Local & Humane
Eating local and humane is not something to do overnight. To quote Peter Singer, “Food is an ethical issue, but you don’t have to be fanatical about it.” Don’t feel defeated because everything you eat and/or buy isn’t local. Start small. Visit a farmer’s market. If that’s enough, that’s enough. If you decide you want to do more, do it. But don’t feel like you’ve got to do everything just because you want to do something. Eating local and humane should be fun! Your home may seem far from the bucolic scenes of America’s farms, but farmers will (and do) work hard to bring the farm to your table.
*Like most things, this list is in process (a *very* early stage in its process). If you have a favorite haunt that supports local, organic, and/or humane practices, please shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this page.
Find Stuff Online
- The Local Beet: Chicago (Lifestyle, Education, Local Food) – The Local Beet is helpful for, well, everything (in Chicagoland). They list CSAs, famer’s market, and host several blogs on local eating and local eating events.
- Market Maker: Semi-National, Illinois (Local Food) – Market Maker helps you find restaurants, farmers, farmer’s markets, food retailers, processors, wholesalers, winerys, and agrotourism all across the state. Their site is updated often and provides a pretty darn compressive, interactive map to help you find what you need to find.
- Local Harvest: Nationwide (Local Food) – Local harvest is an amazing tool for finding local food near you. Find family farms and CSAs using their interactive maps and listings.
- Eat Well Guide: US & Canada (Local Food and Services) – Final local farms, markets, restaurants, and “more.” Search by keyword, zip code, or city/state. There were 365 listings 20 miles within my zip code! Very cool. Listings ranged from bakers and caterers to coops, education, farmers, organizations, restaurants, wholesale, butchers, coffee shops, CSAs (only 3), farmers, online shopping, personal chefs, and stores.
- Eat Wild: US & Canada (Local Animal Products) – Eat Wild specializes in ethically and environmentally sound sources for animal products. Here’s their criteria.
- EatHumane.org provides really detailed, useful information on how to choose and where to buy humanely produced animal products. You can even print up a pocket food-guide and grocery store rankings!
- www.healthy-eating.com is a great place to get difficult to find animal product substitutes (egg replacers, etc.) delivered to your door.
Year Round Farm to Market
- Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand 66 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL, 60602. M-F 11am-7pm, Saturday 11am-
4pm, 312.742.8419 Downtown.Farmstand@cityofchicago.org
- This store rocks. It can be hell trying to find local wheat, local mustard, local anything really. Almost everything CDF sells is local. Here’s what they say: “Local doesn’t just mean locally grown – in addition to sustainably grown fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in season (including many organic items), Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand features a broad selection of edibles produced throughout the region.” Shop here for veggies (selection is limited and small, but good), grains, spices, sauces, meat, eggs (free range, not cage free!), cheese, milk, honey, baked goods, intelligencia coffee, convenience food, and ghost peppers! Here’s a list of their suppliers.
- Green City Market 2011-2012 May 4-October 29: South end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton, Wednesdays & Saturdays 7:00am-1:00pm; November through December 21st: Saturdays at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s Eco-Lot on the north side of the Museum. January 21st through April: Saturdays in Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s South Gallery.
- GCM is a nonprofit which boasts itself as “Chicago’s only truly ‘green’ farmer’s market, supporting and promoting local, sustainable agricultural practices.” In sum, GCM only sells locally and sustainably produced items (here’s a list of their farmers). They also boast (though there appears to be no official certification, as is often the case with small local farms) that they “treat animals humanely and strive to preserve the soil, water, and wildlife habitat of future generations.” What you will find here, in terms of variety, is similar to that of a conventional famer’s market (in the order in which they are listed by GCM): pork, bread, cheese, maple syrup, goat cheese, honey, beef, fruit, confections and baked goods, flowers, produce, eggs, lamb, flowers, herbs, apple cider, elk, chestnuts, milk, cream, tamales, berries, cheese, butter, walnuts, and pasta. Sheesh! Who needs a big box? Except, of course, we’re missing rice and flour here. Try Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand for that!
- Farmer’s markets make it easy and fun to eat local (and sometimes humane too!). They’re so fun, they are sometimes referred to as the local eating gateway drug. :) These markets generally run from May or June through September or October.
CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
- A CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, works like this: you buy a share in a farm’s crop for a growing season; this is usually paid in a lump sum, but many farms (like Harvest Moon) will work with you on this. Once you’ve bought your share, each week the farm delivers a share of their crop to your chosen drop-off location. You take it home, eat it that week, and get a new share the next week.
