Can someone love food and still love the earth? #Food#advice#eco-conscious#ethics#locavores#vegan#vegetarian August 16 | Offbeat Editors offbeatbride Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter. Melanie asks: This guy is fattening up this adorable bunny in order to eat it. I am getting my first apartment in a week, and one of the biggest issues I have is food… I love it! I love vegetables and fruit and meat and fish and bread and… and food! I love food! That said, I just recently became interested in where my food comes from. I am willing to be more responsible about what I buy, but from what I've read, grass-fed beef does not always mean humane, Dole bananas are picked by slaves, tomatoes are killing the earth with pesticides, and milk is made by abusing dairy cows. So what I'm asking is: what's fact and what's fiction, and what can I do!? I feel like I can't eat anything without feeling guilty about it! Can someone love food and love the earth? Oh honey, you have come to the right place. It seems you are experiencing your first pangs of conscientious guilt, and I feel you. I love food, too. Just about every time I sit down to eat, I feel as though I've never eaten such delicious fare in my life. I mmm and homnom and look at my food as if it is a long lost lover. And TRYING new food! It's all so good. The thing about any diet is: you are disrupting something to get your food. We are not ethereal beings whose planet creates wisps of wheat for our enjoyment and nourishment. We are animals. We kill or we harvest and we poop it back out. It's the ciiiiircle of liiiiiiife. It moves us all! What I'm saying is, even though Timon and Pumbaa didn't rip out the throats of antelopes, they still ate bugs. If there were, say, 7 billion Timons or Pumbaas, they'd have trouble providing bugs to all the members of their species and not using up all their resources, too. Related Post What we eat and why it matters Last summer I read The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. I was given the... Read more That you want to make responsible decisions about what you eat is commendable. In the first world we live in a horn-o-plenty, and it can be hard to say, "I believe that the efforts of one person are measurable, and that it will make a difference if I do not eat X, even though it is readily available to me." Here is my advice: If this issue is important to you, learn as much as you can about it. It will help you compartmentalize what's important to you, what isn't, and what changes you can handle making at this point in your life. A good resource for those getting started in conscientious diets is Omnivore's Dilemma and also Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, both by Michael Pollan. I'mma be honest: I haven't read either book — though I did get blitzed at a party one night, discuss Omnivore's Dilemma with a friend, and wake up the next morning having declared myself a vegetarian. These books come up again and again as good resources for people questioning what they should eat. My friends love them, and I've heard interviews with Pollan which have lent insight into my own dietary choices. His books might help you get started down the complicated road of food choosing. Homies, how do you weigh in on the foodie-with-guilt issue? What have you learned in making your own dietary choices? Join our community! Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo PREVIOUS How can I maintain ownership of my body while I'm pregnant? NEXT The journey of trying to conceive with my wife has changed the way I identify as a mom Show/Hide comments [ 53 ] Oh man do I feel you. I have eco-guilt, food safety concern, and a chronic pain disorder that requires a specific diet. Some days I wake up and feel like there is not one freaking edible food in the whole world once I strike out all the foods that offend one or more of those categories. One thing is, as you're reading resources like the ones Cat mentioned or reading about foods grown locally or foods grown consciously, keep a list of them in your kitchen. Get a whiteboard and write them on it in permanent marker. It is so much easier to make recipes when you've got a reminder of the best stuff available. And don't beat yourself up; you've got to eat and guilt isn't half as motivating as feeling in control and active in your choices. 3 agree Reply I have a chronic pain disorder as well, and am a vegetarian. It really limits my diet and I'm on such a strict diet because of it now that I usually bring my own food to events, or eat before hand. I usually haunt the farmers market. 2 agree Reply I also have a chronic pain condition (IC) and am a lactose-intolerant vegetarian. For a while I was an aspiring vegan, but it was just too difficult to try to be vegan and stick to the IC diet. Reply I'm loving pinterest.com. When I find a recipe online, I save it to a special "board" on there for easy access. I've learned that my little bulletin board can only hold so many recipes! Reply Ah yes, I know all about this! The number one, most important thing you can do is KNOW YOUR FARMER. Buy food at the farmers' market. Join a CSA and volunteer for farmers in exchange for food. I also highly recommend Pollan's other book "In Defense of Food." 1 agrees Reply that's it–know the people who grow your food! it's a challenge, and eating what they provide will most definitely mean altering your diet to match what you can get. But on top of an incredible sense of community, you'll also get a real understanding of where your food is coming from and how VALUABLE the people who produce it are. The more people who understand the importance of farmers, large or small, the better chance we have of making thinks like local produce and CSAs more accessible to people with lower incomes. 