New York City Soda Ban Explained

After watching the video, do you think such a ban would be really effective? Well as the narrator suggested at the end of the video, while such a ban may not really deter the heavy drinkers anyway, it has forced New Yorkers to take a long and critical look at why obesity rates have been climbing. This is a helpful argument one can use in essays – that of laws or initiatives being symbolic, rather than a hard measurable deterrence. The same can be argued for other issues like capital punishment (does it bring crime down? maybe not, but hey, it makes the state look badass) and censorship (does it stop you from getting uncensored versions off the internet? again no, but it sends a message). 

Paradoxical Sponsorships…

I once remarked to a friend how it was only on earth that one could find a fast food chain actively sponsoring a global sport event like the Olympics. Well I guess some people feel the same way too about the ironic mutualism of it all…

UK doctors blast McDonalds’ Olympic sponsorship

LONDON – McDonald’s is a sponsor for the London Olympics – and a British doctors’ group says that is sending the wrong message in a country with ballooning obesity.

Big Macs, fries and milkshakes will be part of McDonald’s exclusively branded menu at the Olympics and the fast-food giant will soon be opening its largest franchise in the world, a two-story cathedral-like restaurant that seats 1,500 customers, at London’s Olympic Park. McDonald’s will be the only restaurateur allowed to sell brand-name food at the Games and there will also be a separate McDonald’s within the Athletes Village – in addition to three others at the Olympic Park.

Alongside McDonald’s, Coca-Cola has the exclusive right to sell non-alcoholic drinks at Olympic venues. Heineken has been named the Games’ official beer.

“It’s very sad that an event that celebrates the very best of athletic achievements should be sponsored by companies contributing to the obesity problem and unhealthy habits,” said Mr Terence Stephenson, a spokesman for the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges. The group is calling upon the British government to restrict advertising by McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Heineken during the Olympic Games, which are being held in London from July 27 to Aug 12.

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Ethical Consumerism Overrated?

An interesting column that appeared on last Sunday’s papers. Read on and see if you buy her logic and constant qualifiers. 

YOU’RE WHAT YOU EAT

I’ve never regarded shark’s fin soup as a delicacy because I was force-fed it as a child.

My father, you see, didn’t believe in half-measures. When he was interested in something, he’d go the whole hog.

For a while in the 1960s, his dream was to create the most beautiful black orchid in Singapore, so for years he and my mother mixed tiny seeds in bottles of agar-agar culture to come up with new orchid hybrids.

He then got into cultivating bonsai, which he turned into a business.

Another time, he was seized with the idea that there was a market for old typewriters, and so imported dozens from Sri Lanka. He had to sell them for a song when this business idea came to naught.

Shark’s fin soup was another of his life-long obsessions.

He loved it and wanted to eat it every day, so he got my mother to learn to cook the dish, which is usually served on special occasions in restaurants and is expensive.

He would set off before dawn to the then-Kangkar wholesale fish market in Upper Serangoon where he got our supply of fish and, when the craze hit him, shark’s fin.

Making the soup was painstaking work.

If the fins hadn’t come already cleaned, my mother would have to do this, and carefully, for you didn’t want any of those precious slithery strands to slip down the sink.

She’d then line a bamboo basket with raw pig’s skin and place the fins in the middle. Chinese wine and lots of coriander were added and the pig’s skin folded over to form a sort of giant samosa.

On top of that bundle she’d arrange fresh pig’s trotters and chunks of chicken. All this was put into a steamer and slowly cooked for hours.

The shark’s fin – softened and rid of the fishy smell – was then set aside while the rest of the by-now gelatinous ingredients were mixed with Chinese ham, crab meat and soya sauce to form a tasty broth.

Growing up, I had shark’s fin soup coming out of my ears. At any one time, we’d have pots of it in the fridge where it would have turned into jelly and had to be heated up.

My father believed shark’s fin was nutritious and would make us strong, and so he forced us to eat it.

While I didn’t dislike the dish – the fins are tasteless but the soup is flavourful – I developed something of a phobia for it.

Those days, no one batted an eyelid about eating shark’s fin soup. The Chinese have for centuries revered shark’s fin as a delicacy and it was served as a treat – a symbol of respect, honour and prosperity.

Today, no one can escape the bad press surrounding it.

