‘Tis the season (and the era!) for ethical eating a.k.a. your diet decisions have an effect all around the world.
Watch what you eat…and I don’t mean your waistline
This week, we’re prepping for family get togethers and recovering from the ones that have already taken place. It’s the heart of winter, chill is in the air, hot chocolate’s on the stove, and if you’ve got a fireplace, chances are high that you’ve got a cozy fire burning in the evenings, too.
The holidays bring us together, complete with family squabbles, trips, and getting presents from that one family member who just can’t seem to pick a decent gift. They’re also one of the most gluttonous times of the year—it’s shop till you drop in November followed by eat till you drop in December. But this post isn’t about overeating. It’s about watching what you eat.
We spend so much time preparing to make the ultimate feast for friends and family, battling holiday retail, and worrying about whether one of the guests is a vegetarian or if they might eat only all-organic that we often overlook one major question. Who makes our food.
Not the cook. That part’s covered. The other end of the production line—the part that needs more attention—are the people who tackle the tasks we never see. And it’s about time we started looking towards them.
Like chocolate? Indulge. In the mood for a good red wine? Enjoy. If it’s shrimp you’re craving, however, think twice. The AP just released a report, following months of investigation, that details how much of the shrimp in restaurants and grocery stores (yes, even in Whole Foods), is peeled by slaves and child laborers in Thailand.
Shrimp isn’t the only food with a questionable ethical background, despite the media frenzy surrounding it now. From vegetables and fruits that are grown by underpaid or unregistered farm workers to those that are imported from overseas and chopped in near-zero temperatures by undocumented immigrants in the United States for barely-extant wages, to coffee bought from exploited farmers in Africa, the ethics of food is a mess these days.
This year, news broke on egg farmers who used Lithuanian slaves to catch chickens and take care of daily farm operations in the United Kingdom. In 2014, tea farms, including those of the company that owns Tetley teas, were found using girls as young as 11 years old to labor on their farms as slaves. What’s worse, many of us are reticent to find out where our food is from, and we throw out $165 billion dollars’ worth of food each year in the US alone.
It’s nearly impossible to identify the source of processed food items, and even organic produce, meats, and seafood can be difficult to trace. Just to pinpoint who was catching and peeling those famous Thai shrimp, as well as how much workers were being paid and where the shrimp went, took an extensive investigation by the Associated Press.
So this holiday, watch what you eat. Don’t throw out the leftovers. And the next time you head to the store, think about who is on the other end of the food production line and wish them a happy holiday, too.
Photo credit: Getty Images