So… what does “eating responsibly” mean?

I think Wendell Berry is the most well-spoken authority on the subject. After reading several essays in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry last semester, I was re-inspired to make my own small yet powerful impacts on the environment. He’s a reminder that our everyday actions are what motivate big change- the millions of pebbles that create a wall when piled high.

One of his better known essays is actually available here on Google Books (“The Pleasures of Eating”). If you don’t have the time to read all of it, you can see some quotes I extracted below.


In “The Pleasures of Eating”, Berry provides seven suggestions on how to work towards a better food ethic:

  1. Grow something you can eat– whether it is in a garden, a window box, or a small pot. Herbs, vegetables, anything that helps you contribute to food production.
  2. Cook your own meals instead of eating pre-packaged food.
  3. Buy locally-produced food, and know where your food is coming from.
  4. If possible, buy directly from the person who grows or produces your food (i.e. the farmer).
  5. Learn about the “economy and technology of industrial food production”- what goes into your food and how much you’re paying for processed additives.
  6. Find out what goes into making a good garden or farm.
  7. Educate yourself on the history of other species– aspire to do this through direct experience with those species.

Berry notes that suggestion 7 is extremely important in discovering the pleasures of the natural world and food.

So when I talk about “eating responsibly”, I am using Berry as a model. I’m trying to emphasize the importance of going back to the roots– both in a literal and symbolic sense- of the food we eat. In doing so, we recognize not only our environmental impact but also our blindly direct contribution to industries we would ethically reject.

When I talk about “eating responsibly”, I’m talking about making the simplest changes in our grocery purchases to establish a huge long-term impact on the land, our neighbors, and the living environment. It’s the easiest way to make a change.

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