2 agree Reply Yes, "In Defense of Food" is required reading. The other two Pollan books left me feeling like "what CAN I east? These just say that everything's bad." Reply Not all "farmer's markets" are truly farmer's markets, though. Which means you should definitely get to know your suppliers. 🙂 2 agree Reply Sometimes I start getting into that mindset. Here is what I've learned through some research: -Organic food can actually be worse for the environment. Sure, it avoids the pesticides and stuff, but most of it can't grow around wherever you live. If you eat all organic, then you're just choosing a different kind of pollution in order to ship all the food to you, and often to a lot of different places on the way. It also takes up way more space. All the growth-helping chemicals and stuff mean that we can grow way more tomatoes in an acre, so our recently developed compulsion to eat organic might just mean cutting down more rainforest to do it. -Eating local can be great, but if you're gonna do it, you'll need to know what's available locally and when. I've heard of people requiring that all their food is local, but oranges? Yeah, they just don't grow in New England, so if you want local oranges, look into what people have to do to MAKE them grow here. It's not always pretty. -Regarding meat. Can we really say that any animal being raised for food is treated humanely? I mean, they all get killed at some point. Anyway. That's one area where local usually works out pretty well (at least where I live). I have farmer's markets with local meat from local farms. Thing is, NO WAY can I afford that. My point isn't that organic/local food is bad–not at all. Just that there are downsides to any type of diet, and these ones aren't often explored or talked about as much as they should be. I've been ridiculed just for mentioning that there could be downsides before. 1 agrees Reply i think most of these points are right on – and especially the overall point of thinking more deeply about these issues. but i will argue the claim that organic takes more space. this is inarguably true in the short term, but over, say, 20 years an organic plot will produce more than a conventional one. basically, it's because conventional ag does such damage to the soil that, over time, no amount of additives can make it produce well. 1 agrees Reply I totally agree with your overall point, but I do dispute a couple of your points: Re: Organic being worse for the environment. IMHO *none* of the theoretical downsides of organic farming could be worse than the epic amounts of pesticides, the huge amounts of water loss, and the nutrient-stripping of the soil we talk about with the industrial agriculture system. Not to mention the largely-ignored problem that monocultures present, i.e. that if a new banana disease shows up, pretty much ALL our bananas are screwed, because they're all the same strain. I definitely agree that there's a problem with ignoring local foods in favor of anything with an organic label, in terms of transportation issues. That can be solved by, well, being as much of a locavore as possible. (I live in northern California, which means I'm waaaay spoiled in terms of available product variety and can probably feasibly be more of a locavore than a New Englander can.) Most of the studies that have shown that organic farming produces a lower yield have been found to be faulty because they largely studied farms that had recently been converted to organic. Studies done on established organic farms (4+ish years) have shown the yield was about the same. I'm also really curious to hear where you read that organic farming leads to more deforestation of rainforests. Everything I've read seems to show that the biggest agricultural risk to rainforests right now is the production of palm oil. And the biggest risk overall still seems to be the logging industry. 1 agrees Reply I think another important thing to keep in mind is that "organic," while tightly regulated, is an incredibly narrow definition. I once spoke to someone who works as an attorney in the office that oversees the use of the organic label. She said box store organic sellers were CONSTANTLY reporting competitors for not being "truly" organic and using the label, as it's one of the box stores main selling points. Further, there are some really natural, probably not too disruptive things that make otherwise organically farmed foods not organic (including, I once heard, using organically derived fertilizers that aren't 100% organic because of the waste matter they're made from). The problem I'm getting at is that because of how litigious the labeling of organic foods has gotten, because of larger producers and sellers wanting to protect their niche market position, there's a whole other set of ethical issues raised with regards to business practices, and some of the nearly organic production practices that are more easily implemented by small farmers are obscured in pursuit of purism policed by corporations. 