This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
I was talking to a local small grocery store owner about why her she can't carry certain products in her ready-made section. Turns out things like local meat-filled cassava pasties and meat pies cannot be sold by a grocery store unless they they are produced in a continuously inspected USDA facility, no easy thing for a small local business to open.
Except sandwiches. If you take that same meat and put it between two (not one) pieces of nice wheaty bread, it magically becomes safe to sell! No, it's not OK to bake the meat in the bread, like a pie, it has to be real American sandwich with two normal pieces of bread.
Product must contain at least 35 percent cooked meat and no more than 50 percent bread. Sandwiches are not amenable to inspection. If inspection is requested for this product, it may be granted under reimbursable Food Inspection Service. Typical —closed-faced“ sandwiches consisting of two slices of bread or the top and bottom sections of a sliced bun that enclose meat or poultry, are not amenable to the Federal meat and poultry inspection laws. Therefore, they are not required to be inspected nor bear the marks of inspection when distributed in interstate commerce.
What is the mechanism behind two pieces of bread making the meat safer? It must not be working, since many pre-made sandwiches have tested positive for listeria.
A meat pie is also perfectly legal to buy when made in a restaurant. Most restaurants are inspected once a year.
Another one to file under nonsensical food regulations. There should be a middle way that allows small local businesses to market their meat-containing products without investing in a full USDA inspected plant.
Yesterday I wrote about the fact that an unpredictable over-powerful government and excessive regulations can quash the desire of young people to be creative and work hard.
I think there is an opportunity here for states and countries to attract more young people, both by fostering the flourishing of small businesses. While the Federal government unfortunately continues to grow in power, the fact is that some states are more free than other states.
This is a cool site where you can rank states based on freedom and weight things that you care about. New Hampshire and many Western (but not West coast) states rank pretty high no matter how you slide things.
New York ranks pretty badly. The fact we have so many innovative things here is a testament to the value of urban concentration, but even while I've lived here, I've seen many small businesses and small farms go under thanks to regulation or government persecution. That's one of many reasons I didn't want to build a business here. And one of the reasons I think upstate is so economically depressed and why many young folks in NYC consider themselves temporary residents.
This might seem small, but one of my favorite markets was the Greenpoint food market. It was full of interesting and innovative micro-businesses created in the "gig economy." I used to buy all kinds of interesting food and crafts there, until word got out and the health department shut it down because some food wasn't made in government-approved kitchens. You can argue about those regulations all day, but I think if they are going to have that kind of burden, there should be more public-funding for projects that help small businesses get around the extremely capital-intensive regulations. Some of these do exist already- there is a commercial kitchen you can rent in Long Island City and it has helped some of the businesses kicked out of the market go on to become legitimate.
I think that's also why the freedom rankings have some limitations, because there are states that rank kind of badly, but still manage to encourage innovation. Public funding towards things like kitchen incubators and agricultural extensions can make a difference, though it comes along with higher taxes. And individual towns even have the power to attract small food businesses, such as a town in Maine that declared food sovereignty.
Beyond our borders, I think small countries that are experiencing brain-drain or that are just developing might be posed to attract educated innovative immigrant "pioneers" through favorable policies. I already know some people my age who have moved to SE Asia and others that have invested in African countries like Rwanda (bad reputation, but the government is trying to rebuild). Unfortunately in Eastern Europe the EU is destroying freedom and the ability for Americans to invest, but perhaps that will be broken by their recent crisis since it's clear a lot of these countries really need investment. Iceland and parts of Canada are also contenders.
Of course this requires that young people be wiling to be pioneers and move somewhere new, but I figure that's something Americans are pretty decent at already.
Another nutritious food that is banned in the US is haggis, the traditional Scottish sheep offal delicacy. There were some reports this week that the ban had been lifted, but alas, these were squashed.
The sheep offal delight had been banned in the United States since the ‘80s due to BSE fears, but now Scotland’s most famous dish is back on the American dinner table. (Via Andrew Sullivan) Update 3:01 p.m. PT: Sorry, haggis fans. A representative from the Department of Agriculture writes, “At this time, haggis is still banned in the U.S. The APHIS rule covers all ruminant imports, which includes haggis. It is currently being reviewed to incorporate the current risk and latest science related to these regulations. There is no specific time frame for the completion of this review.”
Sheep lungs are not legal for consumption in the US and unlike wild game, which is legal to import providing you follow a ridiculous number of rules, you also can't import it. That doesn't mean that lungs are completely off the menu. If you live in a major city you can usually find them in ethnic enclaves.