My (Food) Role Models

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:

Blue Hill
Sustainable Eating – Scientific American
Chez Panisse – Alice Waters
Slow Food Canada
Hugh’s Chicken Run

Drought in Somalia - http://jubbalandnews.com/?p=596

Drought in Somalia - http://bit.ly/pPCckl


Smiles.

What a great talk – perfect for those days you wake up on the wrong side of the bed!


Meat cont.

*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.
  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Sources:

http://www.environmentalintegrity.org./03_09_2011.php

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Natural-Health/Meat-Poultry-Health-Risk.aspx

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/usa0105/usa0105.pdf