Crickets, grasshoppers, worms pushed as protein food of future

The movement to persuade Americans to reduce beef in their diet by eating bugs — “micro livestock” — is gaining momentum ahead of a global meat forum, as seen recently in a Denver Public Schools classroom.

Nearly all the 10-year-olds at a presentation by insects-as-food advocate Wendy Lu McGill nibbled her M&M-adorned cookies made of pulverized crickets.

Then the Denver Language School students ate whole roasted crickets. None, however, would try worms.

And one student, Laynie Whittington, refused any of this alimentary experimentation.

“I do not want to be eating bugs,” she said. “I’m half vegan, so I’m saying meat is sort of OK. But bugs? Not.”

Read More

Colorado girds for proliferating people and increasingly scarce water

Colorado is looking for 163 billion gallons of water, and a long-awaited state plan for finding it calls for increased conservation, reusing treated wastewater and diverting more water from the Western Slope.

The plan, ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper to deal with a massive projected water shortfall, is about to be unveiled. Rising demand from population growth and industry, if continued through 2050, threatens to leave 2.5 million people parched.

But water suppliers east and west of the Continental Divide are clashing over details that the draft plan does not specify.

Those on the water-poor east side, where Colorado’s 5.3 million population is concentrated, prioritize diverting more western water under the mountains to sustain Front Range growth. Those on the west side oppose new diversions — and want this reflected in the plan.

Read More

Cancer-causing chemical PCE contaminates Colorado soil, water and homes

Spills releasing PCE, the cancer-causing chemical used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing, have produced at least 86 underground plumes across Colorado that are poisoning soil and water and fouling air inside buildings.

Cleaning up this chemical is a nightmare — a lesson in the limits of repairing environmental harm. The best that Colorado health enforcers and responsible parties have been able to do is keep the PCE they know about from reaching people.

But based on a review of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment case files, people likely have been exposed.

Read More

Afghans tour Colo. farms to pick up agriculture tips

If the United States really wants to stabilize Afghanistan, say six Afghans visiting Colorado farms, then it should focus more on building agricultural options beyond the illicit drug trade for the war-torn nation’s mostly agrarian people. “If we keep people busy in agriculture, that will be good for security,” said Abdul, a veterinarian from northern Afghanistan. “We have a lot of land that is not used for drugs. We have no water to irrigate that land,” Abdul said. “If our agriculture is supported by the United States — if we can have a good irrigation system — this could be good land and a lot of people could get jobs.” U.S. agriculture officials brought the six Afghan veterinarians to Colorado for a month as part of nonmilitary efforts begun during the war that was launched shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks. Retired Colorado State University professors have escorted the six to farms, feedlots, research stations and clinics.

Read More

Districts prefer the beef less traveled

A movement to buy locally grown meat hits schools, and students are chowing the burgers. Is it worth the cost?

The growing movement that advocates buying and eating locally-produced food gains momentum in schools with the introduction of homegrown beef. Proponents contend switching from unknown industrial providers to local suppliers — not just of beef but vegetables, fruits, bread and milk — would be better for kids and build a system where people can know where their food comes from and control it. Boosting local capacity to produce food makes long-term sense, they say — despite prices up to twice as high — because rising oil prices worldwide may mean even higher food costs in the future.

Read More

Food Labels’ Quiet Revolution

While implementation of a country-of-origin law languishes, some stores take the initiative.

Melynda Saldenais surveys grocery aisles composing labels that
reveal where food comes from and how it is grown.

Descriptions “like luscious and succulent” leave her cold,
Saldenais said this week in a central Denver store as she reviewed
her literary efforts. But she’d love to be able to write
“China-free” – if a new company initiative pans out.

“Our beef is imported from Australia,” reads the label she wrote
for frozen burgers, “where cattle roam freely on lush green
pastures. They graze the way nature intended on 250 species of
native grasses and herbs.”

Saldenais and her company, the Boulder-based national chain Wild
Oats Markets Inc., along with its future acquirer Whole Foods
Market and other upscale grocers, are responding to a nascent
revolution: Americans are demanding to know the origins of every
tomato, strawberry and steak.

Tainted food scares and increased U.S. reliance on imported food –
from Europe, Mexico, China – drive the growing demands for details
previously kept secret.

Congress ordered country-of-origin labeling in 2002. But the
government, under pressure from mainstream grocers and meatpackers,
has failed to implement the law.

The 2007 farm bill pending before U.S. senators would again order
the government to act.

Meanwhile, Wild Oats and Whole Foods are embracing what customers

They’re using auditors and inspectors to investigate sources of
ingredients in all of the products on their shelves and then
providing detailed labels.

“What we’re seeing in this country is increasing consumer concern
about where and how their food is produced. … The stores that are
labeling now, they see the right end of the law,” said Joe
Mendelson, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, an
advocacy group.

Imports accounted for 14 percent of American food consumption in
2005, compared with 7 percent in the mid-1980s.

Some of the new labeling is somewhat confusing. A Whole Foods
placard at the Cherry Creek store promotes “natural Moroccan
quality” salmon from “Sussex County, New Jersey” that is
“produced by a company committed to sustainable fishing
practices” to ensure “the health of the oceans.”

Whole Foods shoppers “appreciate more, rather than less
information/education,” spokeswoman Ashley Hawkins said.

Saldenais, 39, meets regularly with growers, ranchers and
executives to glean facts and check the accuracy of their claims.

