Imagine this: Your ancestors were captured many years ago. You were separated from your family. Men were sent to one part of the land, while females were sent to another. You were forced to live in inhumane conditions that would put any civilized nation to shame. You were told when to eat, sleep, and perform bodily functions. You were fed food that was barely digestible and caused you to be sick and unhealthy most of your life. Does this describe slavery? Prison, perhaps? No. This describes how animals are treated in our current food system.
Let me preface this post by saying that I love to eat meat. I am sure that bacon was sent down from God personally. I am not against raising livestock in a responsible way and using animals to feed and clothe our ever increasing human population. In fact, in the Bible (my favorite book) it says “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26 NIV) However, no where in that decree did it say “Eat to the point of gluttony in some countries while people in poorer countries starve to death. Make sure to treat animals and the planet with the least amount of respect possible. And by the way, be careful to kill off or deplete all natural resources so that future generations won’t have any food.” I looked, but I couldn’t find that verse anywhere.
Our current food system has a problem: It is self-defeating. By not farming sustainably, we are destroying the environment and creating food products that are unnatural and just don’t taste good.
So…what is sustainable? According to the ever wise Wikipedia, sustainability is “The long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use.” Basically, it means not being so selfish that you use up all the good stuff so that those who come after you don’t have anything. It also speaks to maintaining resources that are healthy and natural.
The more I learn about sustainable farming and agriculture, the more I wonder what exactly it is that we eat every day. Our farm raised salmon has to be colored pink so that it is recognizable. Our chicken’s bones are so brittle that they snap when you try to cook them. It is saddening to realize that we have reached a point where the food we eat does not even taste or look the way it is supposed to because of the feed, the environment and chemical additives. In a Ted Talks video entitled “How I Fell in Love with a Fish”, Dan Barber addresses sustainability, the appearance of sustainability and the future of agriculture in a way that makes me even more disappointed in our current state, yet hopeful for the future.
This is a GREAT video to watch, and I encourage you to use it to help educate yourself regarding sustainability and future of our food system.
Mr. Barber’s first “love” was a fish that had all the appearance of being raised sustainably, but 30% of its feed was chicken bi-product. WHAT!?! Let me get this straight… we are feeding our fish chicken excrement, feathers and bones that have been ground up and formed? Does that sound just plain wrong to anyone else? Sustainability is more than just about preserving our food source from a quantity aspect; it is about the quality of the feed, the health of the fish and the health of the environment surrounding the fish.
Mr. Barber’s second “love” really inspired me to become more optimistic about the future of our food system. A fish farmer named Miguel was raising fish in Southern Spain on a fish farm called Veta La Pama and was measuring the success by the strength of the eco system, purifying water for the fish and for humans and producing high quality fish. Miguel understood that nature had the perfect design and that we shouldn’t mess with it. His type of agriculture was not only sustainable, but it improved the environment, a claim that I am sure few could make. This is the direction we should be headed in.
As Mr. Barber stated, the American Agriculture “big business” has deteriorated our food system to the point that food does not even taste the same any more. I agree with Mr. Barber that we need to revert back to nature’s agricultural model and move past our current practices to sustainably and effectively feed our communities and the world now and in the future.
With that said, do you know where your food comes from?
So now that you don’t want to eat ever again (at least that’s how I felt after watching the video), here are a few tips to make sure that you and your family are eating healthy, sustainable food:
- Buy local. In any given meal, you could be eating foods shipped to you from Chile, Mexico and China. Not only does that not support our local economies, but it negatively effects our environment. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to transport fresh food on a regular basis from different countries to your dinner table. The solution? My favorite place: The Farmers Market. By shopping at the Farmers Market, not only do you support your local economies, but you are able to purchase amazing food that tastes great. The Farmers Market also offers a bit of adventure. You can discover new foods and have them explained to you by the passionate person who grew them. It doesn’t get much better than that. For all of my California peeps, discover your local Farmers Market here: http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com/
- Buy organic. I don’t like to eat things that I can’t pronounce. Unless it is in a language that is foreign to me, words with too many syllables in the ingredient list make me nervous. Did you know that produce has an ingredient list too? Besides water, sun, air and soil, tomatoes contain whatever pesticides, hormones or growth agents that were used during their cultivation process. Why deal with all that drama? Buy organic and know what went into your food.
- Buy wild caught/grass fed. I thought people who swore by grass fed beef were just trying to be pretentious. Then I tasted it. Tasting is believing, my friend. While grass fed beef may be a bit more expensive, it is worth it. Cows are naturally designed to eat grass, but commercially raised cows are given a corn/hormone mixture after the first 6 months because it is more cost effective and produces more meat. Because the cows are sick from eating a diet they are not designed for, they are pumped with antibiotics to try to keep them alive. The antibiotics then filter into their meat and their milk. Grass fed cows that eat from the pasture and are not “finished” with corn are healthier and their meat tastes better.
- Start a garden. There is nothing cooler than eating something that you grew with your own hands. It gives you a sense of appreciation for your food and for farmers. Start small. Buy a tomato plant or maybe a few herbs. You will enjoy it, I promise!
- Donate. Sustainability is not only about preserving resources, it is about making sure that everyone is fed. I encourage you to support organizations such as Heifer International that strive to fed the less fortunate. Never take your blessings for granted.
Stay blessed CPC Friends!