Often, when people think of healthy food they are thinking primarily about food that is good for the body. But there are other ways that food can be healthy. It can also be eco-friendly in that it is good for the environment as well. Ideally, food should be produced in ways that do not negatively impact the environment or result in the mistreatment of animals. When combined with practices that pay farmers fair wages, provide a safe and humane working environment for workers, and supports the community, this is called sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable agriculture has certain characteristics that are associated with it. These characteristics include biodiversity, animal welfare, conservation, preservation, and economic viability. In addition, sustainable agriculture is also commonly characterized as being just on a social level. This means that competitive wages, benefits, and fair treatment are extended to workers.
In terms of being economically viable, farmers associated with sustainable agriculture do not rely on government subsidies but are able to make a fair and decent living. Animals on the farm should not be mistreated and should be able to live in conditions that do not hinder their movements or behavior. A biodiverse farm does not use chemicals for the most part. In some cases, they may only use extremely minimal amounts. Different species of both animals and plants are also a significant characteristic of sustainable agriculture as it helps reduce the risk of insect infestation on crops or disease. Lastly, sustainable farms do not create excess pollution or waste. It strives to efficiently re-use resources when possible and ensure that resources are replenished. They also reduce the amount of pollution caused by fossil fuels by selling in local markets.
Despite these characteristics, sustainable agriculture can be interpreted and applied differently by individual farmers, even though the United States Congress addressed it in FACTA, or, the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. Under Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603 of this Act, sustainable agriculture was given an approved definition. However, farmers are not legally obligated to follow this definition of sustainability. As a result, some farmers may claim to practice sustainable farming although they do not abide by the definition of sustainable farming and may disregard the critical characteristics associated with it. This is an unfortunate downside to many healthy and environmentally friendly forms of farming, such as cage-free farming. This should not, however, be a deterrent in purchasing sustainable food items. Many farmers are honest in how they run their farms, and they appreciate the benefits and standards that are associated with this type of farming. As local, family owned businesses, a majority of sustainable farmers strive to have the freshest food possible. They may sell their produce or other food items as farmers, or outdoor, markets.
When not certain about the benefits of sustainable agriculture, people should look closer at factory farming and its negative impact on the environment, the small farmer, and one’s health. When it comes to environmental health, factory farming releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is this type of gas that continues to contribute to global warming. Animals are treated in an inhumane manner, often kept in cramped close cages, crates or stalls. Animal waste from this type of farming may also leak into the water and soil, contributing to pollution. Because of these conditions, the animals are also frequently treated with significant amounts of antibiotics which in turn makes its way into the food that consumers eat. This and the overall poor condition of the animals increases the risk of human illness and disease upon consumption. Yet another negative of factory farming is its impact on the economy. Because it relies heavily on mechanisms to tend to the animals, there is little need for workers. People who would work in farming are left unemployed, raising the rate of poverty in rural communities. Because of the volume of animals, small farms are also put out of business as they are unable to compete.
- Eating Well: The Benefits of Joining a Food Club : This is an article about how joining a food club can help families enjoy a more sustainable diet.
- Seven Ways to Cook up a Sustainable Diet : Seven tips on how to eat sustainable meals. Tips include advice such as savoring food and eating items that are on hand.
- Your Guide to Eating Sustainably : A page on sustainable eating. It contains topics and advice such as encounters that a person may meet when switching to a sustainable diet, organic versus conventional, and eating local.
- Small Steps to Going Green: Meal and Food Tips: Eleven steps that people can follow when switching to a sustainable diet. Many of the steps will help the reader understand what is considered a sustainable food and what is not.
- Deseret News: Sustainable Eating – Simple Steps for Getting Healthier and Greening the Planet : Lists five steps that readers can follow to eat healthier. These steps not only benefit the reader and his or her family, but are also beneficial to the environment as well.
- Time Healthland: 33 Ways to Eat Environmentally Friendly : This article lists 33 ways that readers and their families can eat in a way that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. The tips given include food and packaging and choices that are made while shopping.
- Find Sustainable Food: A guide that readers can use to help them find local markets and other areas that sell sustainable food. The reader can search by state, city or zip code.
- Quick Guide to Sustainable Food: A food guide about sustainable eating and living. It explains what sustainable foods are and what benefits come from eating them.
- Six Steps to Sustainable Eating: An article on the website for Oprah. It lists ways that people and their families can begin enjoying sustainable meals.
- Sustainable Seafood Guide: This guide lists tips on how to make the right seafood choices. Each of the tips are in a bullet point format so that it is easy to read.
- The Livewell Diet: It’s Cheap, It’s Nutritious, It Could Help Save the Planet: An article that explains the Livewell Diet which is based on eating a balanced diet of sustainable foods
- Sustainable Food Early Years: A PDF that is meant for educational institutions regarding feeding and introducing young children and their parents to sustainable food. The information is useful for families who want to start a sustainable food diet at home. It includes information and tips on shopping for the right food, planning menus, and cooking.
- Green American: Safe, Sustainable Seafood: An article that explains to the reader the safety benefits of eating seafood sustainably. It explains why some seafood is bad for human health and how some fish are plagued with issues that stem from the environment. Most importantly the article reviews seafood that is safe to eat and seafood companies that offer seafood that has been sustainable caught.