Harvest Desk

Sorry bacon lovers, we've got some sad news about your favorite meat.

To get those sizzling strips of pork on your plate each morning takes more antibiotics than it does to make a steak burrito or a chicken sausage sandwich.

Pig farmers around the world, on average, use nearly four times as much antibiotics as cattle ranchers do, per pound of meat. Poultry farmers fall somewhere between the two.

There's a researcher at the RAND Corporation who has been building a reputation as a curmudgeonly skeptic when it comes to trendy ways to fight America's obesity epidemic.

The Kraft Foods Group is recalling nearly 250,000 boxes of its macaroni and cheese dinner.  The recall comes after metal was found in some packages.

The recalled product is limited to the 7.25-oz. size of the Original flavor of boxed dinner with the “Best When Used By” dates of September 18, 2015 through October 11, 2015, with the code “C2” directly below the date on each individual box. The “C2” refers to a specific production line on which the affected product was made.

When it comes to the food stamps — or SNAP benefits as they're now called — there are few areas where Republicans and Democrats agree. But getting some of the 46 million people now receiving SNAP into the work force is one of them.

Last year Congress approved $200 million for states to test the best way to move people into jobs. And today, the Obama administration is announcing grants to 10 states to do just that.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the demonstration projects should help able-bodied recipients take advantage of an improving economy.

The story of how kale went from frumpy to trendy is a great inspiration to Gabriela Bradt, a fisheries specialist at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

"Nobody cared about kale. Then it became the green du jour," says Bradt.

For the past two years, at an undisclosed location in the Upper Midwest, a large commercial egg farm has been probed with every tool of modern science. Researchers have collected data on feed consumed, eggs produced, rates of chicken death and injury, levels of dust in the air, microbial contamination and dollars spent. Graduate students have been assigned to watch hours of video of the hens in an effort to rate the animals' well-being.

On a recent snowy afternoon on a farm in central Illinois, Dan Byers parked his pickup at the end of a dirt road and looked over some of his fertile land. A few years ago, high grain prices earned farmers here about $400 per acre for their corn and soybean crops. This year, it's possible that every acre Byers farms will cost him $50.

"It just takes a certain amount of fixed money to put a crop in and raise it," says Byers. "At today's prices, not much of anything works right now until there's a rebound."

In Spain, an age-old way of surviving the winter is getting some new attention from foodies worldwide. It's called la matanza — literally, the killing of a pig. It's an ancient ritual in danger of dying out, amid an influx of commercial abattoirs and modern supermarkets. But Spain's matanza is now getting renewed interest from farm-to-table food enthusiasts.

American state fairs have gotten competitive about wowing fair-goers (and the media) with their ever more outrageous concessions.

Among the immoderate new dishes of 2014? The cheeseburger stuffed with macaroni and cheese on a Krispy Kreme bun at the California State Fair, and the deep-fried breakfast on-a-stick at the Minnesota State Fair.

Tea Not For Two (Minutes, That Is)

Mar 18, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

If you've ever watched Giada de Laurentiis make gooey chocolate-hazelnut spread or a rich carbonara pasta dish, you may have wondered: How can she cook like this and maintain her slim figure?

In 1616, Hernando Arias de Saavedra, the governor of the Spanish province that included Buenos Aires, banned the population from drinking a green herbal drink called yerba mate.

As scholarly buzzkills have long told us, corned beef isn't really Irish. So what to do if you want a taste of the Emerald Isle on St. Patrick's Day? Instead of green, maybe look for yellow — a pat of Irish butter. Although most Americans are familiar with images of Ireland's rolling green hills, few realize that those hills are the secret to a deliciously buttery empire.

I didn't travel all the way to Ethiopia just to meet a character out of the sitcom Seinfeld.

But when I heard Ethiopians describe a particular popular restaurant called Chane's, I couldn't help recognize a resemblance, in its owner and lead chef, to the famously brusque soup man.

