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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Enter the Permavore

New members of sustainable food lexicon have regularly entered our vocabulary over the years. The venerable vegetarian, representing a dietary choice with moral and environmental dimensions, has been the most common standard for ethically concerned eaters for a number of years. Some have taken it a step further to veganism, the choice to abstain from the use of any animal products, including non-food items such as leather. Recently, a new term has captured popular awareness as Locavore, describing an individual who strives to source his or her food from local producers, minimizing the travel of "food miles" and attempting to undermine the established food infrastructure, which relies on scale and monocultural production.

I think most of us wish that we could have one label or mode of eating that we could settle upon, but the truth is, our knowledge about the production and eating of feed is constantly evolving. One of the most interesting examples of this is in regards to eating meat. Long the ideal choice for many environmentalists, the grass-fed meat craze is starting to bring this into question. Bill MiKibben, noted environmental author and activist, provides a very good rundown of the issue here.

The debate hinges on what will be a repeated focus on this blog: soil. Healthy, living soil has the potential to sequester huge amounts of carbon, a necessity when considering the current state of the climate. Grass-fed animal agriculture provides for the creation and maintenance of permanent pasture, diverse grasslands that sink immense amounts of carbon into the earth, support soil health and productivity, and when managed responsibly, require very little in the way of harmful inputs.

Thus a new term for the lexicon: Permavore. Permavore can be defined as one who strives to include in their diet as many foods that derive from agriculture that promotes the proliferation of perennial plants. This would include tree crops such as fruits and nuts, animals from pasture, and select vegetables. The holy grail for permavores would be a perennial grain... more on that in a later post.

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