Thoughts on Ethical Eating

Farmers Market Bounty

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about food. Iโ€™ve been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (an inspiring book about a family who chose to eat only local, seasonal produce for a year) and I’ve been listening to local ABC radio a lot (I realise that makes me sound about 197 years old but my mum always has it on and I secretly quite enjoy it!) so I keep hearing the terribly sad stories of Australian farmers struggling to survive. Though I’m always quite mindful of what we eat and where it comes from I’m realising now, more than ever, how important our food choices are and how badly the current system of food production and distribution is failing us. All of us.

Animal Vegetable Miracle

In our increasingly urbanised society, many of us are so far removed from the sources of our food, we simply have no idea how our choices affect our famers, the animals we share the planet with, our environment and even what’s on our own plates. We need food so we go to the supermarket and we buy it, without much thought for how it got to be there. That’s a real shame because the reality is, much of the food on supermarket shelves is attached to a slew of ethical issues worthy of our consideration. From the environmental impact of the use of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification and fossil fuels used in agriculture and to ship the food, to the livelihoods of the farmers and treatment of animals who have produced it, and it’s impact on our own health; food is a big issue and something that affects every single one of us. It’s also an issue so huge and infinitely complicated, that it can be really hard to contemplate.


What can we possibly do to change things? Where do we even begin?

I believe in taking baby steps. For starters, we can all make an effort to waste less food. The average Australian household throws out 345kg kilograms of food every year (that’s a total of 4,000,000 tonnes of food nationwide!) which is obviously a huge waste of resources. We can try to eat more organic produce which is produced with less impact on the earth (and as an added bonus is often more flavourful and nutritious!) Most of us could probably benefit from eating less processed food and cooking more from scratch. Many of us could change our relationship with meat and eat less of it and/or only consume free range, organic meat that has been treated ethically. We can try to eat more local and look for fresh produce closer to home. In doing this we will be reducing the carbon footprint of our food and supporting our local producers. Some of us can even grow some of our own food, vastly reducing the use of chemicals and fossil fuels in the journey of produce to plate. We can’t all do everything, but we can all do something.

Seedlings at the Farmers Market

Since writing this post about food, Reuben and I have made some big changes to the way we eat. Recently I have had more time to cook and have been making things from scratch much more regularly. I’ve also been really concentrating on making healthy, nourishing meals, packed with lovely whole foods, so we now eat very little processed stuff. We’ve switched from doing multiple small shops (picking up a few groceries every day) to doing one big weekly shop, and we’ve stopped getting takeaway on lazy nights. Now if we can’t be bothered with cooking, we’ll simply have leftovers or something fuss free like eggs and mushrooms on toast.

We’ve also been better with finishing up leftovers and only buying products we know we’ll actually use. I still don’t really meal plan but in the last couple of months I’ve figured out what fresh ingredients are staples for us and we now buy those things, which always get used up, as the bulk of our groceries. If I see anything different or seasonal that we might fancy, I try to make a priority of finding a recipe for it and using it up ASAP, so it isn’t left forgotten in the bottom of the crisper. All of this has reduced our weekly food bill and waste substantially, which is great, but there is room for much improvement when it comes to the ethical side of our little family’s consumption.

Tiny Strawberry

The main point I have taken away from Animal Vegetable Miracle (and Whole Larder Love too) is that Reuben and I really need to concentrate more on seasonal eating and buying local produce. We usually go to the local farmers market (which, sadly, is only on once a month) and buy our fresh fruit and veggies for that week there, but I want to start planning ahead and buying a whole month’s worth of things like pumpkin and potatoes that will keep for the duration of the month. We also need to have a go at preserving seasonal and more perishable produce. Once we are in our own house Reuben and I will set up a veggie patch and get a couple of chickens to provide us with fresh eggs, which will reduce the amount of fresh produce we need to buy. And the environmental impact of food we’ve grown ourselves will be almost zilch!

Reuben and I don’t eat meat and have always bought free range eggs, but I’d love to find a local, organic dairy supplier. I’d really, really like to get my hands on some raw milk and have a go at making cheese, but given the fact selling raw milk for consumption is illegal in Australia, that might be a bit trickier. Of course there will always be things that we can’t grow or make ourselves or buy at the farmers market, but with us cooking from scratch more, our grocery list for non fresh produce has already reduced. I’d like to start buying more of our basic staples such as rice, flour and lentils from small local businesses like Bendigo Wholefoods, rather than the big supermarkets.

I am hoping that once we’ve moved and are somewhat settled in our new home we will be able to create a new, healthierย rhythm around our food.

