Do you find that you have to make hard decisions? I abhor the factory farm system, and as much as I am able purchase organic, humanely raised meat and dairy products. Unfortunately some of these items are not zero waste. Humane-certified, pasture raised, organic pepperoni - plastic wrapper, hormel - at the counter. Grass-fed, local beef from the farmer's market - plastic wrapper, corn-fed, non-organic - at the counter. These are two examples, but I find myself running into others.
How do you make these decisions? ( It would be easier if my family were on board (or vegetarians). But my husband is already looking at me like I have 10 eyes because of my zero waste endeavor. If I throw out pepperoni pizza night or meatloaf I'm afraid he will have me committed :-)
You're right, it is a difficult decision to make and there are no right answers.
This is where letter writing, emailing and personally requesting zero waste alternatives come in. Ask your supermarket to consider stocking humane, pasture-raised pepperoni at the counter. See if the seller at the farmer's market would be willing to sell you meat in your own container. It may not produce immediate results, but I'm sure that sellers who take the effort to humanely raise and handle their livestock will also be receptive to ideas on how to minimize their environmental footprint. And, by your asking for zero waste alternatives, they will know that their customers are concerned about this, too.
I'm having a similar problem. I'm a vegetarian, and the fake meats I buy are all prepackaged. There are no tofu counters. I'm doing my best to eliminate waste in all other areas. I do know that there is 8 times more waste created in making a pound of meat than a pound of grain; maybe try some of the meat alternatives out there. Morningstar is fantastic!
I know what you mean, but I'm never eating an animal. Ever. To me, animals aren't real, whole foods. I can research and do my best to get the least packagin avaiable for these, but for me, that's how it's gotta be.
I've already changed over to buying in bulk: whole grains, granola, beans, snacks, and I know that helps. I really, really wish there was a way to buy no-packaging tofu. I'd be so thrilled!
I've also been on the search for package-free tofu and have found several options at Asian supermarkets in my area. They also carry things like bulk tempeh, miso and seaweed there. Some Whole Foods stores also carry tofu in bulk; if your store does not, maybe you can request it? Another option I've been looking at is making my own tofu; here's the recipe I've been looking at from the food blog Just Hungry.
BTW, have you seen the recipes at 101 Cookbooks, an all vegetarian/vegan food site? Many of the recipes rely on beans, quinoa, and chickpeas for their source of protein, instead of the prepackaged fake meats. The carrot, dill, and white bean salad, and the adzuki bean and butternut squash soup recipes are delish;)
I just googled how to make tofu. Ehow Food "how to make tofu" instructions don't seem too difficult. The only ingredients are soy beans and calcium sulfate. You should be able to purchase both in bulk. I calls for a tofu mold, but I don't know why you could not use a muffin pan or a bread pan instead.
In response to the original question (and not the debates on "real" food or how bad eating meat is) I try to opt for organic and cruelty free when I can. In the local stores in my area these food items are generally packaged pretty much the same as everything else. I tend to choose organic or free range eggs that come in paper cartons rather than plastic (I stopped buying eggs in styrofoam a long time ago). I also recently discovered Flax Plus cereal which is organic and has much less packaging, although the ceral is still in a plastic wrapper inside the box.
I still think that the best option is to contact stores and companies and ask for changes in packaging. These places need to know that there is a market for this; whenever there is a market for something, that market will open up. That is the best long-term solution.
Our Farmers Market stocks genuine free range frozen chickens wrapped in PLASTIC, but I have made my call on this one. I could never eat commercially raised chickens (and i don't eat red meat all), no matter how zero waste they might be. So we buy the free range and have to accept that its a compromise on the waste issue. Chicken once a week, and vegetarian for the rest.
Stop eating animal products. Problem solved. Honestly, with the level of GHGs emitted by the animal for food industry, I'm surprised anybody calling themselves zero waste has the audacity to continue eating animals.