t want to eat animals that suffered so that I can continue being an omnivore. I eat relatively little meat and am prepared to pay for free-range chicken, pork, and beef. (I’m not terribly fussed about it being ‘organic’ – whatever we may mean by that.)

It is a scandal how animals are treated in factory farms, and increasing demand for red meat is environmentally unsustainable. So how should we eat meat, without causing harm? If vegetarianism is as implicated in the meat economy – veal is a by-product of the dairy industry, for example – and veganism seems far too difficult, then one way out of this impasse is to consider synthetic alternatives.

I’ve been amused by the overwhelming response to reports about the apparent viability of lab-grown meat. ‘Eeew’ and ‘yuk’ seem to sum up how people feel about it. But lab-grown meat is only the most recent panacea to the world’s crisis produced by scientists – and our views on it say a great deal about our changing feelings about the relationship between food and technology.

The meat in question is being grown by Dr Mark Post at Maastricht University. He’s being funded by an anonymous donor who’s concerned about the greenhouse gas emissions produced by cattle farming. Using stem cells from cows, Post’s team have grown sheets of muscle between pieces of Velcro, which are shocked with an electric current to develop their texture and density:

Post said he could theoretically increase the number of burgers made from a single cow from 100 to 100m. ‘That means we could reduce the number of livestock we use by 1m,’ he said.

Meat grown in the laboratory could have several advantages, because its manufacture is controlled at each step. The tissue could be grown to produce high levels of healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, or to have a particular texture.

He believes it will be a relatively simple matter to scale up the operation, since most of the technical obstacles have already been overcome. ‘I’d estimate that we could see mass production in another 10 to 20 years,’ he said.

Post hopes to produce a burger by October.

When I read the earliest reports about Post’s work, I thought immediately of a scene in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, where the protagonist visits a lab which grows chicken breasts out of stem cells. This is a dystopian novel which plays on our suspicion of food grown in laboratories. It seems strange, now, for us to consider synthetic, artificial, man-made food to be superior to all that is ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ and ‘authentic’. But this is a relatively new way of thinking about food.

During the 1950s, a decade when science seemed to offer the possibility of a cleaner, healthier, and better organised world, there was a brief, but intense enthusiasm for Chlorella pyrenoidosa, a high-protein algae which grew rapidly and abundantly and was fed by sunlight and carbon dioxide.

The post-war baby boom gave rise to anxieties in the 1950s that the world would be unable to feed its growing population. Of course, we now know that innovations in agriculture during this period – including the wholesale mechanisation of farming, the increased use of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, and breeding high-yielding livestock – and the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s produced the crops and farming methods which, at enormous environmental cost, still feed seven billion of us. But at the time, politicians worried that hungry nations would create a politically unstable world.

Algae looked like a sensible solution to the problem. Easy and cheap to grow, and apparently highly nutritious, this seemed to be the Brave New World of food production. Warren Belasco writes:

The alluring news came from pilot projects sponsored by the Carnegie Institution and conducted by the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park and by Arthur D. Little, Inc. in Cambridge. Initial results suggested that chlorella algae was an astounding photosynthetic superstar. When grown in optimal conditions – sunny, warm, shallow ponds fed by simple carbon dioxide – chlorella converted upwards of 20 per cent of solar energy…into a plant containing 50 per cent protein when dried. Unlike most plants, chlorella’s protein was ‘complete’, for it had the ten amino acids then considered essential, and it was also packed with calories, fat, and vitamins.

In today’s terms, chlorella was a superfood. Scientists fell over themselves in excitement: Scientific American and Science reported on it in glowing terms; the Rockefeller Foundation funded research into it; and some calculated that a plantation the size of Rhode Island was would be able to supply half the world’s daily protein requirements.

In the context of a mid-century enthusiasm for all that was efficient, systematic, and man-made, algae’s appeal was immediate: it was entirely usable and produced little or no waste; its farming was not dependent on variable weather and rainfall; it was clean and could be transformed into something that was optimally nutritious.

So why didn’t I have a chlorella burrito for supper?

