What is “Good Food” (In an Ethical Sense)?

20140927_160727By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is “Good” Food?

I was reading an article that ranked food products, and I began to think about how many different variables define “good” or “best” when we’re talking about food products. One variable is how good the food tastes. But there are many more. Shoppers may consider variables that include:

  • flavor
  • appearance
  • convenience
  • number of servings
  • packaging
  • cost

That list is missing something, though. What about all of the decisions that happen before the food gets to the store that also impact the consumer? Many of those decisions determine whether or not the end product contributes to our overall health. 

“Good Food” Supports Health and Well Being

There are many ethical dimensions of food products. We don’t see them – they may not be advertised, and are decided well before the product reaches us. They are determined by big and small decisions made by others, including business leaders. And they impact our health and well-being.

Consumers are frequently using widely available information and reviews when choosing foods, and they often consider ethical variables in addition to the obvious ones listed above. There is a movement toward supporting well-being, and consumers increasingly want to know that foods they buy contribute to their overall well-being.  

If we started with a blank chalkboard and listed aspects of food and food production that support well-being and represent ethical practices, what would we list? What are the variables that define “good food” from an ethical standpoint? Below is a starting list of 12 ethical dimensions of “good food.” Feel free to suggest others!

Ethical Dimensions of “Good Food”

  1. Nutritional Value (vitamins, minerals, nutrients, calories, fat, sugar, fiber, salt)                             
  2. Simplicity (how little it has been altered from its natural state – avoiding alterations that negatively affect human health)
  3. Purity (avoiding toxins, additives and filler ingredients)
  4. Growing Conditions (plants – avoiding use of suspected carcinogens and toxic pesticides; animals – avoiding using drugs or additives or feed that risk human health, humane conditions)
  5. Sourcing (ethical labor and production)
  6. Distribution (eco-transport)
  7. Brand (transparent, avoiding greenwashing and false claims)
  8. Sales and Marketing (honest and accurate, appropriate)
  9. Glycemic Index (impact on blood sugar levels)
  10. Inflammation Effect (immune system response)
  11. Avoidance of Harm (food is safe and does no harm)
  12. Wellness Impact (enhances overall wellness)

There are multiple dimensions of what “good food” means and expectations are continuing to increase.  Ideally good food would have a high nutritional value and would contribute to overall wellness, be ethically grown, produced, sourced, transported and sold. What does all of this mean for leaders? There’s a lot to consider beyond the taste test.

What other ethical variables would you add to this list?

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About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

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