ethical eats
ethical eats directory
ethical eats directory
reveal

Welcome to SCIC’s Ethical Eats

As Canadians become more aware of their power as consumers they are choosing to make a clear statement with the products they buy. By purchasing Fair Trade, Organic, and Locally Produced goods we can show our support for our local and global communities, the environment, and for farming families around the world.

We at SCIC want to help by providing a comprehensive directory that will link Saskatchewan consumers with local businesses that promote these products. We know that no one has the ability to eat 100% ethically all the time and that ethical consumer choices are just one element of being a responsible global citizen. But our hope is to provide you with information to make informed decisions, and to prioritize the issues that matter most to you.

Let’s dig in!

beer and wine

Beer and Wine

Do we really need an introduction here? Come on, this is Saskatchewan! We’re all about our brewskies, about good times shared with friends and family. Many of us have spent entire afternoons (ahem, I mean, evenings) tossing darts at a couple beer cans in a ritualistic game we’ve created to enhance our drinking experience. And who doesn’t enjoy an evening, sipping wine with a lover over a good meal, or getting together with friends for a Merlot-fueled good time? But, when it comes down to it, what do we really know about what we’re drinking?

Did you know…

The game “Beer Darts” is a Saskatchewan original. That’s right, only in the prairies would we think to combine alcohol consumption and the tossing of pointy objects in the general direction of friends and family. So much fun, and sooo many bandaged feet!

Researchers are working to make the wine industry safer for workers, consumers, and the environment. They’re currently developing an ecologically safe fungicide formula, using molecules from vitis vinifera grapevines to combat several fungi and mildew that commonly attacks vineyards.

People with allergies to “alcohol” often report a decrease or disappearance of allergy symptoms when they switch to organic brands. Studies suggest that these allergies may in fact be a reaction to trace amounts of pesticides and other additives such as animal products and histamines, which are limited or omitted in organic brews and bottles.

Alexander Keith’s, Beck’s, Budweiser, Hoegaarden, Labatt, Stella Artois, along with near 200 other brands have something in common? They are all owned by one giant company called AB InBev. AB InBev is the largest beer company in the world , worth over $98 Billion in 2011.

Refining bauxite into aluminum, the material used for beer cans, is a very energy intensive process. The mining process has also resulted in a lot of deforestation in developing countries. Opt for glass bottles, or focus on purchasing cans that are made from recycled aluminum.

It is possible to special order beers, wines, and liquors at a Saskatchewan Liquor Board Store? If they’re not carrying an organic or Fair Trade product that you’d like to try, talk to them about the possibility of ordering in a case, just for you and your buddies! It’s easy. Ordering can be done online.

beer and wine

Treatment of Workers

Many workers in the beer and wine production industry are exposed to chemicals during production (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides) and processing (chemicals used to refine bauxite for aluminum cans, etc.). There has also been concern over unfair wages received by some who work in the early stages of beer and wine production – the growing and harvesting of the barley, hops, grapes, and other components found in our favorite beverages.

beer and wine

Agrochemicals

Pesticides and fungicides are common inputs in the wine and beer producing industry. Grapes, specifically are among the most sprayed crop, and are a part of the “dirty dozen”. Though pesticide residue may decrease by the time it is in the bottle, it is probably wise to avoid even trace amounts of chemical residue — especially due to the largely unknown effects of long-term exposure. There is a high degree of concern for the workers, who are exposed to the chemicals frequently during the production process.

beer and wine

Corporate Control

In the past decade, a few big beer companies went on a buying spree, spending some $195 billion to buy up brewers around the world. As a result, the two biggest beer companies on the planet — AB InBev and SABMiller — now own more than 200 brands based in 42 countries. This type of mega-control means that local brewers are pushed out of the market unable to compete with mega-advertising dollars, and consumers are left drinking beer with lower quality ingredients grown and shipped from who knows where. Conglomerates often mean the closing of plants, loss of jobs, and effects on local economies.

cacao and chocolate

Cacao & Chocolate

We know it, we love it… we may even be addicted to it! The average Canadian consumes 8.6 pounds of chocolate per year. Global chocolate confectionary sales topped $100 billion for the first time in 2011 and demand continues to rise, particularly in the massive emerging markets of Russia, China, Brazil and India. Without this luxury commodity, several of our major North American Holidays (think Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day) would be, well, less sweet! But what dark secrets lurk behind this sweet treat?