Unfortunately, chlorella didn’t live up to the hype. Not only did the production of grains and soybeans increase exponentially during the 1950s, meaning that farmers were loath to switch to a new and untested crop, but further research revealed that chlorella production would be more complicated and expensive than initially envisaged. Growing chlorella in the quantities needed to be financially viable required expensive equipment, and it proved to be susceptible to changes in temperature. Harvesting and drying it was even more of headache.

On top of this, chlorella tasted terrible. There were some hopes that the American food industry might be able to transform bitter green chlorella into an enticing foodstuff – in much the same way they used additives and preservatives to manufacture the range of processed foods which bedecked the groaning supermarket shelves of 1950s America. Edible chlorella was not a world away from primula cheese.

Those who were less impressed by the food industry suggested that chlorella could be used to fortify bread and pasta – or even transformed into animal feed. But research demonstrated that heating chlorella destroyed most of its nutrients. Even one of its supporters called it ‘a nasty little green vegetable.’ By the 1960s, it was obvious that at $1,000 a ton, and inedible, chlorella was not going to be the food of the future.

All was not lost for chlorella, though. It proved to be surprisingly popular in Japan, where it is still sold as a nutritional supplement. The West’s enthusiasm for algae also hasn’t dimmed:

The discovery in the 1960s of the blue-green algae spirulina in the Saharan Lake Chad and in Mexico’s Lake Texcoco gave another boost to the health food uses of algae. Spirulina has a high-nutrient profile similar to chlorella’s but without…production problems….

Ironically, the food that was supposed to feed the world is now the preserve of the wealthy, health-conscious middle classes – those who suffer most from the diseases of affluence – who can afford to buy small jars of powdered algae.

I hope that Post’s project manages to create a viable product which can be used to supplement people’s diets. I’m not particularly revolted by the idea of lab-grown meat, and if means that it reduces the numbers of factory farms, then that can only be a good thing.

What concerns me more are the potential motives of the businesses which would produce lab-grown meat. If it is taken up by the global food industry – which has patchy records on environmental sustainability and social responsibility – will we be able to trust them to provide us with meat which is healthy for us, and ethically produced?

Source

Warren Belasco, Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).

Creative Commons License Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Food Links, 12.10.2011

In praise of the Great British Bake Off.

The University of Stellenbosch now sells milk.

How Whole Foods encourages its shoppers to spend money.

I’m enjoying Grist’s new Food Studies series.

An interview with the amazing Joyce Molyneux of the Carved Angel.

Liberal and conservative food preferences.

The British government abolishes sell-by dates.

Curry in Japan. (Thanks Mum!)

Bum sandwiches.

The queue for the opening of the first branch of McDonald’s in Moscow in 1990. More recently, Russia seems to be embracing foodie-ism.

The best fish and chips in Cape Town.

Why African governments need to prepare for a food insecure future.

Somerset cider brandy gains protected status from the European commission. *hic*

Peruvian food seems to be increasingly popular.

Jay Rayner cooks with Rene Redzepi.

Check out the World Development Movement’s comprehensive report on food speculation.

Banks and the trade in food commodities.

Goldman Sachs and the food speculation frenzy.

Wall Street, food speculation, and grain researves.

The link between food speculation and high food prices.

How food speculation has impacted on Mexico’s maize farmers – and fuelled a tortilla crisis.

Why we need to regulate food speculation.

How to take action against banks involved in food speculation.

Food Links, 05.10.2011

The best and worst places for vegetarian travellers.

Things are looking up for bottled beer in Britain.

Pissaladiere.

A useful infographic on food speculation and global hunger.

Farming after the Fukushima disaster.

How pure is the milk we buy?

On the Irish Famine.

Did you know that Cape Town has more than 3,000 micro-farmers? Here’s a video of them too.

Farmers in Vermont rebuild after Hurricane Irene.

Use food to show your support for Occupy Wall Street.

What a novel idea: making gelatine from human DNA. (Which makes one totally rethink jelly babies.)

An ode to mutant fruit.

Sam Clark from Moro shows how he makes the restaurant’s sourdough bread every morning.

The second hungriest state in the US is…Rick Perry’s Texas.

The Middle Class Handbook ponders the caffeine-averse.

