4 Big Reasons To Eat Good Food

Article by Mira Word, written for Good Food Finder. IMG_9597

Last week, we defined good food. Now, let's begin to dig a little deeper to discover why it is important to eat good food

I have to give credit to my parents for teaching me about good food early in my life. My mother especially, is a wiz of health facts, remedies, nutrition and why it's all important. My passion for food really started in high school on a research project I presented on GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). This senior project started me on a continual journey through documentaries, books, articles, a study abroad and of course a college education. Much of this blog is inspired and sited from an influential book called "Just Food" by James E McWilliams as well as the infamous "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. Influencial films include Forks Over Knives, Future of Food, Earthlings, Blue Gold... I could go on and on! If you are interested in any of these films check out www.topdocumentaryfilms.com .

#1 Environmental Impact 

Most of us conscientious eaters are well versed in environmental issues and realize the role food production plays as part of the problem, as well as a solution. Firstly, industrialized agriculture is a primary driver of deforestation, soil erosion and water contamination. Deforesting land to make room for cash crops like soy, corn and canola, leads to a rapid decline in biodiversity. blog quotes_BiodiversityMonocultures become the replacement (a monoculture is basically when a single variety of crop is grown on a mass scale). You could view biodiversity like an environmental immune system. When it is low, the ecosystem is more vulnerable to attacks from pests and the soil quality decreases drastically because less friendly critters can survive these harsh conditions. This translates to mass amounts of synthetic chemical inputs to make up for the lack of nutrients. Applying heavy pesticides and fertilizers like nitrogen lead to run-off pollution and the contamination of waterways downstream. The industrialized agricultural industry is energy and resource intensive and ultimately unsustainable.

#2 Animal Welfare

Livestock production also has a tremendous impact on the plant. The rapid ascendance of factory farms has produced unintended and often unanticipated environmental and public health concerns. From the impact of growing mass amounts of grain to feed the animals, the unappetizing amount of waste they produce (not to mention methane, which is 20 times more efficient greenhouse gas than CO2*), livestock truly do cast a very long environmental shadow.

In the US alone an astounding 80 percent of all grain produced goes toward animal feed. The conversion of forest to cropland has been enormous in the past century and is still occurring on a massive scale in places like South America and Central Africa.Blog Quote_WWO According to the World Wildlife Fund, 12-15 million hectares of forest are lost each year, the equivalent of 36 football fields per minute! From a natural resources perpective, fifty times as much water is used to produce a pound of meat than a pound of grain. It takes 2400 liters of fresh water to make a hamburger, compared to 13 litters to grow a tomato. Not only is raising livestock for food a huge waste of energy, animals raised on factory farms are subject to unspeakable cruelty. These animals never get a chance to see the light of day, have room to turn around, roll in the dirt or even eat a blade of real grass for that matter. Because of this stressful environment, animals are driven to self destructive behaviors and are often treated inhumanely by workers and subject to unnecessary violence.

Don’t be fooled by misleading marketing.

For example buying "free-range" does not mean the chickens have a chance to even get outside. “Free-range” according to the USDA means that the animals must have “access to the outdoors”. This definition means absolutely nothing and leaves plenty of loopholes for corporate greed. A "free-range" chicken generally has 1 to 2 square feet of maneuverability inside a factory shed instead of the typical 50 square inches. To hammer in this point, a chicken needs at least 75 square inches to simply stretch out his wings.Blog Quote_Free Range

Organic does not mean cruelty free.

Buying organic milk does not mean the dairy cows get to graze or have room to stretch their legs. Most industrialized dairy farms keep their cows perpetually lactating and hooked up to milking machines. This concept goes for meat as well. Organic meat may eliminate antibiotics but it does not ensure the animal was treated humanely. Allowing animals to graze on pasture is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable solution because well-managed pasturelands can act as carbon sinks, preventing carbon for being released into the atmosphere and providing a better life to the animals.

 #3 Health

Because of the conditions in which our industrial food is raised, there is a tremendous effort just to keep it alive. Factory farmed meat comes leaden with hormones like rBGH and antibiotics intended to keep the animal alive during it’s miserable upbringing. Grains and produce farmed on an industrial scale are soaked in synthetic chemicals to combat pests and ensure the item makes it to the grocery store shelves. Consuming even small amounts of pesticides can lead to weakened immune and nervous systems and has even been linked to cancer.

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 #4 Support Community

Lastly, by choosing good food we are more likely to support local farmers and community producers. We can slowly shake the hold “Big Ag” has on our farmers, our environment and our health. Buying produce straight from the source ensures a higher nutrient level because the items are harvested closer to maturity. Organic or not, smaller scale farms incorporate a more holistic view of farming and often embrace sustainable practices like crop rotation, no-till soil conservation, and water management.

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There are so many reasons to eat good food with awareness and compassion. The horrors of factory farms go unspoken. We must raise our voices and vote with our dollars because our positive food choices create a feeling of empowerment. We choose with every bite and have the ability to improve our environment, support our community, show kindness to animals and nourish our bodies, with every good food selection.


Mira Word

Use our Good Food Finder to discover good food in your area.

Read Mira's entire blog at www.miraword.com

*Sources EPA. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2over a 100-year period.

*Lee Barter “Efficiency, not the distance traveled may hold the key to supply chain sustainability." Found in "Just Food" by James E McWilliams.

{Photo by Jennifer Woods at Crooked Sky Farms}