Six courses with a story to tell...

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The Sustainable Gastronomy menu is a collaboration between Ted Nordhaus, the founder of the Breakthrough Institute and a leading global thinker on food, energy, and the environment, and Alex Tishman, executive chef for Big City Chefs.

 

Featured products include apples that don’t brown, fish farmed in novel systems and sustainably raised feedlot meat, wine produced without grapes, precision-grown high-yield rice and, yes, the lowly supermarket tomato. Each has a story to tell, about sustainability and the culinary qualities that high tech, high productivity products offer chefs and diners.

FEATURED INGREDIENTS

Non-Browning Apples


Each year nearly one third of global food production and a similar proportion of U.S. food is never eaten. Wasted food generates about 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions, in part due to methane emissions from decomposing food. Additionally, up to one-fifth of the world’s fertilizer, freshwater and cropland use is used for food that is wasted or otherwise lost. Consumers throw out up to 25% of apples, the most widely eaten fruit in the U.S., often for aesthetic reasons, and up to 40% of apples may be lost throughout the entire supply chain, mostly due to bruising and browning. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features the Golden Arctic Apple, a variety of Golden Delicious that browns and bruises less. The apple was originally developed through biotechnology by a small Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Using a technique called RNA interference, or gene silencing, they reduced the activity of the enzyme in the apple that leads to browning. By eliminating superficial bruising and browning, the Arctic Apple holds the potential to dramatically reduce consumer food waste once it enters the market this year.





 

Bt Corn


Corn is the most widely grown commodity crop in the United States, covering over 90 million acres of land, and sweet corn is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables in the U.S., with the average person eating 20 lbs of fresh, frozen and canned corn annually. Corn is a prime example of how a crop grown conventionally – with synthetic inputs on large farms – can have a minimal environmental impact on a per calorie basis. Corn production is associated with less greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water and air pollution per calorie than most vegetables and all animal-derived products. Most U.S. corn is grown conventionally on 500+ acre farms using highly capital-intensive and efficient equipment and genetically engineered (GE) hybrid seeds. This enables corn to produce a high amount of calories for every input added, thereby reducing its environmental impacts compared to other crops. Of course, using corn for animal feed or fuel reduces the amount of edible calories produced, leading to substantial reductions in the amount of edible calories produced. Both conventional and organic corn producers utilize insecticides (organic use pesticides that are not synthetic but are often toxic). Recent studies suggest that conventionally grown corn can produce yields as much as 25% higher than organic corn. The adoption of genetically engineered corn, though it has increased total herbicide use, has driven a reduction in herbicide toxicity and the need for insecticide spraying. Seeds engineered to be herbicide resistant have also dramatically increased adoption of no-till farming, which significantly reduces soil erosion. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features Bt corn. Although there is little research on sweet corn, the adoption of Bt feed corn enabled U.S. farmers to cut i nsecticide usage as much as 80%, improving local biodiversity, reducing pesticide-related greenhouse gas emissions and potentially improving farmworker health.





 

Grain-Fed Beef


Total US beef consumption is higher than in any other country, with Americans buying over 50 lbs of beef per person each year. Beef has a disproportionately large environmental impact with a higher per pound carbon, land, and water footprint than pork, chicken and other widely consumed foods. Pasture for cattle grazing takes up over 400 million acres in the US and covers a quarter of the world’s land area. Each pound of beef production is also responsible for more eutrophication and acidification (measures of water and air pollution) than other food sources Grain-finished beef production, where cattle are raised on both pasture and feedlot, generally requires substantially less land and water, and generates less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of meat than grass-finished beef, where cattle are only raised on pasture. This is partially because feedlots concentrate cattle in less space and bring them to a higher slaughter weight more quickly, in part through the use of specially formulated feeds. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features grain-finished beef from Flannery Beef. They source their Prime California beef from a JBS processing plant. Although the ultimate source of the beef is not fully traceable, the cattle are raised conventionally. They are on pasture for about one year, where they graze, occasionally in a rotational grazing program. They are then transferred to feedlots, for several months. Here they are fed flaked corn, often delivered from the Midwest by train, mixed with other feed grains such as alfalfa hay, vitamins, and, in many cases, antibiotics that help prevent liver abscesses and fight off particular rumen bacteria. Overall, the cattle are fattened more quickly and to a higher slaughter weight – 1,200 to 1,400 pounds – than grass-finished cattle. Feedlots also have mixed results regarding water and air pollution. The concentration of cattle and manure can result in the the pollution of water above accepted levels or in the overapplication of manure on land. However, they also contribute up to half as much less to eutrophication and acidification – measures of water and air pollution – per pound of meat produced than pasture systems. This is because grass-fed systems have more difficulty managing the leaching, runoff and other pollution from manure, and also contribute to soil erosion. Additionally, feedlots can minimize emissions from manure by converting it to energy with an aerobic manure digester, although this technology is not yet widely adopted.





