Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Eating-The food we eat and choices

So, Helene posted a question and while inherently I knew the answer it set me digging. The question is why is eating at home better for the environment?

Off the top of my head I could think of half a dozen reasons why I want to eat home meals more often.

Some are budgetary, some are based on ecological concerns.

Eating out for lunch every day costs my husband around 150 a month. Small beans for some-big beans (beans being the euphemism for $) for others. Eating out 2 days a week for lunch would save about $100. This assumes you are only spending between 7-8 per meal, it is very hard to find a lunch in downtown Singapore for less than $7.

Second, the types of food available inexpensively for lunch are at best semi-nutritious and at worst filled with trans-fats, sugars, un-heatlhy carbs and other goodies that the McD's of the world fill our stomachs with. Eating food prepared at home can be more nutritious by simply using fresh ingredients.

Third, the Chain type lunch restaurant has never been very good in terms of environmental practices. They buy the produce at the lowest cost-not the best produce. This often means using poor land by poor farmers using soil depleating farming methods that will burn through the soil in less than 5 years, or buying from the huge multi-corporate farm that is backed by the petrochemical fertilizer industry.

Chain type restaurants ship product around the world at enormous costs in terms of fuel consumption and environmental impact. Potatoes for example are shipped from Washington State to Singapore(and apologizes in advance to my friend who works for the Washington Potato Commission) it is not ALWAYs, and I say this from my Ag Econ degree earned 20+ years ago, healthier or more cost efficient to ship products around the world. Adam Smith was part right but not entirely.

Next, if you have eaten in a local hawker center you can see the amount of waste generated by eating out. People use napkins and leave them on the ground. People use plastic bags and at best toss them into a trashcan to be taken out to landfills in our oceans.

Eating out tends to promote eating higher on the food chain. Now I am an avowed omnivore. I love my meat, but I admit way too much meat is consumed and it is not always the healthiest types. While I don't always agree that the consumption of grains will automatically reduce our footprint (depending on the grains we consume and where we get them from...) it is true that a diet filled with more meat will tax the environment more than one filled with vegetables.

Eating at home also gives us the ability to eat organic. I can only count on one hand the number of organic restaurants in Singapore, and the few that exist are expensive.

So, those are my quick answers. Now- as a former aggie and an economist at that, I have always been fascinated in the production of food. I scream at my computer screen when I read people who write that selective breeding of crops and animals is the same as genetic engineering. NOT TRUE... but I digress.

I started a quick search on line today for resources and books that talk about the environment, politics and the food choices we make. Here are a few links. I am going to go down to the library and am going to re-read a few of these and reserve a few I have not yet read.

Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation

John Robbin's Diet for a New America- A classic must read. While it turns many over to vegetarianism- I still eat meat, it still is a very important read.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

Diet for a small planet- Another classic book.

Plus here are a few links about diet and our food choices.

Politics on our plate

A book review of the Ethics of what we Eat by Peter Singer

An interview with Michael Pollan, author of the omnivore's dilemma

Oh and PS to those Compactors reading the links to Amazon are for your reference only I am not advocating purchase of these books ;-)

Don't you love questions that get you spinning and make you want to learn more? I do!


Noix_coco said...

Thanks for the long answer! But I am surprised by some points. Indeed I eat out everyday, 4 days a week for lunch and it never costs more than 4 dollars! Where do u eat?! I eat with my colleagues in the normal kopitiam. Then the food is not great but at least not processed.
I never take plastic bags (I bring mine)if I take away the food. We eat in plastic plates, that they wash.
When you buy your groceries it is the same, you can bring your plastic bag or bags.
Eating organic is too expensive here, in France it was possible. And I prefer local rather than Organic from Australia...
I found your points interesting, will read again ASAP.

L.L. Barkat said...

Loved The Omnivore's Dilemma!

Kristy Harris said...


Thanks for your comments. My husband doesn't like the Kopitiam food as it is very high in Transfats and other saturated fats, so he prefers fresh salads and sandwitches. This goes to really prove the fact that I need to just get off my behind and help him get lunches ready for those mornings that he is busy.

I agree with you on Organics if you buy from the store, but there are a number of local farms that will deliver fresh veggies to your door if you are interested. Price is a bit more than the store, but not lots more.

Kristy Harris said...


I just checked out the Omnivore's Dilemma at the library yesterday. I am already a third through. As an old Aggie I am just so dishearted by the spread of mono-crops and the lack of diversity in farming these days. Ah, someday I will be back on a small farm and can grow my own food!

Thanks for the comments

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