A Real Food Manifesto
The average American meal ingredients are sourced from all over the world, shipped back and forth from countries, states, farms, and grocery stores, to keep the bottom line low, and the profit margins high. In 2002, a paper was published by World Watch, which brought to light the distance our food traveled to get to our plate. Maybe it spurred the resurgence of farmer’s market, farm-to-table, sustainable, local focus we seeing across the nation. I notice it in my Netflix cue – dozens of food-based documentaries are recommended – and I can’t help but watch each one, even as background noise. I love it. Finally, food, is getting the headlines.
There’s a lot of trendiness in food, and drinks, in pop culture. Every magazine highlights the best dishes, the hottest cocktails, the most innovative tastes. We’re seeing it all – from the vegan cheeseburger taste-alike to the Paleo edible medical marijuana line. I’m not complaining, per say, but there are issues with trends. One is misinformation, the other is trendiness. True change happens with steadfast yet critical minds working together to fix the system – eat local. And that is happening.
And it has been. In 2007, the term “locavore” was added to the dictionary. Hundreds of thousands across the US took the locavore challenge – or the 100 mile diet – to see what it’s like. What’s local? There is no precise definition, and it does change depending on who you are. Do you live in Central Valley CA? Maybe your “local” food shed is a lot smaller, and more descriptive with agriculture practices than my “local” is up here in central Idaho. Perhaps a bodega in NYC has access to great “local” food from farmer’s in Vermont and Connecticut? Could that be local for some folks in NYC? Sure, if that is what works for you.
Every few weeks a new study comes out with some new cure-all, fix-everything hype about how our diets can change the world. I’m not saying they can’t – I’m just saying it’s a bit more complex than everyone is playing it out to be. There is a common dialogue right now, one that argues animal agriculture is destroying the planet, and that veganism is the answer. It’s a starting point, but it isn’t the end all, be all answer. I don’t want to bash, I really don’t…
But all those vegans ranting about climate change should eat some liver and chill out. Humans have been eating meat, in some form, since records of civilization have existed. There is no known tribe of humans who only ate raw vegetable foods. It is known that certain minerals and other nutrients are unavailable in the raw form, but bio-available when cooked with fats. If you know me, you know I preach a lifestyle that includes animal fats, meat, and milk. But I say that with a lot of hesitation, and a lot of respect for all those preaching veganism to help save the world.
We have some serious problems in our currently food system. The Standard American Diet – also known as SAD – has caused a market of unsafe beef, water scarcity, and a food waste epidemic. And tons of other social issues that I’ve written about over the years. However, eating meat is not the problem. Part of the problem is eating too much meat from unhealthy animals. The other part of the problem is thinking this is all or nothing, black or white, instead of the holistic system that it is. If eating meat doesn’t feel good to you than don’t eat it. If you like eating meat, source it from the best producer you can find and enjoy every bite. Same with vegetables, and fruits, and grains, and beans, and cheese, and bread, and even dessert.
If everyone suddenly stopped eating meat but ate soy burgers instead, our environment would still be in a state of turmoil from monoculture. Likewise, if we continue to shove double cheeseburgers down our throats, we will continue to abuse the land, and cause our demise. We need people to live with intention, to care where their food comes from, to pay for the true costs of the food, and to understand that we’re all living on this planet together. And we’re all part of the food system, so we better start caring about its future.
Cows, as well as other ruminants and grazing animals, have immense power to help us fix the world. If we treat them well, with respect, and understanding, we can work with them. Research is showing the many benefits of cattle, when raised in a regenerative, sustainable practice. Benefits include soil health, carbon sequestration, water & air quality increases…along with more nutrients in the animal product, which makes us live a little bit better with every bite. Not only can cattle be a helpful tool, but carbon farming is an innovative look at agriculture, and how our revolutionized food system could look in the coming years. Rotating animals on healthy pasture, never tilled, planted with perennial grasses, cover crops, and native species, receiving mulch and compost, filled with bugs, fungi, and life. Sounds like the perfect way to help us live a better one.