1 agrees Reply This! I can't believe I forgot to talk about this! It's so difficult and expensive for a business to become "certified organic". A lot of booths at your local farmers market will not be certified organic, but still be using organic practices in every way you care about. They will try to explain this to you, and it will sound like bullshit at the time, but it's true. When you get down to the level of local, tiny farms, many just can't afford/are in the process of getting their organic certification. 3 agree Reply Yes, yes, and YES on the Michael Pollan books! Everyone should at the very least read "In Defense of Food," and follow with "Omnivore's Dilemma" if they want a more in-depth analysis. He also has "The Food Rules," which is like a condensed version of Defense, for people who don't like to read so much I guess. I would also add that I am currently working on "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," by Barbara Kingsolver and so far find it very interesting along the same vein of Food Morality. Unfortunately, it's just making me feel increasingly guilty about my one-a-day banana habit. 🙁 And yes, what others said: invest in your local producers, and get to know the people who grow your food. Check out CSAs and farmers markets, consider making your own bread and condiments from scratch (saves money AND is healthier!), and really just learn where your food comes from. It's almost impossible to eat 100% ethically, but you can at least prioritize your concerns and make a dent. Reply "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is an awesome book. And not to be a spoiler, but some of it is about making peace with how you get your food. In the meantime, it is lovely to read. My advice is to try to grow what you can and compost what you don't finish. If you can keep yourself in salad greens and tomatoes through one growing season, you've done some good. And when you compost, you'll do even better the following year. Plus, it's super fun to play in the dirt! 1 agrees Reply That is a great way to put it. "Making peace with how you get your food." Adding Animal, Vegetable, Mineral my my to-read list. Reply YES. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is fantastic, and it really changed the way my partner and I think about food. I recommend the audiobook – Barbara and her family read it and it's really neat to hear them. Reply Animal, Vegetable Miracle changed my life. It really shows that eating locally and growing your own food is not only easy and accessible, but also enjoyable! No tomato is as delicious as one you have grown yourself. I think the most beautiful point of the book (and the wonderful "Ominvore's Dilemma" too) is that there are choices out there. We make these choices every day. Most everyone has control over their food choices, and it is up to us to make the choices that are right for us in our own specific situations. Maybe not everyone can live self-sustainably or fully locavore. But, even if you make these choices once in a while, every little bit helps! 1 agrees Reply I agree with the above: know your farmer. I deal with this by producing my own food and I am about to make the step to raising meat rabbits (a very rare breed of meat rabbits – to continue it's line) and chickens. I've always had a garden, but next year it will be much bigger. It needs to support 7 adults, and various animals (rabbits, chickens, dogs, cats… etc). I think it's very important to support local, small farmers. It helps to maintain the organic and heritage breeds. Reply My advice is to not get overwhelmed. Take baby steps. Make little changes at your own pace. You aren't going to save the world. That's not your responsibility. What you can do is make deliberate choices and feel good about what you're eating. 1 agrees Reply Thank you. I'm actually the original question-asker, and so far, out of anyone, this has been the most helpful. I guess my biggest problem is I take a baby-step, and I still feel like people are snubbing me. I ditch the grocery bags, and I hear, "You STILL eat meat?" I start eating more veggies, and I hear, "You BUY your bread?" I just want to scream I'M A COLLEGE STUDENT! I CAN'T MAINTAIN A QUAINT WINTER ORGANIC GARDEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUFFALO WINTER AND STILL PASS MY CLASSES AND FIND TIME TO FEED MYSELF! I mean, I do what I can. I really am trying. But I'm new to this, and when someone wants to be a hippie alternative snob, it makes me want to smother a cow in pesticides and motor oil and eat it in front of them. 3 agree Reply Buffalo winter? As in Buffalo, NY? I just found this post and must say now that I'm working on getting onto this just a little I'm not perfect we should talk in person if you still live here. Reply I've always thought one of the most respectful things a carnivore/omnivore can do is to make sure no animal goes to waste (sorry veggies). Which means using every part possible, Bones for stock and broths, using leather etc. I know it doesn't address a lot of the problems but it helps in mindset if your thinking about how to respect the animals life. Reply I agree, I do this as well. And veggie/vegans can also do it too by making sure to compost! 