by Jonathan Vatner | August 01, 2006

Plated salad


Good food needn’t
strain the environment.

In a world of mass-produced food loaded with antibiotics, pesticides, refined sugar and trans fats, finding healthful food that isn’t a burden on the environment can be a challenge -- one met regularly by Mary Cleaver, owner of the New York City-based Cleaver Co. (212-741-9174;, a fully eco-friendly caterer. Here are some ways she finds healthful, delicious and sustainable food for banquets.

Buy local. Produce, dairy and meat taste better when they haven’t been shipped halfway across the world, Cleaver notes.

Go grass-fed. The USDA standard for organic beef requires cows to be fed organic grain, but growing all that grain requires lots of petroleum. Better to choose grass-fed beef. Niman Ranch (866-808-0340; is a cooperative that supplies earth-friendly meat throughout the U.S.

Select wild fishes. For best flavor, Cleaver prefers wild salmon, mahi mahi, trout and Pacific halibut. She avoids Chilean sea bass and swordfish, as well as shrimp, because farming them damages coastal habitats.

Avoid hormones. Buy from dairies that don’t use bovine growth hormone. A good source is Organic Valley (888-444-6455;, a Wisconsin cooperative.

Think about workers. Part of being eco-friendly means ensuring workers are treated well. The New York City-based Rainforest Alliance (888-693-2784; certifies coffee and chocolate retailers for environmentally and socially responsible practices.