This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
Before getting into the concrete details of what we eat, I want to share some of the overarching guiding principles that we use when deciding what to eat, particularly when it comes to meat, dairy, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.
First, we ask, “Can we get this locally?” If the answer is yes, (defining “local” fairly loosely as Maryland and a bit into Pennsylvania as well), then it’s definitely something that we want to consider eating, even if we don’t really like it, like beets and turnips. If the answer is “No, actually there’s never a time when we can get this locally,”** then we are likely to either not eat it or consider it a very rare treat (such as avocados). We also ask, “Can we grow this ourselves?” If the answer is yes, we’re doubly happy!
Second, we ask, “Is the food grown or raised in a sustainable manner?” By this we mean, are the animals raised in humane conditions? Would we be happy to see how the animals we are about to eat are living or would we cringe with shame? Are the vegetables and fruit grown with a minimum of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers? Do we know and/or trust the farmer with his or her growing practices?
Third, we ask, “Is this item listed on the Dirty Dozen? Should we be buying this organically?” We tend to ask the organic question third because if we can get the item locally and we trust the farmer that the food was grown/raised in a sustainable way, the organic question is usually not as important to us. We do prioritize organic food if it’s in the Dirty Dozen (which is a list of the most heavily pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables) but if we can’t get it organically and locally, we either don’t eat it or we have figured out certain ways of making the risk acceptable to us. See, for example, my explanation of how we think about strawberries in this post.
These principles certainly don’t cover all the food that we eat but they are the important big concepts that guide our decisions. In a later post, I’ll be discussing some of the more detailed “rules” that we have (such as what we learned from In Defense of Food). I’m also going to cover each category of food specifically so I’ll take you through our food-item-specific thought processes in those posts.
Generally, though, if we know that if we consider the three principles above in our food buying decisions, we will have gone a long ways towards a more sustainable, ethical way of eating.
**I also have lots of ideas for what I would do if the answer to the question, “Can we get this locally?” was “no” for almost everything we ate. This would be true, for example, if we lived in Alaska or many other parts of the rural US. If this applies to you, look for a post at the end of this series about what I would do if I couldn’t get anything locally.