Have you ever had to say “I am sorry” for the food you eat? I mean sorry not because you took the last piece of cake, but sorry for the food itself? The more we learn about today’s industrial food systems the more we discover how much there is to be sorry for. So much of what we eat, so much of what we feed each other, is manifestly unhealthy for us. Rates of obesity and diabetes among our children are reaching SuperSize proportions. Roughly 70% of Americans are overweight.
Our animals, plants, and fields are not doing much better. Our desire to have a lot of cheap food means that we pump our soils and the flesh of chickens, pigs, and cows with artificial fertilizers, highly toxic herbicides, steroids, and antibiotics. Many of these animals grow so fast and in such stressful and miserable conditions that many of them could not survive past their appointed slaughter dates.
Our eating does not need to be this way. Farmers exist who treat their fields and their animals with care and compassion. These farmers respect the integrity of animals by treating them as creatures of God rather than economic units that exist to bolster the bottom line. They practice farming methods that enhance natural fertility and preserve water and soil.
Churches need to support these farmers by buying food from them. Imagine what it would be like if Christians across North America were to insist on healthy food produced in a just and caring manner. If they did we would be able to look at each other, look at our animals, and look at our fields, and no longer say “I am sorry.” Instead, we would be able to say, “Thanks be to God.”
Norman Wirzba, Ph.D.
Research Professor of Theology, Ecology and Rural Life
Duke Divinity School