Ethically Raised Food

by updated 2012/12/16

Ethical food is a term that I started using in 2006. It is a description of food production that has been used in New Zealand, Canada, and Europe, but not really in the United States.Ethical Food?

It is comforting to believe that food raised organically is by default raised ethically. Unfortunately this belief is becoming a bit outdated, even quaint. Generally, the opinion was that the vast majority of farmers that are raising produce and animals, or producing products organically are farmers that by default are using the responsible, sustainable practices that gave birth to the organic food movement.

This may have been mostly true when organic food was the domain of only the small local grower. Now, there are monster agri-businesses that are producing organic food. On the surface this is a good thing. I mean, the bagged lettuce industry is huge and it is certainly better to have a good portion of it produced organically, rather than conventionally. This is especially true when you learn about the many chemicals that are used on conventionally produced lettuce. The bagged lettuce industry has also been successful in getting the price of organic lettuce close to that of conventionally produced lettuce.

Before the entrance of these big companies into the organic food business, organic food was almost uniformly produced by small farmers who were doing it because of their strong belief in the goal of a chemical free, ethical, and sustainable way of life. This was a good thing. Now with the entrance of the big players, organic food is surfacing on the shelves of all grocery stores. It is also being sold at prices that are lower that organic food has traditionally sold at. This is also a good turn of events…. in some ways.

The suspicion that is raised in my mind is that these huge growers are keeping costs down not just with economies of scale, but by using many of the same agri-business techniques that have given western societies artificially reduced food prices for so many years. Less expensive, conventional, food producers use shortcuts to keep prices down. Many conventionally produced products are also heavily subsidized by the U.S. government in an effort to keep prices low. I am concerned that in order to produce food that is certified organic and close in price to conventional food, it is done in an unsustainable, unethical, way that is not good for the land being farmed, the workers farming the land, or consumers purchasing and eating the food.

Maybe it is time for us to make “ethical food” an official food label. Along with the “GMO Free” and “Organic” descriptions these labels can help make our food buying decisions better informed.

For those wanting a more in-depth look at this issue, there are two books I would recommend.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan is becoming a classic and is an easy, interesting read. Although Pollan can be stridently, but usually accurately, critical at times, (he even takes the grandmother of organic food stores, Whole Foods, to task), his book is a must read for anyone interested in modern methods of food production. Pollan is aghast, as we all should be, at what he reports on in his book.

The Way We Eat – Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Pete Singer and Jim Mason is, in some ways, a more difficult read than Pollan’s book. This is a very serious look at our food and lifestyle choices, but one that may just be lifestyle altering for some readers. This book’s guidelines of transparency, fairness, humaneness, social responsibility, and actual needs in food production are well explained and justified. The authors also get in depth on the issue of both general food costs and the comparison of conventionally vs. ethically produced food.

Will Sig
1 Bay of Islands NZ

Here in New Zealand, ethical food is a big part of life and culture. Actually after a trip to the States I wasn’t eating meat mainly due to the big feed lots the cattle are raised in. On return to NZ a farming mate showed me the local cows here – roaming the hills, no feedlots in this country. Still didn’t make me switch back to a meat-eating life though!

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2 Will

I think the first time I saw the term “ethical food” was on a New Zealand or Australian web-site. I am doing my best to get the concept established in the US but it is a tough chore here with our firmly planted preference for cheap, industrialized food.

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3 Jan

Hi Will
What are your worries about bigger companies using unethical and unsustainable ways to produce organic food? It is getting bigger in Australia with lots of local farmer’s markets with big organic sections.
There are lots of ways that people all over the world can help eat as ethically produced foods as possible even if organic food is unavailable or too expensive – buy free range eggs and free range chicken, don’t buy veal, lot fed beef or duck pate (the birds spend the last 6 weeks of their lives being force fed to increase the size of their liver). Try try to eat at least one or two vegetarian meals a week for good health and the health of the planet.
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4 Will

My worry is that many of these big companies adhere to the technical definition of “organic”, but do not go one step beyond what is required to meet that definition. Just as one hypothetical example, a company raising organic beef can still follow the practice of chopping off their cow’s tails. Their meat is organic, but not ethically produced.

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5 Jan

Oh! I never would have thought that organically raised animals would be treated in any other way than humanely!

