Make more informed decisions as a food consumer
• Understand food origins and environmental impacts
• Connect sustainability and personal health
• Explore the value of food labels and certifications
• Make informed decisions when purchasing food
During this lesson, we help demystify some of the noise surrounding our current food production cultures. We will discuss where food staples are being sourced and explore the differences between organic and conventional farming practices and how they can impact your health. With the experts from Centered Chef, we will educate you to make informed decisions about the foods that you choose to eat.
As humans, we’ve been adapting and learning to adapt our environment since the dawn of civilization. How lucky are we that we don’t have to go hunt for 3 weeks, but instead we have instant access to foods.
Since the 1860s, the U.S. has had a 882% increase in population. But the percentage of farmers in the workforce has gone down by 86%.
Pastoral farming involves raising livestock such as chickens or cattle.
Arable farming involves growing crops like wheat, corn, soy, and other produce.
Organic, or sustainable, farming does not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or hormones. It also avoids overpopulating crop land and unnatural grain based diets for livestock. However, the organic crop yield is smaller, tends to be more expensive, and can be time consuming for the farmer to meet the rules and regulations to be certified as organic.
Conventional farming yields larger crops, is less labor intensive for the farmers, and you get more bang for your buck. But it also comes with higher energy costs, negative environmental impacts like pollution, overpopulation of livestock, overuse of crop land, and uses chemical pesticides, fertilizers and hormones.
Organic farming provides ingredient transparency, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and supports local business.
Livestock farming contributes to air and water pollution as well as overall climate change. Land used for livestock farming destroys local biodiversity. Livestock farming, cattle in particular, has an impact on the carbon footprint, producing nearly 18% of total greenhouse gases every year – that’s more than the entire transportation sector.
Over time, sustainable farming can satisfy human food and fiber needs, enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base, make the most efficient use of nonrenewable and on-farm resources, sustain the economic aspect of farm operations, and benefit the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
Grass-fed beef: The difference in the diets of the cattle changes the nutrients and fats you get from eating the different types of beef. Grass-fed beef may have some heart-health benefits such as: less total fat, more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and more antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E
Organic foods: The USDA has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. Potential benefits of organic foods are increases in some nutrients, most significantly in types of flavonoids that have antioxidant properties, higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, lower levels of toxic metals , and lower detectable levels of pesticide residue. However, there is not enough research to make a definitive claim that organic is more nutritious.
Genetically Modified Organism. What does that even mean? Essentially, that the genes of a plant have been modified in a lab to create a new crossbreed of plant or to make the plant demonstrate certain qualities. GMOs are used for a range of functions including addressing insects and weeds, advancing nutritional benefits, medicines and vaccines, and many benefits for the farmer, like greater crop yield.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, GMOs are relatively new to the market so research is still being done to uncover any potential health risks. As of right now, there is no proven current health risk or added benefits.
These processed foods make our lives easier by being convenient, easy to prepare, and often destroy harmful pathogens. But we are also risking all of the added sugars, sweeteners, fats, chemical preservatives, artificial colors, and sodium as well as foods being stripped of valuable nutrients such as fiber, good fats, and antioxidants.
Convenience can still be nutritious – Fortified foods are processed but still provide beneficial nutrients. Fruits and vegetables that are canned in water or their own juices are a nutritious, and cheap, alternative to fresh produce. Pre-cut foods make food prep much quicker and easier. Just be sure to recognize the food in its original form or as naturally occurring.
A whopping 30-40% of all food that is produced in America is wasted. This statistic is even more shocking when we think about the fact that 1 in 8 Americans is food insecure. Not to mention all of the resources put into producing, processing, transporting, storing, and preparing the food has now been wasted as well. Food waste is the largest component of landfills, which are the 3rd largest contributor of methane in the U.S.
At the store: only buy based on need and use, read and understand the food label, make food decisions based on application of knowledge to your own life.
At home: maintain a well balanced diet, cook with whole ingredients, be responsible for your food waste