Thursday, May 27, 2010

For the Gulf, It’s Death in the Ocean from Top to Bottom By: Susan D. Shaw, DrPH

I just returned from the Gulf of Mexico where, accompanied by a London Times crew, I dove in the oily water laden with sticky patches of chemical dispersant. As a marine toxicologist, what I witnessed was a surreal, sickening scenario. Sea life in the Gulf is facing not only death by oil and its cancer-causing components. The addition of toxic chemical dispersants may be causing fish, seabirds, and dolphins to drown in their own blood.
Chemical dispersants may have prevented some oil from coming ashore, but the real problem is what we are doing to ocean itself.
Dispersants break up the oil into smaller pieces that sink in the water column, forming “bite size” packages of poison all the way to the sea floor. Diving down into the murky waters, it was possible to see tiny wisps of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and tiny shrimps enveloped in dark oily droplets. Closer to the surface, planktivorous fish such as herring were feeding with gaping mouths on a brown pudding of death. As vital niches in the food web disappear in the toxic morass, we may not see all the sinking bodies but their absence will certainly wreak havoc on every higher organism -- including us.
As the orange ooze invades the Louisiana marshes, it is increasingly obvious that the long-term impacts of this untested chemical “remedy” for the Gulf spill will be catastrophic -- especially for top predators including all the big fish, pelicans, sea turtles, sharks, and dolphins.
It is death in the ocean from the top to the bottom.
As of last week, BP had released more than 800,000 gallons of COREXIT, its “industry-insider” line of chemical dispersants into the Gulf. These dispersants are manufactured by Nalco, a company with ties to BP and Exxon Chemical.
COREXIT 9527, which has been sprayed in massive quantities, contains 2-butoxyethanol, a chemical that ruptures red blood cells and causes hemolysis (bleeding) when ingested. After this dispersant was sprayed in 1989 to contain the oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, workers suffered health problems including blood in their urine, and liver and kidney damage.
Its replacement, COREXIT 9500, contains surfactants and petroleum solvents that are bioaccumulative, caustic, and cause chemical pneumonia if aspirated into the lungs.
BP has brazenly refused to switch to less toxic, more effective EPA-approved dispersants. Dispersit, a competitor of COREXIT 9500, is twice as effective on LA crude and about a third as toxic. Dispersit and Sea Brat #4 are water-based and biodegradable while COREXIT 9500 contains petroleum-based solvents and bioaccumulates in food webs. BP claims it does not have sufficient stockpiles of the safer dispersants for immediate use.
Despite arguments over “secret” formulas and data gaps, the truth is, none of the chemical dispersants is without risk and their use on such a massive scale is unprecedented. Unless stopped, BP plans to release another 800,000 gallons or more of COREXIT into the fragile Gulf ecosystem. The need for regulatory control of the reckless use of toxic chemicals in the US has never been greater.
BPs application of COREXIT dispersants in the Gulf must be halted and the damage assessed for at least the next 12 months or more to determine immediate and long-term impacts to marine life. An independent monitoring effort should be funded by BP and results be transparent and available to researchers and the public.
The US EPA and NOAA need to take a strong stand to prevent further release of toxic chemical dispersants to the Gulf for even one more day, one more hour. Hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of marine lives are at stake.
Susan D. Shaw is a marine toxicologist and founder/director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute
www.meriresearch.org
Susan D. Shaw, DrPH
Director, Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI)
Center for Marine Studies
PO Box 1653, 55 Main Street
Blue Hill, ME 04614
Tel: (207) 374-2135
Fax: (207) 374-2931
sshaw@meriresearch.org
www.meriresearch.org

Monday, March 8, 2010

Recipe for Cedar Planked Salmon

1 wild salmon fillet
1 bunch of scallions
Glaze:
Zest from 1 lemon
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1C maple syrup
1 T Dijon mustard
2 T grated gingerroot
4 T fresh lemon juice
4 T soy sauce
2 T of Chinese 5 Spice of the jar variety or 1 t of the dry
3 large cloves of garlic grated
1 cedar board

Soak the board in cold water for about 2 hours
Combine glaze ingredients in a saucepan and reduce by half…
Spread 1/2 of the glaze on the salmon fillet and let sit for 15 minutes and reserve the remaining glaze
Remove board from water…dry off and spray with olive oil.
Cut the scallions in 3 inches strips and place across the board.
Place the salmon skin side down on top of the scallions
Heat BBQ. When hot place the board with the salmon on it on the BBQ. Close the lid and cook for about 15 minutes.
Remove from BBQ.
Plate the salmon….remove the skin and discard the scallions..... brush with remaining glaze.


