7.14.2010

Excerpt from interview with Jonathan Safran Foer

Excerpted from Vegetarian Times (May/June 2010) by: Ross Sismonini

Q: How are people's diets affected by the language used to talk about food?

JSF: One of the fastest-growing sectors in the food industry is cage-free eggs. People want to know that the hens producing the eggs they're eating had decent lives. The industry takes "cage-free" as literally as they possibly can, which is to say the animal is literally not in a cage. But 30,000 birds in a single room-where the space allotted each one isn't more than a cage-is simply not what people have in mind when they go out of their way to buy cage-free. Labeling needs to be more accurate.

Q: In Eating Animals, you talk about food, especially meat, in the context of tradition. How can traditions be reinvented so that they don't further distance us from, as you say, what's at the end of our fork?

JSF: Eating is often used to facilitate conversation about what our values are. That's what's so great about ritual. The turkey at Thanksgiving isn't important because it's a turkey, it's important because it's a symbol that makes us think about the past, about how great it is to be American, about what we're thankful for. But Thanksgiving could be an opportunity to serve a conversation that maybe isn't served as often as it could be-about who we are and why we do things the way we do. The absence of a turkey is a much better vehicle for that conversation than the presence of one.

I love that last line.

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