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Making Healthier Food Choices for a Healthier Planet

by Wendy Nadherny Fachon

More and more people are making conscious food choices to help mitigate food insecurity, food price inflation and pollution caused by factory farming and industrial food production.  These same choices assure sufficient nutrition to preserve health and help prevent the development of costly chronic disease.

Over ten years ago, Michael Pollan published the eye-opening book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about food and where it comes from.  As omnivores, humans have a variety of food choices.  Among these are industrial food, organically-grown food and foraged food. Pollan investigates the environmental and animal welfare aspects of these various food systems, in hopes that his book will inform and encourage better choices.

Pollan artfully combines storytelling with fact.  The first seven chapters uncover the history of the industrial monoculture corn industry, tracing the corn from field and feedlot through to a factory-produced McDonald’s fast-food meal.  Pollan writes about how thirteen of the 38 ingredients used to make McNuggets are derived from corn, including the factory corn-fed chicken, the corn flour and cornstarch batter, and the partially hydrogenated corn oil.  He comments on how the growing and processing of the McDonald’s food required ten times as many calories of fossil fuel energy, compared to the calorie content of the food itself.

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, manufactured with natural gas, was introduced in the early 1900’s to boost corn production.  Pollan points out, “When humankind acquired the power to fix nitrogen [we’re talking synthetically], the basis of soil fertility shifted from a total reliance on the energy of the sun to a new reliance on fossil fuel… What had been a local, sun-driven cycle of fertility, in which legumes fed the corn, which fed the livestock which in turn (with their manure) fed the corn, was now broken.”  Synthetic fertilizer has come to be a major pollutant, which evaporates into the air, where it transforms into nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, and acidifies rain.  This mean industrial-based food choices have huge implications for climate degradation.

Beyond all this, anyone who takes the time to study the limited amount of nutrition information on McDonald’s packaging will find levels of fat ranging as high as 57 percent of the total calories and  sodium levels as high as 1380 milligrams for a single serving.  The dietary fiber content is typically ZERO.  The term “junk food” describes factory processed food that is high in calories, fat, sugar and salt, and low in dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  This food is junk, and it is unhealthy.

In contrast to factory-farmed poultry, free-range backyard chickens can be fed home-grown grains and vegetable scraps, and they can be allowed to forage for insects and plants, all of which improves the nutrient quality of their eggs and their meat.   Furthermore, free-roaming chickens distribute their nitrogen-rich manure in a most efficient and nature-friendly manner across fields and gardens.

In the January 2023 episode of the Story Walking Radio Hour, Wendy Nadherny Fachon talks with farmer Michael Mandeville, KNMFARMS, about the choice of self-sufficiency

In addition to holding down full-time corporate jobs, Mike and his wife raise chickens and turkeys, manage fish ponds and grow their own vegetables. They use old-fashioned tried-and-true methods to preserve their harvest as pickles, fermented vegetables, soups, sauces and whole meals. With decades of experience in farming and preserving, Mike is eager to tell his stories and share his valuable tips.  Tune into this episode, Backyard Farming for Self-Sufficiency

Listen to Story Walking Radio Hour with Wendy Fachon every Monday 9am & 9pmET on global syndicated Dreamvisions 7 Radio Network. Listen Live or Get our Apps Listen online, mobile, in cars and by asking “Alexa play Dreamvisions 7 Radio ”

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