In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food

On the ferry on route from Tofino to Vancouver last weekend a girl who is standing directly behind me says;  I’m going to get the “All Aboard Breakfast” this consists of two fried eggs, bacon and sausage with a side of white toast. I’m used to being surrounded by what I call misinformed meat eaters, I say this because I am certain with the right knowledge they might consider choosing alternately. It’s when she follows up with this statement that really got me thinking; “don’t get the scrambled eggs they come from a box on these types of establishments” As I stood there I realized that the vast majority of people out there are clearly lost in a sea of misinformed food choices, clearly the “All Aboard Breakfast” is a healthier choice than eggs from a box!

I thought about this a lot over the weekend, she has no clue that her fried eggs are most likely coming from a factory farm? from sick chickens living in horrific conditions? Full of  a antibiotics and other stuff that has not even entered her vocabulary yet. Or the meat she was about to eat has no nutritional value. She was about 27. It’s scary to think how misconstrued her food knowledge is. Whats even more scary is the vast majority of the population are not only just as misinformed but most North Americans thinks this way. What I mean by this is when they think they are  making the healthy choice they can’t be further than the truth.

We have somehow forgotten what real food is and stopped caring about where it is coming from. This transition makes sense considering the breakdown of the food over the years described in Michael Pollens book “In Defence Of Food” this book could not have popped into my life at a better time.

This lively, invaluable book — which grew out of an essay Pollan wrote for The New York Times Magazine; assails some of the most fundamental tenets of nutritionism: that food is simply the sum of its parts, that the effects of individual nutrients can be scientifically measured, that the primary purpose of eating is to maintain health, and why should eating require expert advice, he says, experts often do a better job of muddying these issues than shedding light on them.  Serving their own purposes to create confusion.

Pollan states: “Don’t eat things that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize. Avoid anything that trumpets the word “healthy.” Be as vitamin-conscious as the person who takes supplements, but don’t actually take them. And in the soon to be exhaustively quoted words on the book’s cover: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”

A very small percentage of people know that eating animals is bad for your health and the environment, there is no such thing as “Happy Meat” or “Happy Dairy”and the more I learn the more I realize the majority lacks this knowledge. It is not only about the animals welfare anymore it is about our health and our environment too.

Our purpose as lovers of animals, earth and food advocates are to find alternate ways of getting this message across to the majority, this book does an excellent job in explaining the process of our food in North America and how this is a direct link to our declining health. Governments, lobbyists and advertising agency’s are the biggest influence to the public, our public health has its hands tied when informing us about what is actually healthy and what you should actually be eating. In Defense of Food does an excellent job in explaining how misleading and misinformed we are.  Well that’s my two bits. Read below to learn about Micheal Pollens book “In Defense Of Food”

An Eater’s Manifesto (About the book)

Food. There’s plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it?

Because most of what we’re consuming today is not food, and how we’re consuming it — in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone — is not really eating. Instead of food, we’re consuming “edible food-like substances” — no longer the products of nature but of food science. Many of them come packaged with health claims that should be our first clue they are anything but healthy. In the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.

But if real food — the sort of food our great grandmothers would recognize as food — stands in need of defense, from whom does it need defending? From the food industry on one side and nutritional science on the other. Both stand to gain much from widespread confusion about what to eat, a question that for most of human history people have been able to answer without expert help. Yet the professionalization of eating has failed to make Americans healthier. Thirty years of official nutritional advice has only made us sicker and fatter while ruining countless numbers of meals.

Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach — what he calls nutritionism — and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.

In Defense of Food shows us how, despite the daunting dietary landscape North Americans confront in the modern supermarket, we can escape the Western diet and, by doing so, most of the chronic diseases that diet causes. We can relearn which foods are healthy, develop simple ways to moderate our appetites, and return eating to its proper context — out of the car and back to the table. Michael Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.

Pollan’s last book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, launched a national conversation about the North American way of eating; now In Defense of Food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time.

BTV Book Club, Diet For A New America

Diet for a New America
How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness, and the Future of Life on Earth

by John Robbins; 1987; 423 pages

Diet for a New America is considered by many to be the bible of vegetarianism because it’s both incredibly comprehensive and deeply moving. While some vegetarian books cover only factory farming, or health & nutrition, or environmental benefits of vegetarian diets, Robbins covers all three. What’s more, the content has been meticulously researched, with Robbins offering dozens of pages of footnotes. If you’re looking for a book with solid, hard proof of how vegetarians easily get plenty of protein, why meat is the #1 killer in the U.S., or how badly farm animals are treated, you won’t do better than this volume. Diet for a New America has been credited with launching the second wave of vegetarianism in the U.S. when it was published (and nominated for a Pulitzer) in 1987. It’s still timely today. If you read one book in your life, read this one.

Even though this book was written in 1987, there is not much that has changed in the way we are treating animals and our food policies have gotten even worse. This book changed my life, my way of thinking and my health. My overall connection to the earth has been enlightened by reading this book.

