Knowing how your food is raised is extremely important. It can mean the difference between food that is clean and safe and food that is contaminated with toxins and other harmful substances.
Because there are so many toxins in the environment, we can’t possibly know where they all come from. There are toxins in the water we drink, air we breathe, and all environments where we live and exist. We could be getting contaminated with something at school, work, inside the vehicles we drive, our yards, and our own homes. There are toxins in the water we drink, air we breathe, and all environments where we live and exist. Estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that approximately 500,000 chemicals are currently in use, and with each passing year more than 5,000 new chemicals are added.
One aspect of our lives where we do have control is over the food we eat. When you buy food from the grocery store, you have really no way of knowing where it comes from and what happens to it before it gets to the shelf. With more and more food recalls and health issues cropping up in the news – all originating from our industrial food system – it is becoming more and more clear that something has to change. If you still doubt the seriousness of the food recall situation going on today, please read this post about why food recalls greatly jeopardize our health and food system as a whole.
When we support local farmers who use sustainable practices, and by educating ourselves about safe and humane farming practices, we are supporting a safe system that will continue to provide us with safe, healthy food. Sustainable practices are those that farmers and food producers used for thousands and thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution occurred over 150 years ago.
Health effects on children
These substances are especially harmful for children, who are still developing and growing, and who have metabolisms which are faster than adults. Children are more likely to be affected by the substances in our food supply now due to several factors – 1) many of them are born with digestive issues which they received as a result of inadequate nutritional support from their own parents’ diets 2) there are more toxins in our environment now than ever before – the EPA estimates that 500,000 chemicals are currently in use, and with each passing year more than 5,000 new chemicals are added. 3) children are continually exposed to toxins and nutritionally deficient foods after they are born. Food companies market these products to children and as a result, they are eating more non-food substances now than ever in history.
Meat and meat products from animals and birds:
- What type of food do your animals or birds eat? This is very important. Cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and others should be raised on pasture. If they are not, they are often given feed such as corn, grain, soy which are not in their natural diets. These feeds are also often subjected to pesticides and herbicides, and originate from genetically-modified sources (GMOs).
- Do you use pesticides on feed or the land where your animals are raised? Pesticides are neurotoxins. Consumption of pesticides has been linked to damage to the skin, nervous system, and can lead to the development of degenerative disease like cancer. Pesticides are also an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system affects development, growth, reproduction, and behavior.
- Do you use hormones, steroids, other growth promoters or stimulants? The use of hormones in food has been linked to early onset sexual maturation in children which leads to disruption in the endocrine system (such as the thyroid and thymus, adversely affecting their hormones and causing a variety of problems).
- Do you use medication or antibiotics? Traces of antibiotics and medications can lead to long-term health effects such as reproductive, immune-system, and developmental issues in children.
- Where do the animals and birds live/exist? If animals and birds are on pasture, this is a healthy environment. If they are on cement, dirt, or confined a majority of the time in cages or holding areas, these are unhealthy environments.
- Are cattle 100 percent grass/hay fed, or do you also use grain (this includes steers and dairy cattle)? Cattle are ruminants and should only be fed grass. Grain-fed cattle are more likely to become sick and need antibiotics and other medications. Another way of asking the same question is: how are your cattle finished? Many farmers have their cattle on pasture for most of their lives until the last 90-120 days or so, when they are transported to a feedlot and fed grains to “fatten” them up. This activity causes the digestive tracts of cattle to become acidic and makes the animal more vulnerable to disease.
Nutrient quality in grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, poultry, and dairy products is 3-5 times higher than conventionally-raised meats. You’ll be getting 3-5 times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is an antioxidant and is critical for heart health, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 – all important for immunity, cardiovascular, bone health, brain and nervous system, digestion, endocrine, and reproductive support.
If animals and birds are eating any types of feed that are not strictly on pasture, find out if the feed is organically-grown and/or organic practices are used. Any feed that animals/birds consume such as pigs, turkeys, or chickens should be pesticide/herbicide/other chemical and GMO-free.
Produce, legumes, rice, grains:
- Are you certified organic or do you use sustainable/organic practices? Farms that use organic and sustainable practices do not use any commercial or conventional practices in their farming methods (see next questions for more detail). Many farms which are not certified organic still adhere to organic principles in farming, so inquiring about their status can also lead to a conversation about which category the farm you are buying food from falls.
- Do you use genetically-modified organisms? GMOs have been shown in research to cause liver damage, food allergies and sensitivities to many different foods, infertility, and cancer, among other health issues.
- How do you manage disease, pests, and other problems? Do you use chemical fertilizers or herbicides/pesticides on crops? Farms that use organic and sustainable methods to control weeds and pests are healthier and create far less damage to the environment and their crops such as integrated pest management, crop rotation, chemical-free, organic pest control.
- Who is in charge of growing fruit/vegetables and where is the farm located? Very important because even sustainable and organic farms can become contaminated if they are too near factories/companies emitting toxic chemicals and pollutants, or other farms which use conventional methods, and especially farms which are GMO (genetically-modified), or if any known spraying occurs from airplanes that might fly over the farm. Many organic farms are in “no spray” zones and similar areas which ban the use of chemicals, so finding a farm which is mindful of these practices is important.
- How large is the farm? This can also be important due to the location of the farm (see previous question) and its exposure to other operations/farms/businesses.
- Is the farm a diversified operation (using poly cropping techniques, as opposed to the mono cropping used by conventional farming practices) with many varieties of vegetables and fruits? Farms using poly cropping farming methods are more likely to have better success with keeping pests, weeds, and other issues away.
- Does the farm grow any heirloom varieties of fruits or vegetables? These plants and crops are of particular importance to the success of poly cropping and diversity of soil cultivation to help sustainable farming efforts become more pervasive. It’s always a good idea to support farms who grow these varieties as they are not only more sustainable, hearty, and resistant to disease/pests, and also more nutritious as they are from seeds that have been around a long time, and from plants that contained more nutrients.