Conscious Eating

A Solution to Food Shortages, Climate Change, and Poor Health

Topping our latest list of challenges are impending food shortages, water shortages, climate change, pandemics, and poor health. “Conscious Eating” can help alleviate all of these challenges. Conscious Eating goes beyond eating nutritious and healthy foods to include the awareness of how our food choices impact not only our health, but agriculture, the supply chain, our environment, and our economy. The choices we make in our diet have a direct impact on our personal health and the health of our planet and society.

U.S. food prices have increased over 9.4% for the 12 months ending April, 2022, which is the largest increase in over 40 years.[1] According to the UN, worldwide food prices in February 2022 were 20.7% percent higher for the 12 months ending February, 2022.[2]

The food shortages and skyrocketing prices are being attributed to the following:[3]

· Ukraine-Russia War — Approximately 15% of global wheat production comes from Russia and Ukraine. Poorer countries in northern Africa, Asia and the Middle East that depend heavily on wheat suffering the greatest impact.[4]

· COVID-19 — The supply chain, border and economic shutdowns resulting from COVID-19 have caused a rippling effect, inflation and significant challenges for agriculture and food systems, processors and supply chain to recover.[5]

· Bird Flu — Over 28 million chickens and turkeys have died, been killed or quarantined since February, 2022 as a result of the bird flu.[6]

· Destruction of Major Food Processing Facilities — Interestingly, in about one month after the announcement by Biden and other world leaders that we should expect food shortages, over a dozen major food processing facilities were destroyed in such things as fires, plane crashes and explosions (e.g., April 21, 2022, General Mills Plant, Covington, GA, April 18, 2022, Azure Standard, Dufur, OR, April 13, 2022, Gem State Processing, Heyburn, ID, April 13, 2022, Taylor Farms, Salinas, CA, April 11, 2022, East Conway Beef & Pork, Conway, N.H., March 31, 2022, Rio Fresh Inc., San Juan, TX, March 28, 2022, Maricopa, AZ Food Pantry, March 24, 2022, Penobscot McCrum Potato Processing Facility, Belfast, Maine).[7]

· China Hoarding — China started hoarding grain no later than 2019 and by mid-2022, China will hold 69% of the world’s corn reserves, 60% of its rice and 51% of its wheat, according to USDA predictions.[8]

· Inflation, Oil Prices, Fertilizer, Ethanol and Grain Prices — Inflation affecting oil, chemicals, fertilizer, transportation, and energy prices has made it prohibitively expensive for growing, processing and shipping food.[9] U.S. energy costs have increased 30.3% in the 12 months ending April, 2022.[10] Since the costs of energy directly affect practically the entire supply chain including, production, processing, packaging, and transportation, the cost, availability, and accessibility of food has been significantly impacted. Again, the Ukraine-Russia War is being implicated in higher oil, gas and energy prices.

What’s not being discussed in major news media and by politicians as causes of food shortages are the impacts of years of (1) unconscious consumerism, (2) corporate-government corruption, (3) toxic and destructive agriculture and food industry practices, (4) costly, inefficient, wasteful and fossil-fuel-reliant supply chain and packaging practices, and (5) the destruction of forests, wetlands, oceans and ecosystems resulting in the acceleration of increasing climate disasters, leading to worldwide water shortages, droughts, and changing weather patterns affecting our ability to grow food.

Agriculture is a $5 trillion per year industry globally and the global food and grocery industry is an $11.3 trillion per year.[11] The agriculture and grocery industries respond to consumer demand. When we buy groceries, we vote with our dollars and $16.3 trillion has a lot of influence on our economy, corporations and governments. If we are looking to improve the health and the well-being of ourselves and our planet, it’s important that our diet choices balance not only personal health, but also the health of the planet and society. The more our food buying choices demand regenerative, organic, whole and plant-based foods, the more the agriculture and grocery industries will shift to providing regenerative, organic, whole and plant-based foods.

