The Baker who Beat McDonalds

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

Slow Food “David” Slays “Goliath,” the McDonald’s Fast Food Giant, in
Southern Italy

The baker who beat McDonald’s
The Times (UK)
From Richard Owen in Rome


AFTER a five-year battle, the fast-food giant McDonald’s has retreated from a southern Italian town, defeated by the sheer wholesomeness of a local baker’s bread.

The closure of McDonald’s in Altamura, Apulia, was hailed yesterday as a victory for European cuisine against globalised fast food.

Luigi Digesù, the baker, said that he had not set out to force McDonald’s to close down in any “bellicose spirit”. He had merely offered the 65,000 residents tasty filled panini — bread rolls — which they overwhelmingly preferred to hamburgers and chicken nuggets. “It is a question of free choice,” Signor Digesù said.

His speciality fillings include mortadella, mozzarella and eggs or scamorza cheese, eggs, basil and tomato, as well as fèdda, a local version of bruschetta — toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and salt and covered in chopped tomatoes.

McDonald’s opened in a piazza in the centre of Altamura, 45km (30 miles) south of Bari, in 2001, infuriating devotees of traditional Apulia gastronomy such as Peppino Colamonico, a doctor, and Onofrio Pepe, a journalist. They campaigned against McDonald’s as the Friends of Cardoncello, named after a southern Italian mushroom.

Altamura, founded in the 5th century BC and rebuilt in the Middle Ages by Frederick II, is famed for its fragrant, golden bread — and for Signor Digesù’s victorious panini.

“There was no marketing strategy, no advertising promotion, no discounts,” Il Giornale commented. “It was just that people decided the baker’s products were better. David has beaten Goliath.”

The queues outside the bakery grew longer while McDonald’s gradually emptied, despite the best efforts of Ronald McDonald, the mascot clown, changes of management, children’s parties and special offers.

In July 2003 Altamura bread was recognised by the European Union as a protected regional product after lobbying by Enzo Lavarra, Euro MP for the Bari area, Rachele Popolizio, the Mayor of Altamura, and Giuseppe Barile, head of the local bakers’ association.

Signor Pepe said that he regretted the loss of 20 jobs at McDonald’s, but “tradition has won”. The campaign was supported by the Slow Food Foundation, founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, an Italian journalist incensed by the opening of a McDonald’s on the Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome. It has 82,000 members in 107 countries.

Despite a series of closures around the world and active opposition, McDonald’s increased worldwide sales by 4 per cent last year. Jim Skinner, the chief executive, said that it was “the leading global foodservice retailer”, with more than 30,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries, 70 per cent of them “owned and operated by independent local businessmen and women”.

Shirley Foenander, vice-president for marketing and communication, said that McDonald’s had adapted to local cuisines and tastes.

But Signor Digesu’s victory was seen as more than a local setback by some. The French newspaper Libération said it showed that there was a “peaceful alternative” to the militancy of José Bové, the French farmer and
anti-globalisation protester, who was given a three-month prison sentence after ransacking a McDonald’s in the town of Millau in 1999.


* Altamura bread was the first baking product in Europe to be granted a DOP certificate, and is so far the only Italian bread to qualify for the honour. DOP stands for Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, or denomination of
protected origin, the equivalent of DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or denomination of controlled origin), used for wines. DOP products must be specific to a geographic area

* The bread is made from locally grown durum wheat flour with yeast, water and marine salt, according to a recipe dating to 1500. The formula is almost certainly older, however, because Horace, the Roman poet, called the bread “the best in the world.”

* The flour must be ground in mills within the communes of Altamura, Gravina di Puglia, Poggiorsini, Spinazzola and Minervino Murge, all in the province of Bari. The baking process has five stages from the rolling of the dough to baking

* It is baked in an open oak wood oven. It is unusually long-lasting and was originally created for shepherds and farmers who worked in the fields and hills of Apulia for days or even weeks at a time

* Altamura bread is the basis of several local dishes, including a winter soup called cialda, in which slices of the bread line a pot to which are added water, onions, tomatoes, parsley, basil, potatoes, olive oil, olives, celery and lemons


Laptop Lunch Boxes

by Tiffany in Natural Product Reviews

The post below was written before I actually had an opportunity to try the BPA free Laptop Lunchbox system. I can now call this the only lunchbox my kids will ever use! Read my extensive review of the Laptop Lunchboxes here. Also be sure to check out my Bento lunches on Flickr where I display our lunch creations. Enjoy!


