Sunday, January 22, 2012

TEDx Comes to Louisville - Part 1

Yesterday, Mr. What I Gather and I had the pleasure of attending the local viewing party for the TEDx event, Changing the Way We Eat. Straight from the TEDx website, "TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event." I am going to break my recap up into a few posts so it isn't too overwhelming, but I apologize in advance for the long posts. This information is definitely worth sharing.

Fight for me!
(image via Gareth Weeks)
Louisville's SOLD OUT viewing party was held at the Main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay for all three sessions (running and grocery shopping got in the way), but you didn't have to be there long at all to feel inspired to change the way you eat or continue to support local, ethical, responsible farmers.

Growing, cooking and eating food is so much more than just soil and shovels or pots and pans. Food is community. It is family. Most Americans are so far removed from where their food originated, we don't think about the chicken that provided those delicious, plump (usually oversized) chicken breasts for us. We don't think about where those tomatoes came from and how they are able to be produced during the frigid winter months.

We should be thinking about these things. This is not one of those cases where ignorance is bliss. This is scary stuff people and we, as consumers, have the ability to spark change in the food industry.

The first speaker we heard from via webcast was Dr. David Wallinga. He spoke about the antibiotic resistant bacteria that is lurking in most conventionally raised animals. We learned that, based on a 2009 study, 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are used in conventionally raised farm animals and their feed. That is 29 million pounds of antibiotics, most of it totally unnecessary. The bacteria in these animals are growing more and more resistant to those antibiotics, which means if the bacteria is passed on to us, it is even tougher to get rid of (salmonella, anyone?).

The reason these practices are allowed by the FDA is because of the horrific conditions these animals are raised in. Just search for "factory farm chickens" on Google and you will see what I am talking about. Because these animals are raised in such close quarters and basically live in their own waste and among other sick or dead chickens, they are pumped full of antibiotics or given antibiotics through their feed to keep them healthy until they are slaughtered. It has been shown that the majority of conventionally raised meat has some form of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love chicken. I love beef. I love pork. But I love it a lot more knowing that it was raised humanely and without antibiotics. Mr. What I Gather and I are very lucky to have access to local, pasture raised, antibiotic free, grass fed animals through Grass Corp and Foxhollow Farm. We try to get all of our meat and eggs through these two sources, though we sometimes use other local sources, as well. And what we can't buy local, we at least try to find the most natural option possible. We know we can't always be perfect. We just do what we can. And that is something we can all do.

If you want to learn more about antibiotics in animal feed and other critical food system issues, visit Dr. Wallinga's site, Healthy Food Action. You can sign up to receive information about how you can help limit the amount of antibiotics used in food animal production and other opportunities to help change the food system in America.

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