Avocados and Mangos

We all need to eat and, whether we like it or not, the way we eat and the food choices we make have a direct impact on the world around us. We have a responsibility to our environment, our farmers, our animals, our future generations and ourselves to make good choices. Though it often seems like we have no power to make meaningful change, in fact we do. We vote with our money and the way we spend it gives us a voice to industry. Though as an individual that voice may be only a whisper, as a collective we can make some serious noise!

Maybe you can only make one or two small changes, or maybe right now you are not in the position to do even that. That’s ok. All any of us can do is our best. What we can all do, at the very least, is be aware of the ethical issues concerning our food. Learn about them. Think about them. Discuss them. Change starts with awareness and education. If you’re just beginning your journey to a more ethical approach to food and would like to learn about more about the ethics of food and where your food comes from, I highly recommend reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Eating Animals byย Jonathan Safran Foer and Whole Larder Love (both book and blog) by Rohan Anderson. All of these resources have had a major impact on the way I think about the stuff I eat. And if anyone has any other suggestions for good reads on this topic I’d love to hear them!

Katie x

PS I know cost plays a really significant role in the way we all eat, so I am thinking a follow up post on ethical eating on a budget might be in order. What do you reckon?

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About Katie

Katie is a tea drinking, jewellery making, op-shopping daydreamer. Katie likes vintage dresses, Pictionary, doilies and colourful tights.


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48 Responses to “Thoughts on Ethical Eating”

  1. Faith February 9, 2013 at 3:14 am #

    Great post! I try and buy seasonally and ethically but it can be so hard where I live. I feel very passionate about this subject and I am so glad that you are speaking out about it! At the moment I live in a small flat and like you am interested in exploring canning and preserving but I currently don’t have the space… one day! I look forward to hearing how you get on!

  2. Kristen February 9, 2013 at 3:35 am #

    eating ethically is definitely harder on a budget (as a student especially!), i would welcome a post on this!

  3. domestickate February 9, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    Hi, Katie. This is a great post, and I’m with you on wanting to eat seasonally and locally much more than I do currently. In the U.S., we have CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) where you can buy into a (usually) weekly produce delivery from a local farm. Do you all have something like that? I signed up for a winter CSA, and it’s surprising how much closer I feel to my food already! I waste less of it too.

    Also, there’s a blog I follow that you might be interested in: What I like about her blog is that she’s a city-dweller who buys a lot of organic and high-quality foods, but she also lives on a very tight budget. Her focus is more on cooking delicious meals than on sustainability, but she proves that you can eat well without spending a ton.

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

      Sadly no, we don’t really have CSAs in Australia. I frequently wish we did! Thanks so much for sharing that link, I’m off to have a looksie! x

  4. eliza February 9, 2013 at 5:28 am #

    love this post!

    one of my goals this year has been to focus on reducing waste from our household. i’m trying to cook more, eat all of the food that we buy, get a lot more veggie oriented meals into the rotation, and make the best decisions possible with our current budget. i’m also trying to focus on things like using as many biodegradable products as possible, make sure that all of my cleaning products are as earth friendly as possible. in short, minimizing our impact as much as i can. and keep looking for ways to improve!

    since you guys are on such a kick of eating-oriented books, i have to ask: have you read any michael pollan? he’s written several books on food, our relationship with it, it’s production, etc. i’ve actually only ever read ‘the botany of desire’, by him, which explores our various relationships with plants (fruits, veggies, beauty, and drugs), but i really enjoyed it, and the rest of his books are on my epic ‘to be read’ list.

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

      No, we haven’t read any Michael Pollan but have heard lots of good things about his books. Will definately have to check them out! x

      • Emily February 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

        Definitely give Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” a read!! Well worth it.

  5. miss alix February 9, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    on thing that has helped me incorporate more local/seasonal fruits and vegetables was signing up for a CSA box. we get a small box of organic seasonal fruits and vegetables and it makes a huge difference in what we eat. and it’s not more expensive than getting fruits and veggies at the store, except your supporting local farmers (and it gets delivered which is nice).

  6. Janel February 9, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    Ethical eating on a budget? *yawn* Very cliche, as everyone and their mother has blogged on this topic….I will probably skip that post as it is an overly-saturated topic on the web.

  7. Rita@thissortaoldlife February 9, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    I love Barbara Kingsolver’s essays, and this book has been on my to-read list for a long time. I think I’ve been avoiding it because the issue feels so difficult for me. Food is a huge challenge: picky eaters (our kids), crazy schedules (our kids), stretched budget, stretched time.

