February 27th, 2014
05:00 PM ET
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Do you try to eat ethically? Do you only eat local produce, using nothing that’s been transported via air travel? Avoid certain products or grow your own?

The concepts of eating ethically and watching where our food comes from are hot topics in the food world.

CNN’s forthcoming Freedom Project documentary examines the cocoa industry and the work undertaken to combat exploitation of workers throughout the journey from “bean to chocolate bar,” shining a light on the often challenging issue of eating ethically.

Broadly speaking, eating ethically can cover anything from vegetarianism to eating only local produce and boycotting products which are considered wasteful or exploitative.

iReport asked CNN readers if they think about where their food comes from.

Going local is "part of our culture"

In Kandi, Sri Lanka, Shari Atukorala said people are very conscious of their eating habits and maintaining a healthy diet.

"Most of the stuff we eat is home-grown vegetables, our staple diet is red rice or samba," she said. In the local market, most people try to avoid meat and fatty foods by purchasing fish and vegetables. Eating what is produced locally is part of Sri Lankan culture, which makes it easy to do. "That is what is mostly available here and what people eat."

Listening to my kids

In Wisconsin, Cindy Schultz credits her son, an organic farmer, for teaching her to be more conscious about what she eats and where it comes from. “If there are more than six or seven ingredients it's usually full of fillers and chemicals. If you can't pronounce it don't buy it,” she said he taught her.

“It takes a little more time and money to eat ‘consciously,’ but it is totally worth it. Just knowing you are taking in less chemicals gives you great peace of mind.”

She says she feels happy about her changing ways. “You CAN teach a couple of old dogs new tricks. Thanks, kids!”

Skipping the meat

Marie Sager has been a vegetarian since she was a teen. Her boys grew up with choices, but when Sager divorced and became a single mother, she found it more economical to skip the meat counter entirely.

“They had a lot of substitutions; I made lentil patties as opposed to hamburgers. Whatever I could do to save a few pennies,” she said.


“Gardening takes thought and planning, it takes work, but it also brings me satisfaction that I know what is going in the ground and how it is grown,” writes Andrea Broomfield, a culinary historian and English professor who maintains a large garden with her father-in-law.

“It has also fostered that kind of spiritual and emotional connection with another person, my father-in-law, and that connection brings me well-being, as does the food from the garden that we grow.”

How do you eat ethically? Share your stories in the comments.

iReport assignment: Do you eat ethically?

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Filed under: Animal Rights • Food Politics • iReport • Local Food

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Priyangi J

    "Kandi, Sri Lanka" is actually spelled Kandy, Sri Lanka.

    March 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
  2. Carn E. Vore

    First world problems.

    March 3, 2014 at 7:48 pm |
    • Maitre D

      What's your point?

      March 5, 2014 at 7:51 am |
    • Truth™

      Pretentious hipster...

      March 5, 2014 at 8:22 am |
  3. sagardener

    We live in Texas so we can garden all year long. We even plant vegetables in our front yard, Everything is organically grown. 80% of our organic vegetables are from our garden. There is nothing that tastes better than what you have grown. 10% of the time our vegetables come from the farmers' market & the other 10% comes from the grocery store but we make sure this is organic produce also. We eat only organic chicken & sea food, no beef or pork and half of our meals are vegetarian.

    March 3, 2014 at 10:15 am |
  4. M. J.

    I hunt. Venison is an all natural, organic, free range, humanely raised, GMO free source of lean animal protein.

    March 3, 2014 at 10:02 am |
    • Jon

      A lot of deer consume GMO corn but it won't hurt them or you.

      March 3, 2014 at 10:31 am |
    • Jan

      Kudos to you! Another meat source with similar benefits is pasture raised & finished beef. Where non-native pasture grasses choke out native species, well-managed cattle grazing is actually beneficial for land management, with the benefit of paying for itself when butchered.

      March 3, 2014 at 11:14 am |
  5. Serge Storms

    Any food you grow yourself will be fresher and probably taste better than store bought. And you'll know what chemicals, if any, were applied to it.

    March 3, 2014 at 9:19 am |
  6. Daily Dirt Mom

    We have a small garden, much of what we eat comes from our backyard. I don't support GMO nor the company pushing it onto us. GMO isn't needed to feed everyone.

    March 3, 2014 at 8:52 am |
  7. Cindy

    Good to see the Big Ag trolls are swarming over this article. Get a life.

    Also, technically those berries are Wineberries, not Raspberries. They are wild and in the same genus, but have quite a different flavor and are really delicious!

    March 3, 2014 at 7:33 am |
  8. poorstudent

    Too bad that all organic, all natural, vegetables and cage free, grass fed meats are so much more expensive than their cheaper, mass produced alternatives.

    Eating ethically is only for those with either the spare land and time or for those with spare money.

    March 2, 2014 at 7:02 am |
    • shawn l


      March 3, 2014 at 6:19 am |
  9. Michelle Name*

    Brown rice and medley of local fresh vegs
    Very often Green salads or cabbage salads with garbanzos or other beans and avocados combined! Delicious .
    Consume only Grass fed or free range chicken meat bought from local farmers only not more than once a week. Use lots of all kind of beans (black, red, lentils ect) in stews and salads as Mediterranean style diet calls for. Red wine for pleasure and avoid strong alcohol drinks.
    Make own butter from unpasteurized milk, use also virgin cocunut oil to sauté and best quality olive oil for salads. Make own bread from other flours than white. Coffee from "fair trade" approval. In summers grow own vegis with compost Produced by our own compost bin as fertilizer. Dont drink milk only rice/almond milk. Avoiding all bought cereals, Have filter for our water That's the way we eat doing our part. Buying only locally and seasonal Root vegs in autum making lots of heavy soups from them and freezing for winter..
    Any other suggestions?

