Sourcing the crowd: your input requested on Cincinnati’s meat-reduction initiative

A new and terribly cutting-edge phase of this blog begins tonight, whereby. . . I will share the fruits of my reporting with you as I spot and gather them–before they have become steaming, fully-baked articles.

I am not usually enthusiastic about the information superhighway’s perpetual expansion, but there is an element of journalism’s “new media revolution” that thrills me, and that is crowd-sourcing.


Perhaps you know of the concept: a reporter on the beat can tap into the knowledge, tips, and breaking news of vast zillions of readers via a blog, Web site, or Twitter (e.g.). The glory of it: readers have the chance to inform the stories they read, and journalists have exponentially more leads to triangulate upon, in their great quests for truth. Terribly exciting, isn’t it?

content-king

Illustration snatched from http://www.instamedia.org

Cutting to tonight’s chase, I am gathering information for a story that might be called something like,

Porkopolis Becomes First U.S. City to Seek Reduced Carbon Footprint Through Reduced Meat Consumption

Key points:

• In Sept. 2007 Mayor Mallory introduced the foundation of Cincinnati’s “Climate Protection Action Plan,” that was approved by Council. It’s goal: reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions ( to 8% below 2006 levels by 2012; 40% by 2028; and 84% by 2050), through measures deemed sustainable to “the environment, the people, and the economy of Cincinnati.”

• The measures Cincy takes to achieve these reductions will fall into six areas: transportation, energy, waste, land use, advocacy, and food. For each of these areas a task team has formed, that includes citizens and city employees.

• The Food Task Team is open to all concerned citizens; prominent members include City Office of Environmental Quality Director Larry Falkin, Hamilton Co. General Information Systems (GIS) Planner KD Rex, environmentalist Bill Messer, and UC professor of environmental engineering Daniel Oerther. The team’s primary task is to develop an action plan for reducing Cincinnati’s meat consumption by one seventh of its current level.

What I’ve found so far:

• Dr. Oerther explained to me with unprecedented clarity how greenhouse gases produce global warming, and how cows raised for food multiply greenhouse gases, through their inefficient conversion of grain to meat, and their methane-rich belches. Their effect is far greater than that of the cars we drive, he said.

He cited an international authority to support his point: “The chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Rajendra Pachauri] advocates diet as the number one thing that any of us can do on the immediate short-term to impact climate change.”

The research in support of Oerther and Pachauri’s position is compelling enough that the EPA last year considered instating a methane tax that would have cost dairy producers an estimated $175 per cow. On Oct, 21, 2008, London’s Telegraph reported that

Dr Andy Thorpe, an economist at the University of Portsmouth, found a herd of 200 cows can produce annual emissions of methane roughly equivalent in energy terms to driving a family car more than 100,000 miles (180,000km) on more than four gallons (21,400 litres) of petrol.

He added that while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have increased by 31 per cent during the past 250 years, methane has increased by 149 per cent during the same period.

Oerther explained that Mayor Mallory joined about 600 other U.S. mayors in signing the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol’s standards for emission reduction.

And he specified a dietary goal: reduce methane emissions and bring Cincinnatians’ diets more closely in line with the USDA’s recommended daily allowance of animal products, by helping residents reduce meat consumption by one seventh, by 2050–the equivalent of giving up meat one day out of each week.

“You need to be open to the science,” said Oerther.

At least two new private companies are hoping to contribute to, and benefit from this initiative. One is The Loving Cafe, an all-plant-based café that had its grand opening yesterday in Pleasant Ridge.

Another is still gathering support. Randall Ball, the founder of Paradise Found, a distribution service for local, organic fruits and vegetables, wants to grow his business into a large-scale market that exclusively sells local organic plant products. He has an ex-Kroger building in Kennedy heights in mind, and is looking for financial backing. Click here to watch Randall describe his vision of how his market would help make small-scale organic farming more economically feasible, and its produce more widely-available.

• That video was shot at Cincinnati’s first regional Food Congress on March 14th, which was hosted by UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). About 70 participants showed up for the congress, including farmers, neighborhood representatives, food distributors and retailers, environmental advocates, graduate students of urban planning, bloggers, marketers, vegan advocates, school health officials, a beekeeper, a permaculturalist, and many others.