Did you know…

The Aztec Emperor Montezuma reportedly consumed 50 golden goblets of hot chocolate every day.

Rainforest Alliance Certification means that they have worked with producers to help them efficiently grow cacao while protecting the world’s rainforests.

Look for Direct Trade & Bean-to-Bar. This process cuts out the middlemen and brokers and allows the consumer to be closer to the source.

You can get Single-Origin chocolate where cacao beans in a chocolate bar all come from the same region, sometimes even the same farm. This certification encourages a shorter supply chain and a more direct communication between players at opposite ends of the production process.

Every Russian and American space voyage has included chocolate bars.

Chocolate contains a chemical known as phenylethylamine. The phenylethylamine, in addition to the sugar, fat and caffeine that’s found in chocolate has been shown to release serotonin and endorphins- two known chemicals that make us feel happy!

Chocolate is implicated in child trafficking and slavery. Google “The Dark Side of Chocolate” to find out what’s happening in countries like Mali. Check out “behind the brands” to see which brands are implicated.

chocolate

Deforestation & Biodiversity Loss

Approximately 50% of the forests in cacao producing areas, such as West Africa and Indonesia have been affected by chocolate production. Rainforests, especially those in West Africa are being cleared to make room for cacao plants. Farmers, under intense pressure to increase supply often ignore sanctions and clear even protected forests.

chocolate

Treatment of Workers

Almost every part of cacao production is done by hand, from planting, irrigating, and harvesting, to fermenting, and drying. This human element leaves the door open for exploitation – charges have been levied at some of the major chocolate companies for employing child labour, paying unfair wages, and not providing fair working conditions.

cacao and chocolate

GMO Safety

Many chocolate companies process their chocolate with several ingredients. Soy lecithin and corn syrup are among the most common. It’s a fair bet that any product with corn syrup or a soy product on the ingredients list likely contains trace amounts of GMOs; in the United States alone more than 85% of the corn and 91% of the soy produced are genetically modified. Consumers are wary of GMOs for a number of reasons, most related to the unknown effects long term GMO consumption may be having on our health. Additionally GM crops generally require higher amounts of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers with are dangerous for producers and consumers.

coffee

Coffee

With more than 400 billion cups consumed each year, coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. For many it is an essential part of their day. In many places it is a cultural experience. As a world commodity coffees export value is second only to oil. However, there are some hidden truths within the coffee industry that are not conveniently revealed when you get your cup of Joe (or Bob or Tims).

Did you know…

A coffee fruit is called a cherry.

Legends say that coffee was first discovered by a 9th Century Ethiopian goat-herder named Kaldi, who watched his goats gain new vitality after eating the colourful berries of the coffee plant.

Robusta beans use less water to process than Arabica beans. Robusta beans are more likely produced using a dry method which uses much less water.

You can look for the Smithsonian Institute’s Bird Friendly certification and the Rainforest Alliance Certified labels the next time you purchase your beans. These labels specifically indicate more sustainable cultivation practices and forest conservation.

The problem of income disparity is abundantly clear in the coffee industry, which is notorious for its long production change and excess of greedy middlemen. Though you and I pay from $2 to $6 for a cup of coffee, it is common for a producer to make only a few cents for that same cup.

coffee

Emissions

The business of transporting coffee from the equatorial regions where it is grown to consumers all over the world is VERY petroleum intensive. Alas, if you’re like us and you just have to have your “cuppa joe” in the morning, your options are limited. And if moving to the tropics to be closer to the source isn’t an option. More realistically, looking for coffee with a shorter supply chain makes it more likely that your beans were not shipped back and forth — for example: from a producer in Colombia to a processing centre in Spain to a roaster in the United States to your local supermarket — before arriving in your mug.

coffee

Treatment of Workers

Coffee production is linked to many human rights issues, including child labour and unfair wages. Child labour is a huge concern in the coffee industry. One source claims that 60% of the workforce on coffee plantations in Kenya’s central province are children. While many are there willingly, earning a wage to help their families survive, it’s not cut and dry as they are missing out on educational opportunities, and can be exposed to labour conditions that are harmful for their growing bodies.

