Lunchtime poll – sustainable food
September 13th, 2010
12:15 PM ET
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In the interweb food writing world, we have this bad habit of bandying about words like "sustainable," "free-range," "pasteurized" and whatnot without actually stopping and explaining what they mean.

Earlier today, we reported that Whole Foods will be launching a sustainability-rating program for the wild-caught seafood they sell. Sounds like a dandy thing, right?

We ask, because we'd like to make sure we're serving up the most useful info we can. An empowered shopper is a healthier, happier, better-fed shopper - and that's something we'd love to sustain. Stay tuned for our sustainability primer.

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Filed under: Buzz • Environment • Lunchtime Poll • Sustainability


soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Evil

    This whole concept is stupid. We figured out back in the ffiteen hundreds how to sustain our food production, we don't need to make it a buzzword for idiots.

    September 14, 2010 at 11:30 am | Reply
  2. Jeff

    It's a new green paradigm with sustainable synergy. Lots of thinking outside-the-box and going back to organic paper wrapping.

    September 14, 2010 at 8:23 am | Reply
  3. David Stude

    Just like so many other buzzwords that make a person think "green," "sustainable" is tossed around way too generously and seems to be to have been shrewdly adopted by marketing folks to replace other such words lean on meaning like "wholesome." Nobody wants to be unwholesome or unsustainable. I'm not sure if this truly an improvement over the days of ostentatious disregard for environmental impact. The bottom line here, I think, is if you rely on our economic system to stimulate real change in how we impact the environment, this bait-and-switch marketing speak is what we get. When we have an adequate language and idiom to start talking about environmental impact reduction and management, not just in academia, then we have a chance for real action.

    September 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  4. mac

    "butragging" should have been "but dragging"

    September 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  5. mac

    Fish farms at sea or in rivers certainly are not ecologically sound. The ones in river mouths present a disease and parasite problem to wild fish The ones at sea will require excessive fishing of little fish to feed the larger farmed species! This will larger wild fish, starve seals, and starve some kinds of whale. The farms will be huge and they will concentrate nutrients (fish poop) at each huge fish farm. Forms of fishing using book and line or trap may be sustainable with proper supervision, butragging nets on the bottom except for shrimp is probably is a terrible idea. The 'organic' label is an added problem in that wild fish usually do not qualify even if the fishery happens to be sustainable.

    September 13, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  6. Randy

    I only need to know what is in the food being offered for sale. If farm-growth fish are being fed something that has known detrimental side-effects in humans, I'd like to know about that. Other than that, I don't care whether this particular fish was caught by itself, or with two million other fish in a single day. Does it somehow change the food product I'm contemplating buying?
    You KNOW it will boil down to "sustainable" at 20 dollars a pound, and "all other categories" at 4 dollars a pound. Chemical analysis of the contents show will that both are identical for human consumption. Is it worth it to a consumer to pay 500% more just to check an environmental box in the back left corner of their brain? Take a poll on THAT why don't you? Probably because you the reporter doesn't want to hear those kind of answers.
    In this poll they neglected to add a pertinent answer: "perhaps might be interested to know, but don't really care." In other words it is highly unlikely to influence my buying decisions. In the absence of that option, I checked "don't know, don't care".

    September 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  7. KB

    Sounds like another buzz word – if you really understand agriculture and food production, you understand that often "organic" produce has been treated with larger amounts of more aggressive pesticides instead of the inorganic, engineered alternatives – also that chickens are not naturally vegetarian (see: eggs laid by vegetarian hens) and are more prone to disease, injury, and food wastage when kept in "un-caged" and "free range" situations... "sustainable" is simply another buzz word, we can't predict with accuracy what will or will not lead to depletion of a "wild" food source, or what technologies will make it cheap and easy in the future.

    September 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  8. AG

    In the begining there were natural and organic vegetables, free-range meat and other fresh foods. Then came the fertilizers and growth hormones and consumers were charged a premium if they did not want chemicals in their food. Now there is a new fad....sustainable! What are they going to charge extra for in the future??

    September 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  9. Cieje Valentine

    I refuse to believe that human behavior has any measureable effect on the planet's ability to support life. Al Gore's inconvenient "truth" religion is nothing more than another scam by a group of elitist crooks bent on reducing the human population to only half a billion!

    September 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Reply
    • April Christine

      are you kidding? you refuse to believe that human beings have any impact on the way that the earth will support itself? you surely must be either completely in denial or a BP executive. it is just this mindset that prevents any real action from being taken. Shame, shame.

      September 14, 2010 at 2:26 am | Reply
  10. questionauthority

    Best/Only solution. Population control.

    September 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  11. Grumps

    Sustainable Food is the food that will be eaten by our grand children if we haven't poisoned everybody by then with the stuff from the big Food Industry.

    September 13, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  12. SpacecoastR

    What an ironic photo to run with a story on sustainable resources.

    The National Marine Fisheries Council has closed red snapper fishing off the coast of Florida. Fishing captains report thick schools of fish on local reefs, but years and years of net dragging for shrimps and scallops have devastated juvenile snappers as discarded "by catch". The fish in this picture are all less than 20" and therefore under the legal limit.

