Food is a Gift. A Little Effort Today Can Affect Your Decisions for Years to Come.
If you’re lucky, regular access to food is not limited or insecure. If you’re truly fortunate, you not only have access to food, you also have choices about what to eat.
When present and bountiful, food is a wonderful gift. Aside from the strictly utilitarian perspective to keep you satisfied and productive, diverse flavors and artfully-combined edibles stimulate your senses and capture your imagination.
Indeed, food should be appreciated, enjoyed, and respected.
Many things influence the decisions we make about what to eat. We assess the healthfulness of a food choice as well as taste, cost, convenience, culture, upbringing, relationships, aesthetics, availability, desire to cook, religion, allergies, sensory exploration, etc.
The relationship of food choices to our broader value system has great potential to influence what we eat. The business practices, politics and ethics of our food cycle (i.e., production, transport, accessibility and waste) have wide-reaching effects worldwide. The food we purchase supports the businesses that produce the food - and therefore, the business practices, politics and ethics that go into that food product.
This may seem daunting as modern living disconnects us from the sources of our food. Having a deep understanding about everything you eat can seem impossible. When you go to dinner, are you expected to know the ethics of all the businesses that produced the ingredients for your wine, appetizer, entrée, and coffee? Probably not, but more and more businesses, including food manufacturers and even restaurants, are promoting their business practices as a feature to their value.
Local organizations see a benefit in maintaining business transparency to foster good relationships with their customers. The local food movement is a great example of this. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
This transparency produces a win-win: It encourages businesses to adopt best-practices as a competitive advantage while simultaneously educating and informing the consumer.
1. What Matters to You?
Our food choices greatly impact a number of movements: environmental sustainability, food safety, human rights and social justice, anti-globalization, animal protection, anti-consumerism, energy independence, and national security. The commodity of food in the US is cheap and the ethos of our capitalistic food system has become ‘give more, charge more, make more per sale,’ which has led to the devaluation of food.
Not only has this ethos promoted rising rates of obesity, it also has generated more wasted food which harms our environment, is unjust to our people, is inhumane to animals and even weakens our national security. By attempting to limit wasted food, you make a small but significant impact on several areas you may value. Decide what matters to you and then identify ways you can make a difference.
2. Do the Best You Can
As you attempt to align your value system with your food choices, consider how strongly you feel about the topic and gauge your course of action to a level you’re comfortable with. Take meat consumption as an example. As a tenet, vegans limit any-and-all meat consumption, where other people may impose a guideline to seek sustainably-raised and humanely-treated meat products. Do the best you can in all the areas that matter to you and seek to refine you own eating practices over time. Learn more, adapt, and continue to make better choices.
3. Support Labels and Brands You Like
With a little research, you may find a local organic farm that does business in a way you appreciate. When you purchase food from this farm, you can have confidence that the food you eat aligns with your values. This requires upfront work but going forward, you simply need to look for the labels you know and trust. Another approach is to identify organizations that certify producers that maintain certain criteria (e.g., American Humane Certified, United States Department of Agriculture Organic Certification, etc). Spend some time on the websites of certification organizations that certify practices that matter to you. If you’re supportive of their certification process, seek brands that maintain their stamp of approval. For example, if animal welfare and organic farming are important to you, you might decide to buy the chocolates and pastries produced by PastrySmart of Northern California because they are American Humane Certified and they purchase their ingredients mostly from organic farms.
A Little Effort Today Can Affect Your Decisions for Years to Come
Take time to align your food choices with your global values. Food tastes better and satisfies you to a greater degree when you know where it comes from. A little effort up front can inform your purchasing decisions for years to come. After all – you’ll not only be purchasing food, you’ll be making a difference in what you believe in.