Tag Archives: sustainable

Visit to Aqua Greens: The Future of Urban Agriculture

The Healthy Butcher and RealFoodToronto.com‘s team visits Aqua Greens Aquaponics; Toronto’s first fully sustainable, aquaponic facility. (http://www.aquagreens.ca)

Aquaponics is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrification bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The filtered water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system. Continue reading

The Ultimate Guide to Canadian Meat Labels

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher

In today’s urban lifestyle, consumers, generally, are disconnected from the original source of their food.  As such, food labels play an integral role towards understanding how a product came to be. Unfortunately, marketers have run rampant for decades, fabricating terms, seals, emblems, and photos that form mental associations of idyllic farm settings, even if the product came out of the worst of factory farms. Confusion is at an all time high. Organic, Grass fed, Grass finished, Corn fed, Grain Fed, Free Range, Pasture Raised, Farm Raised, Natural, Naturally Raised, Antibiotic Free, Raised without Growth Hormones, Sustainable, Humane, Ethical, Certified Angus, Kobe, Berkshire… the list of adjectives to describe meat go on and on. What do they mean?

In this issue we will take you through the most common terms found in Canada to describe meat, and what they actually mean. It is important to note that when googling any of these terms, you will more than likely land on a on U.S. web page, which causes Canadians even more confusion because the terms have different meanings in the U.S. or other countries.

Without further ado, The Healthy Butcher’s Ultimate Guide to Canadian Meat Labels…

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The Salmon Debate


Vexing and heated is the question of salmon. The reasons to eat it are many, and obvious: For one thing, it’s a delicious, very versatile fish to cook; adaptable to myriad methods of preparation (grilled, baked, pan fried, deep fried, stuffed, planked, smoked, cold-cured … the list goes on), and undeniably healthy, as a source of high-quality protein, vital omega 3 fatty acids, and anti-oxidants.  (Mind you, these days everything short of used tires and roofing nails seems to be marketed for miraculous “anti-oxidant” qualities.  I haven’t noticed anyone rusting lately, and so am somewhat skeptical. We’ll look at the whole “oxidant” question in a future issue).

Reasons not to eat it are also numerous. Salmon are carnivores that function high up the food chain. Like all top predators, that means they accumulate and concentrate toxins and pollutants from their environment. Heavy metals (such as mercury), complex hydrocarbons (such as PCB’s and all their friendly relatives), and even pharmaceuticals, hormones and pesticides from human and agricultural waste run-off enter the food chain in trace amounts, lodge in the fatty tissues of growing salmon, and, in the wrong waters, result in a menacing meal. The spawning cycle makes them highly vulnerable to environmental degradation: logging, dams, mining effluents and other pressures the water table have placed certain species and breeding populations at risk of collapse. Over-fishing in ocean waters adds to the problem.

So what is one to do? Is it possible to enjoy the nutritional and sensory benefits of salmon without contributing to the destruction of the species, or oneself? Two possible sources of the fish present themselves: farmed salmon is touted by proponents as a way to harvest without adding pressure to vulnerable wild fish stocks. Wild-harvest salmon is lauded as a more natural, healthful seafood alternative that sidesteps the pitfalls of industrial fish farming. Each presents unique challenges, and potential solutions. It is possible to combine specific species of sustainably caught wild salmon with certified, responsibly farmed fish in such a way that the impact on health and ecosphere is minimized. Assessing how to do so requires first understanding the potential problems.

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What is Sustainable Seafood?

Fish is now the world’s most-traded animal commodity, with about 100 million tons of wild and farmed fish sold each year!

When The Healthy Butcher started offering fish for sale – first a small selection at the Queen location, and then larger selections at the Eglinton and Kitchener locations – we were faced with a myriad of options to choose from, and countless questions from customers who were fed up with asking grocery store clerks and fishmongers that could not provide answers… especially to the most basic question – should I or shouldn’t I buy and eat this fish? Without a doubt, for anyone with a conscience or who cares for their health, eating fish is much more complicated than it used to be.

To satisfy growing demand, we are catching fish and shellfish faster than they can reproduce, pushing their populations lower and lower; industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. Of course, there’s a limit to how much the ocean can produce and how many fish we can catch before fish populations are decimated to the point of no return – we’ve already seen it happen with Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, Chilean seabass, Bluefin tuna, sharks and countless other species. Some experts predict that the world’s major commercial stocks will collapse by 2048 if current fishing practices continue.

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Sustainable Steaks

To see the butcher slap the steak before he laid it on the block, and give his knife a sharpening, was to forget breakfast instantly. It was agreeable too – it really was – to see him cut it off so smooth and juicy. There was nothing savage in the act, although the knife was large and keen; it was a piece of art, high art; there was delicacy of touch, clearness of tone, skillful handling of the subject, fine shading. It was the triumph of mind over matter; quite.

– Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (1812-1870)


Finally, barbeque season has arrived. This issue and the next of Live to Eat will be a two-part series focusing on one of our favourite summertime pastimes – grilling. This month’s issue will no doubt be amongst the most popular of all issues – our guide to steaks. A guide with a twist of course! We’re fairly confident our list will be the world’s first steak guide to exclude the three most popular and most expensive steaks – tenderloin, striploin, and rib steaks. Next month we will attempt to achieve the “Perfect Grilled Steak”. We will explain what happens in the process of grilling, should you use high heat or low heat, to sear or not to sear, to marinade or not to marinade… all answered next issue.

Prior to reading our rankings below, we strongly urge you to refresh your memory on the anatomy of beef – read our one-page “Breaking Down the Beef” guide, available by clicking here.

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