🙂 Reply The other thing to realize is that making conscious choices also costs more money. As well it should–we should be paying more for our food but unfortunately, our salaries aren't keeping up to allow us to afford it. I'm a state employee and haven't had a raise in 5 years. We've had to do away with all our luxuries from our YMCA membership to cable and phone. When it came down to it, eating organic, local and (somewhat) cruelty free was a luxury. I'm back to shopping in my normal grocery store with coupons. I still pay attention to where my produce came from, what companies I buy from, etc. but I cannot afford to eat the way I'd like to. I can make a difference with my vote, however. I continue to write letters to my congresspeople about the changes that need to be made to our agricultural system and I will continue to vote for candidates that are willing to make those changes. 1 agrees Reply If you have any farmer's markets in your area, in my experience their produce is often cheaper than at the supermarket. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it's worth checking out! 1 agrees Reply Yes! Farmer's markets are often called out as being pricier than grocery stores, and I HAVE found this to be the case in some I've visited (the bigger/more touristy ones – Hollywood FM, looking at you) but at the market I go to in my area the basic produce is often cheaper. At some points of the year I can get three heads of fresh garlic for a dollar. I can get a huge bundle of carrots for a dollar. I can get avocados for $.50 each! I realize I'm spoiled by living in California, but I eat a lot of vegetables so shopping at the farmer's market saves me money each week. (Money that usually goes immediately into the pockets of the guy that sells bread, or the lady with the handmade sausages, or the cheese dude… oh well. :D) Reply Oh, to live in California again! The land where everything grows! Reply If you can afford it, buy organic and local. And only buy what you really need/want to eat. BUT keep in mind: This is the way things work. This is how life functions. We use the ressources we have got as best as we can, and we use other lifeforms for our own survival. "Light and love" may sound like a good idea, but it will, most likely, starve and kill you. Reply Yes to Mr. Pollan. He is my hero. Reply of course you can! (of course, love is not always synonymous with treating well, so…) anyhow, my thoughts based on my experience trying to improve my food habits: baby steps! for sure. don't beat yourself up for not being perfect by tomorrow. do what you can afford (mentally and monetarily) now, and do more later. in that vein, weigh your choices. i prioritize sustainable animal products because of their big impact. and less meat. i typically find the farmers market cheaper than the grocery store (not always, and i suspect this is locational) but not the local meat. we pool "leftover" grocery budget money and splurge it on buying the pricey meat, which we freeze. eat at home. grow your food (know your farmer!) not all of it. but give it a shot. (i kind of suck at it, but i still get some stuff) those are my first thoughts. also, if you're into reading up on it, pollan is awesome, and i highly recommend marion nestle. Reply Read Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals! I wish everyone would. 🙂 More ♥ to the world! Reply I think its important to find out what you can get in your area and start there. Local isn't always better but its alot easier to find out how ethical meat down the road is compared to meat on from the other side the world. Although we eat probably 70% local if I want something thats not local then I don't beat myself up about buying it, esspecially if its a money choice or a health choice. (the odd bag of oranges to help kick that cold in the ass 🙂 ) Talk to as many farmers, growers as you can they mostly love talking about what they do and if they don't then maybe these are the ones to avoid. I even learnt the other day that bacon should naturally have a hint of green about it, its not gone off or anything thats how it should be! Supermarkets bleach the bacon to make it pink because thats how they think we want it to be! Ethincal meat is affordable if you eat the amount you can afford. Some weeks that might just be a pack of bacon or a rabbit from a friend. Others its a hunk of steak. 🙂 I find getting to the market super early means I can find the real cheap cuts and if you get really friendly with your stall holder they will hold stuff for you. Have a look for hedgerow food (currently in the uk we are in the middle of a plum glut! yum!) and its free what could be more ethical than picking your own. 🙂 1 agrees Reply Haha this makes me sound like I eat alot of meat! We also have an allotment and grow veggies. Started in pots on the roof of our boat now we grow the bulk of our veggies. if we are having meat as part of our meal our plate will be half veg, quarter carbs, quarter meat. Reply For local eating, I enjoyed reading a book called "Plenty" by Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon. It really goes through the whole experience for the year that they do it, including ups and downs. Biggest lesson: take it one small step at a time. I also loved "The Backyard Homestead" because it helped me understand what I was capable of doing at home, even if I currently don't have land to work with. We currently are not doing much more than picking chemical/preservative free foods at the store and canning seasonal fruit for the winter, but