Several weeks ago, Chipotle founder Steve Ells published a column headlined "Conventional vs. Grass-fed Beef." As you've probably heard, Chipotle prefers the latter—the fast-casual burrito chain has a lotto say about agricultural reform, ethical food, etc. But here the subject is more complicated than the title suggests: Ells was defending Chipotle's decision to stop buying exclusively domestic beef in favor of importing some of it from Australia, where the grass-fed supply is better.
It's a classic food-ethics connundrum: should you go with the higher production standard, or the food produced closer to home? Chipotle chose the former, a perfectly defensible choice if you just have the two.
When I went to Williston, North Dakota to report for the Century on churches in the oil boom, I had dinner at a place called Banquet West, a free meal on Sunday nights. At my table on that stormy March evening were people from around the country.
It’s farm bill season again. That’s right: time for our divided government to get together and reauthorize the five-year omnibus bill that affects everyone who grows, sells or eats food—or at least to go through the motions for a while before punting again like last year.
Critics of the food movement's emphasis on organic, smaller-scale and local/regional agriculture tend to point out that feeding the world requires large-scale, conventional farming. But we're already producing more food than we need. The problem is drastic inequalities of access.
A new report from Oxfam (pdf) highlights one particularly egregious force behind these inequalities: foreign speculators buying up farmland in poor countries.