Monday, April 16, 2007

The State of Food -- Chicago IACP Conference

The opening session at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference was a discussion about the state of organic food. On the panel were Sam Fromartz, author of Organics, Inc., Michael Abelman, former farmer in Santa Barbara, and author of a couple of books, Jim, the marketing guy, from Chipotle Grill and Howard, the guy from Kraft.

Sam introduced the guys and talked about how to keep ideals in a capitalist system. Everyone else gave their view of it and what they do in this regard.

Jim from Chipotle had visuals of pigs in CAFO which are confined animal feeding operations. Those poor pigs were stuck in their own little prison cells, next to other inmates, for their whole lives. Steve Els, the driving force behind Chipotle Grill, figured that there was a better way and found Niman Ranch and their small farms. Jim showed photos of the happy hogs out on the farm -- a much better image to keep in mind, if one is going to eat pork (and that is truly a much bigger topic). He also mentioned that when they raised the price of their carnitas by a dollar that they sold 4 times as much. That is amazing. I guess that people really are willing to pay for better food. Good stories.

Then we went on to Howard from Kraft who unfortunately seemed out of place. He was dressed in jacket, tie and white shirt. He was the Kraft spokesperson and this is what he said. "It's all about the consumer. We are helping people around the world to live and eat better." Yes, that's just how I think of Kraft. He went on to talk about their Back to Nature brand, and Boca, how they have organic salad dressing and the best one yet -- Kraft Organic Macaroni and Cheese. I can't say much about that, other than wow.

Michael Abelman said that organic is only the 1st and most basic step. He used the term "organicrats" for what has happened in and to the organic industry. He told us that we must consider the ecological, spiritual and social values and learn to know the people that grow your food. The industrial food system is broken. He suggested that we make pure food available to all. And to that, I say, "Amen".

2 comments:

Bridget, Baby Bites Blogger said...

I also attended this interesting session at IACP. I'm also a registered dietitian involved in the food world.

The panel certainly presented a wide array of opinions on the topic of organics. I think Chipotle was a great example of how the supply chain can grow with a menu item--but it's a slow and steady process. I also think it's wonderful that Kraft and other large food companies are adding organic lines--but for them to stay, people have to buy them. And while some critcize Sam's and Walmart for industrializing organic, I for one am glad that pesticide-free produce is more available to the masses. Let's face it, not everyone can afford organic. The only way they will is if large grocery chains embrace the organic movement.

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