it's a start. I want to hobby farm in the future to supply our family, and *know* what we eat was taken care of properly. I feel pretty strongly about this and make efforts every year to add a new skill to my knowledge for that future! Good luck! Reply So, the great thing about trying to eat more ethically is that a lot of things line up. That is to say, some things might show up on your moral radar for multiple reasons. For me, while I know I don't eat perfectly, or have no net effect on the earth or lives of other humans or animals, I think I'm doing pretty well, and my rules aren't complicated enough that I have to constantly check on them. 1. I'm a vegetarian. You may or may not feel humans have a right to eat animals, and I'm unlikely to change your viewpoint, but I find a vegetarian diet is a cheap way to do less harm. While everybody knows and has their own opinion on the animal part, what not everyone knows is that meat production is generally way worse for the environment than plant based food sources. Taking some farm land and using it to grow food to be fed to cattle, who also take up farm land and then get fed to us, loses a lot of energy along the way. It's far more efficient to just eat the grains ourselves. I've even read some articles (sorry, I know not having them on hand makes me look more sketchy) that suggest that meat is so inefficient that eating not meat or dairy one day a week achieves the same environmental impact as eating local and organic all the time. Now, I know some people are convinced they could never give up meat, so find the balance you feel comfortable with. Remember all meat eaters eating half the meat they usually do is numerically the same as half of them going vegetarian, only it's far more likely. 2. I try to eat loosely local. I'm poor, so while I love farmers' markets, CSAs, and the like, I can't afford to get all of my food there. But at he grocery store buying local and in season is actually cheaper to do. I don't buy strictly local, though I tend toward it. And once again, one rule allows me to do multiple things: produce from the US I know not only am I not causing as much pollution for it to get to me, but I also get to be lazy and not research too deeply into labor conditions from a million other countries. I have to give up some things, like tropical fruits, but on the other hand I really appreciate things more when I have to wait for their season. It's like a holiday when stone fruits come back into season. Overall, I find that it makes sense to feel out what your priorities are. Know that you can reduce things from your diet without banning them completely. Ease into any changes: the folks I know who make major dietary changes cold turkey and spur of the moment never stick with them. And know that it's never going to be perfect, and you have a set amount of energy to allot into making researching your food. 1 agrees Reply I think the idea of doing "one better" is important for all kinds of lifestyle changes, regardless of the motivation. My husband and I get in a box of mixed seasonal produce every other week. It isn't most of what we eat, but it does displace food we'd buy at the regular box store. We both have become involved in a food swap, where we trade things we're competent at making (liqueurs, fresh bread, smoked nuts, cocktail syrups, crackers, etc.) for things other people are competent at making (basically, we've built an enormous stockpile of delicious jams and sauces, as well as gotten some great liqueurs, breads, pastries, etc.). Being part of a community of people really interested in home food production has made us more knowledgeable and exposed us to some great ideas — and, we've even made some friends. We don't always buy organic — sometimes, as others have pointed out, it isn't better. And, it's not really financially feasible when I'm still in school. We do, however, have an interest in what we can get in the farmer's market. Another thing I really like is trying out new things at the farmer's market. It has not only put us in touch with what grows around us, but has also let us try some things we might not ever have picked up except they were going for cheap at the market — persimmons, for example. We also try to buy fair trade coffee any time we buy espresso beans, and I also watch for fair trade chocolate, as coffee and chocolate are too commodities often produced in very exploitative labor markets. 1 agrees Reply I'm fascinated by the idea of this food swap. Is it a more formal thing where you are, or just a collection of friends who have food producing hobbies? Reply It's pretty formal. It's very friendly. It spun off the Brooklyn Food Swap, and it's run by the author of the blog Stetted and by the woman who writes Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking. They're both super nice. We're on the e-mail list, and when the tickets open up on Eventbrite each month, we jump quick, as the swap often sells out. I like it, because it's first come first serve, which I think helps keep it from getting cliquey or exclusive. I was very intimidated the first time I went with a friend, but it's really grown into a pleasant activity. If you search "ATX Swappers", you'll probably find some of the information. I actually even bought my birthday cake from a woman I met at the swap, who's a trained pastry chef. We've met a lot of small makers who