Commercial agriculture’s use of such things as chemicals, tilling, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and rodenticides has resulted in ecocide — the destruction and imbalance ecosystems including the contamination, erosion, and devastation of arable lands. Agricultural practices have also been a leading contributor to contamination forests, wetlands, and oceans resulting in desertification, drought, loss of species, and climate change. Also, the use of preservatives, artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, corn syrup, and trans fats found in many packaged foods may have made toxic food look more appealing and increased shelf-life, but has been implicated in many diseases including cancer, diabetes, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, dementia, metabolic disorders, obesity, and heart disease.[12]

As a result of hundreds of years of destructive commercial agricultural practices, our ability to meet the food demands of humankind has been negatively impacted. We are rapidly losing arable land and the land that remains is producing less food with lower nutritional value. To feed the growing global population, estimates suggest that food production must double by 2050.[13] Agriculture is one of the largest impacts on the environment. It has transformed habitats and caused massive loss of biodiversity. Of the 28,000 species evaluated to be threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List, agriculture is listed as a threat for 24,000 of them.[14]

Moreover, the food system accounts for 26 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions with livestock and dairy contributing to 68% of the total agriculture greenhouse gas emissions.[15] The livestock industry not only uses more land than any other human activity or industry; it’s also one of the largest contributors to water pollution and a bigger source of greenhouse-gas emissions than all the world’s trains, planes, and automobiles combined.[16]

With increasing demand for meat products, carbon sequestering lands and forests, such as the Amazon rainforest, are being denuded for cattle and livestock ranching. We are diminishing the ability of the planet to sequester greenhouse gases while increasing agricultural practices that significantly contribute to greenhouse gas. This is accelerating and exponentially increasing climate change, as well as significantly contributing to zoonotic diseases and pandemics, such as COVID-19.

In the NIH article entitled “The socioeconomic and environmental drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic: A review”, the author, states as follows:

“In recent decades, there has been an intensification of the socioeconomic and environmental drivers of pandemics, including ecosystem conversion, meat consumption, urbanization, and connectivity among cities and countries. The risk that such zoonotic outbreaks will then spread to become pandemics is magnified by growing urban populations and the networks of trade and travel within and among countries. The probability that a zoonotic pathogen will spillover from wildlife into livestock and human populations, as well as the scale of subsequent spread, are conditioned by a variety of socioeconomic and environmental factors. These include faunal abundance and diversity, climatic conditions, livestock production systems, human population distribution and densities, and the networks of trade and travel that connect populations.”

“The conversion of ecosystems, particularly through deforestation, agricultural intensification, and urbanization, increases the probability of interspecies transmission by expanding the interface of contact between wildlife, livestock, and people at the landscape scale. Furthermore, in such highly impacted landscapes, climate change is likely to exacerbate spillover risks (climate change is itself driven by greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and livestock growth, a fact that has been used to argue for societal shifts to less meat-intensive diets). For instance, it has been found that warmer temperatures prompt bats to leave forests for agricultural areas, where they are more likely to encounter livestock and people and therefore spread disease. Additionally, climate change may expand the habitat range of bats and thereby increase the range of pathogens they carry.”[17]

Among our many challenges is water shortages and drought. Livestock, especially commercial beef, tops the list not only for greenhouse gas emissions and environmental destruction, but for agricultural water consumption. This water could be used much more effectively to grow vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains. Here is a chart showing the water consumption for various foods [18]