Bt Corn


Corn is the most widely grown commodity crop in the United States, covering over 90 million acres of land, and sweet corn is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables in the U.S., with the average person eating 20 lbs of fresh, frozen and canned corn annually. Corn is a prime example of how a crop grown conventionally – with synthetic inputs on large farms – can have a minimal environmental impact on a per calorie basis. Corn production is associated with less greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water and air pollution per calorie than most vegetables and all animal-derived products. Most U.S. corn is grown conventionally on 500+ acre farms using highly capital-intensive and efficient equipment and genetically engineered (GE) hybrid seeds. This enables corn to produce a high amount of calories for every input added, thereby reducing its environmental impacts compared to other crops. Of course, using corn for animal feed or fuel reduces the amount of edible calories produced, leading to substantial reductions in the amount of edible calories produced. Both conventional and organic corn producers utilize insecticides (organic use pesticides that are not synthetic but are often toxic). Recent studies suggest that conventionally grown corn can produce yields as much as 25% higher than organic corn. The adoption of genetically engineered corn, though it has increased total herbicide use, has driven a reduction in herbicide toxicity and the need for insecticide spraying. Seeds engineered to be herbicide resistant have also dramatically increased adoption of no-till farming, which significantly reduces soil erosion. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features Bt corn. Although there is little research on sweet corn, the adoption of Bt feed corn enabled U.S. farmers to cut i nsecticide usage as much as 80%, improving local biodiversity, reducing pesticide-related greenhouse gas emissions and potentially improving farmworker health.





 

Farmed Fish


Global fish consumption is expected to increase as much as 30% by 2050 and wild fisheries are nearly at capacity – they can only provide 14-17% more fish before reaching a point where further fishing would reduce fish stocks. Besides overfishing, populations are threatened by habitat damage from fishing vessels and bycatch. Aquaculture can reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks and is already doing so – it is the world’s main source of fish. However, fish-based feeds can deplete other fish stocks and waste can pollute natural water bodies. Nonetheless, shifting from wild-caught to farmed fish can significantly reduce environmental impacts, as leading environmental organizations such as Conservation International have found. Indoor tank-based systems called Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) can eliminate most of the impacts associated with both wild fishing and conventional aquaculture. These systems are largely self-contained, treating and recycling nearly all the water they use. This eliminates many of the risks aquaculture poses such as the release of fish waste and chemicals, the transfer of diseases from farmed to wild fish, or escape of farmed species into the wild. It also nearly eliminates the risk of habitat loss, decline in fish populations or bycatch. However, RAS systems require more energy to operate and therefore perform best when clean sources of energy are available. Offshore marine pens or cages, offer similar benefits. Compared to coastal aquaculture, they generate little pollution, using the strong currents in deep waters to dilute the fish waste. Additionally, there are fewer nutrients and there is less biodiversity in these marine areas than in sensitive coastal ecosystems, reducing the impact of nutrients in the fish waste. They also entail a trade-off; boats must travel farther to manage the operation and harvest fish, thereby burning more fuel. The dinner features Kampachi from Blue Ocean Mariculture that is farmed in offshore marine net pens at low densities. The use of this system minimizes the risk of harm to wild fish populations and still keeps GHG emissions lower than those from other livestock systems. Blue Ocean monitors water quality and waste levels and has also located pens where currents are strong, mitigating the impact of fish waste. Although the fish are carnivores, they require less feed than similar fish such as yellowtail and amberjack. They eat about 1½ lbs of feed to gain one pound, and approximately 35% of this feed comes from fishmeal and fish oil from wild-caught fish. Since Blue Ocean’s Kampachi eat less fish than they would in the wild and involve less bycatch, they have a far lower impact on fish populations than wild-caught fish.





 
 

Bt Corn


Corn is the most widely grown commodity crop in the United States, covering over 90 million acres of land, and sweet corn is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables in the U.S., with the average person eating 20 lbs of fresh, frozen and canned corn annually. Corn is a prime example of how a crop grown conventionally – with synthetic inputs on large farms – can have a minimal environmental impact on a per calorie basis. Corn production is associated with less greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water and air pollution per calorie than most vegetables and all animal-derived products. Most U.S. corn is grown conventionally on 500+ acre farms using highly capital-intensive and efficient equipment and genetically engineered (GE) hybrid seeds. This enables corn to produce a high amount of calories for every input added, thereby reducing its environmental impacts compared to other crops. Of course, using corn for animal feed or fuel reduces the amount of edible calories produced, leading to substantial reductions in the amount of edible calories produced. Both conventional and organic corn producers utilize insecticides (organic use pesticides that are not synthetic but are often toxic). Recent studies suggest that conventionally grown corn can produce yields as much as 25% higher than organic corn. The adoption of genetically engineered corn, though it has increased total herbicide use, has driven a reduction in herbicide toxicity and the need for insecticide spraying. Seeds engineered to be herbicide resistant have also dramatically increased adoption of no-till farming, which significantly reduces soil erosion. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features Bt corn. Although there is little research on sweet corn, the adoption of Bt feed corn enabled U.S. farmers to cut i nsecticide usage as much as 80%, improving local biodiversity, reducing pesticide-related greenhouse gas emissions and potentially improving farmworker health.





 

Farmed Fish


Global fish consumption is expected to increase as much as 30% by 2050 and wild fisheries are nearly at capacity – they can only provide 14-17% more fish before reaching a point where further fishing would reduce fish stocks. Besides overfishing, populations are threatened by habitat damage from fishing vessels and bycatch. Aquaculture can reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks and is already doing so – it is the world’s main source of fish. However, fish-based feeds can deplete other fish stocks and waste can pollute natural water bodies. Nonetheless, shifting from wild-caught to farmed fish can significantly reduce environmental impacts, as leading environmental organizations such as Conservation International have found. Indoor tank-based systems called Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) can eliminate most of the impacts associated with both wild fishing and conventional aquaculture. These systems are largely self-contained, treating and recycling nearly all the water they use. This eliminates many of the risks aquaculture poses such as the release of fish waste and chemicals, the transfer of diseases from farmed to wild fish, or escape of farmed species into the wild. It also nearly eliminates the risk of habitat loss, decline in fish populations or bycatch. However, RAS systems require more energy to operate and therefore perform best when clean sources of energy are available. Offshore marine pens or cages, offer similar benefits. Compared to coastal aquaculture, they generate little pollution, using the strong currents in deep waters to dilute the fish waste. Additionally, there are fewer nutrients and there is less biodiversity in these marine areas than in sensitive coastal ecosystems, reducing the impact of nutrients in the fish waste. They also entail a trade-off; boats must travel farther to manage the operation and harvest fish, thereby burning more fuel. The dinner features Kampachi from Blue Ocean Mariculture that is farmed in offshore marine net pens at low densities. The use of this system minimizes the risk of harm to wild fish populations and still keeps GHG emissions lower than those from other livestock systems. Blue Ocean monitors water quality and waste levels and has also located pens where currents are strong, mitigating the impact of fish waste. Although the fish are carnivores, they require less feed than similar fish such as yellowtail and amberjack. They eat about 1½ lbs of feed to gain one pound, and approximately 35% of this feed comes from fishmeal and fish oil from wild-caught fish. Since Blue Ocean’s Kampachi eat less fish than they would in the wild and involve less bycatch, they have a far lower impact on fish populations than wild-caught fish.





 

Farmed Fish


Global fish consumption is expected to increase as much as 30% by 2050 and wild fisheries are nearly at capacity – they can only provide 14-17% more fish before reaching a point where further fishing would reduce fish stocks. Besides overfishing, populations are threatened by habitat damage from fishing vessels and bycatch. Aquaculture can reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks and is already doing so – it is the world’s main source of fish. However, fish-based feeds can deplete other fish stocks and waste can pollute natural water bodies. Nonetheless, shifting from wild-caught to farmed fish can significantly reduce environmental impacts, as leading environmental organizations such as Conservation International have found. Indoor tank-based systems called Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) can eliminate most of the impacts associated with both wild fishing and conventional aquaculture. These systems are largely self-contained, treating and recycling nearly all the water they use. This eliminates many of the risks aquaculture poses such as the release of fish waste and chemicals, the transfer of diseases from farmed to wild fish, or escape of farmed species into the wild. It also nearly eliminates the risk of habitat loss, decline in fish populations or bycatch. However, RAS systems require more energy to operate and therefore perform best when clean sources of energy are available. Offshore marine pens or cages, offer similar benefits. Compared to coastal aquaculture, they generate little pollution, using the strong currents in deep waters to dilute the fish waste. Additionally, there are fewer nutrients and there is less biodiversity in these marine areas than in sensitive coastal ecosystems, reducing the impact of nutrients in the fish waste. They also entail a trade-off; boats must travel farther to manage the operation and harvest fish, thereby burning more fuel. The dinner features Kampachi from Blue Ocean Mariculture that is farmed in offshore marine net pens at low densities. The use of this system minimizes the risk of harm to wild fish populations and still keeps GHG emissions lower than those from other livestock systems. Blue Ocean monitors water quality and waste levels and has also located pens where currents are strong, mitigating the impact of fish waste. Although the fish are carnivores, they require less feed than similar fish such as yellowtail and amberjack. They eat about 1½ lbs of feed to gain one pound, and approximately 35% of this feed comes from fishmeal and fish oil from wild-caught fish. Since Blue Ocean’s Kampachi eat less fish than they would in the wild and involve less bycatch, they have a far lower impact on fish populations than wild-caught fish.





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