Food for thought

Learning about where your food comes from matters

Before last week, I didn’t think much about where the food on my plate had been before it reached my dinner table.

As a typical college student, I fill my shopping cart with whatever tastes the best for the lowest cost and the highest convenience. I didn’t know or care much about how many miles my food traveled to get to me and what was sacrificed.

My perspective changed when my Geography of Food class carpooled to a butcher shop in Durand, and I stood inside a room where three skilled butchers made a cow into meat.  Seeing the slaughter from only a few feet away made my weak stomach, queasy and caused me to consider vegetarianism, but more than that it forced me to see the process going into the packaged meat I pick up at the grocery store.

Now I know it is important to think about where the food we eat comes from.

While it may be difficult to eat healthy when food is not the most important thing on a busy college student’s mind, a conscious effort to know where your food comes from and how it’s prepared can make a difference in your health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, about 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million people, get sick from foodborne diseases every year. Fruits and vegetables washed with unclean water or older meat that has been dyed to look fresh can be just a few causes.

If you choose to become more aware of how to read labeling to know how the food was processed, food poisoning becomes easier to avoid.

The distance your food travels can be an issue as well. Food from a far distance away isn’t always bad, but it can have negative effects on the environment if your food requires a long truck ride across the country.

Apart from these issues, it is necessary to understand how your food was made. After the trip to the butcher, I realized how much work it takes to slaughter and pack meat. I came to respect the people who were working to bring food to others’ tables.

I also realized the way these small-town butchers operate may be more humane compared to other large corporations, which focus on efficiency and productivity rather than animal welfare.

Buying local food can be a positive alternative because immediately a buyer knows where the food is coming from.

Still, today, children around the world are not taught to recognize where their food has been before it reaches them. A 2013 survey conducted in the U.K. from the British Nutrition Foundation found almost a third of U.K. primary school children thought cheese comes from plants.

There is a need to educate others and ourselves about this subject. Buying and eating food shouldn’t be a mindless interaction.

Although I knew what would be behind the back doors of the butcher shop, seeing it showed me how people simply need to think more about their food.