Follow John Robbins on his blog for Tools, Resources and Inspiration


Why John Robbins became Vegetarian



BTV Book Club

Farm Sanctuary, Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food

Gene Baur grew up in Hollywood, California and worked in television, film and commercials, including some for McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants. Today, he campaigns to raise awareness about the negative consequences of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. He lives in rural New York state and is the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, America’s leading farm animal protection organization. Gene holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University Northridge and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University.
After volunteering and working with various environmental and human rights causes, Gene turned his attention to animal agriculture. He has conducted hundreds of visits to farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses to document conditions, and his pictures and videotape, exposing factory farming cruelty, have been aired nationally and internationally, educating millions. He has testified in court and before local, state and federal legislative bodies, and has initiated groundbreaking legal enforcement and legislative action to raise awareness and prevent factory farming abuses. He played a significant role in passing the first U.S. laws to prohibit cruel farming systems – including Proposition 2 in California, the Florida ban on gestation crates, the Arizona ban on veal and gestation crates, and the California and Chicago bans on foie gras.

His efforts have been covered by leading news organizations, including the New York TimesThe Larry King Show, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, National Public Radio, ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN. His book, entitled Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food, was published by Simon and Schuster in March, 2008 and has become a National best seller.

Available wherever books are sold. 100% of the author’s proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Farm Sanctuary.

Some of the stories Gene Baur tells will break your heart, and other stories will speak to your deepest convictions. It’s a book about appalling cruelty and heroic kindness, and it points the way to a better world.”
Alicia Silverstone

“Filled with hope, this book is written for all who strive for a more compassionate world. I highly recommend it.”
Dr. Jane Goodall

“Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer


This is a guest post by, Kristine Kakuno

“Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer is an author in his early 30’s with two fiction novels already published to critical acclaim. With “Eating Animals” he forays into non-fiction with a well-researched discussion on animal consumption and it’s philosophical, economic, and environmental impacts.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in food, regardless of their personal choice when it comes to animal consumption. The author interviews a variety of stakeholders including factory farm workers, sustainable farmers, vegetarians & animal activists and allows each an opportunity to express their views.  For this reason, I would recommend this book if only to expose the reader to all the facts and considerations, allowing them to make an informed decision without pressure from one singular point of view.

Foer makes a point of not stating his own opinion until at least halfway through the book and even then, empathizes with some of his interviewees.  His introductory words hint at the complexities of the topic, “I, too, assumed that my book about eating animals would be a straight forward case for vegetarianism. It didn’t. A straightforward case for vegetarianism is worth writing, but it’s not what I have written here.” Foer provides over 60 pages of detailed references for the data and statistics he presents. He notes that his statistics are “the most conservative” available and adds that he hired outside fact-checkers to authenticate them.

Foer himself gravitated back and forth many times from carnivore to vegetarian, always feeling it was the right thing to do but finding it difficult to maintain. Once he had a child of his own, he wanted to gain a better understanding of the food he ate. I found this a compelling reason as my own frustrations have been several of my acquaintance’s ability to ignore plentiful facts on the negative effects of meat consumption.  The idea of considering meat consumption more comprehensively when responsible for the food that goes into a child’s body peaked my interest.  After all, how many of us have looked back on the decisions that our parents made for us and wished for something different?  Had our parents known that smoking indoors was bad for us as we do now, we assume they would have stopped.  So if we know meat chocked full of antibiotics is bad for us, why do so many people continue to serve it to their more vulnerable children?

Another highlight is Foer’s argument, “We need a better way to talk about eating animals”.  He contends that despite the negative effects of factory farming on human health and the environment, “we seem able to think only about the edges of the arguments – the logical extremes rather than the practical realities.”  Foer toys with these arguments in one example where he discusses American’s love for their pets and the $34 billion dollar a year industry that exists as a result.  After describing his own love for his dog, Foer flips the topic to the North American taboo around eating dogs.  Giving examples of dog meat consumption in many Asian countries and citing statistics on the number of euthanized dogs in America, Foer concludes, “If we let dogs be dogs, and breed without interference, we would create a sustainable, local meat supply with low energy inputs that would put even the most efficient grass-based farming to shame.”

Foer breaks down each kind of factory farming touching on chickens and turkeys, pig farming, industrial fishing practices and finally cows. With each example, Foer provides brutal accounts of cruelty as well as concerns of cleanliness and negative impacts to the factory workers as well as the end consumer.  Anyone who has watched Food Inc. or the numerous documentaries on factory farms will have already seen these nightmarish practices in action.  What was new for me were the interviews with sustainable farmers, a PETA representative and most peculiar, a vegan slaughterhouse builder.  Hearing these different points of view made me take a step back and appreciate how much still needs to happen politically and culturally in order to bring factory farming to an end.

After thorough research and one covert rescue mission to a factory chicken farm, Foer chooses a vegan diet for himself.  He punctuates his decision at the end of “Eating Animals” by describing his first turkey-less Thanksgiving and argues the need to create new traditions in order to cause change. No matter what Foer’s personal decision is, ultimately it is his choice to allow all sides to speak that makes this book important.  We all have opinions and there are dozens of books that write about one ideology, but not many that combine multiple points of view and openly allow the reader to make their own choice.