Eat Well

I recently watched a documentary called Food, Inc. While I knew a fair bit about the subject matter through other anecdotes, the film caused me to consider this stuff on a deeper level than before. For those unfamiliar with the film, here is a very basic bulleted synopsis:

  • Our nation’s food supply is controlled by a handful of companies with deep ties to just about every level of our Government including those agencies in charge of regulating them.

  • They put profit ahead of everything else, including our health, the income and well being of farmers, the safety of workers, and the environment.

  • They use chemical and genetic manipulation to manipulate the size of chicken breasts, the growth cycle of livestock, the yield of corn and soybeans (which almost all of our food now contains), and shelf life.

  • Our food is increasingly tainted with drug resistant bacteria like E-Coli because we have genetically bread our livestock to easily pass it on.

  • Diabetes and obesity is at epidemic rate among children and adults (nearly 1-3 Americans will contract diabetes in their lifetime) due to increased exposure to sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup.

  • We, as consumers, vote for this every day with our money. We demanded cheap food and we got it at a cost that was deliberately hidden from us (i.e. the cost of our health and well being). This is OUR fault. We can change it by demanding better and voting with more of our money.

    The movie is available via “Watch Instantly” streaming on Netflix right now. I urge you to watch it.

I was deeply affected by the film and have since been putting a lot of thought into, at the very least, becoming more educated about the food I am eating.

I am lucky enough to live only two blocks away from a really good food co-op that is big into locally sourced food and educating their customers. I have not been using it enough but decided last night to go and really spend some quality time there looking around, comparing prices and asking questions. Here are some things I discovered:

  • Most of the beef they sell is from Thousand Hills Cattle Company. It is locally produced, locally butchered, grass fed, and ethically and humanly treated. It is about three times the price of what it would cost you at the average supermarket. The reason: It costs what beef is supposed to cost.
  • Most of the chicken and pork (forgot the name of the farm and did not write it down) is also locally produced and ethically and humanly treated. It costs more (about double) but your are getting an immeasurable amount more quality.

  • The reason meat at the supermarket is so cheap is because it is fed steroid enhanced grain, raised on barren land, crowded together by the thousands, standing in each others manure, slaughtered by the thousands per day in less than clean or safe conditions by big companies that care only about delivering you what you are paying for – cheap food at a high profit by whatever means necessary.

  • Lots of the veggies they sell are locally grown by independent family farms. In the winter (this is Minnesota after all), the number of these decline but the ones that remain are grown in greenhouses. This includes lots of root vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, and some tomatoes. All origin of food in the section is clearly labeled as to place and/or country of origin. In the case of things grown outside of the region, they still only buy from wholesalers with a commitment to buying from family farms with ethical and sustainable growing practices. Once again, this costs a bit more but it costs what food should cost.

  • Not all Milk that says it is “organic” is in fact organic. Just like your meat, make sure that the cows it comes from fit all of the same requirements. The brand at my co-op that meets that standard is Cedar Summit Farms. It is a bit less than double the cost of milk from the supermarket. Once again, this costs more because it costs what milk should cost (do you sense a theme here?).

The bottom line is this:

  • Know what you are eating. Become educated about it. If you are shopping at a place where no one can tell you exactly where the food comes from, how it is grown, how the animals are treated, even after death… Don’t shop there!
  • Be ready to pay 2-3 times what you are paying right now. Cheaper rarely equals better and this is especially true when it comes to food. Quality food that is safe to eat is more expensive at every level of it’s production. And it should be.

  • Eat locally produced food as much as possible from independent and/or family run farms that practice ethical and safe practices. Find a good food co-op that buys from and supports these folks and/or local farmers markets and/or CSA to buy directly. Not only because you will have a better idea who and where your food is coming from but it is less impactful on the environment because it does not travel as far to get to you.

  • If you do have to eat out, choose a place that does it’s darndest to adhere to the same standards (example: Chipolte).

I really believe that all of this can change if enough people decide they are done with the way things are, pay a bit more money, and educate ourselves. Here are some links that will help you:

  • The Cornucopia Institue – They promote economic justice for family farms but what is really insightful is the reports they produce. Especially about “organics” (not all “organic” is organic).
  • Fair Food Fight – A forum and blog community built around this topic. Tons of good information and recipes here.

  • Local Harvest – Find where to buy locally produced food in your area.

  • Eat Local Challenge – Seriously, I challenge you to eat local as many times a week as possible.

  • My Eat Well Pinboard – as I research more on this subject, I will be updating my links here under the tag “eatwell”.

The reason things have gotten this way is because not enough of us have stood up and chosen to eat well. I, for one, am standing. Stand with me. Let’s stand together.