Get to know Chef Gerard and check out the recipes he has created using palm fruit oil, a healthy oil used for cooking that won’t raise your cholesterol!
What is Sustainability?
Sustainable agriculture is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.
In 1990, the US government defined sustainable agriculture in Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1683, as “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term, satisfy human food and fiber needs; enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends; make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”
The power to guide popular taste:
Possibly the most important contribution that we can make is to help guide popular tastes. Many of the fish that are most in jeopardy are the most popular fish on fine dining menus (think cod, bluefin tuna, flounder, and Caspian caviar, to name a few). As a community, we must decide that it is no longer fashionable to serve fish that cannot sustain the quantity we demand. It is irresponsible to think that our customers’ palates supersede issues of environmental sustainability. We need to establish and celebrate the value of the unique flavors of fish that can be sourced responsibly.
Over 60% of the seafood sold in America is eaten in restaurants. This number reinforces what we already know: that restaurants have a huge impact on consumer taste. So what can we do in our restaurants to help? We must educate ourselves on the issues – both the problems and, most importantly, the solutions. There are many organizations, such as Passionfish which provide accurate information on the status of fish stocks that we can use to help make responsible decisions. There are many fisheries that can provide delicious and sustainable seafood to our restaurants – though it takes a little extra work to find and source from these areas of the industry.
Food is one of our three basic human needs, yet we’re spending a smaller and smaller portion of our income on what we eat. Forty years ago, Americans spent 18 per cent of our income on food and only five to six per cent of our income on health care. Now Americans spend nine per cent of our income on food (the lowest proportion in the world) and 16 to 18 per cent of income on health care.
I find arguments against the sustainable food movement hard to swallow.
Still, some people question the merit of paying more for food just because it’s produced close to home or without the use of chemicals, antibiotics and hormones. Let me address some common questions surrounding sustainable food.
What qualifies as sustainable food?
Food choices are not black and white. Organic isn’t always better. Local isn’t always better.
“More than anything, it’s about starting to pay attention,” Consumers should inform themselves as to what choices are available and to make the choices that work sense for them.
Why does sustainable food cost more?
“We are not fully understanding our food systems,” To produce large quantities of food cheaply, companies look for economies of scale, using chemicals to control weeds and pests instead of more labour-and space-intensive organic options and often packing animals into very crowded spaces.
The cost of this cheap food trickles down in many ways, including food safety issues (14 Americans die every day as a result of food-borne illness); increased use of antibiotics (more than half of all antibiotics used in North America are fed to livestock and 90 per cent are administered to make animals grow faster, not to treat infections); and water pollution (The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates agriculture is responsible for 70 per cent of the country’s water pollution).
“These things have to be important to you in order to get past the price you pay. “We seem to have no problem paying $50 for Internet each month and $80, $90, $100 for a cellphone each month, so why do we want to pay the least possible for food?”
“We can’t seem to make the connection on a broad scale between food and health. Yes, we eat cheaply and poorly, but it adds to this incredible health expenditure on the other end.”
As a chef, I am always researching foods that are not only sustainable, but are exciting, nutritious and taste great. After all no matter how great it is, if people do not like the taste it will not sell no matter what it is.
Chef Gerard Viverito, is an culinary instructor as the Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, a NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas. He is also operator of Saveur Fine Catering.