Friday Food for Thought: Is there such a thing as guilt-free eating?
givingtable in Food for Thought, guilt-free eating, locavore

It's human nature to think our way is the best way, isn't it? Whether you're a locavore, vegan, mostly-vegetarian, pescitarian, conscious omnivore, or anything else, we come to these decisions with much thoughtfulness. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Chef Dan Barber, a self-confessed locavore, challenges some of the wisdom surrounding eating styles, claiming that there is no such thing as guilt-free eating.

"Butchering and eating animals may not be called kindness, but eating soy burgers that rely on pesticides and fertilizers precipitates destruction too. You don't have to eat meat, but you should have the good judgment to relinquish the high horse...What I don't like about sustainable foodies—and I'm considered one of them—is that we carry an air of preachiness about food. (No one wants to be told what to eat, whether it's by your mother or by a group of holier-than-thou chefs.) But true sustainability is about more than just deciding to cook with local ingredients or not allowing your child to have corn syrup. It's about cuisine that's evolved out of what the land is telling you it wants to grow. As one farmer said to me, Food systems don't last; cuisine does."

I like his idea about sustainable eating, that it's more than choosing this ingredient or that ingredient, but it's a cuisine, a lifestyle, dictated by the seasons, by what's fresh, and what the land is telling you to grow. In this scenario, Barber believes grass-fed burgers are part of the equation in reasonable quanities, which would have some vegans opposed for that reason alone.

The world he paints sounds idyllic in many ways, but hopefully the pendulum is starting to swing in favor of this new order. It is a place where meat is consumed (though not in the tradition of today's factory farms), and the soil and the animals and the plants all exist in harmony. For those that do not choose to eat meat, it is also a world where they can avoid the negative aspects of plant-based diets, like the pesticides that exist in many soy products that are advertised as meat-alternatives.

Is he right? Is there always a trade off, no matter which eating style we choose?

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