Yesterday I had sushi and, while enjoying it, I was thinking about the journey of each ingredient up until that moment. Sea weed was probably from Japan, avocado from Mexico, salmon maybe from Iceland or Norway. All these fine ingredients traveled thousands of kilometers, met each other at the chef’s table and ended up on my plate.
During this exercise I realized, once again, how hard it is to make sure that our food comes from a trusted and fair source. I cannot guarantee that my Japanese dinner did not have traces of slave work or deforestation. If the salmon was from Norway and it was fed with soya from Brazil, yes, maybe it had. To feed its shoals, Norway producers buy most of the raw material (concentrated soy protein) from Brazil. Sadly, the Brazilian soybean chain is marked by environmental and labor crimes.
It’s overwhelming and, let’s be honest, we cannot fix the food system by ourselves. But we can take baby steps towards a more sustainable life style, such as:
1) Pay a little more
Be willing to spend more in fair traded and certified goods, especially imports. Whenever I’m craving for a good cup of coffee, for instance, I look for the BOCCA brand, as I know they are committed to the environment and the farmers producing their coffee beans. Last year the average price they paid for their coffee was 56% above the Fair-Trade minimum price, so of course I’m ok in paying more for my coffee, knowing it might provide a fairer life to local producers in Ethiopia and Brazil.
2) Be curious about your favorite foods
For instance, did you know that the Dutch animal feed sector has switched to using only certified soya? That’s great news, considering the complexity of soya supply chain. Honor this decision by purchasing local brands and keep learning about the journey of your favorite foods.
3) Ask more questions
You can practice it at the farmers market: “where does this product come from?”, “when was this asparagus harvested?” or “who cultivated this tomato?”. Learn about other regional ingredients and try new recipes.
4) Buy locally grown food and eat what is in season
At least, as much as possible. It’s great that we have access to all these ingredients and amazing foods from all over the world, but nothing is as good as buying fresh fruits and vegetables, harvested the day before, in a nearby farm. They taste better, have more nutrients, did not travel thousands of miles, and were picked at their peak of ripeness versus being harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed. Opt to locally grown food when possible, it is healthier, promotes accountability with farmers and suppliers, improves food safety, and supports local producers.
We all love good food, especially when it’s good for all of those involved in its life time, from the farmer to the cook. Bon appétit!
Karina Fensterseifer, communications volunteer