Halfway across my world, millions of people are in danger of dying of starvation. To paint a picture for you, a UN food shipment recently delivered to Somalia resulted in gunfire killing seven people. On top of this, Somali militants are blocking civilian access to food. Knowing this helps me realize how truly lucky I am. Not only do I get to eat, but I get to choose what I want to eat. Don’t take your opportunity to make knowledgeable and healthy food decisions for granted; take control of what you eat, be genuinely grateful. I believe it is extremely important to truly think and analyze what you are putting into your mouth. What you eat affects your city, your country, and your whole world.
I love food. If you know me, you know that. I won’t even claim to be a foodie. I know a lot about food but the imperative thing is that I have an unconditional love for it. I love the culture surrounding food. I love the role of food in culture. I will travel the world looking for the most delicious food (so far, front runner is the fresh, garlicky, lemony, olive oil drenched cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean).
Anyway, this post is more about the chefs that I admire. I have become extremely passionate about eating right – local, sustainable, ethical, healthy, and green – and have turned to some amazing resources to help me learn more about it.
First and foremost is my absolute favourite, Jamie Oliver. Not only has he established an organization that teaches young underprivileged people to cook, but he has tried valiantly to revolutionize the way British and American people eat (Google: Jamie’s Food Revolution). He shows people how to keep a garden, and how to use it to cook the most delicious looking food in the world.
Second is another great chef from the UK, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His shows, the River Cottage series, attempt to teach people sustainability and self-reliance, and how to source local eggs, dairy, and meat. Most recently, he has highlighted the problems with our current fishing methods, and has created a campaign to promote sustainable and ethical fishing – Hugh’s Fish Fight.
Last but not least is a chef that resides in New York named Dan Barber. Dan demonstrates perfectly that food tastes better when it is produced in a sustainable and ethical way. He shows that it is in everyone’s self interest (especially chefs) to source ingredients that are grown locally, grown organically, raised properly, and slaughtered properly, because they taste better. The quality is higher. There is integrity in how they are produced and therefore, also in how they taste. His approach is an educational one – his farm shows the link between a local consciousness and an amazing dining experience.
If you love food as much as I do, why not do some exploring of your own? There are some brilliant and inspiring people out there to teach you.
Here are some more links if you find the topic of any interest:
I must say, after arriving in Ireland two weeks ago, what a beautiful, green and relaxing place to be. I came here two weeks ago in an attempt to try “wwoofing,” but to be honest, have had a much different experience that I expected. That being said, I am having a great time and I have met some interesting and lovely people.
Seeing the ocean from my room has inspired much reading and research and conversation about fishing, more specifically, sustainable fishing. Small seaside villages inevitably rely on fishing as food and clean water for leisure and tourism, so, being surrounded by small seaside villages at the moment has allowed me to learn a lot about what the oceans mean in the simplest of ways.
If I were to cut to the chase, I recently read a report published by the University of British Columbia’s Fishery Centre saying that by 2050 there is a good chance that many of the ocean’s large fish species could be extinct. These fishes include some of our favourites – tuna and cod – as well as some sharks and grouper. When large predatory fish such as these are removed from an environment, it allows smaller fish species such as anchovies and sardines to flourish. Unfortunately when there are many small animals in the absence of predators, these populations are much more prone to collapse by disease and massive die-offs; these conditions are then optimal for algae blooms or bacterial growth, resulting in deoxygenated water that is unable to support much life at all. These are called “dead zones.”
The problem is, in the simplest terms, over-fishing and improper use of the oceans resources. Basically, when a large fish population is found, all adults are fished, leaving nothing by way of reproductive individuals to replenish the population successfully. Combined with this is the fact that most of the fishing methods employed are extremely environmentally destructive. One problem, bycatch, is the unintentional catching of fish not necessarily used for anything which by definition exceeds the amount of target species caught in the process. For example, shrimp trawling results in 20kg of other fish species killed for one kg of shrimp. Well, not even just fish species, but also turtles, sea horses, dolphins, whales, you name it, it somehow makes its way in there.
Farmed fish also comes with its fair share of problems. Animal welfare is just one, but there are also large issues with contamination and damage to local natural ecosystems and habitats. To learn more about fish farms, read here: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/aquaculture/ .
But as with most bad, there is good. There is always a way the average person can help. In Canada, http://www.seachoice.org/ is an organization that promotes sustainable fishing and seafood consumption. There is a published list of the best seafood choices – what it is, and how it’s caught. But it might also be worth it to try out the little guys that nobody likes! Anchovies, sardines, mackerel are all really delicious and deserve the same attention as your tuna sandwich.
Unfortunately, fishing is an extremely complicated topic and one that I am in no way 100% informed about. However, I am learning, and I think that it is worth my attention. I hope that more people become aware of just how fragile our oceans are. Think about how by the time the next generation grows to be adults they might never even get to try all the delicious things we enjoy today because we are enjoying them too much.
*I would like to preface this by saying I was inspired by the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it (he is also the author of my favourite book, Everything is Illuminated).*
In my last post I talked about the cruelty that goes on in factory farms – theres no doubt about it, we all know its bad – but are we all aware of the other negative effects caused by factory farms?
It ranges from air pollution to human rights violations – and everything in between. Take the time to do some research yourself.
In my reading I learned a whole bunch of things:
- The air around some factory farms is often more polluted than the most polluted U.S. cities. Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, cyanide are among the chemicals found in the air, contributing to the fact that children raised near factory farms are twice as likely to develop asthma, or just simply living close to a factory farm can increase your risk of heart and respiratory problems.
