1) What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?
I’ll be talking about how the “humane sausage gets made” in a large food service corporation – that is, how one made the decision to commit to phasing out pork raised with gestation crates, and phasing in third-party-certified humanely raised meat, poultry, and eggs. I think most people believe executives just wave a magic wand, the purchasing department writes a bigger check, and, poof, we’ve got a more sustainable food system. But a lot of legwork goes into these decisions, and a lot of discussion, and a little bit of blind faith. I’m going to break down the reality of how change gets made by giving people a peek into the ceo’s office, the slaughterhouse, and the commercial walk-in refrigerator.
2) Why do you feel this is important?
We hear a lot about “voting with your forks” – well, consumers can effect change on an individual level, or they can influence restaurants, food service companies, and supermarkets on a community level, or they can talk to their politicians. They should know the kinds of factors that are involved in asking companies to switch suppliers, so they can keep the pressure on in the right way.
3) Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now?
I’m on the steering committee for a new, integrated labor standards initiative I’m pretty excited about, because I think it has the potential to move farmworker rights forward in a meaningful way. I’m also really jazzed about an organization in my hometown called Food What? I don’t have any official connection to the program but I sing their praises every chance I get. Food What? uses sustainable agriculture as the vehicle for growing strong, healthy, and inspired teens. They are truly changing lives.
4) Which other TEDxManhattan speakers are you excited about hearing? Which talks from previous years did you particularly enjoy?
Last year, like most people, I was blown away by Steve Ritz and his work with the Green Bronx Machine. His energy and enthusiasm, and the way he’d motivated those kids and the community to get involved in hiring them, just gave me goosebumps. I also really enjoyed Urvashi Rangan from Consumers Union and her talk on the crazily chaotic world of food labeling — she was so entertaining and funny.
This year, I’m excited to hear Simran Sethi, because I know she’ll have some sort of intelligent synthesis of the most effective way forward for ethically minded, green businesses. I also am looking forward to Lindsey Lusher Shute, because America badly needs new young farmers if we’re going to keep growing this good food movement — the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation, of which I’m president, recently launched Campus Farmers, a knowledge and networking site for university students, which we hope will contribute to that effort.
5) Where can more information about your project be found?
You can read about the policy I’m going to be talking about here, but that’s the official version. I’m going to be taking you underneath the corporate kimono and sharing the shouting, sweaty, and sappy real story.