Snacks of the great scribblers. (Thanks Mum!)

Almond and yogurt cake at Design*Sponge.

Macaroon wars.

A socially-responsible approach to dairy farming in the UK.

Knitting + baking = cupcakes in the shape of balls of wool. (Thanks to Jane-Anne!)

Food Links, 14.09.2011

The Observer profiles Britain’s new young farmers, Sarah Boden, Ed Hamer, and Richard Thomas.

Check out Sonia Cabano’s review of the Toffie Food Festival.

A slide show of New York’s hot dogs.

There is such a thing as honey laundering.

‘An additional Walmart Supercenter per 100,000 residents increases average BMI by 0.25 units and the obesity rate by 2.4%.’ And there are fifteen more amazing/appalling facts about Walmart here.

On changing attitudes towards restaurant staffs’ tattoos.

David Lebovitz discusses his favourite pudding recipe books – and is interviewed by the Financial Times.

Consider chocolate.

A brief history of menu design in the United States.

A list of favourite French recipes by Julia Child.

Jay Rayner interviews David Tanis, the head chef at Chez Panisse – and here are some of Tanis’s recipes.

On the history of biscuit embossing.

It would seem that the company providing food parcels to the poor in Britain…has links with the Tories. Funny, that.

Rene Redzepi explains the thinking behind his Mad Food Camp.

These flags made of food are surprisingly lovely.

More from What I Eat: Around the World in Eighty Diets.

How to chop an onion. (Thanks Mum!)

The perils of restaurant reviewing.

Food Links, 27.07.2011

Ever wondered what it’s like to intern at El Bulli? Here are two articles which describe the experience.

The glory of eggs.

I can’t wait to read this: Frank Dikötter’s Samuel Johnson Prize-winning new account of the 1958-1962 Great Famine in China.

Why industrial agriculture won’t feed the world – and why we need to stop industrial farms from denying us access to their operations.

The American Dietetic Association – an organisation providing supposedly objective and scientific advice on diet – has been accepting money from Coca-Cola and Pepsico. Not good.

The amazing ‘jellymongers’ Bompas and Parr organised a Rabbit Cafe in Brighton to celebrate Easter. It’s partly in celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the opening of the first Futurist restaurant. The Cafe, though, isn’t the first homage to Futurism’s fascination with food – this is an account of one recreation of the Futurist aerobanquet.

Food Links, 11.05.2011

Ferran Adrià closes El Bulli and opens a research foundation, one of the aims of which will be to promote healthy eating.

It seems that there may be a link between fasting and preventing heart disease.

A fantastic farming project in Malawi demonstrates how good agricultural practices can combat malnutrituion.

A while ago I read – and loved – Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2010) and was struck, in particular, by her description of the experience of famine. This article from the Los Angeles Times concerns Kim Jong Il’s bizarre eating habits.

What a clever idea: cooked too much for supper? Log in to Supermarmite (marmite as in the French for cooking pot, not the spread) and let others in your neighbourhood know what you’ve got going, and how much you’re charging for it.

Another reason to oppose the overuse of antibiotics in stock farming.

‘Americans need information, through labeling, nutrition education and medical advice, to make smart diet decisions. Then they should be free to eat what they want — as long as they bear the cost of their personal choices.’ The Los Angeles Times opines on the introduction of a ‘fat tax’ in the US.

Widespread obesity is caused by a range of factors – this is an attempt to collate research on all of them.

Food Links, 13.04.2011

Civil Eats has produced another amazing infographic – this time charting how American diets have become progressively more calorific since the 1970s.

Lester Brown writes that we need close to 150 million tons of wheat to restore some semblance of stability in the world grain market.

Michael Bomford suggests that eating heavily processed food is more damaging to the environment than flying or shipping food thousands of kilometers around the world.

How does food reflect Britain’s social divide?

The UN confirms that eco-farming could feed the world.

It would seem that hipsters are moving in to farming too. (I keep imagining goats in skinny jeans.)

Matthew Norman‘s restaurant reviews remain the only reason to read the Telegraph.

The Guardian reports on the most incredible dirt-themed banquet created by ‘jellymongers’, Bompas and Parr.