coffee

Deforestation & Biodiversity Loss

Traditionally, coffee is cultivated amongst shade trees, which encourages biodiversity, and minimizes water, fertilizer, and other chemical requirements. Since the 1970s many producers have begun to cultivate sun-grown coffee in an effort to increase production and meet the growing international demand. Sun-grown coffee is often cultivated on clear-cut plantations. As a result the coffee industry is now one of the biggest causes of deforestation.

dairy

Dairy

Nothing like a fresh glass of milk – squeezed from the teat of another species – to start your day off right! For lunch? Perhaps a sandwich made of the protein from that milk inundated with delicious bacteria cultures and sometimes molds to form what we fondly know as cheese. Humans are weird. But you’ve gotta admit, when we decide we like something, we fully embrace our cravings! An entire sector of our agriculture system is dedicated to dairy. We’ve all herd (herd… haha) the rumours about some of the less savoury aspects of the industry, but there are ethical alternatives to help you feel better about chowing down.

Did you know…

The gas produced by bovine flatulence (methane) is 20X more potent a greenhouse gas than C02? It doesn’t last as long in our atmosphere – but it contributes significantly to the problem. Oh dear oh dear…

Cows do an amazing thing – because they have four-chambered stomachs they can digest things that we can’t, namely cellulose. They digest this tough plant matter and convert it into meat and milk.

Cows drink the equivalent of a bathtub full of water each day.

Cows exhibit social behaviour similar to humans. They have been known to form close friendships and, if left to their natural behaviours will spend time with 2-4 favoured pasture-mates. They can also hold grudges for years and have been observed to “dislike” certain individuals.

The cow is a protected animal in Hinduism. Hindus will not eat beef, and will go out of their way to avoid harming a cow. Perhaps you have seen images of a cow, nonchalantly resting in the centre of a busy Indian street, cars, bikes, and busses passing on either side? Maybe we could use a touch of this reverence in North America?

That grass-fed cows are raised on farms where they have access to pasture in the summer and at least fresh air in the winter months. Look for 100% grass-fed if you want to be sure that the cows have not been fed on grains.

milk dairy

Emissions

Cattle raising for dairy production is at least as energy intensive as cattle raised for meat (which is really energy intensive, check out that section). Energy is needed for housing the animals, milking, processing the milk, and shipping the milk from the farm to the shopping centre. Large factory farms and feedlots are much more energy intensive than smaller, free-range and grass-fed operations.

dairy

Treatment of Animals

When you think about industrial dairy production, it’s rather disturbing that an entire industry has evolved around separating newborn calves from their mothers, and then diverting the milk they’re body is producing to nourish that calf. Even more disturbing is the reality that male calves, considered “by-products” of this female-dominated mass-milking system, are often either slaughtered or fattened in tiny spaces to sell as veal. In the name of maximizing production, industrial feedlots are notorious for their cramped spaces where the animals live out their days shoulder to shoulder with little space for movement.

dairy milk

Hormones & Antibiotics

Many cattle farmers will treat their animals with antibiotics to improve their resilience to diseases; diseases that are made more prevalent by the close quarters kept in a feedlot environment. They may also inject hormones into the animals to increase their growth and milk production. These antibiotics and hormones can make their way into our systems when we drink the milk from these animals.

eggs

Eggs

Most would agree that eggs are a great source of protein, and a diet staple in many parts of the world. Worldwide, around 1.2 trillion eggs are produced for eating every year. The average person on Earth consumes 173 eggs a year. Even though the prairies are rich with farmland, most brands of eggs sold in the grocery store do not come from “Farmer Joe’s Free Range Ranch”, down the lane, and there are some ethical concerns associated with the egg industry.

Did you know…

The poultry industry is one of the largest sources of manure-based nitrogen phosphorus.

Roosters are necessary only for egg fertilization: hens will lay eggs whether or not they have ever seen a rooster.

A female chick is born with a finite number of tiny ova, or undeveloped yolks. Upon reaching maturity, an ovum will be released into the oviduct canal and begin to develop. At any given time a productive hen will have eggs of several stages within her reproductive system.

The brown or white colour of an eggshell is purely dependent on the breed of the hen.

