Our Food

How we eat and choose our meals has a direct impact on the environment. Do you know where your food comes from? What is in your food or how it was raised? It is easy for us to blindly pick up our food from the local grocery store without having any thought to any of these questions. Most of the food consumed in America is food which is transported from centralized factories or farms. Before much of the food even arrives in the pantries of American homes, it has traveled over a quarter of the globe (or more). In Norway for example, cod caught just of their coast is shipped to China to be packaged prior to being sold in the stores in Norway. The reasoning behind shipping fish to China for packaging is cost; equating to $0.23 versus $1.36 per pound of cod processed.

Avoiding foods which have negative environmental impact is not an easy task; as my cod packaging example has shown, the large travel distance is completely related to cost. Just as is the case with the cattle industry, cattle farmers are 'encouraged' to produce larger animals quicker and at a lower cost. This may sound great to the average consumer, though the environmental and health costs appear to be greater than the dollar costs in the long run. For much of the mass producing beef farms, corn is the bulk of the cows diet, an ingredient not naturally a staple in the animal's diet, and is actually poisonous to the cows. Corn diets speed up the maturity process of cows increasing slaughter time from 4 – 5 years for a pasture raised cow to 14 – 15 months. It is estimated that a single steer for slaughter will require the use of nearly 284 gallons of petroleum (estimates include the cost of hauling feed, feed harvest, etc.), not to mention the amount of fuel needed to ship the beef once the cow has been slaughtered.

Equally as important as to the environmental impacts of how far our food travels, is the health concerns which can be affiliated with mass produced livestock farms which use corn as the main source for the feedstock. Farmland which could be used for the production of edible food for the nation is dedicated to feed cows and other livestock, which as I said before is basically poison to the animals and creates a product which is significantly less heathy for people to eat. Corn fed beef has about double of the saturated fat content than grass and vegetable fed beef; grass fed beef also has a significant higher amount of healthy Omega-3 fats (also found in walnuts, fish, and flaxseeds) than corn fed beef. The resulting product of a corn fed beef steak is a 'pretty' looking piece of fat disguised as meat. The health concerns are not limited to only humans. The treatment of the animals is also something which is worth considering when purchasing one's food. Generally, in mass production livestock farms, animals are confined to cages barley larger than the animal itself. The less movement the animal has, the more tender then meat is and the fatter the animal will become. Often this leaves animals standing for days to months in its (and other animals) manure. Also, because of the corn diet, animals (specifically cows) frequently suffer from acidosis, a result from the build up of acids formed from the corn diet. These acids trap gasses in the rumen which expands and puts pressure on the cow's lungs and suffocating it; making the cow quite sick and possibly killing it. Basically, most of the beef we buy is dying prior to slaughter. Most people have no idea how far their food travels, and most are completely unaware that they are buying meat processed from a dying animal which has traveled possibly a thousand miles to end up being cooked up and served for meals. Don't we deserve to know?
----submitted by Tim Bergam