By Bailee Woolstenhulme
As you walk down the grocery aisles in your local store, you will find a wide variety of brands, variations and flavors of food products. Whether you want organic produce, frozen fruits and veggies, cow’s milk or almond milk, gluten-free bread or whole wheat, you can choose whichever food product you prefer. This is possibly one of the greatest freedoms provided to us by American agriculture and one that is often taken for granted.
A freedom is defined as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” When it comes to food choices, we have the power to act as we choose without fear of rebuke. That is freedom in food choices.
Often, freedoms that are provided to us as United States citizens become so commonplace that we stop recognizing them as blessings in our lives. Our safe and abundant food supply is one of those freedoms that many others in less fortunate countries do not have the privilege of enjoying. For us, it is everyday life.
Think back to March and April 2020. Food and supplies were flying off grocery store shelves. There was limited selection available and many items were gone completely. Purchasing limits were set on certain products to allow enough for everyone. The closing of restaurants and food service industries shocked the food supply system. While this circumstance was due to a sudden overwhelming of our system, farmers, ranchers and processors quickly adjusted to keep up with the demand that was placed on grocery stores. We saw the effects this had on our communities, though it was only for a short time. But this scenario is everyday life for some areas of the world.
We are privileged.
With food privilege comes the want and the ability for societal progression. We have seen this happening for many years in the United States, and it ultimately has led to better lives for all. Along with this privilege, we also tend to forget the simple freedoms that bless our lives every single day. This has been a common theme when it comes to the agriculture and food industry.
Because food is so readily available, many Americans have little understanding of where their food comes from or how it is produced, and very little thought that goes into the people who grow our food for us every day. The general population having little understanding of where their food comes from is a direct result of our societal progression. Fewer people having to grow their own food equals fewer people understanding where their food comes from.
This luxury of having food at our fingertips without having to grow it ourselves has allowed for the advancement in many other areas of life; science and technology, arts and culture, civil and human rights, and much more have been advanced thanks to our secure food system. This has also led to advancements in agriculture and farming technology to help feed a larger population and provide abundant food choices. For example, we now can more efficiently grow organic crops and conventional crops, making them easily accessible to the everyday shopper. Each crop provides different benefits depending on the wants and needs of the buyer.
So while there are many arguments that occur around food choices including what is healthier, what tastes better, what is better for our environment, and even surrounding the location or store where the food is purchased, we must not forget the bigger picture: We get to choose to eat however we feel is best.
Whether you feel eating organic is better, or if you prefer to purchase food by what is most cost-effective, you get to choose. Whether you like to include meat in your diet, or you prefer to have a vegan or vegetarian diet, you get to choose. Whatever diet choices you make, you have the food availability to make those choices. That is freedom.
Let us keep this freedom in mind as we navigate through the often-confusing world of food and nutrition. It can help keep us grounded. Always remember the opportunities afforded to us by modern agriculture and that we have the power to choose.
Bailee Woolstenhulme is communications specialist at Utah Farm Bureau. This column was originally published by Utah Farm Bureau and is republished with permission.