Anti-shark’s fin soup advocates cite two main reasons the dish should be banned.

One is cruelty. Fishermen, they say, perform ‘finning’ where the coveted fins of the sharks are hacked off and the rest of the fish, sometimes still alive, thrown back into the sea to sink and die.

The other is the environment. They say the killing of sharks for their fins is depleting the world’s shark population with some species almost extinct, and this has dire effects on the ocean’s eco-system.

I would never order a bowl of shark’s fin soup for myself.

But this is not so much because of the anti-shark’s fin lobby, although I am sympathetic to its argument about protecting the environment. It is because I’m still tired of it, given how much I’d consumed when I was young.

But if I am served a bowl of shark’s fin – like at my recent Chinese New Year’s Eve reunion dinner – I will take it.

I’ll take it because it is there.

I’ll take it because the soup is tasty.

I’ll take it because it will be a sheer waste of money to leave it untouched to be then thrown away.

Mostly, though, I’ll take it because it will be rude to my host if I don’t.

If someone had honoured me by serving the treasured dish, I don’t believe I should be so ungracious as to reject it, and in front of other people too. Why make him lose face?

A friend said he so dislikes people who give others a hard time at wedding dinners that serve shark’s fin soup that he’ll deliberately eat extra portions.

‘If they’re really all that compassionate, they should stop eating meat too. Killing cows and chickens is also cruel,’ he said.

Indeed, where does one draw the line as an ‘ethical consumer’?

At shark’s fin? But what about shark meat? It’s been used in the West for fish and chips and such.

Is it okay for sharks to be killed for their meat but not their fins? Isn’t any form of ‘killing’ traumatic to the animal? Why limit it to finning?

How about foie gras? It must be horrible to be a goose and force-fed just so that your liver becomes enlarged and deliciously fatty and buttery when eaten.

Feedlot cattle? Can’t be nice to be packed in a pen with thousands of others, fattened up with an unnatural diet, then killed for food.

Factory-farmed chicken that have been debeaked? Same thing.

Bluefin tuna? They’re becoming endangered because of over-fishing.

My sister tries to eat only ‘humanely raised’ and ‘humanely killed’ animals. She feels less bad if they had been killed in as least a painful method as possible.

But she admits it’s not all altruistic. She believes animals that are highly stressed have stress hormones and their meat isn’t healthy to the human body.

But isn’t ‘humanely killed’ a contradiction?

In my world view, animals – unless they have been domesticated – were created to be killed by humans for food.

And if you’ve watched documentaries, you’ll know animals in the wild are vicious. They rip apart and kill each other all the time, whether for food or to protect themselves or their young.

It’s all part of nature and the cycle of life, so why are some people so hung up about what animals might be ‘feeling’?

A friend, who reviews food, describes herself as an ‘equal opportunity eater’. She eats almost anything as it is her job to do so, and because she doesn’t think one species deserves more sympathy than another.

She recently had dinner and was served a roast piglet. She showed me an iPhone photo of it and, my goodness, we both agreed, it was the cutest little piggy ever.

It had been roasted to a rosy hue, had a round little head and its eyes were closed, as if it were sleeping. Totally angelic.

She ate it.

It’s a pig.

It’s meant to be eaten.

There are some things I would never eat – dog meat, snake, frog, turtle, pigeon, oysters, chicken feet, insects and gooey stuff such as sea cucumber.

But this has more to do with how they make my stomach turn than with ethical reasons.

To each his own, I always say.

We are ultimately what we eat, or don’t eat, and we live with our conscience.

What gets my goat is when ethical consumers adopt a holier-than-thou attitude and hector anyone who is not like them.

And so, at the risk of receiving their vitriol, I’ll admit it again: If served shark’s fin soup, I’ll eat it.

Maybe, as a friend pointed out, I also represent a generational divide.

I straddle my father’s generation that regarded shark’s fin as a cultural and culinary treasure, and today’s young that thinks the dish is barbaric.

I have good memories of it and want to remain loyal to it, yet I also don’t want to be flamed for not hating it. It is an uncomfortable position.

But if I have to choose between ranting about cruelty to sharks and hurting the feelings of someone who had served me the dish because he wanted only the best for me, I will keep quiet and eat up my shark’s fin soup, anytime.