A group of us got together to watch the Academy Awards the other night. Since most of us were trying to eat healthy and low fat, we were instructed to bring an appropriate dish. After several hours of going over my recipes, I decided to adapt an old favorite. The result was a maple glazed salmon fillet grilled on a cedar plank.

You can purchase the cedar planks at most cookware stores or you can make them from untreated cedar board.

Making Chevre






The curds are wrapped in cheesecloth and left to hang for two days to remove all the whey





Mix the warm goat milk with the rennet and the culture and let sit for 18-24 hours








When using using molds, spoon the curds into the molds and let them sit for two days over a rack placed in a pan




Making Chevre is so easy to do and it tastes better than any artisan cheese you can buy . This cheese tastes unbelievably fresh and it is such a fantastic feeling to sit down to a salad that you have grown topped with Chevre you made from fresh goat milk.. Once you make a batch you will never buy it again...



All you need is:

2 gallon fresh goat milk
2 drops liquid vegetable rennet
2 packets of Chevre starter ..but if you don't have this 1/4 cups live cultured buttermilk will work

cheese cloth or molds

a thermometer that goes down to at least 70 degrees

All equipment must be sterilized before you begin

You can get the starter and molds online from the New England Cheese Supply Company



Heat the milk to 86 degrees. Remove from heat and add the starter and the rennet. Mix well and let culture sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

The curd will separate from the whey and you will have a large mass of curds.

Using a slotted spoon, spoon the curds into the molds. If you do not have molds, line a sieve with cheesecloth and spoon the curds into it.

Once the molds are filled cover them with foil and place them on a wire rack that is set over a pan that is about 2 inches thick. As the cheese sets it will loose a lot more whey and the whey will go into the pan. If you are using the cheesecloth method, lift the bundle out of the sieve, tie a string around it to make a bag and hand the bag over a bowl so that the whey can drop into the bowl.

Let the curds sit for two days either in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter.

After the whey has drained the curds will have shrunk by about 50 percent. Unmold the cheese. Season with -salt, fresh herbs or pepper...it is now ready to enjoy


The cheese will last about two weeks covered in the refrigerator.....











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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cutting Edge in East Blue Hill

The residents of East Blue Hill have come together and formed a quasi cow coop... To ensure that they are getting the best meat possible for their table they have pooled together to purchase steer and let them graze  on a local pasture. When fall comes around they have the steer made into the most delectable cuts of meat..


Article from the New York Times

How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet
On a farm in coastal Maine, a barn is going up. Right now it's little more than a concrete slab and some wooden beams, but when it's finished, the barn will provide winter shelter for up to six cows and a few head of sheep. None of this would be remarkable if it weren't for the fact that the people building the barn are two of the most highly regarded organic-vegetable farmers in the country: Eliot Coleman wrote the bible of organic farming, The New Organic Grower, and Barbara Damrosch is the Washington Post's gardening columnist. At a time when a growing number of environmental activists are calling for an end to eating meat, this veggie-centric power couple is beginning to raise it. "Why?" asks Coleman, tromping through the mud on his way toward a greenhouse bursting with December turnips. "Because I care about the fate of the planet."

Ever since the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a 2006 report that attributed 18% of the world's man-made greenhouse-gas emissions to livestock — more, the report noted, than what's produced by transportation — livestock has taken an increasingly hard rap. At first, it was just vegetarian groups that used the U.N.'s findings as evidence for the superiority of an all-plant diet. But since then, a broader range of environmentalists has taken up the cause. At a recent European Parliament hearing titled "Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat," Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, argued that reducing meat consumption is a "simple, effective and short-term delivery measure in which everybody could contribute" to emissions reductions. (See the top 10 green ideas of 2009.)

And of all the animals that humans eat, none are held more responsible for climate change than the ones that moo. Cows not only consume more energy-intensive feed than other livestock; they also produce more methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — than other animals do. "If your primary concern is to curb emissions, you shouldn't be eating beef," says Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., noting that cows produce 13 to 30 lb. of carbon dioxide per pound of meat. (See where cows eat and what it means for the environment.)

