During the month of May, Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food International will be doing a book tour around the U.S. Carlo started The Slow Food movement in 1986 in Italy. Today the organization is active in 50 countries and has a worldwide membership of over 80,000. Although the organization is not necessarily vegetarian, the principles are to promote sustainability and to encourage us to learn about where our food is comes from. Vegetarian or not, these are important principles to consider. Here is the mission of the movement.
Slow Food envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair. We seek to catalyze a broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.
Need another reason to buy food locally or at least food produced in the U.S.? How about the fact that almost 99% of all the food imported is not being inspected by the FDA. One of the FDA’s primary responsibilities is to ensure a safe food supply for this country. But ,the agency is overworked and understaffed. Consider this, last month they found 850 shipments of grains, nuts, fish, vegetables, spices and oils to be be tainted by filth, unsafe colorings, toxic pesticides and salmonella. Remember, they only inspected 1.3 percent of the total amount of food imported to the U.S. The amount of food imported is expected to increase over the next year, while the number of food inspections are expected to decrease to 1.1 percent.
It is estimated that the average American eats around 260 lbs of imported food per year in some form. Much of this food comes from Mexico and Canada, but an increasing amount of it is coming from China. We have seen the problems when tainted food is imported from China and released into our food system. This time it affected our pet’s food, what about the next time? With very little food being inspected and nearly $70 billion dollars worth of it being imported annually, this can be bad news.
So you want to know where your food is coming from? Good luck! The Farm Act of 2002 mandated that certain types of food be labeled based on country of origin. Fruits and vegetables are still not required to be labeled. It really turns into a catch-22…the food is not being inspected for safety and we can’t avoid it because it’s not labeled. And…if labeling is required, the food may be processed into other food (e.g. wheat gluten) without our knowledge. This makes it difficult for the consumer to make an educated decision on the food they want to put into their bodies.
There really isn’t a silver bullet answer for avoiding imported food, unless you live on a farm and only eat the food you grow on it. The next best thing is to buy from known local sources like farmers markets and grocery stores that buy locally. It may be difficult to avoid imported food altogether, but reducing our intake of it will certainly help. This is a perfect instance of "less is more".
Recently MSN ran an article on the types of foods people over 40 should try to center their diets on. These "power foods" are comprised of high nutrition, low calorie energy that help reduce cravings and in turn help reduce weight. This age group has the highest risk factor for diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, high cholesterol, etc. And while we all know it’s important to eat well in order to maintain a healthy weight, it is also important to eat the types of foods that help to increase our bodies’ resistance to these diseases.
The article focuses on 10 quality foods, that when eaten in combination, help to stave off disease and keep weight in check. One obvious food absent in the list of "power foods" is meat. There is a point in the article where it recommends eating a lot of protein to feel satiated. However, the protein sources recommended are beans, cheese and veg chili. You can add tofu, soy milk, eggs (free range), nuts, bread, lentils, etc to this list to enjoy a wide selection of high quality proteins.
With all the bad things happening with meat these days (e.g. hormones, medication, antibiotics, genetically modified foods, melamine, fertilizers, mad cow, the list goes on) it’s easy to see why it doesn’t make the list of "power foods". Studies are consistently showing that meat consumption increases the likelihood of cancer and heart disease. Similar studies are showing that a diet high in fruits and vegetables have the opposite effect, and actually reduce the likelihood of cancer and heart disease.
The FDA is currently investigating if Melamine (the containiment in pet food that is killing our pets) has made its way into the meat you eat. After such upstanding companies like Menu Foods, Procter & Gamble Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co., Nestle SA and Del Monte Foods Co. realized they couldn’t sell their tainted pet food to unsuspecting dog and cat owners anymore….they decided to sell the food to factory farm operations so that pigs could eat it. Well…what pigs eat, YOU eat! (unless you’re a veghead) read about it at Reuters
In a separate but related story, the companies mentioned above may have bought wheat gluten from a Chinese exporter that purposely included melamine in the their product. You ask, isn’t melamine a nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastic and sometimes as a fertilizer? And you would be correct, but thanks the miracles of modern food science, melamine has also been found to artificially boost the protein level of food. So…companies can avoid putting quality products into pet food and just feed them a cocktail of by-products and fertilizers. Come and get it Sparky! read about it at USAToday
This weekend, we watched Fast Food Nation on DVD. Based on a book of the same name, the basic plot of the movie centers around a fictional fast food restaurant, Mickey’s, and the issue of how “shit” got into the meat. Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), a marketing executive for Mickey’s, is given the job of traveling to the meat packing plant and investigating how this could have happened.What he discovers is the nastiness that is the basis of a lot of fast food- both in the meals themselves and the industry.
A few parallel story lines run through the movie, from the employment and treatment of illegal Mexican immigrants and other fast food workers,to corporate interests and animal activism. A warning is that the movie is graphic at times, and even though the question of “how the shit got into the meat” is not answered visually, you can use your imagination based on the description given.
