The ethics of food-related decisions fascinate me. My circle of friends includes vegans, vegetarians, aquatarians, omnivores, and a whole lot of variations on these broad groups, from the guy who eats fish and birds but not mammals, to the woman who is typically a vegetarian but will contentedly eat whatever dinner I offer, even if it includes meat. There are also the ones who will only buy organic products, and the ones who insist that price trumps environmental considerations. And don’t ignore the folks who eat anything except a single troubling food: foie gras, for example, or farmed fish.
I make my own decisions on a case by case basis. My kitchen is highly local, but I don’t fret about imported spices or a bit of olive oil. I support farmers who treat their workers fairly and offer safe working conditions, but I use a lot of unfair cane sugar in my baking; the few existing sources of Fair Trade sugar are stupendously expensive for regular use and honey isn’t always a good substitute. I look for organic labels at grocery stores, but prefer to ask specific questions when shopping at farmer’s markets. I only buy meat from a few farms, and if it means I pay $24 for a chicken, so be it. I will be using every last scrap of that bird, and it becomes an unusual treat rather than a basic necessity, which is how I prefer to use meat.
Lately, I’ve been struck by some local anti-foie gras activism, which puzzles me as it targets such a tiny niche product while ignoring chicken factories. And just as hard-line but from a different perspective, there are a few writers starting to deride the local food movement on behalf of the “best” products. That, to me, is food snobbery at its worst. And I’ve made some delicious meals with tough, end-of-season local carrots and less-than-ideally-fresh dairy products.
But that’s the point. “Best” is a completely subjective rating. My favorite local beef might be your downright offensive dietary choice; your favorite fish might be my current soapbox issue; my husband’s favorite potato salad might rate a screech of distaste from visiting kids. The important thing is to actually think about your own food priorities, and to take the time to buy, cook and grow food that supports your choices.