Meat & Dairy
The Food: Beef
The issue: You could fill a book with the transgressions of Big Beef—just ask Michael Pollan. Briefly: Most cattle are bred on large farms and fed industrial corn, which damages land, requires huge amounts of energy to harvest, and increases the cattles’ methane emissions.
The fix: Look for the words “Grass-Fed” on packaging; it indicates the animals are fed on grass, forbs (like legumes), or cereal-grain crops— all with lower carbon-emission levels than corn production. Reliable grass-fed growers include New York Beef Co. and Hawthorne Valley Farm, both at the Inwood and Union Square Greenmarkets.
The Food: Pork
The issue: Not quite as bad as beef on the carbon-footprint scale, but the “other white meat” also feeds on industrial corn, with all its incumbent problems.
The fix: As with beef, free-roaming pork helps cut down on carbon emissions. Mary Cleaver, owner of the eco-sensitive catering company the Cleaver Co., recommends local farm Flying Pigs. Retail sources like Marlow & Daughters and Dickson’s Farmstand, whose shop opens in the Chelsea Market in September, also specialize in sustainable pork.
The Food: Chicken & Eggs
The issue: While carbon emissions are considerable, the biggest concern may be animal cruelty, with chickens being kept in tiny cages (the United Egg Producers mandates 67 square inches per hen, less than an 8-by-11 sheet of paper) and beak trimming to keep them from pecking each other.
The fix: Go with local farms like Violet Hill and Windfall to cut down on the chances of factory-style cruelty. At the grocery store, look for organic free-range birds or the certified humane stamp on eggs, which signifies the hens have more cage space.
The Food: Milk
The issue: Same as beef; carbon emissions, animal cruelty. Locally, Dean Foods has a near monopoly, which has squeezed out smaller producers.
The fix: Buy from small family farmers, of which there are many: Milk Thistle Organic Dairy, Evans Farmhouse Creamery, and Ronnybrook are all available either at Murray’s Cheese or at various Greenmarkets. Or try goat’s milk (smaller animals=smaller carbon footprint), or soy or rice milks. Produce