Sumiko Tan, The Strait’s Times

McBaguette Anyone?

You don’t need to be a business student to appreciate how the success or failure of certain companies sheds light on the importance of contexts, culture and people. Read the article below and consider why McDonald’s is fairly successful in Singapore as well. 

Born in the USA, Made in France: How McDonald’s Succeeds in the Land of Michelin Stars

France — the land of haute cuisine, fine wine and cheese — would be the last place you would expect to find a thriving fast-food market. In a country known for its strong national identity and anti-globalization movement, it seems improbable that McDonald’s could have survived the onslaught of French social and political activism. In 1999, José Bové, an agricultural unionist, became a hero to anti-globalization supporters when he and his political group, Confédération Paysanne, bulldozed a McDonald’s in Milau, France, to protest against U.S. trade restrictions on French dairy products. With bullhorn in hand, he declared to the television news cameras: “We attacked this McDonald’s because it is a symbol of multinationals that want to stuff us with junk food and ruin our farmers.” In 2004, amid the nutritional controversy sparked by Morgan Spurlock’s documentarySupersize Me, McDonald’s was declared in French media to be the epitome of malbouffe, or “junk food” and deemed partly to blame for the nation’s rising obesity rate.

And yet McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food corporation, with a global presence in 123 countries across all six inhabited continents, has turned the home of Le Cordon Bleu cooking academies and the Michelin Guide of world-renowned restaurants into its second-most profitable market in the world. The chain has more than 1,200 restaurants in France — all locally owned franchises — and a growth rate of 30 restaurants per year in the past five years alone. What is at the heart of this impressive growth that has stunned French observers and surprised business analysts? The three main reasons for McDonald’s success are local responsiveness, rebranding and a robust corporate ecosystem.

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The New Geopolitics of Food

In the United States, when world wheat prices rise by 75 percent, as they have over the last year, it means the difference between a $2 loaf of bread and a loaf costing maybe $2.10. If, however, you live in New Delhi, those skyrocketing costs really matter: A doubling in the world price of wheat actually means that the wheat you carry home from the market to hand-grind into flour for chapatis costs twice as much. And the same is true with rice. If the world price of rice doubles, so does the price of rice in your neighborhood market in Jakarta. And so does the cost of the bowl of boiled rice on an Indonesian family’s dinner table.

Welcome to the new food economics of 2011: Prices are climbing, but the impact is not at all being felt equally. For Americans, who spend less than one-tenth of their income in the supermarket, the soaring food prices we’ve seen so far this year are an annoyance, not a calamity. But for the planet’s poorest 2 billion people, who spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food, these soaring prices may mean going from two meals a day to one. Those who are barely hanging on to the lower rungs of the global economic ladder risk losing their grip entirely. This can contribute — and it has — to revolutions and upheaval.

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Human Population Reaches 7 Billion–How Did This Happen and Can It Go On?

On October 31, 2011, a particularly special person will be born—the seven billionth human alive, according to United Nations demographers. He or she could be delivered by a starving mother in the growing wastelands of Somalia, a failed-state gripped by famine and war. The best odds are that the child will be born in India, which has the highest rate of births per minute in the world. She may even be an American girl, heiress to a complex legacy that is in no small part responsible for the fact that, for better or worse, people are shaping the destiny of the planet that engendered humanity.

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7 Billion: Can the Earth take it?

Why the Real Victim of Overpopulation Will Be the Environment
by Bryan Walsh from TIME (link here

Maybe it’s just the fact that the official day has been set for Oct. 31 — Halloween — but there’s a distinct whiff of panic and fear around the expected birth of the 7 billionth person on the planet. Here’s Roger Martin, chair of the NGO Population Matters, writing in the Guardian recently:

The 7 Billion Day is a sobering reminder of our planet’s predicament. We are increasing by 10,000 an hour. The median UN forecast is 9.3 billion by 2050, but the range varies by 2.5 billion — the total world population in 1950 — depending on how we work it out.

Every additional person needs food, water and energy, and produces more waste and pollution, so ratchets up our total impact on the planet, and ratchets down everyone else’s share — the rich far more than the poor. By definition, total impact and consumption are worked out by measuring the average per person multiplied by the number of people. Thus all environmental (and many economic and social) problems are easier to solve with fewer people, and ultimately impossible with ever more.

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