Sandwich Monday: Bone-In Pork Chop Sandwich

Mar 16, 2015

There are dangerous sandwiches out there: the Wendy's Sharpened Chicken Classic, the McRib that's always sending you emails with questionable attachments. But they pale in comparison to the famous pork chop sandwich from Jim's Original in Chicago: Jim leaves the bone in.

Eva: The bone also serves as a useful sandwich handle.

Miles: Eating a bone-in sandwich is the lazy person's equivalent of free-climbing a mountain. The danger just adds to the rush.

We take the packaging our food comes in for granted. Yet many of the boxes, bags and bottles that protect our edibles were once groundbreaking — both in their design and in how they changed our perception of what's inside. Sometimes, packaging is so distinctive, it transforms food from mere consumer product to cultural icon. As Stephen Heller, author of more than 100 books on design and popular culture, says, "Coca-Cola is not a bottle of soda — it's Coca-Cola."

The Elixir Du Jour: Bone Broth

Mar 15, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Walk into a row of greenhouses in rural Britain, and a late English-winter day transforms to a swampy, humid tropical afternoon. You could be in Latin America or sub-Saharan Africa, which is exactly how cocoa plants like it.

"It's all right this time of year. It gets a bit hot later on in the summer," says greenhouse technician Heather Lake as she fiddles with a tray of seedlings — a platter of delicate, spindly, baby cocoa plants.

We bring you this story in case you want to get baking.

That's because Saturday is Pi Day — but it's not just any pi day.

It's March 14* of the year '15, or 3-14-15 — the first five digits of the number pi. It's a confluence that won't happen again for a hundred years. Math geeks are excited.

In the heart of California's Central Valley, a vast expanse of orchards, vineyards, and vegetable fields, lies a small collection of aging peach trees. Farmer Mas Masumoto's decision to preserve those trees, and then to write about it, became a symbol of resistance to machine-driven food production.

Yet the Masumoto farm's story isn't just one of saving peaches. It's become a father-daughter saga of claiming, abandoning, and then re-claiming a piece of America's agricultural heritage.

"Never underestimate the power of pie."

Those wise words come from pastry chef and pie maven Gesine Bullock-Prado, and are especially timely this weekend. That's because Saturday is March 14, also known to math students as Pi Day.

Pi, in case you've forgotten your middle school algebra, is the mathematical constant that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It's a number with infinite digits that has been calculated to more than 1 trillion digits beyond the decimal point — but most people know it simply as 3.14.

Editor's note: A version of this story was published in March 2011.

Get ready to roll out some dough, because it's almost Pi Day.

Surely, you've heard of making food in space. Astronauts have to eat, right?

But perhaps you hadn't considered making space out of food. Navid Baraty, a freelance photographer in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, arranges common pantry items to create strikingly accurate-looking photos of an imaginary cosmos.

"I'm a really big space geek," Baraty tells The Salt. "I'll look at NASA images or Hubble images to see how things were placed in the sky, and I try to make things as realistic as possible."

Congressman Patrick McHenry is a man who knows his beer. The refrigerator in his Capitol Hill office is filled to the brim with it. The Republican's district includes the city of Asheville, N.C., which claims it has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city.

Few dishes showcase Southern tradition more perfectly than a slice of pecan pie, with its dark custard filling and crunchy, nutty topping.

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has officially made its way to the Midwest.

The disease was confirmed Tuesday in two separate commercial turkey flocks in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA.

Ella Barnes-Williams is dealing with a lot right now.

For starters, her government-subsidized house in Northeast Washington, D.C., leaks when it rains. She points at a big brown splotch on the ceiling.

"It's like mold, mold, mold all over," she says. "I've got to clean that now 'cause that just came back."

Barnes-Williams is 54 and lives with her 30-year-old daughter and three young grandchildren. All three grandkids have severe asthma, which makes the mold a serious problem. And she and her daughter are diabetic.

For many years, if a public school district wanted to serve students apples or milk from local farmers, it could face all kinds of hurdles. Schools were locked into strict contracts with distributors, few of whom saw any reason to start bringing in local products. Those contracts also often precluded schools from working directly with local farmers.

Some Organic Food Labels Are A Little Fishy

Mar 11, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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