    March 2, 2014 at 12:40 am |
  10. Thinking things through

    At home, I choose to cook meat from humanely raised, pastured animals. I don't push this on others, however - I'll eat what I am served at people's homes (unless it is nuts, to which I am allergic). I buy Trader Joe's Fair Trade coffees, and yes, Marcal's recycled paper product paper towels. I patronize several farmer's markets - but that is not entirely out of ethics (just somewhat), but out of a knowledge that the small time farmers I buy from have picked the veggies at most a day earlier, and the freshness really counts. I do try to buy sustainable seafood but I'm never good at that when picking items at a sushi bar. I'm not an idealist, just doing a little here and there, and I'm sure vegans would consider humanely-raised meat an oxymoron, but hey - they don't convince me. I consider my refusal of TVP consumption an ethical choice on my part, by the way. That's a "foodoid substance" that wasn't around on the planet 50 years ago, and I am so not up on being a human guinea pig.

    PS: GMO technology doesn't bother me. If we could promote more golden rice, or freeze resistant tomatoes, I'd be happy. It's the new ability to pump up the fields with massive more pesticides I'm not happy about, or a company that wants to sue individual farmers who inadvertently got their fields contaminated by trespassing seeds through no desire of their own, which really makes me want to shy away from ANYthing said company ever produces.

    February 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm |
  11. No thanks

    Whatever happened to eating what you want?

    This article is just promoting orthorexia. Google it if you don't know what it means.

    February 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
  12. Angela Jones

    I try to eat ethically by avoiding any foods labeled 'organic'. Although I don't oppose organic farming methods I feel that conventional farming and the use of GMOs is what is required at this time to provide equal food opportunities to lower income countries around the world. If a company advertises 'GMO free', 'hormone free' or antibiotic free' I will not purchase it. I want people to know there is a market for food from conventional farms and there is a need to keep food affordable around the world and for those that go hungry in our own country. I eat these foods and feed them to my family with absolute certainty that they are safe. As well we grow many of our own products and purchase from local farmers markets.

    February 28, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • Angela Jones

      Correction ** that was to read; if a company advertises 'organic, hormone free, antibiotic free'

      February 28, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • shawn l

      I agree. A voice of reason!

      March 1, 2014 at 3:39 am |
    • The Truth

      Angela, you are a voice of reason in a world of misplaced self righteous ignorance. I have to put "ethically" in quotes because everything the article discribes as ethical has absolutely nothing to do with ethics. All the rainbows and unicorns in the magical world will not make food affordable if it is all grown the way the author wants it to be.

      It is clear these people do not do basic research, but just spout off on their agenda. For all the issues in today's mass produced food it is actually healthier then it was 100 years ago. Back before required FDA labels and enforcement anything and everything was used as fillers, one common ingredient back then was sawdust. Not to mention what they could use as pesticides back then. The worst food in the U.S. today would have been a high class health food back in the early 1900's.

      Also these people do not understand a basic conept about carbon foot print (even though they think they are experts on lowering it). Most of a farm's carbon foot print is in the basic infastructure to maintain a farm, regardless of size. So one large mass production farm actually has less of a carbon foot print than dozens of smaller farms producing "ethical" food. That's right, that head of organic cabbage that has very marginal advantages in nutrition has about 3 or 4 times the carbon foot print as a mass produced head of cabbage. If you think I am making stuff up, it can be explained by basic economics. Why does "organic" food cost more? Because it costs more to grow it. Why does it cost more to grow it? Becuase they have to use more resouces to grow it, using morer esources increases carbon output. See easy. If people still don't believe me, then do some basic research from nonbias sources.

      March 3, 2014 at 10:12 am |
      • HippieMountainMan

        It appears that you have not done sufficient research on this subject, and have therefore made some ignorant assumptions about why organic food costs more. I worked on an organic farm last year, and consuming more is not a reason why organic food costs more. One of the main reasons is because more manual labor is required since organic farms don't use synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Also, I think you need to do some research on what carbon footprint actually means. Have you considered the pollution caused by the fuel used in producing large mono-crops? How about the pollution caused by synthetic chemicals polluting water systems? Or how about the pollution caused by producing nitrogen rich soil? Obviously it's you who has not done research on this subject.

        March 3, 2014 at 10:47 am |
  13. KRAgphd

    Is this article suggesting that being vegetarian is on the list of things you must be to "eat ethically"?

    February 28, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • Good Grief

      The article also does not mention drinking water or brushing your teeth. Therefore yYou should immediately cease both practices to be considered ethical.

      February 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
      • Thinking things through

        You might do well to re-read the article?

        February 28, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
    • lisa

      yes, because that's true. it takes far fewer resources to eat meat-free.

      March 1, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
      • Carn E. Vore

        For every animal you don't eat I'm going to eat three.

        March 3, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
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