As college students, many of us are forced to be creatures of habit. All Dickinsonians with a palette know that most of the food served in the caf is bland, repetitive, and often leaves you having quite the experience in the HUB underground bathroom the next morning. Even for those, like myself, who have some access to fresh produce through the farm, time becomes a barrier in cooking and eating mindfully. I noticed that the majority of meals I cook for myself at home consist of my pantry staples. I’ve actually eaten either bean, an egg, or a tortilla almost every day since beginning to track my diet. These ingredients are very versatile and can pack a flavorful punch when combined with what’s in my spice cabinet.
Beans: It takes an immense amount of energy and water to grow beans on a large scale, along with the human power required to cultivate, harvest, process, transport, sell, cook, and consume. Beans are a commodity crop, the markets dominated by GOYA and other household names. Farms that grow beans are often monocrop, which means that the soil they utilize often decreases in biodiversity over time. Additionally, due to the nature of the bean, it is necessary to rotate crops, or a farmer risks the development of mold in the field. Most large-scale farms skirt this possibility with chemical treatments. North Dakota grows 32% of all dry beans in the United States (US Dry Bean Council), but many beans are products of Mexico and parts of South and Central America. I estimate that each bean I consume has traveled roughly 1500 miles to my kitchen
Eggs: We all know that eggs come from chickens. Most of the egg production in the U.S. is factory style livestock farming, which as Food Inc. showed, is some pretty messed up stuff. Chickens mainly feed on corn and soy bi product, and actually consume an amount of corn on par with humans. Chickens are raised all over the United States, especially on small scale family operations. The environmental impact of chickens is large. They consume a lot of energy through the feed they eat, the transport between farm and slaughterhouse, in packaging, sanitizing, and transportation to grocery stores. It is best to eat local chicken, as it has been dead for less time. I am iffy about the consumption of meat, as I do find it cruel, however I still eat it. I am obviously an imperfect and immoral human being. I assume that the chicken I eat travels roughly 100-300 miles on average.
Corn Tortillas: The main ingredient is corn! As mentioned before, monocropping is bad for the ecosystem, and corn is one of the largest commodity crops in the U.S. Most corn is grown on large scale corporate farms using conventional methods. Each plant is grown 6 inches apart from the next, and most farms use pesticides to avoid worm damage. About 75 percent of organic corn will have some worm damage in Pennsylvania. Corn is grown all over the place, but dominates states like Iowa and Nebraska. Corn travels a lot, as it is an additive in countless food products. I estimate that the corn in my tortilla travels an average of 1000-1500 miles.
Am I surprised by this? Not really, I am pretty conscious of my food consumption and the environmental impacts of shopping from large scale suppliers, who draw pretty much exclusively from large scale corporate farm operations. Do I want to reduce my food carbon footprint and mitigate the soil degradation caused by monocropping? Hell yes, but it is expensive. Our system is set up in a way that favors large scale agriculture and punishes small farmers. It also punishes consumers, making more nutritious, organic produce the more expensive option.