Food, food, food. Everywhere I turn there is a focus on food, with an emergence of so many food-related movements seeking to overturn the food industry both on the production and consumption side. When I was planning my 3rd wedding, I created a website for it and had to list different food types for all the special diets out there. Here are a few of the ones I remember having to list.
Carnivore – A person who eats meat (some people think of it as people who only or consciously eat meals with meats, hence the “need” or “impetus” for flexitarian)
Omnivore – A person who eats meat and non-meat foods
Vegetarian – Also known as a herbivore, a person who only eats plants, vegetables, and fruits. This person eats no meat. Some vegetarians do not eat eggs, some do. Some vegetarians will not eat from food cook in a pan or pot that was used to cook meat or from a plate that has meat on it or touched meat.
Flexitarian – A semi-vegetarian. This term has no one accepted definition. It’s a person who combines a vegetarian diet with occasional meat products. Some people say to me, “Is that what it is? Well, I do that naturally,” to which I say “I tend to think of it as a person who does this consciously. So because I consciously have days where I do not eat meat (vegetarian days) and days where I do, I would call myself flexitarian.”
Fruitarian – A person who diets on fruits, nuts, and seeds with no animal products, vegetables, and grains. Fruitarians are most known for being people who only eat fallen fruit. In other words, they do not want to do or eat anything that harms an animal or a plant, and picking fruit is considered harming the plant. Some think eating grans is unnatural. Some don’t eat seeds because it’s considered future fruit or plants. Some eat seeds after they have naturally fallen to the ground. It goes on and on. The first time I heard of the term was in the movie “Notting Hill.” Famous fruitarians include Gandhi and Idi Amin who both did it for a period in their life.
Pescetarian – A vegetarian who eats seafood, or a carnivore whose meat intake is only from seafood. Eggs are allowed in a pescetarian diet. The funniest thing about pescetarianism is listening to people pronounce the word.
Vegan – A person who eats no animals or products derived from animals. Technically speaking fish sauce, oyster sauce, animal milk, casein, lard, rennet, honey, and butter are not part of the vegan diet. Veganism is a larger category into which fruitarianism is a subset. One can be an ethical veganism which means you oppose the use of animal products for anything; this includes silk, fur, beeswax, etc. Or one can be a dietary vegan in which you oppose the use of animal products in one’s diet.
Freegan – This is my favorite. Ha ha! A person who eats anything free. Dumpster diving is a typical practice of freegans. Donald Miller lived a freegan lifestyle while working at a park for one summer, as noted in “Blue Like Jazz.”
Invasivore – A person who prefers to eat food from invasive plants and animals. This is a subset of the locavore movements since invasive species are local. Invasive species are species of plants or animals that are not native to a location, but have been introduced into a region and have a widespread, colonizing adverse effect on the habitat and life of other native species of plants or animals. They threaten biological diversity in the region they have been introduced. Good examples include some non-native harmful weeds, the yellow starthistle, and the kudzu vine.
Locavore – A person who prefers to eat locally grown and produced food. Hallmarks of this movement include the growing number of farmer’s markets in urban areas around Western Countries.
Slow Food Movement – the movement promoting good, clean, fair food through advocacy of traditional and regional cuisine local to each area. Such a movement would opposed the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome, for instance.
The types continue with gluten-free, ovo-vegetarian, etc. There are even labels on the types of eggs you can buy.
Free-range – label that is unregulated by any regulating industry for all foods except poultry. In the poultry industry in the U.S., it’s regulated by the USDA to mean that at least one period a day the door to the coop or pen is open for the birds to go out. However, if the birds don’t see it or don’t go out, the company still qualifies for the “free-range” label. So it can mean vastly different things from different companies. Moreover, nothing regulates when you start giving this access nor for the open door to allow more than one hen to exit at a time. In “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” the author describes visiting a free-range establishment in which hens were allowed to exit once a day starting at 5 weeks and they were killed at 7 weeks. He saw no hens exit during his visit to this particular farm.
Cage-free – the hens are not kept in cages. It means nothing beyond that. For instance cage-free hens are often kept indoors. Its’ true that cage-free hens may roam in an open area outside, but usually if you can you will take the best description that most promotes your product. So why not say you’re selling eggs from pasture hens or pasture-raised hens? The hens usually roam in a barn or poultry house on some floor operations. Cage-free says nothing about how the hens are treated.
Organic eggs – the hens have received no commercial fertilizers or pesticides, and the hens and eggs have received no hormones or antibiotics. But this says nothing with how the hens are kept.
