Food is a relevant part of our daily lives. We get up in the morning and eat breakfast. We meet up with friends around laden dinner tables. We celebrate our holidays with traditional recipes that our grandparents bequeathed us. In the modern society, food isn’t merely the primary source of life. Food is an art. Food represents culture (especially if you are Italian). Food determines how we socialize. My question, then, is: shouldn’t the amount of time we spend thinking about food mirror the importance we attribute to it?
In today’s society, people have started to care a great deal about their health. Consequently, they spend more time thinking about what they insert in their digestive systems. Increasing efforts are being put in the search of the perfect diet. Should we follow the ‘Mediterranean Diet’? What is the right amount of daily protein intake? How can I lose weight? These are all very important questions, but they are also self-centred ones. In my experience, we are very keen on analysing the quality of the food we eat and the diets we follow, but we don’t seem as prone to take into account the deeper meaning and the consequences of it.
I am currently reading a wonderful book by the Argentinian writer Martìn Caparròs, ‘Hunger’. It is proving to be a great source of inspiration. Caparròs writes that “meat is the perfect metaphor of inequality”. Now, many people are aware of the fact that red meat should only be consumed in limited quantity. Virtually everyone knows that Chicken McNuggets are not the healthiest option for a meal. Yet maybe not as many people would be capable of explaining Caparròs’s quote. I’ll provide you with some of the writer’s evidence, which I have found very interesting:
- 1’500litres of water are needed to produce one kilogram of corn, whereas producing one kilogram of beef requires 15’000;
- 80% of land suitable foragriculture is destined to farming activities;
- 75% of what animals are fed (soy, corn, different kinds of grains)could feed humans instead;
- meat costs 5 to 10 times more than most other foods.
If we are to take into account all of that, then eating meat means not only wasting an incredible amount of natural resources that could be deployed more efficiently, but also enjoying a privilege which discriminates the rich from the starving.
Although I believe that meat provides a powerful example of the true cost of food, there are other examples worth mentioning, out of correctness towards those who do not want to give up the pleasure of eating meat. Soy products are one of the biggest causes of deforestation in the Amazon Forest (though the larger part of such soy is fed to animals). All chocolate which is not ‘fair trade’ (or similarly certified) comes out of a slavery machine which mainly involves children. The increasing global demand for quinoa is causing Bolivia, its main exporter, to turn into a mono-crop agriculture, which puts a severe strain on Bolivian arable lands.
You may be wondering: what is right to eat, then? I think that the most important concept is awareness. Eat what you like, but make sure you know what you are doing!
If you would like to know more about chocolate production, watch the documentary ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vfbv6hNeng .