The Year in Food 2008

The Year in Food 2008

Go Go Green!

Slow Food, Big Event, Exploited Workers

Nearly 100,000 people gathered in San Francisco at summer’s end for the first big stateside rally of the international organization Slow Food. The group, which is based in Italy, champions locally farmed food, traditional cooking methods, and organic wholesomeness. The event was, essentially, a world’s fair for the taste buds, with pavilions dedicated to small-batch spirits, cheeses, beer, heirloom produce, honey, and pickles, to name just a handful. But not everybody had a great time: Some volunteers later reported being treated like the hired help—minus the paycheck.
—James Norton

Welcome to the Big City, Little Chickens

If you’ve always wanted to raise chickens in the city without the man (or PETA) getting on your ass, now is your time to shine. All year long we’ve been hearing about people growing their own food to save money and eat better, whether via a backyard orchard in Brooklyn or honey from the ’hood in Philly. But it looks like the underground urban chicken movement is what’s really starting to hatch. Although raising the birds is still illegal in many municipalities, in the past year, the cities of Fort Collins, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and South Portland, Maine voted to let people raise chickens. In Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, it was already legal. While chickens may not be the most emotionally rewarding pets, at least you get eggs for the money and time you put into them—and you can’t eat your cat if you get sick of it. —Roxanne Webber

Pollination Panic

As the world food system seemed to collapse around us this year, there was a glimmer of hope for the bees. Since 2006 honeybees have been disappearing at an alarming rate, pushing people into mass hysterics and bad headline-punning (“How to Bee Helpful,” “Silence of the Bees,” and various other references to the sting of defeat and minding one’s beeswax). No bees means no pollination, no pollination means no pollinated crops, and no pollinated crops means no food. A group of scientists from Beeologics believes that Israeli acute paralysis virus is the primary cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. The Israeli-U.S. team is testing an antiviral agent on a population of 100,000 hives. Bee optimistic.
—Michele Foley

The Year of Eating Flexibly

The term flexitarianism wasn’t invented in 2008, but it made a decent run at becoming Buzzword of the Year, with prominent mentions in Newsweek, USA Today, and U.S. News & World Report, among others. It means someone who is vegetarian most of the time, and is supposed to both help you be healthier and give the environment a break, because by now most of us know that the raising of livestock uses up a lot of resources and can cause pollution. But the very flexibility of the diet that makes it so appealing also makes it largely ineffective in achieving its vague ends. When there are no hard and fast rules, it’s easy to fudge. —James Norton

Life Gets Better for America’s Doomed Chickens

A standoff between Chipotle Mexican Grill and PETA over chicken slaughtering ended in March when the restaurant agreed to serve chickens that had been killed in a more humane fashion. Burger King, Wendy’s, and Safeway followed suit. All will give purchasing preference to suppliers that use controlled-atmosphere killing, a method that snuffs out tiny chicken lives with a combination of argon and nitrogen or CO2. Basically, it puts the chickens to sleep, which is a lot better than other industry methods like electrocution, maceration, and, well, we’ll stop there. It should be noted that although life got better for chickens in 2008, the animals still have a tendency to carry tiny picket signs that read “Eet Mor Beefs.” —James Norton