The production of eggshells drains calcium from a hen’s body, which will be apparent as the colours of the hens comb, wattles, legs, and ear lobes fade. Naturally hens would replenish this by eating soil with high calcium content, or, if desperate, even by consuming their own eggshells!

eggs

Emissions

Broiler houses (industrial chicken coops) are energy intensive; according to one source almost ¼ of gross farm income is reinvested in the annual propane and electricity bills on a farm with broiler houses. Transporting eggs and chicken feed from industrial coops also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Packaging is also a source of waste, although today many companies are replacing polystyrene and plastic containers with recycled cardboard.

eggs

Treatment of Animals

This is often the most contentious aspect of egg farming. Most of us have been exposed to videos or images of the factory farms where chickens are kept for egg production. And don’t forget about the boys. What happens to all the male chickens that are brooded for potential inclusion in the egg industry? Hmmmm… Depending on their purpose, poultry are sometimes fed meat-meal, composed of both bovine and… gasp… poultry! Is this the poultry version of Soylent greens?

eggs

Hormones & Antibiotics

Because disease spreads more rapidly in the close confines of factory farms, many chicken producers give antibiotics to their birds to help prevent disease and digestive problems. Hormones have been banned for use in poultry farming since the 1960s in Canada, but traces of antibiotics can still make their way into your Sunday morning eggs.

seafood

Seafood

Fish are a great source of protein, many natural oils and buzz-worthy health terms like “Omega-3s”. However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the fishing industry. Debates around farmed-fish versus wild, impacts on natural populations, pollution, and possible health risks for consumers are common. Being in Saskatchewan doesn’t help matters. We are land-locked and all ocean foods need to be transported great distances. This automatically increases emissions. Fresh lake fish are an option, but availability is limited. Despite health benefits, there are several challenges for people in this province to getting ethical, healthy seafood and fish.

Did you know…

Documented effects of radiation spillage from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is increasing. Much of this radiation spills into the Pacific Ocean. Some sources encourage the public to avoid fish sourced from the Pacific Ocean entirely, but no official warnings have been issued as of January 2014.

Mollusks—oysters, clams, mussels—are very susceptible to water pollution because they filter water through their systems. Run-off from farms and sewage pollution in the water can make shellfish crops inedible.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans with recommendations on seafood items. Seafood Watch labeling can help you decide which products are a “Best Choice,” a “Good Alternative,” and which to “Avoid”.

Bioaccumulation of toxins increases over time and is more concentrated in carnivorous fish, so to reduce your consumption of toxins when eating fish it helps to avoid the longest-living carnivorous fish. Ex. wild salmon, tuna, swordfish, and shark (howbout we just don’t eat shark? For so many reasons!)

Wild fish have been shown by some studies to have higher protein content and less fat than farmed fish.

There aren’t any Fair Trade fish available yet, but rumors have it that a Fair Trade certification for the fishing and shrimping industry is on the way. This will help support the artisanal fishing and shrimping communities who are currently adversely affected.

The shrimp industry is very harmful to the environment. It is chemical intensive, killing any other living things in the area, including living things on the shoreline. Some consumers choose to avoid shrimp all together, however, by choosing shrimp labeled by sustainability councils like MSC or Seafood Watch you will be making a more conscientious decision.

Carnivorous fish are difficult to certify organic. Salmon, for example, eat other fish that swim through their territory, and unless we can be sure that all fish in the environment are organic, we can’t technically label this salmon as organic. Farm-raised herbivorous fish, like catfish and tilapia are easier to certify, as organic feed is available. It is, however, still quite expensive, and this is reflected in the price of organic farm-raised fish.

seafood

Depletion and Overfishing

Overfishing of natural populations is a huge, global problem. According to the latest statistics, more than 55% of the world’s fisheries are overexploited. Many of these fisheries are in developing countries, and their depletion threatens the livelihoods of local populations. But, fish-farming can also deplete natural populations in a couple of ways. First, demand for fishmeal, made from wild fish, to feed farmed fish increases as fish farming becomes more common. Second, farmed and cultured species often escape from their cages into the wild areas where they are raised. These species can be invasive and disrupt natural ecosystems, also depleting natural populations.

seafood

Effects on Dependent Communities

Both the fishing and shrimp industries have been condemned for their impacts on many coastal communities in both developed and developing nations. As both large-scale farms and wild operations capture the market, small-scale fishers and shrimpers struggle and often go under. Low wages are also common in many sectors of the seafood industry, and communities that have traditionally depended on fishing and shrimping suffer.

