Sustainability is widely accepted as the goal of modern responsible agriculture. Companies are seeing the importance of creating a more future-focused, responsible model for agriculture, and consumers are more discerning and more educated than ever. “Well, great!” you might say. But what does that really mean for our health and environment? Sustainability has been proven to have far reaching effects in both the health of our planet, as well as the health of the human race, but what, specifically, are the benefits of sustainability?
Sustainable Livestock Husbandry revolves around pasture-raised animals. Pasture-raised livestock roam freely around their natural habitat, grazing on naturally occurring food, free from synthetic additives. Environmentally, pasture-raised animals rely less on fossil fuels by eliminating the need to transport feed. They also reduce the need for grain needed, which helps to maintain soil quality. Nutritionally, studies have shown that pasture-raised animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy, are lower in calories and total fat, higher in vitamins, more flavorful, and more balanced in omega-3 and omega-6 fats. When you consider the alternative, sustainable livestock is the clear choice. Industrial livestock are typically raised on large feed lots, with GMO feed, and kept in either very small cages, or packed into overcrowded barns.
Sustainable crop production focuses on avoiding unnecessary damage to the environment. Multicropping is a method of rotating the type of crop that is grown on a certain piece of land, which leads to increased yields, decreased pest susceptibility, and increased biodiversity. Sustainable farmers use methods such as multicropping, minimal pesticide use, and no-till soil preparation methods to ensure a very small environmental impact. As consumers, we have a duty to be aware of the source of our produce, and support sustainable farmers whenever possible.
“How do I best support sustainable farmers?” you might ask. A great first step is to buy local produce. No, not all local produce is sustainably produced, but if you immerse yourself in the “Direct-to-consumer” market, you are much more likely to find great sources of delicious, nutritious, sustainably-produced food. “Direct-to-consumer” refers to distribution systems that cut out the middle-man. Farmers’ markets, CSAs, or on-site farm stands are great ways to buy directly from your local farmers. There is also a growing “Direct to Retail, Foodservice, and Institution” market, which encompasses programs that take food directly from growers to grocery stores, restaurants, and other food suppliers. Buying local produce promotes relationships with local growers, a great way to stay informed and to get involved in the community. By buying local, you’ll not only be supporting your local economy, but you’ll also have some surprising health benefits as well. Locally-produced food is shipped in much smaller quantities, reducing the opportunity for transmission of food-borne diseases. In addition, some locally produced food has been shown to have greater nutrition content, as many of the larger, industrial producers operate under a rule of “quantity over quality.”
Perhaps the most important way to ensure that you are supporting sustainable agricultural practices is to do your research. Not all locally produced food is sustainable, just as not all globally produced food is nefarious. Have a conversation with your local farmers, or read up on global suppliers! And if all else fails, you certainly can’t go wrong with a back yard garden. The KOR family understands that the concept of “you are what you eat” is a very real one, and one we hope you will take to heart!