Tag Archives: At the Table

Why Buy Sustainable?

(This is my post this week for the Guide to Good Food on The Daily Table, Sustainable Table’s blog.)

Farmers market fruitIn last week’s post, Sustainable vs. Industrial, we compared sustainable farming with industrial agriculture. This week, we have eight reasons why you should buy sustainable.

1. Tastes better. This is what convinced me to eat local sustainable and/or organic food. Many people believe that sustainable food simply tastes better – but you won’t know until you try it yourself, so might want to do your own taste test. Buy an organic or local sustainable apple and one of those large, waxed perfect-looking apples in the grocery store that come from a large industrial farm. Compare and let us know what you think!

2. Healthier. More and more health benefits are being found with sustainable food. Pasture-raised beef, for example, has two to six times more of the Omega-3 fatty acids needed for heart health and optimal brain function than grain-fed industrial meat. Eggs from pasture-raised chickens are not only higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, they’re also lower in cholesterol and calories. Organic fruits, vegetables and grains contain higher levels of nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants, including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.

3. Environment is protected. On a sustainable farm, animals graze on pasture and their manure fertilizes the fields. These sustainable farms only take from the land what they can put back, so the land and the environment are preserved for future generations. They do not pollute the surrounding soil, air and water with manure, chemical pollution or runoff.

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Factory Farming and Industrial Agriculture

(This is the third in my blog series Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food that I’m posting up on the Daily Table blog.)

cows21Last week we talked about sustainable and organic, and the difference between the two. This week, we’re going to delve into the real issue – factory farming and industrial agriculture. The differences between sustainable and organic aren’t as big when you compare them to industrial food production.

Factory farming and industrial agriculture are unsustainable systems that produce large volumes of food but have little to no regard for the environment, animal welfare, soil and water quality, food safety, worker rights, farmers or local communities. The focus is on maximizing profit and efficiency – but at great cost.

The terms factory farming and industrial agriculture are used interchangeably, though factory farming is generally used to explain industrial animal production and industrial agriculture tends to describe or include intensive crop production.

What is a factory farm?

A factory farm is a large industrial operation that raises many animals (usually cows, pigs, chickens or turkeys) in overcrowded, confined conditions. Some animals are raised indoors in metal sheds, where they never see sunlight and often live on concrete slats, their feet never touching the earth. Other animals (cows mainly) are raised outdoors on large feedlots, huge tracts of barren land, where they stand in mud and their own feces, with no grass or trees nearby. These animals are not permitted to carry out their natural behaviors, like rooting, pecking and grazing.

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What are sustainble and organic?

I’ve started a blog series on my work blog – the Daily Table.  You can read the first installment (explaining what I hope to do) here….

(This is the second installment of Diane Hatz’s series – Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

Exactly what are sustainable farming and/or sustainable food, and what is organic agriculture?  Those are questions I hear quite often.  A general concept of organic has been seeping into the mainstream, but many people are still confused by both terms.  And to make it even more confusing, organic can be sustainable and sustainable can be organic, but they don’t have to be.  What?

To start with, sustainable farming is more of a concept or a philosophy than a literal definition.  With sustainable farming, food is raised that’s healthy for consumers, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.  At Sustainable Table, we also believe that sustainable food should be grown as close to home as possible.

Yes, that is a bit of a mouthful – a shorter answer would be to say that sustainable farming provides food that’s healthy for consumers, farmers, the environment, animals, and local communities.

The challenge with sustainable is that there isn’t a government approved label or certification system, so you need to educate yourself and ask questions before you buy.  Also, there is no standard for what’s healthy for consumers or humane for workers.  There is no chart saying when the environment begins to be harmed, and so on.  That means that each of us has to learn as much as we can about the issues and decide what we think is best.  We’re not here to tell you what to do – we’re here to give you information, encouragement and perhaps advice; but it’s up to you to decide what you think is best for yourself.

Since 2002, organic food has been regulated by the government.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines organic agriculture as “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity.  It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

Another mouthful.  To put it more simply, with organic farming
•    most synthetic (and petroleum derived) pesticides and fertilizers are prohibited;
•    all antibiotics, genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sludge are prohibited;
•    all organically produced animals must have access to outdoors and be fed organic feed; and
•    all processed products labeled organic must have 95% organic ingredients.

They look rather similar, don’t they?  But there are differences….  Let’s do a comparison.

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