seafood

Health Risks

Fish are very susceptible to pollution. Bioaccumulation is the accumulation of toxins in the fatty tissues of an organism. Pesticides and other chemicals added to farmed fish and shrimp pools have the same effect. These toxins do not break down as they move up the food chain; meaning as consumers we could be exposed to them when we munch on our fish fillet or shrimp cocktail.

fruits and vegetables

Fruits & Vegetables

Om nom nom banana…soooo delicious. If I can have my daily banana in the middle of the Saskatchewan winter I’m a happy camper. But wait… how is this possible? What kind of magical system makes it possible for me to be enjoying this tropical fruit in the middle of a wind-swept ice-desert? Suddenly I have so many questions… How did my cheery Chiquita banana get here? What kinds of chemicals were involved in preserving it on its long journey? Who picked it, and were they compensated fairly for their backbreaking labour? Are conventional banana plantations ecologically friendly? What about the other fruits and veggies that colourfully line the produce section of the supermarket?

Did you know…

Small-scale production is usually less energy intensive than industrial-scale agriculture. Look for small-scale producers with sustainable practices – small scale production tends to put less pressure on the environment than intensive, industrial farming.

Apples, Celery, Cherry tomatoes, Cucumbers and Grapes top the list of those most likely to contain pesticide residue (2013). These are the most important to purchase Organic.

Today just five companies – Dole, Chiquita, Fresh Del Monte, Fyffes, and Noboa – control around 75 per cent of the total banana exports into Europe and the US.

Bananas are reproduced from cuttings and shoots from a parent plant to propagate new banana trees. This method is a form of cloning, and doesn’t encourage genetic variation in banana plantations. This makes the crop particularly vulnerable when it comes to disease and pests.

There are loads of community garden plots available all over Saskatchewan for those who don’t have access to gardening space in their own yard. It’s educational, fun, gives you an excuse to be outdoors in the summertime, and you reap the benefits of your hard work in the form of fresh fruits and veggies.

You can enjoy local fruits and veggies all winter long. Trying canning, freezing or drying. There are lots of people in this province who can teach you how to do this, start by asking a grandma.

fruit and vegetables

Emissions

Many of the greenhouse gas emissions of concern to scientists are directly linked to food production. Most studies claim that the agricultural industry accounts for 11-15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Methane and Nitrous Oxide are the most common emissions, and these are more potent greenhouse gasses than the dreaded Carbon Dioxide. Emissions are also connected to food miles – the longer a product has to travel to get to your plate, the more emissions were caused by its transport.

fruit and vegetables

Treatment of Workers

The fruit and vegetable industry is extremely labour intensive. Sometimes a machine just isn’t delicate enough to avoid damaging the soft flesh of our fruit and veggies, so human labour is required. Additionally, agrochemical use, like pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides is at its highest in the fruit and vegetable industry, exposing workers to all sorts of poisons .The industry is also seasonal, which attracts many migrant and temporary workers. Temporary human labour… Hmmmm, this situation is just ripe for exploitation! Low wages, poor working conditions, and even child labour are all too common in the fruit and vegetable industry.

fruit and vegetables

Patents on Life

Consumers are increasingly uneasy about GMO’s and seed-ownership disputes; do corporations have the right to patent life? With corporations at the head of modifying seeds for commercial use comes the contentious idea of corporations owning the rights to a particular variety. Under a corporate contract farmers are not allowed to save seeds from year to year, a practice that has been essential to the success and evolution of agriculture for centuries.

grains and legumes

Grains & Legumes

Flowing blue flax fields, yellow canola, and green alfalfa are all common sights in this province during the summer months, but few products are as important to Saskatchewan as wheat. In the minds of most Canadians, Saskatchewan is practically synonymous with the image of a grain elevator majestically rising out of a golden wheat field. Saskatchewan grows about 60% of Canada’s wheat. Lentils are another Saskatchewan staple – in fact, Saskatchewan is currently the world’s largest exporter of green lentils. Farming and cooperation is part of our ethos, and history. The days of small family farms pooling their harvest, working together, and feeding the world are nearly gone, but not entirely, and there are ways to support the family farm.

Did you know…

Quinoa is native to South America, where it has been a staple food for hundreds of years. However, the increased demand for the grain has caused prices to shoot up. Now, the people who grow it, and have depended on it as sustenance can no longer afford it. Buying Fair Trade quinoa is a way to mitigate the damage caused by our health fetishes.

