The price is right to eat ethically

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When choosing between ethical food choices and price tags, students are often left to defer to their limited chequing accounts. 
 
That being said, with thoughtfulness and creativity, there are still ways to eat ethically without breaking the bank. 
 
A recent Globe and Mail piece asked whether only the rich can eat ethically. Citing the high cost of food packaging integrated into grocery expenses and the cheapness of food produced with unethical labour or ingredients, the piece seems to agree only the socially-conscious wealthy can put their money where their mouths are. While options exist to provide inexpensive and local ingredients, like farmer’s markets, they’re often limited in their range and difficult to access year-round. 
 
Good food—whether vegan, organic, or fair-trade—is expensive to produce. It’s often difficult for vendors to access ethically-made products to cook, bake, or prepare their wares. 
 
As students, we see this firsthand. We’re faced with convenience and cost concerns above all else when shopping. Buying in bulk often means buying Costco food without knowing where it comes from, or buying mass produce that’ll expire before it’s used. But as we become increasingly health-conscious, it’s hard to sit comfortably with the knowledge that your instant noodles and packaged cookies contain unethical products like palm oil. 
 
Without time or money on our hands, researching and obtaining locally-sourced and sustainable food takes resources we don’t have when we’re already learning to cook and eat healthier. No zero-waste grocery stores exist in Kingston, and companies are often opaque about how they use unethical labour and environmental resources. 
 
That said, there are smaller-scale means to reduce food waste’s negative impact. CoGro has donated to FoodRescue.ca, redistributing extra food to people in need. While we could promote greater participation in these initiatives, it’s already a step on campus showing how students can consume food ethically without high spending or effort. 
 
Ultimately, food corporations are accountable for unethical practices like unfair animal treatment and labour use. The onus shouldn’t be on consumers to the point where they’re judged for consuming unethically produced food due to their budgetary constraints. 
 
We have to find a balance between recognizing the imperfect nature of our society and working to make a difference on an individual scale. 
 
In response to the question of whether only the rich can eat ethically, the answer is no—but we need to keep our expectations reasonable and take action one step at a time. There’s no shame in not shopping at Whole Foods, but consider switching a burger for a meat-free meal once a week. 
 
You don’t have to be perfect to improve ethical consumption—you just have to work to do better.
 
 

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