Humanely-raised eggs – no regulated definition. One of the organizations that has risen to help create a definition, Human Farm Animal Care, requires the exclusion of cages, the inclusion of at least 1.5 sq ft per hen, and (for free-range hens) the inclusion of doors to the outside allowing more than one hen to exit at one time. Forced-moulting (when hens at the end of their egg-laying are denied food, water, and light to produce an extra session of egg-laying) is not allowed, though debeaking is.
Pasture or Pasture-raised eggs – The USDA describes it as "birds are raised outdoors using movable enclosures located on grass and fed an organic diet (without hormones or non-organic additives) and/or raised without antibiotics (drugs that are intended to prevent or treat animal illnesses)". But I am unsure whether this is regulated. I believe this is just a guiding description.
There are so many diet types, movements, and food diets that it can get confusing. I hope I gave you a few you may not have heard like invasivore which is relatively new. I decided recently that I need to educate myself about the food I prepare and eat. So I looked for books and documentaries dealing with food. Here are a few I found.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma –This is a well-researched book by author Michael Pollan who simply asks the question “What should we eat for dinner.” Pollan explores 4 different food paths/industries: industrial food (McDonald’s and similar companies), organic (eating a meal from Whole Foods), hunting/gathering food which shows Pollen gathering mushrooms and hunting actual pig for dinner. It’s really insightful (for instance showing the huge dependence of our food on corn), funny, extremely well written and researched, and it’s one you will enjoy.
Food Inc. – Directed by Robert Kenner, this film builds off of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Super-size Me,” it is co-produced by Participant Media as it explores how the goal of larger and fast production of food has resulted in enormous profits by a few companies while the health of consumers, the safety and health of animals, and the safety of workers in the assembly line is often overlooked. This documentary scared me because it showed how they were able to minimize the time it takes to grow a chicken to a suitable age and size to be killed for food. It also showed how they’ve increased the size of the chicken breast over the years and the horrible conditions in which the chickens are kept before killing them. It was quite sad. I’m sure there is some effect on the food you eat if the chickens undergo such stress in life. The worst part was showing how Monsanto has created a monopoly on seed supply especially through manipulative legal suits and revolving door policies in government. They have sadly pursued predatory litigious practices against farmers who happened to get Monsanto genetically modified seed blown into their field. It’s quite ridiculous. The documentary also shows how healthy food is more expensive than less healthy food which creates a dilemma for the poor. What freaked me out the most was showing how Monsanto uses viruses and bacteria to insert herbicide-resistant genes into our food.
Forks Over Knives – Written and directed by Lee Fulkerson, this documentary was the first time I understood of food as medicine. It attempts to show how many of the diseases (like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) we face are due to animal-based and processed-food-based diets. The scientists in this film have done studies that point to the conclusion that such diseases are almost always prevented, and in many cases reversed, by a plant-based, whole-foods diet.
Food Matters – Directed by James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch, this documentary talks about the foods we eat, the importance of whole foods and organic foods. One topic I heard of was how cooked food causes some internal rejection due to the cooking process, and the body must overcome this. I had never heard this. According to the movie, in order to avoid the rejection effect within the body a person must eat a diet with at least 51% of uncooked food. Some cultures do this naturally like Thai cultures, for instance. I suppose this thinking has spawned the food movement that dehydrates food as an alternative to cooking. One of the biggest points of the film is the use of food as therapy—nutritional therapy. In the US, it is illegal to open a business advertising nutritional therapy as cancer treatment. So many people go to other countries to seek alternative nutritional therapy as a cancer treatment. What was new to me (but made sense when I thought about it) is that poisonous treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy really seem to treat symptoms of cancer and not the root since a majority of people who see no trace of cancer after such treatments get the cancer again in the future. I don’t know the percentage of times nutritional therapy works, and it doesn’t work in every case (according to my friend) but the results were dramatic. I would like to see a scientific study (similar to that done in Forks over Knives) to see of the effectiveness of such a treatment.
Food Beware: The Organic French Revolution – This was my favorite of the movies/books because it showed a mayor taking action in his city. In this small French town, it was decided that the school canteen (cafeteria) would use all organic food production. It was interesting to see the movement and awareness grow in the town, the meetings between the school leader and the parents to acquire support. It was even very interesting to see organic farmers sit down with farmers that were non-organic. One falsehood expressed in that meeting is that it’s impossible to feed the world’s population with organic food. I believe this is false. I think it’s been shown that you can feed the current world’s population with sustainable organic practices. In any case, it’s never been tried. What was super scary was seeing the health problems that have arisen from the use of pesticides and herbicides. I’d never seen a farmer spraying it on his crops. The one they showed looked like an astronaut. He had to protect himself from the material he was spraying on the food! He actually said he would not eat the food he was growing and family members had experienced health problems which he attributes to the herbicides and pesticides. Other families had similar health problems. It’s a nice film that weighs in on nutrition, sustainability, and what can possibly be done in one town.