Lentils, along with other legumes, are nitrogen fixing. This means that the plants have the ability to take nitrogen from the atmosphere and return it to the soil, without the help of fertilizers. Producers growing legumes have a reduced need for nitrogen fertilizers; which means fewer chemicals in our food! Yes please!

Rice is the most widely consumed food in the world. More than a billion people, most of whom are small farmers in developing countries, make their living from rice production. Most rice is consumed in the country where it is produced, so global trade in rice is relatively small compared to production.

The pollen from some GM varieties contains a derivative from an insecticide called a neonicotinoid, which disorients our little bee friends so that they can’t find their way back inside the hive. Millions of bees have died as a result of this disorder, called colony collapse.

Whole grains are way healthier for you. When a grain is refined, most of the bran and some of the germ is removed, resulting in losses of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, trace minerals, unsaturated fat, and about 75 percent of the phytochemicals.

grains and legumes

Commodity Dumping

Whenever a producer (or entire economies) depends on a single commodity to survive, they are vulnerable to price fluctuation. In Mexico for example, the price of corn directly affects the majority of the population. Tortillas are a staple in the region, and when in 2007 prices rose by more than 400% in two months, many citizens could no longer afford this essential and traditional good. Food riots and protests ensued. This huge price increase has been attributed to the use of vast quantities of corn crops for ethanol production – a biofuel. Problems also arise for producers in developing countries when surplus production floods the market and pushes prices down.

grains and legumes

Patents on Life

Part of the issue with making seeds a business is that, with any typical business model, profits should increase in subsequent years. Traditionally, many farmers have saved seeds from year to year, which not only saves producers money but also over time encourages the adaptation of that particular crop to the particular conditions of the region (the strongest seeds survive and are best suited to that particular environment). BUT, in order to make seed selling a profitable business, corporations who patent the seeds insist that farmers buy from them each year. So farmers who enter into a contract with one of these corporations are not allowed to seed save. This raises the question about who has the right to own the patents to life.

grains

Agrochemicals

The industrial agricultural sector is very chemical intensive. With increased use of GMOs, which require specialized fertilizers, chemical use is deepening. Roundup Ready crops, for instance, are designed to resist the herbicide Roundup, so that when this chemical is applied to the crop, the weeds are killed, but the desired crop is not. This increased use of chemicals and inputs come with additional costs for farmers. The consumer is affected as we ingest more chemical residue. Chemical runoff from agriculture pollutes lakes, rivers, and groundwater, often causing algae blooms that can literally suffocate the life out of a water body. This process is called eutrophication.

meat

Meat

Meat production and consumption worldwide has tripled over the last four decades and is not expected to decrease any time soon. Global demand is increasing as more of the world’s population—people in places like China and Brazil–join the ranks of the affluent. In Canada, annual meat production increased by 32% between 1961 and 2002, from 180lbs to 238lbs per person. Pretty dramatic! But in countries that are increasingly adopting western diets, it is even more dramatic. Raising livestock takes more time, water and inputs than any of the other products on this list. So if consumption is increasing, you can be sure that is going to impact people and the planet.

Did you know…

Because of the costs associated with Organic Certification, many meat producers opt to skip the certification step, but still use organic methods. Ask your local producers, go check out the farm where the animals are raised, and make an informed decision that does not exclude producers who can’t afford the cost associated with organic certification.

We pump millions of tons of grains into the animals we eat. In fact, more than 1/3 of the world’ s grain harvest is used to feed livestock. The land that it is grown on, however marginal, could be dedicated to producing food for human consumption or left alone to be reclaimed by nature, increasing biodiversity and helping to balance out the problem of deforestation.

According to recent UN statistics, 30% of the Earth’s land is used to raise animals, including the growth of feed crops. Did you know it takes up to 13 lbs. of grain to produce 1 lb. of meat. This grain could be used to feed more of the world’s hungry. Eating lower on the food chain means there’s more to go around.

Hormone treatment is generally used only with cattle – today poultry and pork raised in Canada are not given growth hormones.