Wow! I came across a WONDERFUL product today, Laptop Lunch Boxes. Laptop Lunches are American-style bento boxes designed to help families pack nutritious, environment-friendly lunches for school, work, and travel. They are sustainable lunch containers–which come with a book of healthy lunch ideas and lunchmaking recipes–are reusable, recyclable, and dishwasher safe. And all lunchboxes are lead-free.

So much thought went into the design of these lunch boxes…you can tell that they were designed by moms! I LOVE the fact that they are environment-friendly too. My youngest child begins school this year and I am already thinking about all the nutritious meals I can make for him, utilizing this cool lunch box of course :)

You can order your lunch box here!


Thursday, January 26th, 2006

1 Comment on Laptop Lunch Boxes


Whole Foods goes with the wind

by Tiffany in Environment, Political Action

By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Whole Foods Market is about to put some serious wind in its sales.

The trend-setting, natural foods grocery chain on Wednesday will announce plans to become the largest buyer of wind energy credits in North America by purchasing credits equal to 100% of its projected energy use for 2006.

That will make Whole Foods the only Fortune 500 company to purchase renewable energy credits — which subsidize the production of energy from renewable sources such as wind — to offset 100% of its electricity use, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

“In the corporate world, this is huge,” says Kurt Johnson, head of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership. “When a market leader does something like this, others will emulate.”

Like most businesses, Whole Foods can’t get its power directly from renewable energy sources. Instead, it is contracting to purchase 458,000 megawatt-hours of the renewable energy credits.

One credit represents one megawatt-hour of electricity from renewable sources. Producers of such energy sell the credits through brokers; the proceeds help offset the additional cost of generating electricity that way rather than by burning fuels such as coal.

Wind energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the USA. The Whole Foods purchase will help avoid more than 700 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution in 2006, says the EPA. That’s the rough equivalent of taking 60,000 cars off the road, the EPA says.

“From a branding perspective, it’s a stroke of genius,” says Barbara Brooks, president of the Strategy Group, a consulting firm. “It shows they understand where their customers are coming from not only nutritionally, but environmentally.”

Whole Foods declined to state what it spends on utilities or what it’s paying for the wind credits. In the 41 states with programs to promote credits, residential customers typically pay a 2-cent premium per kilowatt hour for them, while many business customers pay a 1-cent premium or less, says Lori Bird, senior energy analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Department of Energy contractor.

Whole Foods’ purchase equals 458 million kilowatt hours, and it gets no tax advantage for it.

The move comes at a time when more Fortune 500 companies are trying to project a “greener” image, including General Electric, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt recently pledged to decrease pollution and double R&D spending on cleaner technologies.

Whole Foods isn’t doing this altruistically. Most grocery stores are massive users of energy. As the 180-store chain grows, Whole Foods is increasingly being asked by its environmentally minded customers and employees what it is doing to limit energy waste, says Michael Besancon, the regional president overseeing the chain’s green efforts.

“We’re looking to show our customers and team members that we walk our talk,” says Besancon.

Requests to help wind energy showed up on Whole Foods customer comment cards, says Quayle Hodek, CEO of Renewable Choice Energy, from whom the chain bought its credits. “Comments like, ‘Wind power is cool,’ matter to (Whole Foods) because it matters to their customers.”


Enviro-Log Firelogs

by Tiffany in Natural Product Reviews

I use a wood burning stove in the wintertime and I am REALLY bad about getting and keeping a good fire going. So, I will often resort to using a fire log to help me out and I have found one that I especially like. This product gets an A+ from me.

