Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | August 22, 2009

the cost of sustainable food

We just got the current issue of Time magazine and the minute my husband walked in the door with it, I grabbed it out of his hands to read the cover story. The story is “The Real Cost of Cheap Food.” It is an incredibly interesting article about how cheap food is killing our country. The graphic on the cover was especially powerful

timecover

What you can’t read easily in the little picture is the warning lable:

WARNING: This hamburger may be hazardous to your health. Why the American food system is bad or our bodies, our economy and our environment – and what some visionaries are trying to do about it.

The cost of eating “healthy” has been something I’ve thought about for a long time. We eat a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables in my household and I’m still relatively new to eating red meat. Our grocery bills definitely show that we spend more and I don’t typically buy organic a) because it is too darn expensive and b) because I know enough about the food industry to know that some smaller farms can’t afford the extra cost of being officially deemed organic even though for all other purposes they are. Now that we are in NC it is much easier for me to frequent the farmers markets and get truly fresh produce, but we spend between $100-$150 a week on groceries easily (budgeting isn’t my forte, I’m working on it, but I can’t tell you what I actually spend yet).

I prefer not to think about how my meat is raised, but there is no escaping the fact that the way meat is raised in the US is harming our environment and our waistlines. Animals were supposed to be raised in open spaces and eat the grasses that are readily available. However, because people want cheap food fast, animals are corn fed and kept in horrifying conditions – how else would they manage to sell burgers at McDonalds so cheaply? We also, as a country, eat too much meat. I know that I personally have a hard time convincing my husband to eat a vegetarian meal that isn’t just plain pasta.

Going organic is a great idea, if you can find a way to afford it. It is also important to remember that it is more important for some things to have the “organic” label than others. The article in Time makes me want to buy organic meat. I usually try to buy the “smart chicken” but I haven’t paid as much attention to the red meat since I don’t make as much of it.

The article was very reminiscent of Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” which I found incredibly interesting. One of his big ideas was to make sure that you could pronounce the ingredients that make up your food and to do as much actual cooking as you can, rather than buying packaged foods. I think that’s a smart idea and is actually pretty close to how I already cook.

On a slightly related tangent, I recently came across an interesting article on blogher about Pollan’s book. The article was about how his book was slightly sexist, which I don’t disagree with. The author, Suzanne Reisman, states

My (organic, grass-fed) beef with Pollan is that he spends all his time lamenting the fact that no one cooks any more and that “feminism thoughtlessly trampled” any pleasure women might get from cooking, but no time exploring why, as women spend time doing other things, men who have “the gift” (or men in general) don’t pick up the slack in the kitchen. This important omission goes straight to the heart of blaming women for all of the food related illnesses that plague modern society. Flat out, it is not the fault of feminism for encouraging women (and men) to pursue what interests them, but the fault of society for placing so little value on cooking for one’s family that no one has interest in doing so any more.

Women in my age group face a tough dilemma when they try to figure out how to balance work, life and family. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that since I work part time, I have a little more flexibility now to make healthy dinners without taking time away from my daughter, but when I worked full time, it was more of a crunch. We typically prefer eating at home, but sometimes finding ways to get a healthy meal were difficult. As my recent posts have shown, this is something I am working hard on and something that is often on my mind.

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