Spending a few weeks in Greece about 13 years ago, I first encountered the combination of Greek yogurt and honey. I won't say it changed my life, but it certainly improved it. Little did I know that that seemingly simple meal sums up a lot of problems with the modern agricultural industrial complex.
This week's edition of Boise Weekly features two stories exploring the intricacies and outcomes of bringing us the food we so often take for granted.
Freelance writer Carissa Wolf brings us an investigation from South-Central Idaho, where the mammoth Chobani yogurt plant is reshaping the Twin Falls-area economy but having less desirable effects on a neighboring farming community.
The second investigative story funded by the BW Watchdogs program, which dedicates readers' financial contributions to in-depth reporting efforts, "Away With the Whey" focuses on the conundrum of acid whey--a byproduct of Greek yogurt manufacturing that is blowing an ill wind through the product's otherwise rosy reputation among consumers.
BW roving food writer Tara Morgan digs into the challenges faced by beekeepers. In "Bee in his Bonnet," Morgan profiles local beekeeper Steve Sweet and nationally known apiarian activist John Miller. Both paint a dire picture: From murderous mites to competition with agri-industry giants like corn and soybeans, honey bees everywhere are finding it increasingly difficult to do their job, which is, of course, to make sure about one-third of all U.S. crops are pollinated.
Both pieces, in their way, pull back the curtain on just a few high costs of industrial food production. In the case of Greek yogurt, sales of which have exploded in recent years, meteoric growth has turned a byproduct that, on a smaller scale, is at worst a nuisance into a potential groundwater threat. With bees, the problem is similar: Capitulation to industrial ag has led to an overabundance of certain crops and forced the pollinators into becoming a kind of winged migrant labor force.
When I dip into my bowl of honey-drizzled Greek yogurt, I will still think back to the shores of the Mediterranean, but after reading Wolf's and Morgan's dispatches from the food front, those feelings will be a little more complicated. But, as everybody knows, "You are what you eat."