Enviro-Log Firelogs are distinctive for their wide variety of applications and performance features. Because they are made from food-grade waxed old corrugated containers (WOCC), they can be used for cooking, as well as for heating and recreational purposes. They are compatible with all wood-burning appliances and can be used to enhance a wood-burning fire. They generate more energy per pound than wood or other firelog brands according to the company.

Enviro-Log Firelogs are easier to light, burn hotter with larger, smokeless flames, and do not melt, drip, or spark because there is no added petroleum-based binder. They can be stacked and stored outdoors similar to wood and are more weather-resistant than other firelog brands.

I also find them to be VERY reasonable in price!

Buy here.

Friday, January 13th, 2006

4 Comments on Enviro-Log Firelogs



by Tiffany in Environment, Political Action

From: The New York Times
January 3, 2006
Lax Oversight Found in Tests of Gene-Altered Crops

The Department of Agriculture has failed to regulate field trials of genetically engineered crops adequately, raising the risk of unintended environmental consequences, according to a stinging report issued by the department’s own auditor.

The report, issued late last month by the department’s Office of Inspector General, found that biotechnology regulators did not always notice violations of their own rules, did not inspect planting sites when they should have and did not assure that the genetically engineered crops were destroyed when the field trial was done.

In many cases, the report said, regulators did not even know the locations of field trials for which they granted permits.

The regulatory branch “lacks basic information about the field test sites it approves and is responsible for monitoring, including where and how the crops are being grown, and what becomes of them at the end of the field test,” the report said.

The audit results are likely to renew calls by environmental groups for tighter regulations. “Over all, I thought the report was devastating,” said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington.

Critics say genetically engineered crops could cause environmental harm, if, say, a gene for herbicide resistance spread to weeds, making them harder to kill.

In addition, the critics say, there could be harm to public health if a crop genetically engineered to produce a pharmaceutical or industrial chemical, for instance, accidentally found its way into the food supply.

The audit did not find any instances of known harm to public health or the environment.

However, the report said that weaknesses in regulations and in the internal management controls at the Department of Agriculture “increase the risk that genetically engineered organisms will inadvertently persist in the environment before they are deemed safe to grow without regulation.”

In a written response, the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which regulates biotech field trials, said that it was already taking steps to adopt 23 of the 28 recommendations made by the inspector general, and that more changes were on the way.

W. Ron DeHaven, the administrator of the service, known as Aphis, wrote in the response, “Since 1987, Aphis has safely regulated G.E. organisms and provided oversight and enforcement for over 10,000 field
tests with no demonstrable negative environmental impacts having arisen from these tests.”

A biotechnology industry spokeswoman said the report would have little effect because changes were already under way. “This is a report that was pretty much obsolete before it was ever published,” said the spokeswoman, Lisa Dry of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The inspector general’s office, however, said that further improvements would be required beyond those already planned.

Field trials are used to test experimental genetically engineered crops. Crop developers proposed to use 67,000 acres for such tests in 2004, up from 8,700 acres in 1994.

Once crops have proved themselves in field trials, the Agriculture Department can deregulate them, and seeds and harvested crops can be sold pretty much like any other seeds and crops.

The main varieties of genetically modified corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the United States have been deregulated.

The audit was conducted from May 2003 to April 2005 and involved visits to 91 field test sites as well as looking at records. The report said auditors found 13 instances of violations of rules at 11
of those sites.

One of the most controversial areas of agricultural biotechnology involves genetically engineering crops to produce pharmaceuticals or industrial chemicals. The Agriculture Department has stricter requirements for those crops than for genetically modified crops meant for food or animal feed.

However, the new report said the department often failed to enforce those stricter requirements. In most cases the auditors checked, the sites were not inspected five times each during field tests, as the department had promised. Nor were they inspected twice after the trial to make sure the crop was destroyed and the field fallow.

The report said that in two cases large harvests of pharmaceutical crops remained in storage for more than a year after the field test ended with regulators’ not knowing of the storage facility or approving it.

€ Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company