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

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.





 

Reduced-Bruising Potatoes


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. Each year, millions of pounds of bruised and browned potatoes are disposed of throughout the supply chain, particularly during processing. The White Russet Potato™, featured in this dinner, is a variety of russet developed by the J.R. Simplot Company using the same gene silencing method for the Arctic Apple. The White Russet resists bruising and browning, and produces less acrylamide when fried. Although the potato is only now starting to be marketed, it is expected to reduce black spot bruising over 40%. If all Russet Burbank potatoes in the U.S. had this low level of bruising, it could cut food waste by over 1 billion pounds, thereby reducing CO2 emissions, pesticide applications, and water use from potato production.





 

Farmed Shrimp


Since the early 1990s, the average amount of shrimp Americans eat annually has doubled to four pounds per person, making it the most popular seafood in the country. As much as 90 percent is farmed overseas, imported and tied up in a web of environmental, labor and health risks. These include bycatch of endangered or threatened fish species, marine and coastal ecosystem degradation and destruction, a large carbon footprint, human rights abuses in labor, and the use of chemicals that may harm human health. Conventional shrimp fishing involves using trawling nets that scrape the bottom of the ocean catching shrimp and a host of other species – often as much as six pounds of other species per pound of shrimp. Most shrimp aquaculture is semi-intensive, containing and feeding shrimp in bodies of water such as along the coast or in ponds that are integrated with the natural environment. A smaller portion is intensive, creating a self-contained environment, such as a concrete tank or plastic-lined pond, where shrimp are fed only external feeds. For instance, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) involve raising shrimp in indoor tanks where the water is continually being treated and recycled. Overall, shrimp farmed in ponds in the U.S., South or Central America, and shrimp farmed indoors in RAS tanks are rated most highly by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. These types of aquaculture systems eliminate the high rates of bycatch and overfishing that result from trawling, and minimize the ecosystem degradation and water pollution often associated with aquaculture. Yet some of them, RAS in particular, often require greater energy use. This highlights the linkages between the food and energy sectors, and the need for additional investment in clean energy. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features shrimp farmed in ponds in Kauai, HI. The shrimp farm receives much of its electricity from a hydroelectric plant. Additionally, recent investments in grid-scale battery storage have enabled Kauai to generate nearly 50% of its energy from clean sources. This ensures that each step of shrimp production and processing has minimal greenhouse gas emissions.





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.





 

Conventional Supermarket Tomatoes


Tomatoes are the second most consumed vegetable in the U.S. Much of the nation’s tomato crop is grown in California where growers boast substantially higher yields than growers in other states, thereby requiring less land. Conventional production brings additional land use benefits – fresh tomato yields in California are as much as 60% higher than organic (~30,000 vs. ~20,000 lbs/acre). Due to this yield gap, as well as emissions from compost and manure application on organic farms, conventional tomatoes tend to have slightly lower greenhouse gas emissions per pound. But this tomato production often requires large amounts of fertilizer and water. Overapplication of nitrogen fertilizer leads to nitrate leaching, a form of water pollution that can harm humans and ecosystems. And tomatoes can be water hogs, using an average of 63 cubic meters of freshwater per ton of tomatoes globally, a potential problem in areas with limited water availability. Technological innovations in irrigation and fertilization technology are enabling growers to reduce these impacts. Studies show that adoption of drip irrigation systems has reduced tomato growers’ water use and increased yields by at least 10%. Together with fertigation (fertilizing crops through the irrigation system), it also cuts emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, by more than 75% while also reducing nitrate leaching. This avoids the tradeoffs associated with some previous agricultural innovations such as heated greenhouses, which can reduce land use, but at least double greenhouse gas emissions. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner highlights tomatoes ordinarily found in the supermarket. Most of these come from California, where most growers have adopted drip irrigation, helping minimize their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. With higher yields and lower greenhouse gas emissions, conventional production of California tomatoes outperforms organic production by most sustainability metrics. However, even with drip technology, water use is higher than the national average, highlighting how trade-offs often exist between environmental impacts. Water use for organic tomatoes in California is moderately lower than for conventional, but also above the national average.