    I like your advice to pick one small thing and start there. We began weekly meal planning and food shopping at Christmas time. Has made a big difference already. We aren’t wasting food (and money on wasted food) like we were, and we’re eating healthier meals because we have the food we need to make them. I’m not having to figure out what to make (on top of making it) during our super-busy week days. It’s feeling really good. We’ll add on something new when this is more solidly just the way we do things.

    Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  8. Jennifer February 9, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    I’ve have been putting together a similar post like this and I loved reading yours! Eating Animals is a great book. My husband and I took my Mum to our local farmers market last year and she was so surprised by how much she walked out with for so very little. My sister and her family now go too. You should really watch Forks Over Knives, that really pushed me towards a more wholefoods diet when you see the benefits for your body over the downsides to consuming animal products. I think it’s a great documentary in the way it doesn’t push a vegetarian/vegan diet with shocking animal cruelty videos, instead it focuses on the medical side.

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

      I have been meaning to watch “Forks Over Knives” for ages! Thanks for the reminder ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Sarah @ Chantille Fleur February 9, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    This is a really great post Kaitie ๐Ÿ˜€

    We stopped eating shop eggs 5 years ago with the first purchase of our heritage breed hens, our Australorp crosses. Since then we moved out of town, our flock grew and we were in the position to start eating our own poultry, so shop bought chicken was out of the diet too. (after reading lots, and lots of horrible stories on the way they were treated, I couldn’t wait to stop supporting the chicken industry)

    Now we’ve recently had our first steer butchered and are now eating our own beef. We rarely buy pork, as I feel kind of mean eating farmed pigs when our poultry and beef are raised happily, and slaughtered stress free.
    Last year we moved again, so have to start the vege patch all over, but now we have to baby dairy cows, that will one day become our milkers, and it looks although we’ll be able to raise pigs some time soon. We’ve also added heritage turkeys to our farm, as they are tougher than chickens, and are excellent meat birds.

    It’s been a long process getting here, and we still have SO far to go. But it feels good so far ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have a lovely weekend!
    Sarah x

  10. Michael from Suburban Digs February 9, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Every time I go into the supermarket this topic is front of mind. I think it’s entirely possible to eat ethically, and on a budget, but it requires a shift in the way we usually think about food. I’d love to read your follow up post. Big fan here!

  11. Christie February 9, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Home ownership and eating organically is a hard one to juggle especially as a family increases and grows…..but I here ya

  12. Jane @ Shady Baker February 9, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    Great post Katie and wise words. Farmers appreciate posts like this! Oh…and the ABC is great too, I would be lost without it. It makes me feel connected to a whole new community and I am always learning from it!

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

      ABC radio makes me feel connected too! I really love hearing the stories and voices of the people around me and, like you, I have learnt SO much from it! x

  13. Becc February 9, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    A wonderful morning read! Than you! I find having a stocked pantry is my biggest help in healthy ethical eating. Flours, spices, grains …nothing puts a damper on the desire to bake and create than not having what you need. We can all make a difference, especially with you here helping us all connectโ™ฅ

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more about the stocked pantry! Silly as it might sound, planning our grocery shopping has changed my life ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Candice February 9, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Animal, Vegetable, Mineral definitely changed the way I looked at food. We do our best to eat sustainably and reduce our carbon footprint, which isn’t always easy on our limited budget. Thanks for an inspiring post.

  15. Kathy February 9, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    You will love having your own veggie garden and chickens. Nothing bests those fresh eggs for breakfast. Less trips to the shop definitely saves money because we usually get other things that are on special that are not on our list but because it might be cheaper we buy them. One basic staple in my household freezer is spag bog which is great for those “can’t be bothered cooking nights” the recipe I use is one from the “keep it simple keep it fresh” blog and it’s done in the slow cooker using turkey mince which makes a really rich meal. Go to her blog and under the pasta heading you’ll see the recipe for Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce” and I always double the recipe and it makes 4 meals for us but if you are bigger eaters maybe 3 meals. Eat one that night and put 2 in the freezer. Once it’s in the slow cooker I cook it for 6-8 hrs or you can do 4-6 hrs and it’s great. I use all the ingredients including the bay leaves and we love it. Great for your lazy nights and all you need to do is cook some pasta. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

  16. Stitchybritt February 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Hi Katie, this is my most favourite book ever! (I’ve also loved Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction, but that is another story).

    Another one you might enjoy is Annie’s Garden to Table by Annie Smithers. Annie writes about setting up her kitchen garden, and given she lives in the same climate zone as you (in Kyneton) it might be a good reference as you set up your own sustainable garden.

