“Water is life” as the saying goes, but food is pretty important also. We depend on it for strength, sustenance, and in many cases, personal enjoyment. Cooking and eating can be very social activities. The relationship between food and health is not a new one; for years we’ve been bombarded in the media by reports of “good fats” versus “bad fats,” the benefits and drawbacks of various fad diets, and ways to prevent food poisoning.
However, there are other aspects to smart and healthy eating that is sometimes overlooked. In particular, where our food comes from and how it is produced can have an effect not only upon our physical health, but that of the food producers at the source. Farms are not always paid a fair price for their crops, and in some cases large seed corporations get dominion over the market of certain kinds of crops. Major chain restaurants (usually those of the fast food variety) employ cruel factory farming practises and unsafe slaughterhouses, where the animals not only die a horrible death, but employees risk life and limb. And now, our food, particularly produce, is being genetically modified into new creations, a process that calls into question bioethics and safety.
We can make choices about what we consume, based upon its impact on our health, the environment, and social justice. Here are some suggestions to bear in mind the next time you go shopping or dining out.
- Look for the TransFair logo when you purchase food items such as coffee and chocolate. Products certified by TransFair ensure that the farmers and workers have received a fair price for their products, and are also produced under environmentally-sound conditions. In fact, when you go out for coffee, ask your server for Fair Trade coffee. More and more cafés are serving at least one Fair Trade option — if your favourite java spot doesn’t, ask them why. Ask them to provide a Fair Trade option.
- Purchase locally grown produce, wherever possible. Farmer’s Markets are excellent sources, and the produce tends to be organic (grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides). If you are a meat eater, you can often find locally raised, organic meat at Farmer’s Markets as well – animals that have been raised without the use of steroids.
- Speaking of meat, perhaps you should consider becoming a vegetarian. A vegetable-based diet has a lot less of a negative impact on the Earth, since it takes less energy to raise and harvest produce. As well, if done properly, a vegetarian diet can be more healthy because it has less transfat and you don’t end up ingesting all those hormones that were injected into the animal to make it plump and juicy.
- When you eat out, try to patronize local, independent restaurants, rather than big-name, fast food franchises. Fast food chains are some of the biggest offenders of utilizing factory farmed animals. Besides which, the food preparation is often unhealthy, full of salt and sugar and fat, designed to make one addicted. If you read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman (the “former cattle-rancher who won’t eat meat”), or see the movie Supersize Me, you may decide to never eat fast food again.