- The debate over "test tube meat" has begun again after Dutch scientists announced they would be ready to serve the first test tube hamburger by the end of the year. The meat is created by growing bovine stem cells into lean muscle mass, and then combining that muscle with lab-grown animal fat. As the global population and demand for meat grows, advocates of lab-grown meat highlight its potential to ease the environmental stress and animal cruelty perpetuated by conventional meat production methods. But those benefits are dependent upon the public accepting test tube meat as an appealing alternative.
- More schools have begun serving dinner to students who stay late for after-school or tutoring programs and who qualify for reduced-cost meals. The "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act," which was signed into law by president Obama in 2010, greatly increased funding for schools to provide healthy dinnertime meals for low-income students. The Act also helps to raise awareness of the funding among schools that previously could only afford after-school snacks. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that an additional 21 million dinners will be served by 2015 as a result of this provision.
- Another Obama-related initiative: the administration has worked to improve the quality of foods offered in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs as part of a larger initiative to reduce the national rate of childhood obesity. Now it's working on creating better nutritional guidelines for foods sold outside of cafeterias. These so-called "competitive foods," often sold out of vending machines and snack carts, can make up much of the food a child consumes at school. Officials are working with the snack industry to create healthier products and limit students' sugar and fat consumption during the school day.
- Much of the pushback against high fructose corn syrup consumption has focused on the detrimental health impacts of consuming large amounts of fructose, particularly in the form of overweight and obesity. A recent analysis of over 40 fructose-related studies has determined no direct correlation between weight gain and amount of fructose consumed. Researchers noted that when subjects ate a normal amount of fructose in their diets, their weights were as stable as subjects eating only non-fructose carbohydrates. But when subjects over-consumed by adding excess fructose to their diets, they did gain weight. The study provides a good reason to avoid lots of HFCS-sweetened foods, but also to eat natural sources of fructose such as fruits and vegetables.
- Chipotle created quite a stir with its ad "Back to the Start" aired during the Grammys last night and the Super Bowl before that. As we noted earlier, the ad portrays a farmer freeing his animals and his family from industrialized agriculture in favor of a friendlier, more humane farming method (the results of which he sells, of course, to Chipotle). Some applaud the efforts of Chipotle to purchase responsibly; others question whether the ad underestimates the difficulty of transitioning from conventional to sustainable production. The head of the Mississippi Farm Bureau penned an op-ed to the New York Times, in which he critiques the feasibility of large-scale humane meat production of the kind promoted in the ad. Overall, the beautifully animated ad makes for an interesting conversation starter.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.