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You are What You Eat!

A Guide to Asking Questions About Your Food

Asking questions is the best way to make educated choices about what you feed yourself and your family. Here is a quick guide of questions to ask your local farmer, grocer, butcher, and restaurateur when you are buying produce, meat, dairy and eggs.

Keep in mind, even if you know the answers might not meet your organic and sustainable standards (whatever those are for you), your questions and requests let purveyors know what consumers are looking to buy.

For a more in depth look at sustainable farming and eating issues check out www.sustainabletable.org.

Slow Food St. Louis recently teamed up with Gus & Wes Productions to produce three short films focused on questions you should ask before you buy the food you eat. These questions are appropriate when shopping at a farmer’s market, a grocery store, ordering at a restaurant or buying into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Click below to see them:
Ask Before You Eat – PRODUCE
Ask Before You Eat – MEAT
Ask Before You Eat – DAIRY


  • What is the location of origin? This will help you calculate the number of miles your food has traveled to your plate.
  • Was the produce grown utilizing organic and sustainable methods? Even if produce isn’t grown organically (without the use of synthetic chemicals), farmers should still practice sustainable growing techniques, which means using minimal chemicals to have the least negative impact on the earth and our food. You may want to know if it is GMO.
  • After harvest, was the produce treated or sprayed with anything? This could be done to maintain a “look” of freshness or as an attempt to eliminate bacteria.


  • What is the location of origin?
  • What type of environment was the animal raised in? Pastured animals are preferred to caged or penned, and CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). CAFOs contribute tremendous amounts of pollution and many consider a CAFO environment inhumane for the animals.
  • Was the animal fed its natural diet? Cows and lambs aren’t meant to eat grain or chicken meal, and pigs and chickens aren’t vegetarians, they’re omnivores. If grain is being used as feed, was it organic? How was the animal finished? Often-times, grass-fed beef is finished on grain to fatten them up before processing. This process creates an imbalance between Omega 6s and Omega 3s and this balance is critical to your heart’s health.
  • Were antibiotics used? Often animals are sick because they are given feed that is not their natural diet and are then given constant antibiotics in their feed. Also look for steroid/hormone free meats; these are used to grow the animals at an unnatural rate.
  • Was the packaged meat treated with anything? Again to maintain a “look” of freshness or to eliminate bacteria.

Eggs and Dairy

  • What is the location of origin?
  • What type of environment does the animal live in (i.e. pasture, cage, pen, etc)? What is the diet of these animals? Similar to meat, both eggs and dairy are much healthier for us if the animals are allowed their natural diet, that’s grass for cows and pasture for chickens and goats, which are both omnivores. Supplemental grain or feed should be sustainably grown. You may also want to know if it is GMO.

Download a printable brochure to take with you to the market.