    We’ve experimented with making lots of things ourselves – bread, pastry, beer, cider, cheese, pickles, jams… I’m now trying kimchi. You can pretty much make anything you need with the right know-how. Cheese can definitely be made with regular milk – I’m sure you can find somewhere near you that does beginner classes.

    Good luck! Keep us all updated!

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

      Thank you so much for recommending Annie Smithers’ book! It sounds fantastic! x

  17. Zara February 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    I’m pretty sure you don’t have to use raw milk when making cheese. Sourcing milk that is pasturised but not homoginised may be easier. We used to buy Jersey full cream milk like this from a Harris Farm store.
    You will love having chooks. They are one of the best pets to have. Have you thought about making/buying a chook tractor. The chooks can then prepare vegie garden beds for you too.
    The English series of River Cottage (also there’s books too) would suit you as well. There’s a 45 min show on bread making this evening at 6pm on ABC1 if you’re interested.

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

      No, you don’t need to use raw milk, I’ve just heard it’s very good for making cheese. And we would really like to start buying it for us to drink anyway! We love, love, LOVE River Cottage! It’s an old favourite in our house ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Kristin February 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    What a great issue to blog about! Especially as growing season is right around the corner in much of the country. Time to plan for our gardens :-). I have an aunt who is a farmer, and a sister who is an urban farm manager, and so local seasonal eating is very close to my heart. Thank you so much for helping to spread the word!

  19. Jacqui February 9, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Great post :). I too enjoy a bit of ABC local radio… sometimes I feel like I’m in the wrong era. Anyway.
    I find it so amazing that so much of the food that is available to us, isn’t actually that ‘good’ for us. Last year my partner and I decided to stop eating manufactured food – because how on earth can ‘manufactured’ food be good for you? 6 months later, we had one thing left in the freezer, and one desperate lunchtime we ate the thing. I was sick within half an hour, and he felt queasy. Just shows how our bodies rejected that kind of food once we had detoxed ourselves of it.
    I also think about the energetic quality of what I eat – if it’s something I’ve grown myself, I consider it to be full of good energy. If it’s something manufactured, I consider it to be ‘soulless’ and energetically either empty or worse, outright bad for you.
    Such a huge topic. I could go on for days. I won’t!

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

      I could go on for days too. I really had to refrain myself from going off on endless tangents while writing this post, haha! I love what you said about homegrown being full of energy and manufactured being soulless. Such a good analogy! x

  20. serpserpserp February 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Not sure on your reasons to not eat meat but, if its for either of the main two (ie. “save the animals” or purely health reasons) you should probably consider not eating eggs and dairy. I’d suggest you watch a documentary called “Folks over Knives” and go from there with research on the topic. Your body (and the environment/animals if you are into that stuff) will thank you for it!

  21. Ravs February 9, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Great post!
    Like Eliza I would recommend Michael Pollen as an author you might want to get acquainted with. Try ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ (reviewed ) and ‘In Defence of Food’ (reviewed ) for a start.
    Why is it that people are ashamed to say they listen to ABC radio? I only listen to ABC radio because I can’t stand the ads on the commercial channels, and the absolutely inane conversations of the host trying to be funny or controversial. On ABC local I find out what is going on in my area, Radio National gives me a broader perspective, News Radio is my main source of news both national & international, and ABC classics is what I listen to to relax & while sewing. And no, I’m not ancient, just discerning (I hope ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

    • Katie
      Katie February 9, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

      I’m not really ashamed! I guess I just feel… unusual, for someone my age. But that’s ok! We are definitely going to look into Michael Pollen’s books ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Myfanwy February 10, 2013 at 3:19 am #

    Hi Katie!
    Your plan for more ethical eating sounds great! My partner and I have been slowly trying to make similar changes.
    With regard to the raw milk, a friend of mine, who drinks it, tells me that it is sold under the label “bath milk”, as it is illegal to be sold for consumption in Australia, like you said. Please just try to make sure you get it from somewhere reputable, so you don’t need to worry about getting sick from it! ๐Ÿ™‚ And if you guys start trying for a baby, I’d really recommend against it during the pregnancy, in the same way you should avoid soft cheeses.
    Good luck with the ethical eating and home renovations! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Esther February 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    ‘Cleopatra’s’ milk is the only raw milk I know of. For legal reasons it says ‘bath milk’ but its just raw milk. Health food stores sell it!

    P.s. I think people would like a ‘ethical on a budget’ post. It’s all common response for people to say they’d like to eat organic but it’s too expensive.