are doing pro-quality stuff (or are actually pros who happen to enjoy the community), and we've been encouraged to stretch our own abilities. Reply I highly recommend Marion Nestle's book, "What to Eat." A lot of it discusses nutritional issues, not just environmental issues, and it generally helps you to prioritize what food issues are most important to you, and helps you make informed decisions about just about every single thing you might want to eat. She is insanely knowledgeable. Reply DEFINITELY second reading "Eating Animals" by jonathan safran foer. Amazing book about his research on good production while trying to decide how to feed his new born son. Amazing, eye-opening read. Also, have to disagree that using the whole animal = respecting its life. The majority (99%) of our food animals live horrible lives of abuse and neglect and have their lives ended years or decades before they would naturally die. We can respect these animals by not degrading their DNA to create animals with more meat, milk or eggs, by not force-breeding them and by allowing them to live naturally without our industrialized and cruel intervention. 2 agree Reply You're right, no factory farm animal was respected before it died. 2 agree Reply I think the first thing to consider is–HEY, at least you are THINKING about your food. For a well-read and interested person, food guilt is the very first thing that happens. The rest is balance–and walking the fine line. We eat meat once a week and outside the house only (this is a compromise since we live in a very un-veg friendly part of Europe–which is really it's own struggle). We try to buy grass-fed, free-range, hormone free, ocean safe (ad nauseum). But we aren't perfect. We do the best we can and make donations to good charities who can do more than us. It's all you can do! 1 agrees Reply I think the movie King Corn is also really interesting for people starting to think about our food systems. I used to show it in intro to anthropology classes when talking about food systems. I think the most important point, again, is to do what you can. Don't beat yourself up about having to buy most of your food at a box store, but try to do a little thing here, a little thing there. Plant a tomato plant or two. Look at the labels on the produce at the big box stores – buy the stuff that comes the least distance to you. Buy in season. Don't waste food. Then, think about ways you can take it a step further. My fiance and I are getting married in a month. We chose a caterer that focuses on local and organic foods in their cooking. We spent a little bit more for it, but to us, it was worth a cheaper photographer, and having his cousin DJ to serve local foods to our guests. Also, think about what's important to you. Is it social justice? Is it environmental impact? Is it corporate responsibility? Is it global resource distribution? Is it food deserts for urban poor? Be aware of all of the issues, but really work for the ones youre most passionate about. For me, that's an important thing to remember, because it's easy to get overwhelmed. Then all I want to do is eat a ho-ho and drink a coke. 1 agrees Reply I've read numerous books and I agree that it makes me feel so helpless about making a difference. If you really want to make a difference, you probably need to be an activist of some kind as one persons shopping decisions aren't even noticed. Like others have said though, pick the few things that are important and try your best but don't lose sleep over it. Starving yourself, or denying yourself nutrients doesn't fix the situation at all so it's ok to eat healthy. What healthy is depends on the person. I care about what I eat and make conscientious decisions about eating healthy while working to lessen my environmental impact and still living my life. So sometimes that means eating fast food or prepackaged food. I'm over feeling guilty about being a human animal that needs to eat to survive. I work with rehabilitating wild animals, animals eat animals, they will take over and destroy environments (invasive species) it is nature and it is human to fight to survive. That's not to give us license to do whatever we want but to use the complicated brains we were blessed (or maybe cursed with) to continually make things better for us and for all our dominion (and yes, whether we want it or not humans have the power to destroy or nurture everything on this earth). Yes, I eat meat and yes, I love animals and work to save others and no, I don't consider this a contradiction. I eat meat because my body tells me that is what it needs, I've attempted vegetarianism and that didn't work for me. I don't see how I should be valued less than the animals I work to save where the minority are herbivore or why I should feel guilty for taking care of myself. In the end, we all have to decide for ourselves these things and there is no easy answer and no easy list to follow to ease the mind. I recommend Pollan, it's a good way to help navigate these difficult questions I don't recommend Eating Animals, a book designed to turn you vegetarian through guilt. Reply If you really want to make a difference, you probably need to be an activist of some kind as one persons shopping decisions aren't even noticed. Sorry, but I really disagree with this part of what you're saying. Boycott is a form of activism, and sometimes when I see how little comes of protesting in the street, or writing letters to congresspeople, I think it's one of the only effective ways of protest. Companies run on money, and by deciding which companies you give your money to, you are affecting things. Maybe your own grocery budget is beneath the notice of big factory farm conglomerates, but I guarantee little local farms notice it, and even the big companies are forced to notice when enough people are voting with their wallet. 