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6 Anthony Samsel

As a scientist I feel that it is irresponsible of our appointed servants to have compromised the health and welfare of this great nation and the world for the benefit of Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and other corporations. The recent approval of GMO Alfalfa is another travesty for the world . Up to 90% of U.S. soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets are now genetically engineered and routinely inserted into human and animal foods with no labels or safety testing. Approximately 80% of current grocery food items contain GMOs; while according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, the majority of beef, pork, poultry, dairy, and eggs come from CAFOs feeding Genetically Engineered grain.

The USDA recently approved a new variety of corn genetically engineered by Syngenta to make it easier to process into ethanol. This puts the public health in danger of corn-based food ingredients being contaminated with unwanted and dangerous genes designed for bio-fuels and further promotes a monopoly against all farmers in conventional non Genetically Engineered agriculture.Contamination is inevitable and Syngenta’s Genetically Altered Seed will cause harm to non GMO varieties regardless of whether or not it has been adequately assessed for its potential to cause allergies, a key concern with new genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is another StarLink disaster waiting to happen.

The Biotech Industry is systematically destroying Biodiversity as we know it. Increasingly popular within the industry is the use of Genetic Engineering to produce vaccines and pharmaceuticals in plants. The use of food crops including vegetables and grains for their production represents a real and present danger to all forms life. Genetically Engineered Rice and Barley are popular choices with a danger now of vaccine and pharmaceutical drug laced Beer.

Getting food labeled is a start but does not go far enough. This is a compromise. There should be NO Genetic Engineering of life. Genetically Engineered plant crops are not only grown outdoors in unprotected environments for food, they are grown to produce Biofuels, Botanical drug factories for Pharmaceutical drugs, Botanical Weapons factories for production of Bacteriological Weapons, Antigens and more.

Horizontal Gene Transfer and recombination of Transgenic DNA is inherently designed to jump into Genomes sometimes through virus or Bacterial Plasmids. This fact makes Transgenic DNA different and more dangerous than naturally occurring DNA. Agrobacterium tumefaciens and Cauliflower Mosaic virus are major vectors for transferring DNA, making transgenic plants. Agrobacterium and CMv not only transfers its genes to plant cells it can also accept genes from plant cells by a process known as retrotransfer. Agrobacterium has a known ability to attach and Genetically change several Human cell lines making it a major concern in the spread and creation of new pathogens resistant to drugs and antibiotics.

J. Craig Venter from La Jola, CA and owner of the company SYNTHETIC GENOMICS in my opinion is probably one the most maniacal people on the planet rivaling German scientists of the THIRD REICH under Adolph Hitler. Venter has created the first synthetic species, it is a new species of Bacteria designed on a computer. Its ALIVE and replicates itself.
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7369820n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea.8

Another Biotech firm, Ventria Biotechnology’s portfolio includes drug laced rice and barley plants grown outdoors on farmland. Ventria states: “Completely animal free and dedicated manufacturing. This avoids viral and TSE/BSE transmission risks that are associated with the use of animal components.” The Biotech Industry is polluting and destroying the gene pools of biodiversity, creating some of the most insidious and insulting life forms, contributing to the spread of new and virulent disease, destroying our air, water and soil.

Plants including grasses, and animal forage crops, fruits, vegetables, shrubs, trees, yeast, bacteria, fish, birds and animals are all being Genetically Engineered. Pollen and spores can travel thousands of miles on upper-level winds spreading unwanted genetics far and wide. Bees carry Genetically Engineered pollen corrupting natural plant species and even corrupt themselves and the honey they produce in the process.

Birds are also being corrupted and spreading unwanted genetic material contained in their feces from insects, pollen, nectar and seeds they eat.
This perversion of our natural world must be stopped. However, the industry along with their Congressional backers in Washington have been preparing to prevent you from disrupting their ‘World Domination by Food’ and all other venues of life controlled by ‘The Corporations’. Read this article and see how anyone who disagrees with there plan are now being called ‘EcoTerrorists’ Yes, if you object they are attempting to treat you as Terrorist !
http://www.truth-out.org/eco-al-qaeda-september-11-ushered-war-eco-terrorism-and-civil-liberties/1316183720

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7 Binky

Like most of the things we consume, we have no idea what goes into its production. We assume things are done right or safely, when it seems for the most part things are only done to make the most profit. Truth in labeling certainly might help, but I think how food is produced, especially the unsavory details, will largely be kept from us.
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8 Dawn

I do believe that ethical food is a big part of life and culture. Actually after having a visit to the States last year I wasn’t eating meat mainly too. Like most of the things we consume, we now have no clue what adopts its production. We assume situations are done right or safely, if this seems typically situations are only done to take advantage profit.

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