Loblaws at COG’s 2010 Feast of Fields


Some commentary on an article in Ottawa Magazine that has to do with Loblaw’s sponsorship of this years Feast of the Fields event in Ottawa, Ontario:

It is always difficult to see a brand you hold near and dear go mainstream and that seems to be what’s happening with the Feast of Fields.

Participants like the Red Apron and the farms they have paired with have invested FAR MORE than “(a measly) $5,000″ to build up the Feast of Fields brand. Over the past few years the participants HAVE INVESTED HEAVILY in money and in kind by volunteering staff, energy, advertisements and food in order to make the Feast such a popular event.

After investing so heavily in the brand, it is no surprise that many feel COG have misstepped by involving Canada’s largest food distributor (and a leading provider of drugstore and financial products) to be the “Presenting Sponsor” by doing NO work and contributing 0.00076% of their annual profits.

Math: $5,000 divided by $656 Million (Loblaws Corp. net profit in 2009)

While the argument is focused a bit around ‘costs’ I think it also has something to do with ‘fairness’.  I mean,  I have to spend $50 to attend the event.   That’s about 0.1 % of an average annual $50k income for a single guy in my neighbourhood.   If Loblaws corp had to pay the same to attend the event, they’d be giving the Canadian Organic Growers $656,000 !

… Ron Eade has some more of COG’s side of the story on his Omnivore’s Ottawa blog.

UPDATE: There is some great commentary on Simply Fresh Ottawa [here] and [here] !

Citing references to local food in US Bills.


IBM Many Bills has created an interesting visualization tool for searching through US bills. Is anyone aware of similar visualizations in the Canadian government?

Everything in a pizza pocket, the poster


Shared via here.

Shared by jg

This is truly a great visualization.

Justin Perricone sez, "This is a poster I designed using all of the ingredients in a Ham & Cheese Hot Pocket. First in a series."

Hot Pockets Ingredients

(Thanks, Justin!)

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.


My interpretation of this book boils down to: If you & your neighbours are accustom to buying inexpensive pants which someone, somewhere was paid $2.00 CAD per hour to produce, then expect to be paid $2.00 CAD per hour to produce pants.

There is a great chapter in this book on Cheap Eats & it’s well worth the read. Some quotes:

There was no shortage of rice in India and no shortage of food in the world during the “food crises” of 2008. Yet millions of Indians – as well as Africans and Asians – suddenly found themselves stranded on the edge of starvation.

What had changed was not rice but the rice trade. Historically, the Indian government had kept a firm grip on rice stores and maintained a policy of food self-sufficiency that discouraged exports. In the 1990s that policy was softened, and Indian rice was made available on the world market. Indiand farmers and traders auction their wares to the highest bidder, with the result that rice which had once sold domestically or was stockpiled by the government was sold abroad. Over time this practice increased price instability… (page 169)

[Psychologist Adam Drewnowski notes that] Americans respond almost viscerally to the concept of food “value.” Price, Drewnowski said, drives taste, because left to their own devices, Americans tend to choose what is cheap and therefore develop a taste for cheap foods. (page 182)

Mmmm… Teriyaki Shake & Bake(TM).

Report: Monsanto corn linked to organ damage


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Apparently some of these tests happened at Monsanto back in June 2000… I suppose this study is only of concern if you happen to be a mammal who eats GMO corn. reports, “The first-ever public study of the health effects of genetically modified corn shows that three patented crops developed and owned by agriculture giant Monsanto cause liver, kidney and heart damage in mammals. The FDA has approved all three varieties for sale and consumption in the U.S. and all three are in our food supply right now.” Source for those claims: this study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences.

Book: The Vegetarian Myth


vegetarian-myth-coverAn interesting book from a unique point of view that can certainly help spark some lively conversations amongst friends. Lierre writes about how she moved away from being a vegetarian and has included a few more living things to her diet adding to the billions of creatures she & her vegan friends were accustom to eating.

To support her points, the book is packed full of research and references (The 272 pages contain 603 endnotes).