So how can Coleman and Damrosch believe that adding livestock to their farm will help the planet? Cattleman Ridge Shinn has the answer. On a wintry Saturday at his farm in Hardwick, Mass., he is out in his pastures encouraging a herd of plump Devon cows to move to a grassy new paddock. Over the course of a year, his 100 cattle will rotate across 175 acres four or five times. "Conventional cattle raising is like mining," he says. "It's unsustainable, because you're just taking without putting anything back. But when you rotate cattle on grass, you change the equation. You put back more than you take." (See the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2009.)
It works like this: grass is a perennial. Rotate cattle and other ruminants across pastures full of it, and the animals' grazing will cut the blades — which spurs new growth — while their trampling helps work manure and other decaying organic matter into the soil, turning it into rich humus. The plant's roots also help maintain soil health by retaining water and microbes. And healthy soil keeps carbon dioxide underground and out of the atmosphere.

Compare that with the estimated 99% of U.S. beef cattle that live out their last months on feedlots, where they are stuffed with corn and soybeans. In the past few decades, the growth of these concentrated animal-feeding operations has resulted in millions of acres of grassland being abandoned or converted — along with vast swaths of forest — into profitable cropland for livestock feed. "Much of the carbon footprint of beef comes from growing grain to feed the animals, which requires fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, transportation," says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. "Grass-fed beef has a much lighter carbon footprint." Indeed, although grass-fed cattle may produce more methane than conventional ones (high-fiber plants are harder to digest than cereals, as anyone who has felt the gastric effects of eating broccoli or cabbage can attest), their net emissions are lower because they help the soil sequester carbon.



From Vermont, where veal and dairy farmer Abe Collins is developing software designed to help farmers foster carbon-rich topsoil quickly, to Denmark, where Thomas Harttung's Aarstiderne farm grazes 150 head of cattle, a vanguard of small farmers are trying to get the word out about how much more eco-friendly they are than factory farming. "If you suspend a cow in the air with buckets of grain, then it's a bad guy," Harttung explains. "But if you put it where it belongs — on grass — that cow becomes not just carbon-neutral but carbon-negative." Collins goes even further. "With proper management, pastoralists, ranchers and farmers could achieve a 2% increase in soil-carbon levels on existing agricultural, grazing and desert lands over the next two decades," he estimates. Some researchers hypothesize that just a 1% increase (over, admittedly, vast acreages) could be enough to capture the total equivalent of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions.

This math works out in part because farmers like Shinn don't use fertilizers or pesticides to maintain their pastures and need no energy to produce what their animals eat other than what they get free from the sun. Furthermore, pasturing frequently uses land that would otherwise be unproductive. "I'd like to see someone try to raise soybeans here," he says, gesturing toward the rocky, sloping fields around him.

By many standards, pastured beef is healthier. That's certainly the case for the animals involved; grass feeding obviates the antibiotics that feedlots are forced to administer in order to prevent the acidosis that occurs when cows are fed grain. But it also appears to be true for people who eat cows. Compared with conventional beef, grass-fed is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3s, the heart-healthy fatty acids found in salmon. (See pictures of the world's most polluted places.)

But not everyone is sold on its superiority. In addition to citing grass-fed meat's higher price tag — Shinn's ground beef ends up retailing for about $7 a pound, more than twice the price of conventional beef — feedlot producers say that only through their economies of scale can the industry produce enough meat to satisfy demand, especially for a growing population. These critics note that because grass is less caloric than grain, it takes two to three years to get a pastured cow to slaughter weight, whereas a feedlot animal requires only 14 months. "Not only does it take fewer animals on a feedlot to produce the same amount of meat," says Tamara Thies, chief environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (which contests the U.N.'s 18% figure), "but because they grow so quickly, they have less chance to produce greenhouse gases."

To Allan Savory, the economies-of-scale mentality ignores the role that grass-fed herbivores can play in fighting climate change. A former wildlife conservationist in Zimbabwe, Savory once blamed overgrazing for desertification. "I was prepared to shoot every bloody rancher in the country," he recalls. But through rotational grazing of large herds of ruminants, he found he could reverse land degradation, turning dead soil into thriving grassland. (See TIME's special report on the environment.)

Like him, Coleman now scoffs at the environmentalist vogue for vilifying meat eating. "The idea that giving up meat is the solution for the world's ills is ridiculous," he says at his Maine farm. "A vegetarian eating tofu made in a factory from soybeans grown in Brazil is responsible for a lot more CO2 than I am." A lifetime raising vegetables year-round has taught him to value the elegance of natural systems. Once he and Damrosch have brought in their livestock, they'll "be able to use the manure to feed the plants, and the plant waste to feed the animals," he says. "And even though we can't eat the grass, we'll be turning it into something we can."