Throughout the movie, a number of famous faces show up, including Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne and Bruce Willis, but it is the commentary the movie makes on where fast food has brought us that is the most interesting.You are left with a sense of questioning, and how the meat was contaminated is the least of them.How did we get here?What happens now?How did the hope “for something better” turn into this?
I will admit that I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on what may have been lost or embellished for the big screen.What I can say is that this movie is worth a watch.It is an entertaining and sadly true commentary that showcases how dirty an industry can become no matter how many smiling characters they invent to represent them.
For some of people, the thought of going vegetarian can be overwhelming. I am not talking about going vegetarian one day a week here…that is simple. What I am referring to is going veg all the time. Often times people new to the idea of becoming vegetarian ask questions like what will I eat, what about the holidays with the family, what if there are no options on the menu at a restaurant for me, what about the impending BBQ season? In the beginning these may seem like difficult questions to answer, but after experimenting with veg food for a short period of time, you will find the right answers that fit you.
Recently, I discovered a great guide written by Kathy Freston, who also authored "Vegetarian Is the New Prius." Kathy gives some easy to follow, practical advice on beginning a vegetarian diet and she helps to answer some of the aforementioned questions. She discusses several topics including ways to transition into the diet and advice on how not to get worked up over the little things.
It wasn’t so long ago that vegetarians were considered "weirdos". There was a stigma associated with the lifestyle as being unhealthy, weak, pale and of course liberal. Today, this stigma is gone, except for possibly the liberal part. Although many conservative people are waking up to realize the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
People choose vegetarian for many reasons, such as to make a positive impact on the environment or to improve their health or for animal welfare or a combination of all three. No matter what the rationale, the choice to become vegetarian is becoming widely accepted.
It is rare these days to sit down in a restaurant and not have a veg choice on the menu. Even the worst of restaurants will probably have a token veggie burger. Also, you learn pretty quickly what kind of establishments are veg friendly. I certainly wouldn’t go to Hooters and expect to find many, if any, veg options.
Grocery stores and specialty stores have come a long way in the last ten years. Entire stores are dedicated to vegetarian friendly food and even the regular chain supermarkets have a good selection of food to choose from. With more than eight million vegetarians in the U.S., this is a pretty big market to be overlooked. Many other countries have higher percentages of vegetarians, so the global demand for veg food is significant.
Our fifth and final "Earth Day" installment will cover some odds and ends. The first thing on the agenda is to talk about the Traditional Earth Day dinner. What? You say you haven’t heard of this? Well….neither have I. But, this sounds like a good tradition to start! Why not have some good friends and family over to enjoy a thoughtful earth friendly meal. Good food, good friends, good wine….now that sounds like a nice Sunday evening.
Earlier this week I stumbled on a website that has a "diet scorer". You plunk in what foods you normally eat and it spits back a score of how green your diet is. I am not sure how the math behind it is calculated, but it is pretty fun to play with. Also on this site you can "tour the food chain". This is an interactive animated look at the different components of our conventional food chain.
Lastly, if you are in the San Diego area this Sunday and are looking for a fun way to spend the day — check out Earthfair 2007 at Balboa Park. Last year around 60,000 people showed up to celebrate Earth Day. If you can make it, keep an eye out for a couple of guys wearing wannaveg.com t-shirts. ;) For information on events in your area, take a look at Monday’s post for links or just do a quick google search. These tend to be educational and a lot of fun.
The fourth day of our "Earth Day" series will focus on your health. You may ask: what does good health have to do with helping the environment?This is a good question! The answer…I believe people concerned with their health are generally more inclined to pay attention to the types of food they eat and the sourcing of that food.In addition, unhealthy people use more medical resources than healthy people do.This last part is based on fact, and it is what I want to highlight today.
The health-care industry consumes large amounts of our natural resources and produces tons of hazardous waste. If you are interested in seeing something alarming, just take a look at the Bristol-Myers Squibb annual "Environmental Performance" report. Last year BMS produced 579 kg of ozone-depleting emissions, over 1 billion kg of CO2 and consumed over 35 billion liters of water. I am not trying to single out BMS, I am just trying to demonstrate that modern health-care is extremely resource intensive. Please keep in mind that these figures represent the impact of one health-care company. Multiply this by all pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, research facilities, medical supply companies, etc. on the planet and it becomes apparent that staying healthy is not only good for you as an individual, it is also good for our planet.
Of course, having a good diet does not guarantee good health, but it is one of the few variables that we can actually control. Lately, a few studies have been making headlines with findings that reducing meat consumption and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables play a big role in maintaining good health. These reports have been released within the last month and are linked below.
The results of these stories are probably not going to surprise you, and most of it, you are already well aware of. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has more health benefits than any another diet ever known.
Going vegetarian one day a week presents a great opportunity to start creating tasty meals that focus on healthy fruits and vegetables. Also, these meals can be incorporated into your diet for the rest of the week. You will quickly see that going veg does not mean you will be restricted to eating salads every meal. There is a huge variety of veg food out there that will ‘knock your socks off’. For some good recipes to get you started, take a look at our ‘recipes‘ category.
Simply stated, be healthy, safe the planet. Going veg one day a week can help!
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