    Esther x

  24. Holli Anne February 10, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    AMEN! I’ve been studying on this subject for a few years now and trying to change my eating habits slowly but surely. I am also very passionate about food and so I’m really glad to see this post!

  25. cassie February 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Lots of interesting and challenging comments! I admire anyone who does even a small something for someone else, which any step in ethical eating will do – even talking or blogging about it. Theres always something for everyone to learn, nobody knows everything and its great to hear others perpectives and tips!

    Id love to see more on the budgeting and ethical eating also I would be interested in a sample weekly or daily menu plan that you would consider ethical well budgeted and you actually have used and eaten! Ha ha! Im not asking for much am I?!? Good luck with it all though. Cassie ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. rohan February 10, 2013 at 9:22 pm #


  27. Asibi February 11, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    Thanks for writing about something so relevant. I live in the UK and what resonated with me most, is how far removed from the food that we eat we are, and how oftentimes, people do not know what they are eating.

    We have had a lot of controversy lately, over horse meat being sold as cow meat. Although I’m not a meat eater, this is certainly a huge cause for concern and a need for us to be more ethically conscious.

  28. Nicole @ Treasure Tromp February 11, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    absolutely love this. I’ve been really trying to make a similar effort – at times it is difficult, but in my opinion, completely worth it. I really need to read the book you suggested. I love Barbara Kingsolver’s works of fiction and I heard that this book is another winner.

  29. Tania February 11, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Well said! Although we made some big changes about 4 years ago, I have been thinking a lot about this subject lately. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and I recently watched Food Inc (a must see if you haven’t). We’ve managed to find a few local meat suppliers (grassfed beef and lamb) and some seasonal produce. Our vegie garden was not much of a success this season due to the weather, but we are still able to put together a salad from the kale or use all that silverbeet to cook with. I would love to get some raw milk, but it is next to impossible to get here.
    I will be seeking out those books you mentioned. I love reading about this topic.

  30. Ting February 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Beautiful photos and blog! x

  31. Emily February 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    Lovely post Katie! I think the most important step is thinking about where your food comes from, and where the waste goes. Once more people are asking qestions and thinking about the choices the have, then we’ll have even more chance of change ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Amanda L February 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    There is a supplier of raw milk that i have bought in Melbourne. They are called Shultz organic farm. They sell it is as bath milk due to the legalities of it all. Might stock it near you, look them up online, they have a website. They believe in healthy cows and are a small dairy farm.

  33. Kelly February 13, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    funny how thoughts often seem to be quite parallel on here to what we are doing too. Since turning veggo and investigating into that more and more we’ve now stopped having milk and eggs at home at all. I find the dairy and egg industry to be the worst of all and i find myself understanding more and more why people turn vegan. I wish we owned a farm so we could have all our animals as friends, never as meals or as providers of products we consume!

  34. Katie February 26, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    As always, I love hearing your ideas about things, and this post is great, too. Ben and I try to take food more seriously recently, too. Since we moved here last summer it’s been a big issue: where to get the right food, what to consider the right and ethical food, etc. In summer and fall we went to farmer’s market twice a week and got all the possible fresh and local veggies and fruit. When the market closed for the winter we subscribed to Full Circle – they deliver us veggies and fruit from the local farms every week. Other than that we try to cook from scratch as much as possible and finish all the leftovers before we have to get rid of them. Sometimes we fail, of course, but we try ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Shelley March 4, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    This is the most beautifully written piece – so eloquent and simple! My sentiments about food are completely the same as yours – we have one chicken who I adore and she lays enough eggs for my little family – plus our little vegie patch is blooming! I can’t wait until we’re on bigger land to sustain ourselves in a greater way!

    My husband listens to ABC radio . . . it drives me batty and I always tell him he’s at least 50 for doing so ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Amanda K June 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this especially since my thoughts have just recently turned ethical eating.

    Six weeks ago after gaining a horrific amount of weight after a back injury, I turned over a new leaf and changed my eating style.

    Within two weeks, I wanted more than weight loss.

    I wanted to eat ethically. First on my hit list was palm oil because that’s all I knew about.

    Not sure where to go to from there, I started researching about other food and lifestyle changes I could make.

    My husband immediately got on board as well and our veggie patch is taking shape.

    Your blog was lovely to read and so have other people’s comments and experiences.

    The next step for us is having our own chickens for eggs.

    Sourcing local produce is difficult but worth the effort.

    We love this change to our lifestyle and are sorry we didn’t do it sooner.


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