Category Archives: Conscious Eating

Permalink to 2012 Food Resolutions

2012 Food Resolutions

What are you planning to do differently in 2012 that will help make an impact on our food system?

Since it’s the season of cleansing, organizing and setting some goals, it’s a good time to think about what some of your food resolutions might be for 2012. Hopefully you’ve taken a peek around the site, browsed through the blog, and learned more about the food system. To do some food good in the world, here are a few resolutions you might consider making:

  • Read at least two books about the food system. Knowledge is power, so kick off your shoes and snuggle up with a book that will help you learn more about our broken food system and the people who are trying to change it. Need a little inspiration? Check out our Reading Room! Need even more inspiration? Check back later this year to join The Giving Table Book Club (launch TBD)!
  • Participate in Meatless Monday. The factory farm industry isn’t treating the animals we eat with care. Supporting local farmers with grass fed beef is one way to help reduce demand for industrialized products. If everyone went meatless just one day per week, it would save 1.4 billion animals per year from life on a factory farm. Learn more in my recent blog post on the subject
  • Prepare more meals at home. Cooking at home with organic produce is a great way to limit your intake of processed foods, sodium and trans-fats. Your body will thank you. 
  • Shop at the Farmers’ Market at least once per month. Think of this as a leisure activity. With busy schedules, it might not be realistic to go every week, so pack up your family at least once per month and spend a couple of hours browsing stalls of fresh produce. Maybe pick up a vegetable you haven’t tried before! You can also join a CSA or farm fresh delivery service.
  • Stay informed. Sign up for a newsletter that will keep you informed about happenings in the food industry, such as Food Democracy Now or Civil Eats. 
  • Designate funding to organizations fighting hunger. It doesn’t have to be a lot (just $1 can help connect a child to up to 10 nutritious meals through Share Our Strength), and every little bit helps. If you have the capacity, consider a small monthly gift to an organization helping to alleviate hunger and poverty in the US or abroad. Visit our Giving page to find an organization that suits your needs.


Permalink to The Price of a Tomato

The Price of a Tomato

How much does a tomato cost? $1.29 a pound? More? Less? What if the true cost of a tomato weren’t measured in change at the check-out counter but in the health of a farm worker who lives in deplorable conditions in order to ensure that tomatoes are stocked in your local grocery store year-round?

In many parts of the United States, we have access to fruits and vegetables year-round, regardless of seasonality. This means that many Americans will add a rubber band-wrapped bunch of green stems to their cart well into November or December (the growing season for asparagus peaks in April and May).

Ask any chef, foodie, blogger or competent home cook and they’ll likely tell you that the best tomatoes are found in August and September, period. But something disturbing has happened to America’s tomato industry that until recently, was not often in media stories or minds of the modern consumer. Besides, who really wants to know that the modern tomato contains 14 times more sodium than its 1960s counterpart?

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Permalink to Animal Welfare and the Revolution of Meatless Mondays

Animal Welfare and the Revolution of Meatless Mondays

“Our generation should be able to look back and say we took the side of the vulnerable.”

-Paul Shapiro, Humane Society

On November 12th I attended “Ethics and Your Plate,” an inspiring seminar at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History sponsored by Go Vegan Santa Barbara and the National Museum of Animals and Society. The speakers brought a range of expertise on matters of animal welfare, factory farms and sustainable agriculture. Fresh off feeling somewhat melancholy that all we seem to be doing is preach to the choir, I left feeling newly inspired about what we can accomplish together to change the food system.

Paul Shapiro from the Humane Society spoke about animal welfare and gave an overview of animal rights in this country. Pets in the U.S. have a certain amount of legal protection, with several states making abuse of animals a punishable crime. Farm animals, on the other hand, have almost no legal protection whatsoever. This makes them vulnerable to a host of unacceptable abuses.

Interestingly, he cited a survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau in Oklahoma where results showed that Americans care deeply about the way the animals they eat are treated during their lives (e.g. 95% said it is important that animals are well cared for; 75% would vote for laws requiring better treatment). Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between the way we feel and how we shop for our meat. The reason? Consumers simply don’t know what they’re eating and what takes place at factory farms.

Paul, a committed vegan, is interested in “common ground campaigns,” or issues that vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike can come together and agree on. He cited 1) banning factory farm practices and 2) reducing the number of animals raised and killed as the two campaigns to pursue to do the most good.