The most obvious solution for the health of humankind and our planet is for us to adopt a whole foods plant-based diet rich in vegetables, low glycemic fruits, legumes and whole grains. However, much of what we prefer to eat depends upon cultural orientation, genetics, belief systems, conditioning and environment. For example, about 40% of the population of India is vegetarian largely because Hindus consider cows sacred. In the U.S., however, only about 3.2% of the population identifies as vegan or vegetarian.[19] As one of the largest consumers of meat in the world, the U.S. alone is responsible for billions of animals being inhumanely raised and slaughtered, as well as millions of acres of forests and other lands destroyed each year to satisfy the American craving for meat. In 2017, the U.S. meat industry alone processed 9 billion chickens, 32 million cattle and calves, 241 million turkeys, 121 million hogs and 2 million sheep/lambs into over 100 billion lbs. of meat.[20] Dietary habits often start by eating what is geographically available. For example, the native people of Alaska, Northern Canada and Greenland (e.g., Inuit, Iñupiat, Yupik and Aleut) eat primarily fish, seal, walrus and whale blubber, arctic berries, and caribou, and would not likely do well on a raw vegan diet. There are also many other cultures in the world whose dietary habits, developed over thousands of years, include consumption of animal protein, upon which they depend for survival, including cats, dogs, monkeys, lizards, horses, snakes, mice, rats, turtles, and rabbits.

A rich body of medical and epidemiological literature implicates excessive meat consumption as the principal risk factor in the development of a variety of lifestyle diseases, ranging from cardiovascular deterioration to many types of cancer. People who consume a diverse, plant-based diet, rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits are by far the healthiest individuals. Plant-based diets are associated with lowering overall mortality and ischemic heart disease mortality; reducing medication needs; supporting sustainable weight management; reducing incidence and severity of high-risk conditions, such as obesity and obesity-related inflammatory markers, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia; and even reversing advanced cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.[21]

While eating animal protein and dairy has become habitual in many cultures, research shows that excluding (or drastically reducing) meat and dairy is the single most impactful way for people to improve their health and reduce the environmental impact of eating meat.[22]

Having said the foregoing, there is also significant research, supporting that regeneratively pasture-raised grass-fed and grass-finished ruminants (e.g., beef, sheep and bison) and fowl can have a positive impact on our environment and, in significantly reduced amounts, our health. Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist, livestock farmer, and President of the Savory Institute, originated “Holistic Management” a whole-systems approach to managing resources. Savory advocates using bunched and moving livestock to what he claims mimics nature, as a means to heal the environment. Savory states that “Only livestock can reverse desertification. There is no other known tool available to humans with which to address desertification that is contributing not only to climate change but also to much of the poverty, emigration, violence, etc. in the seriously affected regions of the world.” Savory, who has been praised by both cattle farmers and environmentalists, believes grasslands hold the potential to sequester enough atmospheric carbon dioxide to reverse climate change.[23] Savory’s research supports that replacing industrial grain-fed beef with regeneratively grown grass-fed, pasture-raised, beef, could be a significant contributor to both human health and our environment. Savory’s regenerative system of Holistic Management, mentioned above, also recommends pasture raised chickens as part of the ecosystem for rebuilding grasslands and soil.

One of the greatest things we can do for our health and planetary thriving is to shift our food consumption to a whole foods, plant-based diet. If our health is genetically or environmentally dependent upon eating meat, we can reduce greenhouse gas emission and environmental destruction by significantly lowering meat consumption and only consuming regeneratively, humanely, pasture-raised, grass-fed, and grass-finished ruminants, fowl ,and dairy products. Although Conscious Eating would dictate that choose a whole foods, plant-based diet, if we choose to eat animal protein for reasons such as our individual health and or its accessibility in the area we live , eating regeneratively, humanely, pasture raised chicken or chicken eggs, instead of beef, would carry a lower environmental impact. While there is likely no such thing as a humanely slaughtered animal, at least those animals that are regeneratively and humanely pasture raised, not being shoved into overcrowded cages or pens, nor pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, are likely to live happier and healthier lives.

