Last week I introduced readers to the SLOW food movement. This week, I explore the four components of this philosophy in greater detail. As you read, I invite you to think about the food you eat and consider making more mindful decisions using these SLOW guidelines.
“S” is for choosing sustainably produced foods from small family farmers committed to growing produce and raising livestock with environmental stewardship as a priority. Examples of sustainable agriculture practices include:
- Using soil amendments like compost and manure instead of chemically enhanced fertilizers.
- Employing natural, environmentally friendly methods of pest control.
- Utilizing alternative energy sources including solar, wind, and water to conserve natural resources.
- Installing rain water catchment systems to recycle precious water for irrigation.
- Protecting sensitive native habitats and wildlife.
Farmers who think sustainably demonstrate the value they place on their land and maintaining its future viability.
With regard to raising animals, a sustainable ethos means humane husbandry practices that enhance quality of life including access to free-range, fresh air, and water. Livestock is not given growth hormones or prophylactic antibiotics—protocols that are common on large, profit-driven commercial farms that value fast turn-around time from birth to harvest. Animals rotate on pasture land to prevent over grazing and promote and re-growth, while fields are naturally fertilized by the animal droppings.
Consumers who buy sustainably raised meat can serve it to their families with confidence, knowing the animals and land are treated with the utmost care.
“L” is for choosing foods produced locally. The recently popularized term “locavore” refers to consumers who glean their food, as much as possible, from sources within a 100 mile radius of where they live.
When we patronize local farmers, our spending dollars invigorate the local economy. Did you know that for every $100 spent by consumers at independently owned businesses about $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures? We are fortunate to live in an area where local producers are plentiful, offering the finest fresh produce, meats, cheese, and eggs from farm to table. Keeping our money local by supporting these farmers is a goal we can and should aspire to!
Embracing a locavore approach also benefits our environment by reducing the carbon footprint required to ship food to market. Statistics show the food we buy in grocery stores has traveled an average of 1500 miles before reaching the consumer’s plate. This dependency on mass shipped food requires more fossil fuel consumption which in turn depletes natural resources and pollutes our planet. As consumers we can and should lobby our grocery stores to carry more locally produced products.
Another easy measure to consider is buying foods in season. Choosing seasonal produce is the best way to insure we are consuming what is fresh—and helps reduce or eliminate our dependency on shipped food.
To find the freshest seasonal produce available, look for a farmers’ market in your area. When you shop at farmers’ market, you develop a relationship with the farmers who supply your food. Ask them questions about their practices. Knowing where your food comes from is key to adopting a SLOW food philosophy.
“O” is for organic. Whenever possible, choose to buy certified organically grown foods. Doing so will reduce your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizer residues, growth hormones, GMO’s, antibiotics, and other toxins found on and in mass commercially farmed foods. Buying organic may cost a bit more, but fueling ourselves and our families with quality food supports optimal health for a lifetime.
Certain commercially grown crops contain high amounts of pesticide residue. To help consumers make informed choices, the Environmental Working Group has published a “dirty dozen” list of the most highly contaminated fruits and vegetables. Consumers should opt to buy these items organically when possible.
Visit the Environmental Working Group website at www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/ to view and print a complete list.
Consumers should also understand the “organic” label as it applies to meat. Many people mistakenly equate “organic” with a belief that the animal was raised using humane husbandry practices. In reality, the organic label refers only to the type of feed these animals are given, and is not a guarantee of access to pasture land. Look for additional words like “free-range” and “pasture-fed”, which offer assurances that livestock lead a quality life before harvest.
Last but not least, “W” is for choosing whole foods; real, unadulterated foods that receive little or no processing. Avoiding over-processed, preservative-laden food is central to the idea of SLOW eating. A good rule of thumb to follow: if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label, don’t buy the product!
Whole foods are higher in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber than their processed counterparts, which means they retain greater nutritional value. Treating our palates to whole foods can also curb cravings for the addictive salt and sugar we ingest when we indulge in so-called “convenience” foods. Ultimately, eating whole foods is not only better for us, it leaves us feeling more satisfied in the end.
Convinced yet? To find out more about the SLOW food movement, visit www.slowfoodusa.org , then join me in eating SLOW and feelin’ groovy!