Progress has already been made on many states, but he spent some time recalling the 2008 Prop 2 campaign in California which required animals to have basic human rights including the ability to lie down, turn around and extend their legs. People from all walks of life came together that year to support animal rights. Religious leaders, public health workers, vegans and meat eaters, all believed that our animals deserved better. The proposition passed by a 63% vote, the largest majority than any other state initiative to date.

I was able to speak with Paul after his presentation and he told me that he felt the Meatless Monday campaign is one of the best ways to promote change in our food system. But it can’t only be in our individual homes. Meatless Monday needs to take hold at an institutional level, so that means corporate cafeterias, school lunch rooms and restaurants should collectively promote this effort which would ensure that millions of Americans have at least one meat-free day per week, saving approximately 1.4 billion animals per year from a life on factory farms.

I appreciated his optimism and practical application to an overwhelming topic. I immediately felt more confident not only in my own food choices, but in the possibility to significantly reduce the practice of factory farming in this country. Following are a few more facts from the day you may find interesting

  • North Carolina is the second largest pig producer in the country, but you could drive through the entire state without seeing a pig due to factory farm practices.
  • 1 million animals are slaughtered every hour in the United States; 10 billion are slaughtered each year
  • Due to feed and waste automation, the average amount of time a pig experiences human contact per day is 8 seconds

Permalink to Mindful Eating: 5 Contemplations

Mindful Eating: 5 Contemplations

We all eat lunch at our desks or have dinner in front of the TV occasionally. It’s probably unrealistic for us to enjoy a leisure meal three times a day, but that doesn’t mean we should be completely disconnected from the food on our plate. With Thankgiving being celebrated this week, now is the perfect time to pause and be grateful for the food that sustains us.

In their book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, Buddhist master Thich Khat Hanh and nutritionist Dr. Lilian Cheung reveal five contemplations that can encourage a healthier relationship to your food. These were posted on the Oprah Winfrey website recently and are worth considering.

1. This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard, loving work.

2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.

3. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.

4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.

5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

This seems like something ideal to tack on your refrigerator or tuck into a journal. Of course, you may not come to each and every meal with this much clarity, but it’s worth remembering that our connection to food goes beyond the act of eating. The ingredients came from the earth, were tended with human hands and exist to nourish us in both body and spirit. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Permalink to NYC meat supplier pushes for a change

NYC meat supplier pushes for a change

George Faison—a meat supplier to some of New York City’s best restaurants—recently wrote a letter to some of his chef clients, urging them to make a change. Currently, Mr. Faison sells both naturally-raised and industrially produced meats, but according to long-time friend and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, would prefer shifting to the former when and if chef’s demanded it.

Mark Bittman printed Mr. Faison’s letter on his website. You can read the full text here.

He begins by citing some of the reasons why our food system is broken, such as beef production being controlled by four industrially producing companies, consumers spending less of their take-home pay on food than any previous decades and the rampant overuse of chemical fertilizer and pesticides.

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Permalink to Whole Foods Animal Welfare Ratings

Whole Foods Animal Welfare Ratings

I noticed this chart front and center at my local Whole Foods meat counter. Whole Foods has collaborated with Global Animal Partnership—a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals—to implement its 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating Standards in every Whole Foods Market store in the United States and Canada.

The reason for this partnership is explained on their website: “It’s often easy to forget that the burger, steak or drumstick on your plate was once an animal. How was that animal raised? How was it treated? Where did it come from? What about added hormones and antibiotics? Was its growth artificially accelerated to get to market sooner and reduce feed cost? We are committed to answering these questions.”

Visit the Whole Foods website for more information where you can download their brochure providing greater detail on each of the ratings systems.

During a recent visit, I purchased a whole pastured chicken (with the highest rating of 5) for the same price as a caged chicken ($2.79/pound). For under $11, I left the store with a chicken I could feel good about eating. As a consumer, this ratings system has certainly caused me to pause before making choices for what to buy at the meat counter.

What about you? Has anyone else made conscious food choices because of this ratings system, or will you do so in the future?