Three quotes I’ll note:

I’m not asking How many people can be fed? but a very different question: How can people be fed? Not, What feeds the most people? but What feeds people sustainably? We need a full accounting … because nothing else is sustainable. To quote George Draffan, “I’ll repeat the obvious: sustainable systems are the only ones that are sustainable.” p.126

Derick Jensen [writes]: If your experience … is that your food comes from the grocery store (and your water from the tap), from the economic system, from the social system we call civilization, it is to this you will pledge back your life…. If your experience … is that food and water come from your landbase … you will make and keep promises to your landbase in exchange for this food…. You will be responsible to the community that supplies you with food and water. You will defend this community to your very death. p.56

Soy started out as a legume that was rotated with other annual crops throughout Asia. Because it can fix nitrogen, soy was used as a green manure. [not as a food] … Phytoestrogens are produced by more than three hundred plants, but soy is the only one that humans eat. Chapter 4

In fact, after reading Chapter 4, I’m almost convinced that breaking my blender to process my own tofu may not have been worth the effort.

Finally, a question which came up while discussing said book over a corporate Christmas luncheon: What about the millions of healthy vegetarians and vegans who live in places like India and Vancouver?
It did make me realize that the book tended to focus on what I’d consider a “western” veggie diet … lots of soy milk, salad and tofurkey. Vegetarianism has been common in Indian for generations and it might be interesting to contrast & compare some of the health statistics between western & eastern hemispheres.

World Corn Production… Go Canada?


WOW! This has to be the best visualization tool for the world’s agricultural data which I’ve found to date.

Gapminder has done an incredible job here exposing some of the UN’s data and made it very easy to ‘fool around’ with.

Here is one of the animated graphs I’ve made:
CornHarvestedVisualization from Gapminder World, powered by Trendalyzer from

For each country it shows hectares of corn harvested, the yield (kg per hectare) and the total number of tons produced. Hit the “Play” button to see it change over time! Bubbles moving up it means the country harvested more hectares of corn, bubbles moving right means the country has improved overall yield.

There are three things that instantly struck me:

  1. Canada is not the agricultural powerhouse which I had perceived it to be. There are MANY countries which plant far more hectares of corn than we do! (The Philippines cover twice as much land as we do with corn crops — pretty incredible considering their size and how many other crops they grow like rice and oil palm [see image below: orange islands beside British Columbia for contrast])
  2. It really makes me wonder if GMO corn improves a nation’s overall yield. It is my understanding that France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Austria and several other countries have banned the cultivation of GMO corn. However, their annual yield is right up there with Canada’s. In fact, most of said countries SURPASS Canada’s annual yield.

  3. Annual yield jumps all over the place. While it does seem to trend slowly towards increased yield, the same happens for other nations who have more family farms and less access to technology.

Head on over to and make some charts of your own. It’s too easy… making a similar chart to the one above about strawberry production with a logarithmic scale.

Savour Ottawa – Eat local and let someone else cook!


Mmmm… fresh food. Visit for more pictures, videos and links.

Benefit of Backyard Chickens: Tastier than Dogs.


Here is an interesting article about a book published down-under. Prof Brenda and Robert Vale found the carbon footprint of a pet dog is twice that of a 4.6-litre SUV driven 10,000 kilometres a year…

…there is certainly some truth in the fact that if we have edible pets like chickens for their eggs and meat, and rabbits and pigs, we will be compensating for the impact of other things on our environment.”


Eat this Not that – David Zinczenko


Photograph of Eat This Not That

Photograph of Eat This Not That

If you’re the type of person who stands in the grocery store with three different bags of chips in hand comparing all of the nutritional information, then this book’s for you.

A very visual book, it’s worth borrowing from a library to pick up the various tips of what to look for when identifying ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ingredients of various processed foods; however, I don’t think it would be worth keeping around as a reference guide.

Also some parts backfire. When reading that the Calories / Sugar of a Sunkist Orange Pop equals that of 17 Chewy Chips Ahoy Cookies I didn’t come to the conclusion that said orange pop was bad. Instead I thought “AWESOME, I can eat 16 Chewy Chips Ahow cookies (even though Mr. Christie now makes them so small they’re barely bite-sized) and it would be less sugar than drinking a gross pop“…

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