The congress organizers aimed to facilitate networking among these groups and generate ideas for “promoting a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system in the Cincinnati Region.”

• At least two non-profit groups also indicate that the convergence of food and climate health is rapidly gaining local attention:

The environmental and educational center Imago is co-sponsoring a program of nine lectures, conversations, and meals called Table Talk–billed as “Saving the Earth One Meal at a Time,” beginning April 3.

And local foodies will rejoice to hear that the international Slow Food movement, which began in Italy in the late 1980′s, has finally reached Cincinnati. The organization’s mission contains a whiff of its peninsular roots:

We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

Slow Food Cincinnati hosted its first event, a free maple syrup tasting at Clough Valley Sweets, on Feb. 28.

What I’d like to know:

What do you know about food politics in Cincinnati?

• What obstacles do you think the Food Task Team’s plan to reduce meat consumption might face?

• Who else should I interview for this article?

• What angles were missing from the Feb. 2 Enquirer article written on the initiative?

• What else should I know about this issue?

Thank you in advance for your input–I value every bit of it!

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3 thoughts on “Sourcing the crowd: your input requested on Cincinnati’s meat-reduction initiative

  1. I believe that one of the greatest challenges to this initiative will be the perception that this is somehow associated with the PETA backed, paint slinging liberals who want to tromp all over the rights of people to decide how to live their own lives, i.e., what they can and cannot eat. I’m not native to Cincinnati but have lived here for about 15 yrs. When I became a vegetarian (about 12 yrs ago) I was disappointed and more than a little annoyed at the push-back I felt from the people around me regarding my decision. Cincinnati is such a conservative city (very provincial, in my opinion) and people here are extremely suspicious of anything that hints of liberalism – and unfortunately, vegetarianism (or even the reduction of meat consumption) is likely to stir up those fears. Presenting it as part of an overall package with other initiatives, under the umbrella of “reducing the carbon footprint” will help.

    You might want to make contact with Tom and Jayn Meinhardt – they live in Walnut Hills. They are long-time local animal rights/vegan advocates and are pretty hard-core in their beliefs. For many years, they led the local Cincinnati Vegetarian Resource Group (which has now sadly withered away). Tom used to work for the Humane Society of the US in DC, many years ago. They might be a good connection for you to have, for this article as well as others. Their phone number is 961-5555.

    It’s really great to see that someone is tackling these issues on the local level. Keep up the good work!

  2. If you want to know more about food politics, check with the local Earthsave chapter. I was a member of it several years ago and then we tried to encourage Cincinnati Public Schools to adopt a healthy lunch program to no avail. Unfortunately, some of the people involved with that program are no longer involved with Earthsave.

    As for obstacles, poverty and food deserts in the inner city are certainly factors to consider. Case in point: Have you ever been to the Kroger in Over-the-Rhine? It’s aisles and aisles of processed, sugary foods and one teensy tiny produce section. As well, fast food restaurants are predominantly located in lower-income areas.

  3. Re. “Porkopolis Becomes First U.S. City to Seek Reduced Carbon Footprint Through Reduced Meat Consumption”, I thought you might like an update. Unfortunately both KD and Dan have fallen away from the Food Task Team and it has fallen to me, the author of the original recommendation for reduced meat consumption to curtail global warming in the Green Cincinnati Plan (then the Climate Change Action Plan), to grab the reins.

    There are five more recommendations awaiting the Green Cincinnati Plan Steering Committee’s approval, addressing Healthier School Food, area restaurant menus, school gardens, fresh local food availability and endorsing the worldwide Meatless Monday campaign. Under discussion are proposals for community kitchens, mobile farmers’ markets, and requirements that packaged food sold in Cincinnati disclose its carbon footprint and complete ingredients (including GMOs). THe Ohio Livestock Association wants a meeting with us to get us to somehow rescind the recommendation that Cincinnatians eat less meat (too late; science supports it and Council approved it). Not your father’s Porkopolis, eh?

    William Messer, chair, Green Cincinnati Food Task Team

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