17 Mar A Philosophy of Food

You are what you eat! We use this axiom all the time. It is the wisdom of our parents and grandparents. What we might miss though is the truth of this statement. Our bodies are nourished by the food that we consume so it is worthwhile to take some time to reflect on food.

In particular I would like to ponder the impacts of fast food. I watched a short documentary recently on McDonalds and it amazed me to discover just how bad their food is. There was a teenage girl who ate nothing but McNuggets who was rushed to hospital for catastrophic heart failure due to malnutrition. It was amazing to me that they are able to sell the food that they are.

I think as a society we are malnourished. The foods that are available to us have been processed so much that there are very little nutrients left to them. Michael Pollan, a writer, calls them “edible food-like substances.” He claims that we need to completely rethink our food system from how the food is produced to how it is processed and distributed and even how we prepare it. As a farmer he has taken, what he calls, a more natural approach to producing food by trying to mimic the natural behaviours of animals. He says that you must pay attention to the “pig-ness of the pig, and the cow-ness of the cow.” For example, cows are traditionally grazing animals, but many farmers today feed cows corn instead because it is cheaper and helps them to grow faster. Joel Salatin produces what he calls “salad bar beef” because his cows are exclusively fed with grass out in the pasture.

What Joel Salatin and others like him are trying to make us aware of is that  the food we are eating today is not nourishing us. Many of the items on the shelves in our grocery stores are just different variations of corn. Or they are so processed that there is only small traces of actual food let in them. Also, even the fruits and vegetables we eat may be nutrient deficient because they were produced in fields where the soil has been depleted of all the essential nutrients. If the soil has no nutrients, the crops grow in that soil cannot have nutrients.

Joel Salatin is calling on farmers to think carefully about how they are producing food. He encourages farmers to embrace a more natural way of farming which is better for the land, plants and animals and help them all to flourish. He has written a number of books which outline his philosophy and give practical tips on how you can implement more natural practices on your farm.

Friends of ours have taken this message to heart and have taken it upon themselves to raise animals in a more natural way. Frank and Carrie Vander Vloet are raising cows, chickens, turkeys and pigs using a similar farming philosophy as Joel Salatin. They produce certified organic meat and vegetables which can be purchased directly from them through their website (http://www.back2natureorganics.com/index.html).

Frank and Carrie are a courageous young couple who really believe in producing the best food they can. They are producing nutrient rich foods that will help us to be healthier. They are taking a lot of risks because people need to be given the choice to buy better foods than are currently available.

As consumers I think that we have a responsibility to help our local farmers and small businesses. Farmers like Frank and Carrie need our help if their business is going to succeed. Also, by having a relationship with the farmers who produce our foods we become more involved in the food production process and hold the food production industry to account. Many of the horror stories about animal abuse or pollution are the result of factory farms which try to mass produce food to maximize profits. Being raised on a farm myself and knowing many farmers personally I can attest that small family farmers work tirelessly to care for their plants and animals. They work all hours of the day and night to ensure that their animals are healthy, happy, and protected from any threats such as disease or predators. These farmers are dependant on their animals for their livelihood, so they make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order care for them. Let’s do our part and support local farmers, like Frank and Carrie, by buying our food directly from our farmers or farmer’s markets.