From the standpoint of resource consumption, fish and seafood may provide a more conscious choice than ruminants and fowl, but many fish are caught using trawlers and other environmentally harmful commercial fishing means. Also, many commercial species have been fished so heavily that they are currently on the endangered species list. These include Bluefin Tuna, Atlantic Halibut, Atlantic Cod, Chilean Sea Bass, Spiny Lobster, Shark, and Orange Roughy.”[24]

Also, several species of fish contain high mercury levels, which can create toxicity if eaten too frequently. The following is a partial list of fish and seafood mercury levels:

Furthermore, certain seafood taken from polluted waters may contain other toxins, such as polychlorinated biphenyl (“PCB”), hydrocarbons and pesticides. Farmed fish, although a conscious choice from the standpoint of renewability and conservation, are often raised in overcrowded and polluted ponds and forced to live in unnatural conditions in their own waste. Moreover, many farmed fish, especially farmed salmon, are fed unnatural and unhealthy diets and given antibiotics, resulting in toxic, nutritionally obsolete and energetically damaged fish. There are, however, some open ocean and sustainable fish farms that produce healthy fish with conscious methods. Oysters, shrimp, tilapia, sturgeon and catfish have been successfully and environmentally farmed, but it’s important to do the research on the source of your seafood.

By choosing fresh and local foods, we can reduce our carbon footprint and get better tasting, fresher and more nutritious food. Aside from disintermediating a toxic centralized supply chain that burns greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels, purchasing from local farmers also promotes a healthy local economy. Also, organic crops have been shown to have higher levels of phytonutrients than commercial crops.[25]

Many small organic farms use conscious practices that build high-quality soil that yields more nutritious food, as opposed to the destructive commercial farming practices that deplete and toxify soil and crops. Local farmers’ markets are great places to get wholesome, nutritious, fresh, organic foods at reasonable prices. If there are no farmers’ markets in your area, health food stores and organic grocers are the next best option. If you live in a “food desert,” online stores such as ThriveMarket.com and Amazon.com provide great services for the delivery of fresh, organic foods and products to your doorstep.

The organic certification is not perfect, but does provide a reasonable degree of assurance that the food was produced with higher organic standards and without harmful synthetic pesticides. While ethical organic farmers may have their crops contaminated by neighboring commercial farm crop dusting, the concentrations of harmful agricultural chemicals is generally much lower than commercially grown crops. As well, certain countries with corrupt regulatory practices may provide “organic” certifications to farmers that are not organic. While these corrupt practices do exist, it has been my experience that the quality and taste of organic food is generally much higher than commercially grown agriculture.

Aside from reasonable assurances of higher quality food and better health, when you buy organic, you are voting with your dollars. This creates market demand that incentivizes the agricultural industry to adopt ethical and responsible farming practices and for the grocery industry to carry organic products.

It is important to determine not only the ingredients of your food, but also the origin of your food, the methods by which it was produced, its sustainability and potential toxicity. Claims like “natural” or “pesticide free” are not regulated and do not provide significant assurances of quality.

This article is not about dictating a myopic system or dietary limitations, but rather about raising awareness so that we can make conscious choices in our diet and nutrition. Many people do not understand the choices they have or the impact of their choices. Most people have been culturally and unconsciously conditioned to eat foods that their parents and society taught them to eat. In many cultures, especially the U.S., these foods are not nutritious, healthy, natural or energetically aligned with their well-being.

People often tell me that eating healthy, fresh and organic foods costs too much money and takes too much time. A Big Mac currently costs about $5 and weighs about ½ pound. The salad bar at Whole Foods is currently $8.99 per pound. A ½ pound of the salad bar at Whole Foods costs less than a ½ pound Big Mac and is much healthier than the McDonald’s.

If we truly make our health a priority, we will make diet and nutrition a priority.

As Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, points out. . .

“While it is true that many people simply can’t afford to pay more for food, either in money or time or both, many more of us can. After all, just in the last decade or two we’ve somehow found the time in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money in the budget not only to pay for broadband service, but to cover a second phone bill and a new monthly bill for television, formerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more for better food is less a matter of ability than priority.

Clearly, certain food choices provide higher nutrition, enhanced assimilation, greater energy and are consciously and spiritually more evolved.

Of course lifestyle also plays a big part in dietary requirements. Someone who is a long-distance runner will generally need greater amounts of carbohydrates, whereas a body builder will require greater amounts of protein. A swami, who spends much of his day sitting in meditation, can do very well on a vegetarian diet.

