On an evening out recently, my friend asked our waitress if the restaurant’s beef was corn-fed or grass-fed.  With a minor degree of smug, I nodded at his question.  It showed that we know the facts and we know what to ask for.  Our work was done.

“It’s corn-fed and grass-finished,” she said.

To quote a different, but famous animal from our culture, Miss Piggy: “Humph!”  This meal was going to need a new vocabulary.

According to Michael Pollan in the movie, Food Inc., when we stop feeding cows corn–the common, cheap food of concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs)–the e-coli bacteria in their stomachs is reduced by 80% in about three weeks.  This doesn’t say anything about unnaturally fattening the cows with corn in record time before the transition, but perhaps there is a noble goal here of trying to avoid lethal bacteria.  That’s my best guess for “grass-finished.”  Our server wasn’t quite sure why she’d been instructed to answer in this way.

Continued below

Out on the Range and not in the CAFO

On the Range and Not in the CAFO

This food conversation between three people all well-intentioned, but not fully agreeing in the nuance, got me thinking about the upcoming tables in Copenhagen.  As we invent new phrases in this little corner of the world, what will be the common language of food sustainability there?  May it not be a Tower of Babel.

One international group, The Global Crop Diversity Trust out of Rome, Italy, has issued a document entitled, “Food Security and Climate Change:  A Call for Commitment and Preparation.”  At the time of this post, it is supported by the signatures of 68 international dignitaries.  It may not seem like a large number, but collectively, this circle of experts holds much of the world’s knowledge for the future of sustainable food.  Please take a look at their Climate Change Statement here.  Let’s hope the conference leads to a larger table of communal understanding.