Why do we eat what we eat? For most of history this question has been quite simple; we eat to survive. But in the context of material abundance, when food is plentiful and easily accessible, this question becomes quite different. What do we feel like eating? Whether it’s our choice of breakfast cereal or the spread at a buffet lunch, there is always a multitude of choices to satisfy our present craving. Most of us make these choices based on our personal taste but when we’re at the supermarket, we’re looking for the best value for money. This fuels the current global market for food; choice, taste, and price. But what’s missing from this equation?
First we have to look at how industrialization has changed the way we produce, package, and distribute food. Small family farms have been replaced by massive agri-businesses. Farm production has shifted to mono crops with global market value. Industrial fertilizers and pesticides have increased crop yields but pollute water, destroy wildlife, and deplete the soil of natural minerals. Meat is industrially produced in increasingly large quantities, creating a huge demand for fodder. Convenience foods laden with chemicals are produced in factories and distributed all over the world. As food becomes plentiful, for some, it comes with a huge price tag for all.
We might consider these changes to be something we have little control over, and therefore, have no accountability for; but a closer look at the problem reveals that we are not only accountable but even responsible. Every time we put something into our shopping cart, we are participating in this unsustainable system. We need to rethink our decisions about food by inserting the question of welfare into the equation – regarding our health, our planet, and every living thing on it.
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