Anna R Lee




Feature

ALBERTO GONZALEZ
By Pamela Peeters


The German philosopher Feuerbach used to say: "We are what we eat." I truly believe in that. We have created this cheaper, bigger, faster food system by supporting "the $5.99 value meal" for too long, and it has simply killed good farming practices. Almost without noticing, we traded quality for quantity. Fifty years ago, America had great farming practices. But those great farmers were forced by our changing consumption habits to start growing cheap produce and to raise cattle in faster and cheaper ways, to keep up with our demand.

About 98% of the food grown in America comes from factory farming. Only 0.5% of the US farmland is certified organic. When I say factory farming, I mean that most food has significant amounts of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as ingredients. Those are all components that are very good at making money for some agrochemical companies, but are not good for people, or for the planet. By the way, about 95% of the products that you can find in the supermarket now have some GMO content. And to make matters worse, there is no label regulation that warns us about this presence. [Editor's note: Food labeled USDA Organic, or certified by the Non-GMO Project, cannot contain GMO ingredients.]

The Real Price of Cheap Food

We live in a country in which about 80% of the population is overweight, and almost one-third is considered obese. For the first time, babies born in America now have a shorter average life expectancy than their parents, simply because of obesity.

The link between food and health is obvious and unavoidable. We now know that if we save money on food, down the road we will have to spend way more on doctors and healthcare. We have made a dangerous trade-off, with convenience exchanged for our health. We need to help change this food system to a better one as soon as possible. In 1930, Americans spent 24.5% of their income on food; in 2004, that number went down to 9.5%.

The level of consolidation in the current food system is also unbelievable: only four companies produce 81% of the beef, 73% of sheep, 56% of pigs, and 50% of poultry in the United States. And all of this is happening through subsidies that come from our tax dollars. Not only do 33% of U.S. farms receive these subsidies, but about 70% of what they grow with this money is not used to feed people.

To continue eating without really thinking about the food we eat seems to be a very bad idea overall. We keep deteriorating our collective health, and we keep providing the wrong players with money to keep growing their businesses, at the same time blocking all kinds of needed change.

Sustainable Food Solutions

A big part of the solution is to start eating better foods. By better foods, I mean foods that are organic and locally grown. If we all start supporting good-quality food, we will be healthier, but we will be also supporting the right agricultural practices. And change will happen faster than most people think it can. We must take things into our own hands and start leading by example, because capitalism must be changed from within, through profits. Once the right farmers start making good profits through our consumption habits, most farmers will switch back to the right practices, and the pace of change will accelerate.

We should develop an understanding of the different players in the food chain and be able to support the right ones. We must differentiate food companies that care about people, and the environmental impact of their business, from the ones that want to "greenwash" us in order to sell more of the same. We are too smart to be greenwashed.

On the other hand, it has been scientifically proven that reducing our caloric intake will help us live a healthier, longer, and happier life. Let's all think before we eat, and help others to do the same, and change will immediately happen. Our health will automatically improve, and we will move toward the food system that we need: quality over quantity!

*

Alberto Gonzalez is leading a food revolution. As founder and CEO of GustOrganics, the world’s first and only 100% certified organic restaurant and one of the greenest and most progressive restaurants on the planet, Gonzalez has been in the business of making change happen for years.

More on GustOrganics: www.gustorganics.com



SIGN UP NOW! The Sustainable Styles Newsletter