Deforestation. Child labour. Environmental pollution. Lack of water… The more we learn about the side effects of the food industry, the more we worry about the food on our plates. How do we know what harm our food is doing to the planet? What about our health?
Here are the most controversial foods in the world:
The worldwide demand for avocados is leading to massive deforestation in South America. In Chile, farmers drain rivers to water avocado crops during a drought.
In addition, all the benefits of avocados (vitamins E and K, monounsaturated fats) are easily covered by less exotic foods. So it is better to refuse this fruit, or buy Mexican avocados with a Fairtrade sticker.
2. Packaged salad
This is the most useless product ever. First, plastic packaging; secondly, it is most often thrown away due to its very short shelf life; thirdly, this greenery is grown under artificial lighting.
In summer, you can buy local fresh herbs. And now it is better to buy cabbage.
Even if we do not take into account the issue of slaughtering animals to meet human needs, the problem of greenhouse gases still remains. According to the UN, cattle are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, there is evidence that pastures play a beneficial role in the ecosystem by absorbing excess carbon. Therefore, beef from organic farms is acceptable, especially if you buy it infrequently.
Most cod is caught in Norway. This country has very high standards for maintaining the fish population and ecology. Therefore, Norwegian fish can always be recommended.
Milk contains many nutrients and costs less than plant-based substitutes (such as soy or almond milk). Therefore, milk is quite ethical, but only from free-range cows – if the cows are fed grain feed, this is no longer useful.
Of course, there is no getting away from the fact that cows are regularly killed in the dairy industry: bulls are killed after birth, and old cows are “written off”.
6. Nut and palm oil
When it comes to nut butter, the first thing to check is: does it contain palm oil? Palm oil is one of the main causes of deforestation on the planet.
As for the nuts themselves, they are directly linked to water scarcity (California almonds), child labor (Turkish hazelnuts), and human rights violations (Vietnamese cashews). Of course, the governments of these countries constantly promise “tight enforcement”, but so far this has not been convincing. It is best to buy nuts grown on farms in Europe.
Peanuts are the most environmentally friendly option: they do not require abundant watering, have nitrogen-fixing properties, and with proper crop rotation, they also prevent soil depletion.
The proportion of pure soybeans consumed by humans is quite small, so tofu and soy milk lovers cannot be blamed for deforestation. If you’re a vegan, avoiding “bad” soy is easy: buy soy products from the US and Europe, where there are strict standards.
But meat, fish and milk is another matter. The bulk of the soybeans in the world goes to animal feed, and it is impossible to find out when buying. In Brazil and Argentina, soybean production causes deforestation. Therefore, try to buy meat, milk and fish from local producers.
Since major brand products almost always contain soy and palm oil, ethical issues arise before we even discuss cocoa. And when you consider that cocoa is mainly grown by small farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, suffering from price fluctuations, a completely bleak picture emerges.
Child labor is used throughout these countries. In addition, 90% of West Africa’s primeval forests have already been destroyed, thanks in large part to the demand for cheap cocoa. Finding chocolate that meets all ethical requirements is almost impossible, despite the best efforts of civil organizations.
On the one hand, octopuses are extremely intelligent and can experience pain. On the other hand, the catch of cephalopods does not cause much damage to the environment. They live only 1–2 years, and the individuals that have already given offspring are mainly used for food.
The main thing is not to buy octopuses caught by deep trawling. And so they multiply quickly enough so that there is no threat to the population.
The demand for large varieties of shrimp (tiger and king), which are caught in the warm waters of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, leads to the destruction of mangrove swamps. Giant river prawns are also very popular and their wild populations are under threat.
It is best to buy small cold water shrimp or black tiger shrimp from Indonesia, produced by the ethical company Happy Prawn Co.