Yes, Mark Zuckerberg is only eating animals he kills himself these days! That’s his latest “personal challenge”, which, for context, have included things like learning Chinese in 2010 (continuing) and wearing a tie every day in 2009.
Mark’s reason for doing this?
This year, my personal challenge is around being thankful for the food I have to eat. I think many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat, so my goal revolves around not letting myself forget that and being thankful for what I have. This year I’ve basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself. So far, this has been a good experience. I’m eating a lot healthier foods and I’ve learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals.
I started thinking about this last year when I had a pig roast at my house. A bunch of people told me that even though they loved eating pork, they really didn’t want to think about the fact that the pig used to be alive. That just seemed irresponsible to me. I don’t have an issue with anything people choose to eat, but I do think they should take responsibility and be thankful for what they eat rather than trying to ignore where it came from.
– Mark Zukerberg email to Fortune magazine
Mark has some good points in all that. Many, if not most, of us need to be more thankful and knowledgeable about the food we eat. We don’t often think about a living being having to die for us to eat meat. We would eat better, as in healthier, and see the many great benefits that brings, if we were more knowledgeable and conscientious about the food we eat. Having annual, or regular personal challenges, is also a great idea. Killing only animals he eats? Well, my jury’s still out barfing.
Now, I know Mark didn’t get where he is today by being “down the middle” and “conventional”. However, there are better ways to getting closer to your food than having to kill the animals you eat, and most people are a bit more “conventional” than Mark.
As a policy analyst who works in agriculture, and who takes on annual personal challenges, which continues to include being more in touch with the food I eat and people who provide it, I’d like to share some alternative approaches to getting closer to your food without having to kill the animals you eat. This is for anybody who might be interested in alternatives, though I’m not naive to think Mark would be listening. He’s following the advice of celebrity chef Jesse Cool of CoolEatz, who is his neighbour in Silicon Valley.
These ideas appear in no particular order. In fact, I would encourage everybody to try as many of these ideas as they can. Some are fairly passive, with information flowing to you. Others are psychological to keep in mind certain things about the food you eat. Others are interactive, from talking to people to getting your hands in on creating the food you eat. Together, you can appreciate the food you eat more, eat better and get the benefits of eating better from better tasting meals to more nutritious meals to better health because you really are what you eat!
- Watch documentaries on food. Some great ones include Food Inc. (on this site) and Supersize Me. Check out this Top 10 Food Documentaries List with descriptions and trailers. Then visit their websites, read recommended books, etc.
- Go to a farmers’ and/or fish market. Get your food from the people who grow and/or catch your food.
- Talk to farmers and fishermen at the market and ask questions. If you’re not shy, talk to the farmers and fishermen at the markets. Don’t worry about potentially being exposed for not knowing much about your food. The farmers and fishermen at the market are great people who love to share with others what it takes for food to get to your table. Ask them about the growing process, what is used and not used, challenges, how they wish things could be different, and so on. You don’t have to share all of their views, but getting their perspectives will certainly add to yours.
- Compare the food from the market to the grocery stores to prepared food. Buy some common foods from three sources and taste the difference. Try something like a tomato from the farmers’ market, from the grocery store and from a hamburger at a fast food restaurant or frozen meal. You can do the same for meats, fish and other vegetables, though try to find a way to cook the meats and fish where the flavour comes out rather than get masked among things like spices. You may actually like the prepared foods better if you’re used to eating it more than fresh food, with all the preservatives and added fats in the latter that make it addictive to some, like McDonald’s burger patties. However, try to remember you were born more naturally wired to enjoy the more natural foods. You developed a taste for processed food, not the other way around.
- Drink juices fresh and bought from stores. This is a specific example of idea #4, but a good one where you can really taste the difference because true fruit juices will have a “zing” or “punch” you’ll be able to taste. Again, you may be used to the processed stuff, but remember you were born to consume the fresh stuff. You can usually get fresh juice at the farmer’s market. I’d be a little cautious about some fresh juices from stands. It might only be fresh from mass produced fruits and/or vegetables that you’d be able to tell the difference from idea #4.
- Garden. While gardening is more a hobby than running a farm, it can still give you some great insight into the hard work it takes to grow your food that is grown (rather than raised or caught). A lot of food growing is now mechanized, but the same business drive which led to mechanization often also leads to other “short cuts” which lead to less quality in the food grown.
- Visit the farms from which you buy your agricultural food. There are farms which offer varying degrees of agricultural tours in a growing industry called agritourism. Some are just entertainment, like corn mazes. Others are more authentic to let people experience different aspects of farming, hands on. However, there is often a fair bit of tourism in agritourism so authenticity may be limited. The more authentic experience may well be the easiest to do, which is to ask the farmers at your farmers’ market if you can come visit the farm from which they grow and/or raise the food you buy from them, and maybe even help out. You don’t have to visit the animals to look in the eyes of the animals which’s meat you may eat some day, but looking in the eyes of some, maybe petting it, or talking to it, is probably more than enough to give you the appreciation Mark Zukerberg is seeking for himself.
- Volunteer on farms where you can. This is probably as close as you might get to the authentic farming experience without owning a farm. I would recommend a couple of days or more at a time so you can really become involved rather than doing some menial tasks or simple physical labour. You will appreciate things more the more you get involved. Myself, I have several such farm trips planned this summer for entire weekends or long weekends.
- Visit the fishing wharfs from which you buy your fish. Unlike with the farms where you may be able to help out with farm work, helping out on a boat is a much more “adventurous” and likely dangerous option. Not that farm work isn’t dangerous, but you probably wouldn’t get to help out with the dangerous tasks on a farm whereas you can just fall overboard on a rocking boat just from being on it. But this is the same idea as #7, but for fish. Get a look at some of the work required to get fish to the market.
- Spend more money on food from the farmers’ and fish market than at grocery stores and eating out. This could be challenging because it requires constant monitoring of spending on food. However, it might be the only true way which you can prove to yourself you are eating better food via more natural foods. From Earth Day (April 22) 2010 to 2011, I spent 2/3 of my groceries expenditures at the farmers’ market, and just over 2/3 of all my food expenditures on groceries. That was one of my Earth Day goals and annual personal challenges over the years.
- Include food in your meal “prayers” every now and then. I put “prayers” in quotations because I’m not necessarily talking about meal prayers that devout religious people say at meals. I’m not religious and I don’t say prayers at meals. However, I do stop to think and be thankful about the food I have and have access to. I am thankful for it as much for agricultural as economic reasons because while there is more than enough food to feed the world (there really is), distribution and wastage results in all the hunger and food shortages we face today.
I have tried all and continue to do most of the ideas just mentioned (don’t have garden), and I can tell you they work very well for me to be more knowledgeable and appreciative of the food I eat, and I am healthier because of it all, too. There are other great ideas for being more in touch with the food you eat than what I have suggested, and what Mark Zuckerberg is trying, I’m sure. If you have any ideas, please do share.
In the meanwhile, I’ll end with one of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook status updates regarding his latest personal challenge that I would definitely not recommend anybody to post anything similar.
“I just killed a pig and a goat.”
– Mark Zuckerberg Facebook status update to his 847 Facebook friends on May 4th 2011
Sounds like something you’d see if Facebook existed in Lord of the Flies! Eewwhh!