Foon Rhee

Eating right is really hard to do

Burmese workers sit on the floor as an investigator searches the office of a shrimp shed during a raid in Samut Sakhon, Thailand. A U.N. study found nearly 60 percent of these seafood processing workers there were victims of forced labor.
Burmese workers sit on the floor as an investigator searches the office of a shrimp shed during a raid in Samut Sakhon, Thailand. A U.N. study found nearly 60 percent of these seafood processing workers there were victims of forced labor. Associated Press

Well, the list of what I can feel good about eating – both health-wise and ethically – keeps getting shorter and shorter.

I have to give up shrimp after this week’s very disturbing report that slave labor is being used in Thailand to peel the shrimp sold in some of our grocery stores and restaurants. I was worried about seafood after all those stories about disgusting fish farming in Asia. This clinches it.

Like a lot of people, I want to eat healthy, and I care about animal welfare and worker rights. I have a sustainable seafood guide at home, and keep an eye out for labor boycotts.

But I’m not ready, or disciplined enough, to go totally vegan or vegetarian.

I did stop eating red meat 23 years ago, though those first few months were tough because my drive home from work took me past one of the best burger grills in town.

I don’t miss burgers anymore, and I feel even better about my decision as we learn more about how much water is used to produce beef and about the causes of climate change. As anyone who drives past Harris Ranch knows full well, cattle are a major contributor to methane, which accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

In the years since, my menu choices have narrowed even further. A reporting trip to a hog farm in North Carolina swore me off bacon and other pork products for good. Now, I eat poultry and seafood occasionally, but get most of my protein from tofu and nuts.

We all know what’s good for us to eat and what isn’t, but we all have our weaknesses. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, which is why I try to get to the gym twice a day. Anyway, how bland would our diets be if we didn’t stray a little?

At the same time, it’s difficult to keep track of all the reports about how our food is produced, the warnings about pesticides and antibiotics and sometimes conflicting health and nutrition studies. So the best approach may be everything in moderation.

But if a moral problem with potato chips crops up, I’m in real trouble.

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