by Chef Instructor (and Goddess Omnieffectus) Melinda Casady*

More than a year and half ago, I started thinking about how great it would be to have a class on food ethics. I found myself in a conversation about it with an old high school friend of my husband’s, and he got excited about the idea as well. He told me I should go ahead and write the curriculum and then maybe an occasion would happen where I could use it. I like that mentality.

So I started taking notes on things that excited or frustrated me, and things I wanted to learn more about. I am fascinated by the sociological change that grocery shopping for most people now has become not only a decision about what they can afford, or what’s healthy for their family, but also now full of ethical dilemmas. That inorganic apple from Peru is killing the planet and causing wars! (That’s just an example, by the way, please don’t start writing letters about how apples don’t come from Peru), But our political system is restoring the economy of the Peruvians by purchasing their apples. This is what I’m referring to, and it’s a heated subject, and people get really excited about it.

Free range chickens voicing their opinions on the food ethics debate

When Brian and Eric, our Executive Chef and our President, sat me down and asked me to write a sociology class, I suggested that a class on Food Ethics might be a popular one. They were thrilled by the idea. All that time I spent tinkering with ideas for a class and stashing away my notes was about to pay off.

The “Food Ethics and Social Responsibility” class, starting next month, will take on many of the hot button issues in this industry today — food labeling laws, how we raise our food, organic vs. local, food in schools, food lobbying, and consumer’s perception of what terms like “pasture-raised” means, as opposed to what the legal definition is. One of the really exciting things about this class is how dynamic it is. Laws are being passed, food borne outbreaks are occurring, and new ideas about where our food industry is heading are changing every day. This class is going to have to keep up with things that are happening in the news and in politics in order to keep our students educated and informed. The way to be successful in this industry is to be aware of — even ahead of — new trends, and what the customers are demanding.

I can’t wait to get started. I have been up to my ears in food politics, new events, and making sure I write rules of engagement for the class debates that I know are going to ensue and that I will be encouraging. I am determined to make sure my students understand the importance of being informed on industry trends and the growing ethical concerns intrinsic in the food industry. If they get this, then no matter which side they take, I’ll have done my job.