- This is an amazing way to eat. It takes all the work out of eating seasonally, locally, organically, and ethically (if you pick the right farm). My experience with a CSA has alerted me to the presence of a whole new world of vegetables and spices. Each CSA is different, but they have the potential to deliver eggs, milk, cheese, vegetables, fruit, herbs, meat, and more. Some CSAs (like Harvest Moon) will even allow you to buy a second share for October-November/December to help you get a little bit more out of the growing season.
- I’ll go ahead and put in a plug for Harvest Moon Farms, the CSA that I use. They’re friendly, available, and offer a wide range of pick-up locations. If you’re in Chicago and on the south side, CSAs will be harder for you to work with, but it’s doable. I have friends on the south side who take the train downtown and pick food up there.
Big Box Stores
- Whole Foods. Whole foods may not be perfect, but if you have to shop big box, shop here. They are ranked highest by WSPCA (Trader Joe’s rated sixth).
- Animal Compassion: If you must eat meat and you must shop big box, then go for whole foods. They refuse to sell foie gras and tethered veal, have established an “animal compassion foundation,” and “animal compassionate standards.” Best of all, WF has implemented a 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system which uses “independent, third-party certifiers” which rate the facility on a scale of 1 to 5. Step One ensures “no crates, no cages, or crowding,” Step Five+ ensures that “animals spend their entire lives on one farm.” You can get more specific information on this program here.
- Sustainable Seafood: Whole Foods carries, “wherever possible,” Marine Stewardship Council Approved seafood. This is such a difficult thing to find! If you must eat seafood, unless it’s from another trusted source, only eat MSC certified seafood (which WF sells).
- “Whole Trade”: While much of the food sold by WF may not be fair trade certified (though certainly they offer a wider range of fair trade foods than Walmart, Dominick’s, and Jewel), they have implemented a labeling scheme called “Whole Trade.” The guidelines are unclear and general (and so less reliable in terms of ensuring food was ethically traded), but here they are: these products must meet our high quality standards, provide more money to producers, ensure better wages and working conditions for workers, utilize sound environmental practices.
- Local: All produce (and certainly not most products) at Whole Foods are not local, but some are. Stores like Dominick’s and Walmart often consider California to be “local,” Whole Foods has established its own definition: it has to have traveled less than a day. Thjs may not be perfect, but it’s not bad either. Whole Foods is also interested in organic foods—much of their produce is organic, but certainly not all of it.
- Dairy – When concerned about animal welfare, always by organic. Still, some brands are better than others.
- Organic Valley. You can read more about their animal care program here, but suffice it to say that when in need of dairy, this a brand you can feel better about than, say, Horizon, which is more of an organic factory farm with only some of their cattle living in acceptable positions. Still, as a general rule, if you are concerned about animal welfare, organic–no matter what brand–is better for farm animals than not, by a long shot.
- Meat - When concerned about animal welfare, always buy Certified Humane, American Humane Certified, or Animal Welfare Approved. These terms also mean something in relation to animal welfare, but not as much: cage free (ok), free range (much better), grass fed, pasture raised, USDA organic. For more specific information in regard to these labels, click here.
- Niman Ranch. Niman Ranch is a cooperative of several smaller farms that worked with the Animal Welfare Institute to develop standards, much in the same way as Whole Foods. Recommended as a good choice by Peter Singer in The Ethics of What We Eat when consuming animal products, you can purchase their products at Trader Joe’s, other stores, and online!
Brands & Labels to Avoid
I won’t say anything or get gruesome on you. I’ll just list them, but as a general rule, if concerned about animal welfare, anything without the language above should be avoided. :)
- Pilgrim’s Pride, KFC, Walmart, Tyson Foods, Butterball, ConAgra, “Animal Care Certified,” United Egg Producers… More to come.
- “The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter,” Peter Singer. An imperative and informative look at where our food comes from and how to do better.
- “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” Barbara Kingsolver. An inspiring look at one year in the life of a locavore.
- “What to Eat,” Marion Nestle. A guide to food on topics like: labeling practices, nutrition, bottled water, vitamins, fair trade, pesticides, etc.
Coming Soon: Trader Joe’s, Wild Oats, Chipotle, What to do in Winter, Glossary of Terms and Labeling Specifications, and More!
**I am in no way affiliated with or compensated by any of the businesses and/or organizations listed above, nor am I interested in promoting or advocating for any particular organizations or producers. These recommendations come as a result of my own research and the research of the authors listed above.