- In addition to poor air quality, the waste produced by that many animals in one place, in combination with poor waste management, has lead to cesspools of salmonella, streptococci, or giardia (plus many more infectious agents)
- These cesspools are not only comprised of fecal matter, but also dead animals, dead piglets, dead chicks, blood, vomit, antibiotics, syringes, hair, body parts – you name it, it’s in there.
- Factory farms have created a breeding ground for zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from non-human animals to humans). Some that might ring a bell include avian bird flu and H1N1.
- While this in itself might not be a new thing (there are plenty of other zoonotic diseases that don’t originate from livestock) we are compounding their virulence by the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics are used in every factory farm because animals living in a cramped and dirty place will obviously be susceptible to disease. The more antibiotics are used, the more these pathogens become resistant to them.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70 percent of total antibiotic consumption (humans and non-human animals) is for non-therapeutic use (these animals aren’t sick to begin with) in factory farmed livestock. Sounds like a recipe for a big stewing pot of resistant viruses and bacteria no?
- This equals superbug. Scary stuff.
- Factory farms have created what is considered by Human Rights Watch as conditions that are a violation of human rights. Slaughterhouses are of a particular concern.
- Slaughtering animals all day is tiring, dangerous, and mentally exhausting. I don’t know many people who would actually enjoy this, even if the paycheck was out of this world.
- Poor training, long hours, and bad equipment lead to such statistics as this : in Nebraska plants, from 1999-2003, about 100 night cleaners lost body parts (by amputation or crushing).
- Many companies run on a competitive advantage system – the more meat you carve, the more money you get – this will obviously lead to more people working quickly and unsafely.
- Annual turnover in processing plants typically exceeds 100 percent. What does this tell you?
So while factory farming produces meat that is cheap, and tastes “good,” is it worth the cost of human and environmental health? My answer would be no. I could easily give up meat if I knew that we would have a beautiful, healthy planet and population. But obviously, one person isn’t enough. So I am asking you to spread the word, tell your friends, tell your family. It is important to talk about these things – I firmly believe that if people are aware they will make the right choice.
Factory farming is unsustainable. The amount of meat we as a human population eat is unsustainable. Vegetables are good for you.
Eat LESS meat, buy GOOD meat!
I am not a vegetarian, and the closest I ever came to being one was a couple years ago – I had a brief (two month) stint without eating any beef, poultry, pork, or seafood. This, however, does not mean that I haven’t considered it since, or even before for that matter. And the reasons I gave it up for those two months had everything to do with health reasons and nothing to do with animal welfare issues.
I always thought that vegetarians were abrasive, quick to judge, and very, very disdainful (in a pretentious-kind-of-way). And actually, some are. But we all know that you can’t judge an entire group of people based on a few bad apples. So, because of this, and in combination with my insane stubbornness, I refused to give into their beliefs because I did not want to give them the satisfaction. In fact, my sister was a vegetarian for eight years (or something) and I never once considered her ideas as legitimate because shoving ones ideas down another’s throat is a sure fire way to make someone NOT listen.
Now this leads me to my main point. These days, I have been having a hard time actually justifying eating meat. Over the last couple of years, and more so the last one in particular, I have learned a significant amount about the food that we eat. I have learned about factory farms, organic food vs. non-organic food, antibiotics in our livestock, etc. etc. The list really does go on and on, and if anyone is curious about what actually happens on these farms, there is plenty of reading you can do and I would be more than happy to point you in the right direction (typing “how animals are treated in factory farms” in Google is also a good start). These are very important things to talk about, but still not enough to make people change. Hey, I am a prime example of this.
I firmly believe that humans are supposed to eat meat – after all, thats what I learned in biology class. Our ancestors did it, our closest relatives do it, our most distant relatives eat other animals too, so why shouldn’t we? My issue now: human beings have turned eating meat in a respectful and necessary way into an assembly line of genetically altered animals (no mating, no reproducing AT ALL) that are raised and slaughtered in the most unimaginably horrible ways. Combine this with the massive global demand for dirt-cheap meat and we have what is called a vicious cycle. As long as the human population continues to eat meat at an extremely unsustainable rate, there will always be animals raised and killed in this manner. And I also firmly believe that just cutting meat out of your life is not enough – hear this vegetarians – if you are going to give up meat because you don’t agree with how animals are treated, there are actually much more effective ways to make a difference (that aren’t so passive)!
But, for those of you who find it hard to cut that bacon and those chicken wings out of your life, there is good news. We are lucky to come from a country where humanely raised meat is available. And we are also lucky to come from a country where consumer choice matters, in fact it is huge. All it takes is a little research and some extra time on your part. In fact, I have already started some of the work for you.
Where to buy cruelty-free meat in Calgary:
I encourage everyone to think about what they are eating. Is properly-raised meat important to you? Is it worth the extra five minute drive, two dollars, or time to research?
We all have the ability to make a difference in how animals are treated, it’s called money, choose where to spend it wisely!
I thought this was going to be a one-post wonder, but I think there is much to say, so stay tuned!
Planet Organic has two locations in Calgary: 4625 Varsity Drive NW, and, 10233 Elbow Drive SW
The Calgary Farmer’s Market has moved and is now located at 510 77th Avenue SE (Blackfoot and Heritage)
Community Natural Foods has two locations in Calgary: 1304 10 Avenue SW, and, 202 61 Ave SW (Chinook Station)