1 agrees Reply It also helps to think of yourself as one MORE person making a difference rather than just one. Unless you are genuinely the only person who has ever tried this approach you're not alone, you're one of many slowly building up to big enough numbers that it does make a noticable difference. 1 agrees Reply What a smart mindset! Reply This is a huge, huge issue, because so many of the labels out there are totally misleading. Dolphin-friendly tinned tuna? Literally impossible. Free-range eggs? This means the chickens get let out of their tiny cages once every 2 weeks onto a bare concrete floor (at least, thats the minimum req for the label). Barn-bred vs. barn-raised pork – a lesson in misleading marketing. The whole industry is basically a fallicy. If you want your food to be ethical, get in touch with your local farmers. My husband gets eggs from a farm on Kangaroo Island (AUS) for his organic cafe, and his quail eggs come from my parents – who raise them. Neither of these are technically organic, but they are humane. Knowing where your food comes from is half the battle. On a side note, while I understand the logic behind it, the idea of keeping rabbits for meat is rather like keeping cats or dogs for meat. Personally I hope that one day it is taboo in much the same way. My buns come to their name and show so much affection and emotion. 1 agrees Reply Dolphin-friedly tuna is still far better than the alternative. You're right that it doesn't mean they don't hurt the dolphins but it does mean they don't set out to kill entire pods. Dolphins catch tuna by a proccess called 'bubble netting'. They blow a ring of bubbles around the fish, which the tuna won't swim through. This leaves them trapped in place and the dolphins take turns to swim up through the middle and catch the fish. Because it's much easier for fishermen to look out for rings of bubbles than to find the (often fast moving) fish it used to be common practice to watch for dolphins rounding up fish, then put a huge net around them all and haul them up. In the process the dolphins would drown, then be thrown dead back into the sea. Dolphin friendly tuna means they don't do that. They do still catch dolphins occasionally, but if they have reason to believe they're in the area they have to leave them, and the fish, alone. There are ways to ensure that your food is meeting the standards you imagine and expect, but it does require some research into what the lables actually mean. I'm not sure about specifics in the USA but for example in the UK the RSPCA have started their own 'Freedom Foods' scheme for meat products, which guarentees they are raised to high welfare standards. The document for chicken is 60 pages long and incredibly specific (rules on the type and amount of food they must recieve, how often and how much space each chicken must have to eat for example). There are similar options in place for most other foods too. Like I said it takes research but there are labels you can trust. 1 agrees Reply Very good points, but for anyone else reading this the RSPCA's Freedom Foods scheme isn't all it's cracked up to be. Undercover investigations have shown Freedom-Foods-certified farms treating the animals just as badly as other factory farms. Unfortunately, even if you think you can trust a label, you still need to do some research. Reply hm. interesting conversation. I've given up feeling food guilt, though. I try not to waste food, I don't eat a lot of meat, and I buy the occasional bag of produce from my farmers' market (which isn't really any cheaper than the grocery – eight bucks for two eggplants, three tomatoes, and a small watermelon?), but otherwise I just eat food. what can I say? I have enough guilt! Reply "Omnivore's Dilemma" is a great read, and for those more into films, Food Inc. is a fabulous documentary – and Michael Pollan and the author of Fast Food Nation are contributors to the film. I like Food Inc. because while it is highly informative, it's well-made, and it leaves you feeling empowered, rather than guilty and helpless. Just like someone else mentioned – you vote with your wallet. How else can you explain the sudden abundance of organic goods in grocery stores these days? It definitely wasn't that way when I was a kid. I try to buy organic and local as often as I can. I adore going to the farmer's market, but for me, it's often more expensive (I live in NYC). But I'm pumped because I just moved to a new place, and a farmer's market is just around the corner, once a week. Major score! 1 agrees Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Participate in this conversation via emailGet only replies to your comment, the best of the rest, as well as a daily recap of all comments on this post. No more than a few emails daily, which you can reply to/unsubscribe from directly from your inbox. No-drama comment policy Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.