Many societies on the planet have become addicted to white flour, refined sugar, caffeine and trans-fat, all of which promote microbial growth and disease. By eliminating or minimizing these products from our diet, we can make substantial gains in our wellness.

Below is a list to help you make more conscious and healthy choices regarding your diet and nutrition.

Top 10 Conscious Eating Guidelines

1. Make conscious lifestyle choices that provide the highest nutritional value and health benefits while balancing environmental, social and spiritual concerns with the following guidelines:

· Whole, unprocessed, and plant-based foods

· Raw rather than cooked whenever possible and safe

· Fresh

· Organic

· Alkaline/Alkalizing

· Nutrient dense rather than calorie dense

· Locally grown and sourced

2. Read the labels of the food you purchase. If the food has artificial colors, preservatives, artificial flavors, refined sugar, refined flour, corn syrup and chemicals that you cannot pronounce, put the product back.

3. Eat nutrient dense “superfoods,” consisting of fresh vegetables, low glycemic fruits, and foods high in antioxidants.

4. Engage in basic food-combining including

· Eat fresh low glycemic fruits by themselves and preferably in the morning.

· Eat proteins with vegetables

· Eat starch with vegetables

· Avoid mixing proteins with starches.

5. Eat for nutritional purposes rather than psycho-emotional purposes. If you are eating when you are not hungry or eating to mask an emotional craving (e.g., eating food when you are feeling lonely, bored, frustrated or angry), there is a strong indication that you’re eating is psycho-emotional.

6. Eliminate or significantly reduce consumption of red meat, pork, sugar, refined grains, desserts, soda, and alcohol, as well as processed and fried foods, particularly those that contain partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and refined sugar.

7. Substitute healthier choices for the foods you like. Here are some examples:

· Instead of drinking soft drinks full of caffeine and sugar, drink carbonated drinks that are organic and contain low glycemic sweeteners such as agave or stevia, or just drink carbonated mineral water with lemon, lime, ginger or other juices or extracts for flavoring. As well, coconut water and other organic fruit and vegetable juices are a healthy substitute for soft drinks, but can contain significant amounts of sugar.

· Rather than buying frozen or canned vegetables buy fresh vegetables.

· Eat fish low in mercury such as salmon rather than high mercury fish such as swordfish or tuna, as well as non-threatened renewable seafood such as shrimp and oysters.

· Substitute poached eggs, turkey bacon and an organic mixed green salad (or baked potatoes if you must) for the traditional fried eggs, bacon and hash browns for breakfast.

· Rather than eating a hamburger, eat a veggie burger (preferably without soy and wheat), or if you must, eat an ostrich burger, turkey burger, bison burger or only pasture-raised, grass-fed and grass-finished beef burger instead of an industrial grain-fed beef burger.

· If you desire baked goods, eat whole grain (or preferably non-grain) gluten-free baked goods rather than refined flour baked goods.

· Don’t eat GMO foods.

8. Engage in a cleanse or fast at least quarterly.

9. Graze throughout the day or eat 5 small (“portion-controlled”) meals rather than 2 or 3 larger meals. The lighter you eat the more easily your body can digest your food and convert it into useable energy. You may also want to engage in intermittent fasting by allowing at least 16 hours between your last consumption of food and your first meal of the next day (e.g., don’t eat between 8pm and 12pm the next day).

10. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Enjoy every bite.

By changing our diet we can change the world, improve our health and quality-of life, and reduce the destructive impact humans have on our planet.

[1] https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/food-inflation-in-the-united-states/

[2] Sources consulted include https://www.reuters.com/world/food-prices-hit-record-high-february-un-agency-says-2022-03-04/; https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/food-inflation-in-the-united-states/; https://www.heritage.org/agriculture/commentary/food-price-inflation-continues-worsen-heres-what-should-be-done-about-it; https://theblogginghounds.com/2022/03/14/the-biggest-global-food-crisis-of-our-generation-is-coming/; https://thewashingtonstandard.com/will-war-in-ukraine-trigger-biggest-global-food-crisis-weve-ever-seen/

[3] Sources consulted include https://freedomfirstnetwork.com/2022/04/top-7-causes-of-the-coming-food-shortages-in-america; https://news.yahoo.com/biden-warns-food-shortages-wake-011511879.html; https://reliefweb.int/report/world/global-report-food-crises-2022;

[4] https://uncoverdc.com/2022/04/22/food-shortages-and-food-processing-plant-fires-whats-going-on; https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/3/11/food-crisis; https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/war-ukraine-hurt-poor-nations-importing-grain-83387197

[5] https://fortune.com/2022/04/19/china-covid-lockdown-cripple-global-supply-chain/; https://www.statista.com/statistics/1225523/impact-of-covid-on-supply-chain-operations/; https://appinventiv.com/blog/coronavirus-effects-on-grocery-business/

[6] https://www.cnet.com/science/bird-flu-epidemic-egg-chicken-prices-soaring/

[7] https://uncoverdc.com/2022/04/22/food-shortages-and-food-processing-plant-fires-whats-going-on/

[8] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-01-05/one-reason-for-rising-food-prices-chinese-hoarding; https://www.foodprocessing.com/industrynews/2022/china-accused-of-hoarding-grain/;

[9] Sources consulted include https://www.crushthestreet.com/articles/precious-metals/fertilizer-inflation-and-a-supply-chain-crisis-begets-food-insecurity-part-2; https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2022/world-food-supply-threatened-global-fertilizer-shortage/;

[10] https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/food-inflation-in-the-united-states/

[11] Sources consulted include https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-food-grocery-retail-market; https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agriculture/brief/help-farmers-reach-markets; https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/food-grocery-retail-market

[12] Sources consulted include https://healthyious.com/harmful-food-additives-preservatives/; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29159583/; https://naturallysavvy.com/eat/7-scary-food-additives-to-avoid/; https://www.eatthis.com/worst-food-additives/

[13] https://www.futurity.org/food-production-2050-1368582-2/

[14] https://www.iucnredlist.org/resources/summary-statistics;

[15] https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food

[16] Sources consulted include: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2019/04/04/meat-and-agriculture-are-worse-for-the-climate-than-dirty-energy-steven-chu-says/?sh=120b7fa911f9; https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food; https://awellfedworld.org/livestock-climate-advanced/; https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02409-7; https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/11/1025271

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC7841383/

[18] Sources consulted include https://waterfootprint.org/en/resources/waterstat/product-water-footprint-statistics/; https://www.watereducation.org/post/food-facts-how-much-water-does-it-take-produce; https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/from-lettuce-to-beef-whats-the-water-footprint-of-your-food.html; https://88acres.com/blogs/news/water-footprint-of-seeds-vs-nuts

[19] Vegetarian Times, Vegetarianism in America, https://www.vegetariantimes.com/uncategorized/vegetarianism-in-america#targetText=The%20%E2%80%9CVegetarianism%20in%20America%E2%80%9D%20study,no%20animal%20products%20at%20all.

[20] NAMI, The United States Meat Industry at a Glance

[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466942/

[22] https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/01/28/the-biggest-future-trends-in-agriculture-and-food-production/?sh=6afea406107a; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

[23] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Savory#cite_note-1

[24] U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, ECOS Environmental Conservation Online System, https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/; Shilcutt, 10 Fish You’re Eating that are Endangers Species, Houston Press (2011), https://www.houstonpress.com/restaurants/10-fish-youre-eating-that-are-endangered-species-6439972

[25] https://organic.org/are-organic-foods-more-nutritious/; https://nutritionfacts.org/2017/04/13/organic-versus-conventional-which-has-more-nutrients/

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Mark Stephen Chasan

Mark Stephen Chasan

Mark Chasan is a lawyer, entrepreneur and financial advisor supporting regenerative communities and eco-social entrepreneurs to foster the Regenerative Economy.