Permalink to Slow Food, Fast

Slow Food, Fast

[ Unhealthy, inedible, not real meat, sodium, factory farms, unsustainable, empty calories, obesity, the problem with America's food system... ]

These are some of the terms that spring to mind when I think of fast food, and perhaps you share a similar sentiment. While living on a frugal student budget in college, I often indulged in Taco Bell’s inexpensive nachos, soft tacos and cinnamon-sugar churros, or drove through McDonald’s during road trips, dipping french fries into sweet and sour sauce while on the open road. I didn’t know very much about the food system then. My food choices were based on convenience, price and my limited cooking skills. Today, I can’t think of many scenarios that would compel me to eat fast food, and for the past five years, I’ve steered clear of most establishments.

But there are always exceptions to the rule. Steve Ells founded a fast food restaurant in Denver, Colorado that he thought would be a temporary concept. But the model was so successful, his plans changed. The title of this post, “slow food, fast” is the slogan for the popular Mexican-style fast food chain, Chipotle.

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Permalink to Becoming Food Conscious

Becoming Food Conscious

Do you buy organic or what’s on sale? Do you pack your lunch or eat out? Do you think it’s ethical to eat animals? These are some of the questions we all must ask ourselves when becoming food conscious.

Food consciousness is Step 1 here at the Giving Table, and a recent post by fellow blogger Brooke from Food Woolf inspired me to delve a bit deeper. Last week she wrote a compelling post about awareness in the context of restaurant service, which got me thinking about the journey one goes through to embrace food consciousness and make permanent changes. After all, it’s a process I went through myself just two years ago.

She writes: “Awareness may be something we’re born with. Our modern lives drain us of the impulse to stay aware. Lately, it seems, most Americans don’t seem all that comfortable with awareness. We are a nation of multi-taskers. We watch TV while we eat dinner. We check email while we wait in line. We scan Facebook updates while we work…”

Awareness often reveals something that must result in a changed behavior, requires a conscious effort and forces you to take stock or ask questions that challenge you to improve. It’s a tall order in all contexts, whether it be restaurant service or the food you’re feeding your family.

The framework for this entire website—Food Consciousness, Know the Issues and Get Involved—was modeled after my own journey. It began in 2009 when I saw the documentary Food, Inc. I’d been circling around some of the topics for a while, but the film helped articulate what I was feeling and questioning, and certainly shed light on our broken food industry.

From there, my husband and I discussed ways we could make positive changes. We started by reducing our meat intake. By committing to only purchasing grass-fed beef or organic chicken, our food costs would go up, so we decided to eat better quality animal proteins less frequently and since then, we’ve transitioned to a mostly-vegetarian diet. Once I became more aware of the food I ate, I naturally wanted to know more about the food system, the issues at stake and who is doing something about it. That inclination became the genesis for this website.

We all have different tipping points and experiences that have defined our relationships to food. So take a peek, ask yourself some of the provided questions and start thinking of ways to make a change. And once you do, don’t be shy! I’d love to hear what all of you are doing to make changes in your own life, or any questions or concerns you have about the process.

While drafting this blog post, I realized it would be well served in a permanent home where the content could be expanded. I wrote a new article titled Becoming Food Conscious that you can read in Step 1. Here, you’ll find a series of questions to help jump start your relationship with food.

Permalink to How to opt out of the industrialized food system

How to opt out of the industrialized food system

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms wrote an essay for the Food, Inc. companion book and explained practical ways we can choose to opt out of the industrialized food system. Below are some of the key points to help encourage you to make small changes. What are some of the ways you’re modifying your eating habits?

  1. Rediscover your kitchen. This is where you say goodbye to the takeout menu and packaged foods (as much as possible), and start cooking again. As Salitin puts it, “learn to use your kitchen for its intended purpose.”
  2. Buy local. When you have the choice, purchase as directly as possible from local farmers. Directing money to farmers instead of industrialized corporations helps promote a change in the system. Shop at farmers markets and join a CSA. To find your nearest Farmers Market or join a CSA, check out Local Harvest.
  3. Buy what’s in season. Most foods are not in season year round, yet growers have discovered ways to make them available. But the difference in their quality is remarkably clear once you bite into a winter tomato. “The most unnatural characteristic of the industrial food system is the notion that the same food items should be available at once at all times,” Salatin explains. If asparagus is for sale in winter, resist the urge to take it home.
  4. Plant a garden. Not everyone has space to plant their own garden, but even potted herbs near a sunny kitchen window can help eliminate your reliance on industrialized food. If space is limited, look into community garden plots.

Food for Thought

"To care about food but not food production is clearly absurd." // Wendell Berry

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