IS THIS FOOD MOVEMENT SUSTAINABLE?

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By Mike Speights, Co-founder, The Foodery

food movementTake a trip to any local supermarket these days (not just Whole Foods), and there’s no doubt you’ll run into  foods labeled “organic”- many of these markets even have an isle or section devoted to these foods.  In the meat departments, you’ll see labels proclaiming “antibiotic and hormone free”, and the “natural” label is ubiquitous.  You’ve probably also heard the terms “farm-to-table”, “farm-to-fork”, “sustainable food movement”, “local food movement” and many others by now.  Confused yet?  Call it what you want, there’s a food movement among us made up of consumers, farmers and companies that are devoted to eating, sourcing and creating food the way we used to….before the industrialization of food.  And like any movement, this movement certainly has its share of confusion (what the heck is “natural” anyway?), zealots and some folks who take advantage/mislead and others who may deem it a trend or fad.  So let’s provide some clarity of this food movement with 4 insights:

1)      The maze of labeling & marketing.  How to keep it simple.

It’s safe to say that the majority of labels you see are marketing, especially the terms “natural” and “all natural”.  The green & white “certified organic” label is definitely one you can trust.  It insures that the particular food is free of chemical pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and genetic modification.  That’s not to say that the label is without its flaws.  The Cornucopia Institute has done a tremendous job of researching the major corporate food ownership in the organic sector, and this is worrisome for sure.  This is something we’re watching closely at The Foodery.  For now make sure to:

  1. Make organic purchases when possible.
  2. Read food labels- if you don’t recognize a particular ingredient, don’t buy it.
  3. Avoid antibiotics and hormones.  Antibiotics should only be consumed via doctors’ prescriptions, not via your meats.  Leave the hormones to A-ROD.
  4. Always ask questions about the sources and farming practices of your food.  This is especially key if there are no labels or ingredients listed (i.e. at farmers markets).  If your grocery store clerk, farmer, fish monger, chef or butcher can’t provide you with a brief background on the food, it’s best to find it elsewhere.

2)      Get up to speed.  Find your trusted resources.

We recommend getting nerdy about what you put into your body.  Of course, you probably have some time constraints, so here are some resources that we highly recommend: Dr. MercolaDr. WeilThe Rodale InstituteThe Cornucopia Institute, author Michael Pollan and farmer Joel Salatin to name a few.  And of course, you can always rely on us to arm you with the latest sustainable food knowledge.

3)      Balance is key.

Eating healthy, organic, sustainable, local can be overwhelming and just not possible all the time.   You may have time constraints for shopping & cooking, and there are a very limited, but growing amount of restaurants that operate with sustainable food principles.  It helps to find your trusted markets, farms and restaurants and create a weekly routine that incorporates them.  One of our favorite restaurants is Life Alive in Cambridge—thankfully they’re growing.  And of course, you can always outsource the legwork to a meal delivery business that can help you.

4)      This movement has legs!

Organic food sales are growing at twice the rate of conventional foods and have been for over a decade.  But let’s put that aside for now.  What do Reebok Pumps, Cabbage Patch Kids and The Snuggie have in common?  They were all fads.  According to Google dictionary, a fad is “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities.”  Food is completely different.  We have a deep and ever-growing understanding of the impact of food decisions on our health and well-being.  There’s no secret here. Let’s also not forget that sustainable food (real food)  is simply food that has been farmed and sourced as it’s been throughout human existence—up until the 1950’s when factory farming took root and the invention of Swanson’s TV dinners.  We’re simply going “back to the start” (thank you to Cold Play “The Scientist”).