You save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you do by not showering for six months!

meat

Water Usage

The industrial agricultural system is one of the greatest water guzzlers on the planet. Meat production is particularly water intensive: while a pound of wheat can be produced with around 95L of water, a pound of meat requires more than 9,000L.

meat

Emissions

Did you know that the gas produced by bovine flatulence (methane) is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than C02? Additionally, when we consider the energy footprint needed to process meat from field to fork, including grown feed, transport and refrigeration, it takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to produce one calorie from animal protein as it does one calorie from plant protein.

meat

Treatment of Animals

Treatment of livestock is one of the most controversial issues with the meat production system. Factory Farms, or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) can be breeding grounds for diseases like E. Coli and BSE (aka mad cow disease) and are often a bad scene; animals living shoulder to shoulder in dark sheds, with little space for movement. These industrial feedlots can contribute to water pollution and environmental degradation due to the waste produced by these operations.

nuts and oils

Nuts & Oils

Ah nuts! Peanuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts… most Canadian consumers are familiar with each of these varieties and others. Nuts are great on their own, in baking, or as oils. The oils from nuts and grains are not only used in cooking, but are found in the vast majority of processed food today. Canola, for example, is one of Saskatchewan’s primary agricultural products. Much of our canola is processed into canola oil and sold for cooking. But enough chitchat, let’s get greasy!

Did you know…

Peanuts are also known as groundnuts, and are actually a legume. They are one of the most commonly consumed “nuts” worldwide. Peanuts have joined in the fight against hunger – Plumpy’nut is a peanut paste used by many humanitarian organizations to treat malnutrition.

In ancient Turkey the hazelnut was considered sacred.

The production of biofuels diverts land that could be used for food production, causing the prices of some grains and vegetable oil crops to increase rapidly. Although biofuels are designed to replace conventional petroleum, the nitrous oxide emissions released during production of canola oil have been shown to increase greenhouse gas emissions up to 70% compared to diesel.

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed the pine nut to be an aphrodisiac. Whether for that reason or not, the pine-nut continues as a standard ingredient in today’s Italian cuisine.

Brazil nuts have been cited as an incredibly important Amazonian non-timber forest product, both in terms of the local economy, and the local environment. Because these nuts can be harvested without damage to the tree, the industry encourages conservation by the producers.

You can hide scratches in hardwood floors or furniture by rubbing it with a walnut.

nuts and oils

Emissions

We don’t grow many nuts in Canada. As is the case with all goods shipped over long distances, the transportation of nuts from their country of origin to our pantries is petroleum intensive. Distilling nuts and grains to produce oil is also a very energy intensive process. Canola oil, for example, is created by slightly heating and then crushing the canola seed. It is then refined using various chemicals, moved through clay in a process called bleaching, and deodorized using steam distillation. Additionally, the nitrous oxide emissions associated with rapeseed oil production have been shown to contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions.

nuts and oils

Treatment of Workers

Oils such as palm oil and coconut oil that are produced primarily in tropical regions have been associated with poor treatment of workers. Specifically the palm oil industry is notorious for rampant human and environmental exploitation, including mass deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. Small-scale farmers have been encouraged to convert their land to grow the cash crop and indigenous people have been kicked off land that they traditionally used for their subsistence lifestyle. Palm oil is found in about 50 percent of the world’s packaged supermarket products, including shampoo, biscuits and detergent.

nuts and oils

GMO Safety

Today a majority of the canola we grow in North America is Genetically Modified. If we follow this to its conclusion: in general, canola oil must contain more than a few traces of GM material. Soybeans, soybean oil, and other derivatives, are another example of a crop that is primarily Genetically Modified in North America today. Consumers are wary of GMOs for a number of reasons, most related to the unknown effects long term GMO consumption may be having on our health, the impacts on the environment, and the increased use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

sugar

Sugar

Sugar is currently one of the most consumed food commodities worldwide. Initially used in religious ceremonies sugar was first commercially produced as a luxury item by Europeans. Consumption has jumped 23% in the last decade; the average Canadian adult now consumes about 26 teaspoons daily—which is often hidden in processed foods—and gets about 21% of their caloric intake from sugar. To top it all off, sugar is addictive… the consumption of sugar releases an opiate-like substance that activates the brains reward system, until the inevitable crash, of course! It’s obvious that sugar is ingrained (or… in-granulated?) in our society.