 
 

Farmed Shrimp


Since the early 1990s, the average amount of shrimp Americans eat annually has doubled to four pounds per person, making it the most popular seafood in the country. As much as 90 percent is farmed overseas, imported and tied up in a web of environmental, labor and health risks. These include bycatch of endangered or threatened fish species, marine and coastal ecosystem degradation and destruction, a large carbon footprint, human rights abuses in labor, and the use of chemicals that may harm human health. Conventional shrimp fishing involves using trawling nets that scrape the bottom of the ocean catching shrimp and a host of other species – often as much as six pounds of other species per pound of shrimp. Most shrimp aquaculture is semi-intensive, containing and feeding shrimp in bodies of water such as along the coast or in ponds that are integrated with the natural environment. A smaller portion is intensive, creating a self-contained environment, such as a concrete tank or plastic-lined pond, where shrimp are fed only external feeds. For instance, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) involve raising shrimp in indoor tanks where the water is continually being treated and recycled. Overall, shrimp farmed in ponds in the U.S., South or Central America, and shrimp farmed indoors in RAS tanks are rated most highly by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. These types of aquaculture systems eliminate the high rates of bycatch and overfishing that result from trawling, and minimize the ecosystem degradation and water pollution often associated with aquaculture. Yet some of them, RAS in particular, often require greater energy use. This highlights the linkages between the food and energy sectors, and the need for additional investment in clean energy. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features shrimp farmed in ponds in Kauai, HI. The shrimp farm receives much of its electricity from a hydroelectric plant. Additionally, recent investments in grid-scale battery storage have enabled Kauai to generate nearly 50% of its energy from clean sources. This ensures that each step of shrimp production and processing has minimal greenhouse gas emissions.





 

Farmed Shrimp


Since the early 1990s, the average amount of shrimp Americans eat annually has doubled to four pounds per person, making it the most popular seafood in the country. As much as 90 percent is farmed overseas, imported and tied up in a web of environmental, labor and health risks. These include bycatch of endangered or threatened fish species, marine and coastal ecosystem degradation and destruction, a large carbon footprint, human rights abuses in labor, and the use of chemicals that may harm human health. Conventional shrimp fishing involves using trawling nets that scrape the bottom of the ocean catching shrimp and a host of other species – often as much as six pounds of other species per pound of shrimp. Most shrimp aquaculture is semi-intensive, containing and feeding shrimp in bodies of water such as along the coast or in ponds that are integrated with the natural environment. A smaller portion is intensive, creating a self-contained environment, such as a concrete tank or plastic-lined pond, where shrimp are fed only external feeds. For instance, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) involve raising shrimp in indoor tanks where the water is continually being treated and recycled. Overall, shrimp farmed in ponds in the U.S., South or Central America, and shrimp farmed indoors in RAS tanks are rated most highly by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. These types of aquaculture systems eliminate the high rates of bycatch and overfishing that result from trawling, and minimize the ecosystem degradation and water pollution often associated with aquaculture. Yet some of them, RAS in particular, often require greater energy use. This highlights the linkages between the food and energy sectors, and the need for additional investment in clean energy. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner features shrimp farmed in ponds in Kauai, HI. The shrimp farm receives much of its electricity from a hydroelectric plant. Additionally, recent investments in grid-scale battery storage have enabled Kauai to generate nearly 50% of its energy from clean sources. This ensures that each step of shrimp production and processing has minimal greenhouse gas emissions.





 

Conventional Supermarket Tomatoes


Tomatoes are the second most consumed vegetable in the U.S. Much of the nation’s tomato crop is grown in California where growers boast substantially higher yields than growers in other states, thereby requiring less land. Conventional production brings additional land use benefits – fresh tomato yields in California are as much as 60% higher than organic (~30,000 vs. ~20,000 lbs/acre). Due to this yield gap, as well as emissions from compost and manure application on organic farms, conventional tomatoes tend to have slightly lower greenhouse gas emissions per pound. But this tomato production often requires large amounts of fertilizer and water. Overapplication of nitrogen fertilizer leads to nitrate leaching, a form of water pollution that can harm humans and ecosystems. And tomatoes can be water hogs, using an average of 63 cubic meters of freshwater per ton of tomatoes globally, a potential problem in areas with limited water availability. Technological innovations in irrigation and fertilization technology are enabling growers to reduce these impacts. Studies show that adoption of drip irrigation systems has reduced tomato growers’ water use and increased yields by at least 10%. Together with fertigation (fertilizing crops through the irrigation system), it also cuts emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, by more than 75% while also reducing nitrate leaching. This avoids the tradeoffs associated with some previous agricultural innovations such as heated greenhouses, which can reduce land use, but at least double greenhouse gas emissions. The Sustainable Gastronomy dinner highlights tomatoes ordinarily found in the supermarket. Most of these come from California, where most growers have adopted drip irrigation, helping minimize their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. With higher yields and lower greenhouse gas emissions, conventional production of California tomatoes outperforms organic production by most sustainability metrics. However, even with drip technology, water use is higher than the national average, highlighting how trade-offs often exist between environmental impacts. Water use for organic tomatoes in California is moderately lower than for conventional, but also above the national average.





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