It has been 5 years since Birds and Beans Café went completely palm oil free. David and I went palm oil free at home at the same time. So we thought it would be interesting to discuss how its going with us as well as look at what has changed in the industry.
The palm oil problem is the shocking destruction of forests perpetrated in its production. These forests are often taken from indigenous peoples without permission nor compensation and laid waste for all but the gluttonous palm oil industry. Of special notice, is the horrifying pain and suffering faced by displaced animals, most of whom are endangered species. I doubt most readers can tolerate looking at the images.
When David and I came to understand this in 2012, at a visceral level, our resolve kicked in: Under no circumstances will we support this monstrous behavior!
So this is not a crusade, nor do I imagine our stance or communication will make a meaningful impact on the industry. But my body and my soul ache for the pain we inflict, and I will not support it.
At first it was difficult to find products without palm. Palm oil ingredients are UBIQUITOUS! And big food sneaks it into the ingredient lists so we have to learn to recognize it.
Once we understood that "vegetable oil" is a cover for palm oil, we realized that palm is in most processed foods (and most consumer soaps and cleaners). For health reasons we were also motivated to reduce salt and we noticed that most processed foods are loaded with salt (and sugar) too. It was overwhelming! Where to begin!
We took a step at a time approach. We looked at
- what we purchased the most
- what we didn't need
We found processed foods that use sunflower, safflower or other explicitly stated oil1. You won't find these at the 7-11, but most responsible grocery stores have something. We continued item by item.
Over time, perhaps a year, we found we were preparing our own food again. This would have seemed impossible at the beginning of this process, but by changing one thing at a time, it happened on its own. We shifted our shopping from the big grocery retailers to smaller organic grocers. Interestingly, by bringing our food preparation back in-house, we found it was less expensive too!
We noticed that the huge loads of sugar, salt and fats in processed foods dull our flavour pallets, so it took some time for our pallets to recover back to full taste sensitivity. Now, I just cannot eat a conventional tomato... they are bland and pithy.
The food processing industry has convinced us that we need them, but we don't. The cost of outsourcing our food preparation is extremely high and it does not save as much time as we imagine. We have now established new shopping habits and we support local grocers and organic production. Preparing food has shifted to a shared pleasure followed by the shared delight of real flavours! My fear of living on chickpeas and rice was utterly unfounded...Quite the opposite! That fear was planted by big food to keep me addicted to their low quality, bland, unhealthy food that is engineered to their lowest cost.
And by their lowest cost, I mean the unfathomable cost of the utter destruction of entire ecosystems and the human and animal inhabitants. The cost of life on earth. And the cost of all of us becoming monstrous. Cheap oil? Really?