    September 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  13. Howard

    Watch "Rebecca's Wild Farm", produced by the BBC. It is one of the best documentaries on this subject that I know of.

    September 13, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  14. BigBen

    This article would have been a great place to explain the sustainable food thing. I guess I just have one of those types of minds.

    September 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Reply
    • Randy

      Completely agree. That they did not, tells me they're just playing games with us. Or worse yet, they are assuming that the term is already so much in the common usage vernacular, that the ONLY thing that needs to be resolved is slightly differing perceptions of what it means. I'm not sure I'd ever heard the term 'sustainable' used in this context before seeing this article. Maybe it's only bandied about in environmental extremist circles.

      September 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  15. bailoutsos

    Soylent Green

    September 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  16. Dale

    Sustainable Hmmm English please.

    September 13, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  17. Shambala

    Sustainability has to be defined not only by ME, but also by the other environmental impacts that are usually looked in the process of say, sustainable fishing. For example; the Whore Foods store I visit claims that Iconian farmed shrimp is "sustainably caught". Whilst (Aren't we being fancy here) we all DON'T believe that farmed shrimp or fish is more sustainable, it can in fact, be even more detrimental to the environment. In the case of the Indonesian shrimp farmers (WHO CARES), they destroy swathes (FANCY PANTS AGAIN) of mangroves to create shrimp farms. Mangroves(SEXIST: WHAT ABOUT WOMANGROVES?) are a crucial element in the environmental life cycle, providing nurseries for young and protection of land aganist hurricanes (cyclones) and tsunamis. Shrimp farms (BORING, BORING) destroy these areas and deplete the nutrients so greatly that the mangroves cannot grow back. Harmed salmon consume more "energy" than they produce – ie: (CF. EG AND INC.) It generally takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. I won't even mention the high PCB levels found in farmed salmon. So – the question of "sustainable food" is much greater than the basic/obvious question of "how is something caught or harvested?"–SUCH PROFOUND WISDOM SS; DOES SS STAND FOR STUPID S@!?

    September 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  18. SS

    Sustainability has to be defined not only by the manner in which something is caught or harvested, but also by the other environmental impacts that are usually overlooked in the process of say, sustainable fishing. For example; the Whole Foods store I visit claims that Indonesian farmed shrimp is "sustainably caught". Whilst we all believe that farmed shrimp or fish is more sustainable, it can in fact, be even more detrimental to the environment. In the case of the Indonesian shrimp farmers, they destroy swathes of mangroves to create shrimp farms. Mangroves are a crucial element in the environmental life cycle, providing nurseries for young and protection of land aganist hurricanes (cyclones) and tsunamis. Shrimp farms destroy these areas and deplete the nutrients so greatly that the mangroves cannot grow back. Farmed salmon consume more "energy" than they produce – ie: It generally takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. I won't even mention the high PCB levels found in farmed salmon. So – the question of "sustainable food" is much greater than the basic/obvious question of "how is something caught or harvested?"

    September 13, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  19. Shambala

    Completely ridiculous poll!

    September 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  20. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    I know it's Monday, but lame poll. I'm a sour puss today, X).

    September 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • Evil Grin

      Maybe they should have opened with a story about eating a certain species into extinction. You're probably right, the term "sustainable" isn't something everyone understands, so people don't have much of an opinion on it. If they were given an example, I bet we'd have as heated a debate as whether or not to serve alcohol at a wedding. =)

      These polls are fun because absolutely everyone has an opinion on most of these subjects and are willing to debate. Loudly.

      September 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Reply
      • Truth

        Oh, for the love of all that is holy..."Free Range", "Organic", "Sustainable" and let's not forget "Green". It seems like the far left party of hate has a cliche for everything these days.

        Now JDizz does not have to feel like the sole sour puss today. FWIW, the Broncos could have played A LOT better yesterday.

        September 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Reply
      • deathbydonuts

        Seahawks dominated yesterday. Be prepared truth, Broncos are next.

        September 13, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Reply
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Eff you, donut. I'm salty about the Niners loss yesterday. >=(

        X)

        September 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Reply
      • deathbydonuts

        Sorry jDIZZ! Love the hawks. I also like Mike Singletary though. I like all the NFC West teams except Arizona, ofcourse I'm solely a seahawks fan. Its just that no one in the country cares about our division so I'm happy when someone recognizes us.

        September 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Reply
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        We played like ass after the half. I am now worried about the Saints game on Monday. I envision a well fought game, or we're getting blown out.

        September 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    • RichardHead

      Maybe we could get the 49ers to play the Boys this week and see if either team could find the damn football. 2 screwed up games this weekend. At least the Rangers won!

      September 13, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Reply
      • Truth

        I didn't know hockey started yet...

        September 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Reply
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Only got 4 game outcomes wrong this weekend. The Coyboy's game was one of them. =o I was surprised/happy.

        September 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  21. Evil Grin

    We can always use more information on it, always, and most people who say they are experts on this aren't. That said, I'm pretty confident I can at least explain the basics to someone.

    I personally find sustainability important. Very important. It's a shame that the subject isn't discussed more outside of chefs and environmentalists.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Reply

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