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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Processed Foods

I have been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, and really like it...contrary to what I expected after reading several scathing thoughts about it in Eating Animals.

I like to read books that push me to make necessary changes in my life or help me grow to be more socially and environmentally conscious. Eating Animals was the catalyst for this whole blog thing, but what has The Omnivore's Dilemma (TOD) done for me lately?

A lot. I think the most apparent change is that I am so much more conscious about processed foods and preservatives.

Before reading TOD, I thought fake meat was the answer for anyone who wanted to stop eating meat but wanted to taste meat. I offered substitutes for turkey, and I even wore it for Halloween as my very sassy answer to Lady Gaga's meat dress. I was singing fake-meat's praises at the top of my lungs at the Fake-Meat Karaoke bar.

But what is in these delicious processed goods that I have come to depend on? Usually corn (broken down to molecular levels to create Xanthum gum, etc...) or soy proteins.

"So what?" I asked angrily, defending my humane option. "Who cares?"

As it turns out, I should care a lot. Corn and soy have completely taken over our farms. These crops replace our strawberries with strawberry soda. They replace our egg protein from grazing chickens with livestock fattened on CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). And they replace anything that could be consumed alone with a processed alternative that requires fossil fuels for manufacturing and leaves us with empty calories, less energy and fewer nutrients.

So, big change for me. And I am still working it out. Instead of now getting my protein from soy protein or processed corn, I am looking at healthier options -- for myself and our farmland. I am eating more beans, legumes and whole grains.

Is it easier to pop a Boca burger in the microwave and get fast protein? Maybe. Is it healthier for me? No. Is it healthier for our precious farmland? No. Do I need it to get my protein? No.

So, I think the best approach with fake meat should be the same advice I would offer meat-eaters. Eat mostly vegetables, and only sometimes meat.

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