But the origins of some meat, frozen fruit and other foods at Wild
Oats still aren’t labeled as precisely as the country-of-origin
labeling law would require, company officials concede.

The push to reveal origins is leading to closer scrutiny of an
increasingly global supply chain, said Dan Heiges, Wild Oats
director of standards.

Auditors recently exposed a potato-chip maker who had switched to a
cheaper Chinese source of granulated garlic without notifying Wild

Vegetable snacks containing ingredients from China recently were
yanked from shelves after inspectors found traces of salmonella.

Wild Oats now requires suppliers of its private-label products to
certify whether any ingredients come from China or other countries
associated with risks, spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele said. Suppliers
are told to find alternative ingredients in a new initiative aimed
at declaring food “China-free,” Tuitele said.

“We would love to be able to tell our customers that, or at least
identify products we sell that do not have any ingredients from
China,” she said.

“Whether this is possible or not remains to be seen because
ingredients from China are so pervasive in our food supply.”

For years, studies have shown Americans favor precise labeling on
food, for safety and to “buy local.” Last month, a Consumers
Union poll found 92 percent of Americans want country-of-origin
labeling. A Colorado State University study in 2002 found consumers
would even pay more for carefully-labeled food.

“I’m pregnant. It’s really important for me to know that food is
safe and clean,” Tannaz Walker, 31, said while reading a yogurt
label at a Wild Oats east of Boulder recently with her 1-year-old,
Andrew, perched atop her cart.

She picked up a “New York steak” made of “grass-fed” beef,
presumably from the United States. Or was it?

“Well, goodness, it’s a ‘New York steak.’ I hope it’s from the
U.S.,” she said, as her son began to stir in his seat.

Further investigation showed it came from Australia.

Demand for Local Food Grows

The rush is on for fresh food delivered by farmers directly to
Front Range neighborhoods – in line with a national trend toward
bypassing grocery chains.

Families switching to cooperatives as a healthy, fuel-saving
alternative today find farmers hard-pressed to keep up with demand.
Some 640 Front Range families receive boxes of vegetables, fruits,
honey and eggs from Monroe Organic Farms, a Greeley-area producer
that does weekly drop-offs in 25 urban neighborhoods. This volume –
more than double Monroe’s membership five years ago – has exhausted
the capacity of owners Jacquie and Jerry Monroe to produce.

“I could easily double my customers, but I couldn’t raise enough
food. I don’t have enough labor,” Jacquie Monroe said.

Among those who’ve tried to get farmfresh produce through a
cooperative but have not been able to find one with an opening is
Melissa Snow, 32, a mother and parttime teacher who is crazy about
the idea.

“I like the whole concept, that it doesn’t have to be shipped as
far – less of a carbon impact. I like supporting the small local
farmer,” Snow said.

More local farmers will have to get into the action, said Monroe,
who credits her cooperative with saving her 175-acre,
three-generation family farm.

Neighborhood drop-offs by a few Colorado growers has emerged as a
new dimension in the community-supported agriculture movement that
began in the late 1980s and, until recently, struggled to gain

Today, some 1,581 community-supported farms nationwide supply more
than 300,000 households, according to Local Harvest, a Santa Cruz,
Calif.-based group that tracks the trend. At least 25
community-supported farms in Colorado – such as Denver Urban
Gardens – grow food for members willing to drive to the farms to
pick it up.

Many of these operations, too, are overwhelmed, unable to grow
enough fruit and vegetables to satisfy growing demand.

Turning away would-be buyers “is really heartbreaking,” said
Heather DeLong, the Denver Urban Gardens farm manager. “They’ve
gotten to where they are taking initiative to be active in what
they are eating.”

Door-to-Door Organics, a food delivery service that buys as much as
possible from local growers, also is experiencing rapid growth,
with 650 metro-area customers, owner David Gersenson said.

Specialty grocers such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats sell good food,
“but this stuff is picked the day before it gets here. It’s
fresher,” said Patrick Winfield, 38, a software engineer whose
porch in central Denver serves as a drop-off/pick-up point for 40

He and his wife, Stefanie, who developed a taste for mangoes during
a Peace Corps stint in Malawi, wanted chemical-free food for their
children. They reckon the $300 or so that they pay for five months
of all they can eat is well worth it.

“And it’s like you’re tied into nature,” Winfield said. “You
care about what happens on farms.”

Small farmers struggle across much of the country in the face of
global competition. The share of U.S. food imported from abroad is
increasing, from about 7.8 percent of total food consumption in
1980 to at least 14 percent today, according to government

“Obviously, we’re all time-stressed,” and having fresh food
delivered “is a convenience issue,” said Carol O’Dwyer, a Park
Hill resident who is part of a cooperative that requires members to
take turns driving to the Cresset Farm east of Loveland.

“But mostly this is for the environment.”

Buying local also makes sense for health reasons, said Suzanne
Wuerthele, 60, a federal government toxicologist who picks up a
weekly box of vegetables a few blocks from her home.

Grocery store fruits in the off-season are tempting, “but I’m
concerned about where they come from. They may ship them 8,000
miles,” Wuerthele said.

The growing demand for fresh local food “is going to allow more
farmers to use more of their land to grow organic vegetables,”
said Marla Kiley, a mother of three who has had food delivered to
her central Denver house for five years.

Farmers “won’t have to sell to the bigger companies,” she said,
“because they have a ready local market.”