Why the hell is it so hard to buy food that doesn’t make me, as a more than averagely aware and conscious consumer, feel like I’m destroying the world? All I want is for food to be available that doesn’t:
- pollute the air with greenhouse gasses (http://www.nature.com/news/one-third-of-our-greenhouse-gas-emissions-come-from-agriculture-1.11708)
- pollute the water with mismanaged nutrients, pesticides, and soil (http://www.sustainabletable.org/267/water-quality)
- contain toxic pesticides (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984095/)
- consist of a suboptimal fatty acid profile due to unnatural animal feed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16500874)
- promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria through subtherapeutic antibiotic use (http://emerald.tufts.edu/med/apua/about_issue/antibiotic_agri.shtml)
- depleted biodiversity through reliance on monoculture techniques (http://www.chgeharvard.org/topic/biodiversity-and-agriculture)
While it would be convenient to listen to your unvaccinated, dreadlocked, tie-dye shirt-adorned buddy and just stop “eating animal products, mannn,” the uncomfortable truth is that relying on industrial agriculture for your food will not remedy most of the issues highlighted above. Add to the inefficaciousness of that plan the risks of B-12 deficiency (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/1/131.long) and the probability of higher animal death counts (https://www.morehouse.edu/facstaff/nnobis/papers/Davis-LeastHarm.htm), there must be another option for a sustainable diet plan.
I also would like to omit discussing wild harvesting, home growing, and food waste scavenging. I think I’ve covered the importance of those in previous posts. I’d like to discover options within the marketplace for those that are short on time or traveling but hope to make the world a better place with their forks.
I’m hoping some options are available that induce a net-benefit for society and the environment through their purchase. Reducing carbon footprint is a major concern, so focusing on carbon sequestration through food is essential. It turns out that there are certain production methods that sequester carbon, such as:
- perennials (http://www.perennialsolutions.org/carbon-sequestering-agriculture-global-warming-solution-piece-remove-co2-from-atmosphere-organic-garden.html)
- no-till systems (http://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Soil_C_review_Kane_Dec_4-final-v4.pdf)
- cover crops
- pasture-raised ruminant meat and dairy (http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/su12cfootprint)
There isn’t much you can do about tillage practices and cover crop use at the grocery store… maybe you can wait until those criteria are included on the food label. Until then, relying on grass-fed beef, goat, lamb, sheep, veal, bison, deer and their respective dairy products along with perennial produce should yield net-negative carbon emissions. Some perennials are:
- fruit from trees and shrubs
- potato (sometimes)
- sweet potato
- Etc. (http://frugalliving.about.com/od/growyourownfoods/a/Perennial_Foods.htm and http://www.perennialsolutions.org/a-global-inventory-of-perennial-vegetables)
Another potential avenue of environmentally responsible food consumption is legume crops. Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts…) fix nitrogen into the soil and can act as fertilizer instead of relying on synthetic nutrients or manure (http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_a/A129/). Is this enough of a benefit to offset the carbon emissions that are most likely being induced by the machines used to plant, harvest, and process the crops into food? I want to say yes… but it’s pretty much just because I love peanut butter. I see no issues if the legume food products are grown without fossil fuel dependent machines, but that is really not available in any supermarket.
It appears you can demand carbon dioxide pollution to be mitigated by buying grass-fed ruminant meat and dairy as well as perennial fruits, nuts, seeds, roots, and vegetables. Maybe legumes can be considered to have a negligible environmental impact, but it would seem more likely that the carbon dioxide emissions outweigh the nitrogen fixation.
So it seems to me that I can save the world with one bite of steak at a time 🙂 At the supermarket, the non carbon-related issues can be ameliorated through buying organic. The “industrial” organic options available at the market will still probably cause soil erosion and use a monoculture system relying on fossil fuel driven machinery, so if you can find a farmers market (www.localharvest.org), a small scale producer might be more conscious of those issues and take preventative measures.
Is this helpful?
Will anything productive come of choosing these suggested foods?
What are your suggestions for a hungry, supermarket-dependent traveler that cares about the world??
Thanks and come visit me in paradisaical Puerto Rico 🙂