Sustainable Saturday - Book Review: The Way We Eat - Why Our Food Choices Matter

The Way We Eat has dramatically changed how I think about food.  I truly believe that knowledge is power and that the more you read and educate yourself about a variety of topics, the more well rounded you are and the better you are at making important decisions especially when it comes to your family and lifestyle.

In reading this book one of the most thought provoking topics is that of food ethics.  While I have believed for awhile that local food is better from a variety of standpoints, I hadn't really thought about the ethics and economics of the food choices that I make for our family as the primary purchaser of food.  The concept of "Voting at the Supermarket" with your money is a great one because we all have the power to impact change. 

In The Way We Eat, they follow three American families and talk in depth about their food choices.

The first family is what I would call the "typical" American family in regards to food choices.  While they care about what they purchase and attempt provide nutritious meals including meat, vegetables and fruit for their family of 4, much of it is food that comes from factory farming and highly processed foods.

"S.A.D."  or the Standard American Diet is basically lots of meat, eggs and dairy products.  This diet also includes rice and bread in refined forms.  Low amounts of veggies and most fat in this type of diet comes from animal fat.

The second family of four attempts to eat Organically by purchasing food from local farmers when possible and orders meats and fish from a company perceived to be more environmentally friendly.  Some of the choices that this family makes in which they believe are more environmentally friendly are actually worse than the first family's choices.

The third family of four is Vegan which means they eat no animal products.  They also purchase organic produce and really scrutinize where their food comes from including tofu and the ingredients or processes used to process that particular item. 

There are many interesting facts that are shared about food ethics and economics.  Did you know that 5% of the populations creates 25% of emissions which contribute to pollution which impacts the environment?  Aviation alone by 2050 will account for 15% of all greenhouse gases emitted.

The Way We Eat also speaks to the economics of our food.  For instance, the impact of tomatoes growing in a greenhouse vs. tomatoes that were trucked in from Florida.  The tomatoes trucked from Florida actually have less environmental impact than those grown in a local greenhouse if the local greenhouse is using heating oil to foster growth.

We should consider the energy it takes to produce the food we eat.  Cooking also uses energy, so buy eating raw foods, you will reduce energy usage.

Buying local and seasonally is the best policy!  In the off-season, you should consider supporting the World's poorest farmers in lieu of local.  The economic impact of the dollar you spend for a farmer in another country, may have more economic benefit to the actual grower than buying it locally.  This concept could relieve poverty in the poorest countries.  Buying from least developed countries, transported by boat not plane, may have the most economic impact.

Pesticides have been detected in children's urine who eat a typical America diet vs. an Organic diet.  This is something that absolutely disturbed me and I guess I never really thought about it in this way. 

Currently there are no labels that are required on genetically modified foods!  Anything that contains corn or soy, unless Organic, are genetically modified.

We have always purchased Organic milk for our kids and more recently have transitioned to organic milk for my husband and myself in addition to organic or grass fed cheeses, cream cheese, yogurt, etc.  Horizon Organic milk has been a staple in our household for years.  So what I am about to share was enlightening to me regarding the "good" choices I thought I was making for our family.

Horizon is owned by Dean Foods and has been a staple company that we have purchased primarily milk individual serving boxes from for years.  Horizon along with Aurora Organics which is sold at Trader Joe's, may be Organic, but do not necessarily raise their cows in the way in which we all probably visualize.  Not all farms who produce milk for these two companies are not raising their cows on pasture.  Horizon buys from 300 local farmers in addition tot heir 5400 acre Idaho "main campus" farm which is much like a factory farm.  Organic Valley on the other hand is still owned by a Local farmers and is not a corporate entity unlike the other two listed above.

As I finished reading this book, another idea that really stuck in my mind is that "If you want to make change, you have to make it easier for people."  That is true on so many levels and is really a reason why I am writing this blog and sharing my knowledge.  There is so much information out there and it can be incredibly overwhelming.  As shown by the examples of the three families in this book, even when you think you are making "good" choices, there may be better alternatives.  However, giving some thought to where your food comes from and the economics of where it has traveled from is a great start!

 Note:  Some of the links referenced in this post are my referral links.  You can read Saving Family Green's Material Connection Disclosure Policy here.

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