Did you know…

A typical soft drink contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Initially a luxury item, Europe developed a taste for sugar, so much so that it eventually became considered an essential food ingredient. The ensuing quest for sugar led to major social and economic changes. Some say the colonization of tropical islands (and eventual introduction of African slaves) was driven in part by the sugar craze.

Because of massive ecological changes the non-native sugarcane has wrought, the Caribbean is no longer considered significantly biologically diverse, nor are any of the islands (except New Guinea) in greater Southeast Asia.

Nice rum, where you from? Oh right… rum is liquor made from sugarcane products. So you’re probably from the Caribbean, possibly Australia, South America, or the Middle East…

The word “sugar” can be traced to the Arabic sukkar and the Sanskrit sarkara. Initially, sugar was used for religious ceremonies and as a medicine to treat ailments ranging from leprosy to gallstones. Ironic that it’s at the root of so many health problems today!

Cane ethanol is available as a byproduct of sugar production, and can be used as a biofuel. It is already commonly used in Brazil, where gasoline is required to contain at least 22% bioethanol.

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Water

Sugarcane requires a significant amount of water. Producers have been known to divert rivers and overuse groundwater for the sake of sugarcane production. Processing sugar also requires water: from 3-10 m 3 of water are required to process every ton of cane (that is like 200 showers or 650 toilet flushes). Water pollution is also a problem, especially when the sludge and waste from sugar mills is released into bodies of water. The decomposition of these materials absorbs oxygen and can lead to massive fish kills.

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Land Grabs

The loss of land by poor communities in countries like Brazil and Cambodia to produce sugar is a major issue. The increase in sugar production has increased the amount of land needed for cultivation. Families are often evicted from their land—land which they rely on to grow food for personal consumption—without compensation or fair treatment. The amount of land being sold to foreign investors is staggering. Every second an area the size of a soccer field is sold off. In Brazil for example, nearly 9.5 million hectares of land was devoted to sugar production in 2011, accounting for an eighth of the country’s arable land.

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Agrochemicals

The usual suspects: insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers are used on many sugarcane crops. Because sugar is often produced on marginal land, more fertilizers and other chemicals are needed to successfully grow the product. Sugar-beet production also relies quite heavily on chemical application, especially now as the new Monsanto Roundup Ready sugar beets are the most commonly produced variety in Canada and the United States. Not only does this affect the workers, but spillage into the soil and water has negative effects on the ecosystem and the organisms, including humans, who survive in it.

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Tea

Tea is one of the world’s most ancient beverages. Humans from many cultures have been enjoying a steaming cup for more than 5,000 years! Tea comes in just after water as the #2 consumed beverage worldwide. Many tea drinkers indulge because of the health benefits that have been associated with the beverage for centuries. But the tea industry isn’t all moonlight and rosehips! Let’s take a look beyond the bag.

Did you know…

During an unusually hot day at the St. Louis World Trade Fair of 1904, a group of tea producers responded to the heat by pouring the tea into glasses packed with ice cubes. Thus, iced-tea was born!

The tea is huge. Mainland China is the largest producer, annually producing about $4.1 billon in tea, which is around 4,520,000 metric tons.

In Siberia solid blocks of tea were used as currency until the 19th century.

The top tea consumers per capita are: the UK (of course), Morocco, and Ireland.

According to several sources, one cup of white tea contains the same amount of antioxidants as 10 cups of apple juice!

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Emissions

Both drying and shipping tea are energy intensive processes, requiring both thermal and electrical energy. Diesel generators are often used as back ups in case of power outages. Both these generators and tea processing factories have been labeled as polluting and greenhouse gas emitting. When these power sources are not available, producers have been known to dry tea using firewood, which, besides being polluting, often necessitates felling forest trees.

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Deforestation & Biodiversity Loss

Tea farms are usually monocultures, and frequently replace biodiversity-rich forests. The processing of tea is also linked to an increase in deforestation for firewood to fuel tea dryers.

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Agrochemicals

Because of the monocropping system used by most tea producers, pesticides and herbicides are used extensively to prevent pests and disease. Efforts to curb pesticide use include the Food and Agriculture Organization’s working group on Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) in tea. However, the initiative has not yet had complete success. Meanwhile, both the consumer and the farm workers are affected. Almost 70% of the illnesses contracted by tea plantation workers are respiratory and water-borne diseases. These can be linked to improper use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals.