Eat Your Turkey and Save the Planet Too

By: Brittany Barton for Change Food
November 18, 2015

Family and friends are gathered around the table, ready to indulge in the Thanksgiving feast. The turkey is looking especially plump this year, and pies with intricate lattice-work line the dessert buffet. Vegetables are present too, although many are hiding in creamy casseroles. Thanksgiving is pinned as the ultimate food holiday, where we celebrate a bountiful harvest and eat one too many slices of pie. Since we are celebrating food, it is the perfect time to consider the effects our meal is having on our environment. What is the real cost of your Thanksgiving meal?

This Thanksgiving, have a meal that positively impacts the good food movement. We have an overwhelming number of choices in today’s food market and it’s the choice you make that will either make or break a healthy food system.

FOOD CHOICES

TEDxManhattan speaker Stefanie Sacks says, “Start to question the foods you choose for you and your loved ones.” Green bean casserole is a good example. This dish is traditionally made with canned green beans and canned soup. These two products are shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, made from non-organic sources and sealed in a BPA-lined can; translating to carbon pollution, pesticides and health risks associated from BPA.

Thanksgiving table photo by David Trainer courtesy of flickr

Thanksgiving table photo by David Trainer courtesy of flickr

Now compare it to a casserole made from local ingredients. The foods are traveling much shorter distances, they are grown using natural pest management and the vegetables are sold right out of the farmer’s stand, removing the need for single-use packaging. Stephanie says it well, “Get an edible education…there’s a better alternative for every average choice.” When you understand the impact of your food choices then you can make the changes to a more sustainable diet.

WHO’S YOUR FARMER?

At the heart of it all is the farmer. And we need to support the farmers that are growing and raising food in the most healthful way possible. For your holiday meal, find foods that fall under these criteria: pasture-raised, USDA Certified Organic, sold from local CSAs, non-GMO, and small farms with organic practices.

Dr. Robert S. Lawrence paints a grim picture of conventional farming is his TEDxManhattan talk, “Effects of a High Meat Diet on Public Health.” He points to hidden ingredients like arsenic in our poultry, which comes through the feather meal fed to animals. Antibiotic resistance is another by-product, where over 13 million kilograms are used to promote animal growth. And then there is the issue of concentrated animal waste from CAFOs that generate 280 million tons of waste per year. Let’s keep these harms off our family table to have healthy, safe food.

The best practice is to get to know your farmer. Visit the farmers market, speak face-to-face and ask questions about their growing practices. Foods labeled organic are not the only organically produced foods. Many small farms practice sustainable farming but do not carry the USDA Organic seal. The best way to learn how something is grown is by getting to know the farm, searching their website or asking the farmer directly at the market.

Farmers are often transparent and willing to share their growing practices so you know exactly the kind of turkey you’re putting on the table.

Turkey photo by Olin Gilbert courtesy of flickr

Turkey photo by Olin Gilbert courtesy of flickr

WHERE TO SHOP

-Farmer’s Market Guide – LocalHarvest.org

-Local Farms – Eatwild’s Directory of U.S., Canadian and International Farms & Ranches

-Food Cooperative – Food Co-op Directory

UGLY FOOD

Buy ugly food. Dana Cowin is challenging us all to reduce food waste by buying the ugly, discarded foods. In her TEDxManhattan talk, “How Ugly Unloved Food Can Change the World,” she shares that supermarkets around the county are selling ugly foods at a reduced cost to help lessen food waste. The hairy, three-legged carrot is just as delicious as the perfectly slender one. But it’s not just fruits and vegetables, it extends to seafood and meat as well. Nose to tail eating is the philosophy to adopt. Choose less popular cuts of meat for your family meal and then save the bones to make a flavor stock for soups. Less desirable and ugly foods are just as nutritious as their perfect counterparts. By cutting down on food waste you’ll be saving space in the landfill and reducing the amount of methane gas produced.

INVEST

When we invest in sustainably produced foods and less food waste, we also invest in the economy. Let’s take advice from TEDxManhattan speaker Dr. Robert S. Lawrence. He said quality food takes, “paying a little bit more and getting a much higher quality of food, a much healthier kind of food and getting connected with the people who are growing that food for us.” Every meal and every purchase you make has an impact. Put your dollars to work, choose that heritage turkey this year and have a Thanksgiving meal that supports a planet you’re proud to call home.

Watch all the TEDxManhattan talks in the Change Food Video Library.


Brittany Barton is a contributing writer for Change Food. As the creative behind SparkleKitchen.com, Brittany offers real food recipes, sustainable living guidance and inspiration for others to become more sparkly versions of themselves.


Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog.  

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