January 13, 2010

Food (For Thought)

Over the weekend, Beth and I watched Food Inc.. It was, perhaps, the single most horrifying movie I've ever seen, far surpassing Poltergeist (which my mom mistakenly took me to when I was way too young) and Mariah Carey's Glitter (which I haven't seen because I value my eyes and don't want to be forced to claw them out).

Why was it horrifying? Well, here are some high points from the movie.

  • The North American food supply is controlled - grown, harvested, and sold - by a handful of companies who control nearly ever facet of the food throughout its lifecycle. These corporations contract with farmers yet determine all aspects of raising the animals leaving the farmer with huge debt, waste disposal and the majority of financial and physical risk.

  • Only 2% of livestock farms now raise 40% of all animals in the U.S. In fact 10 billion animals (chickens, cattle, hogs, ducks, turkeys, lambs and sheep) are raised and killed in the US annually. Nearly all of them are raised on factory farms under inhumane conditions.

  • Of the soy and corn products grown in and fed to North Americans, 85-90% is genetically modified.

  • Approximately 1 billion people worldwide do not have secure access to food, including 36 million in the US.

  • The average food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store and transporting food accounts for 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses. Much of this is cause by, well, us and our farming and food harvesting techniques. Meanwhile FDA investigations aimed at safeguarding our food and the ways and places in which its processed are at a ten year low.

  • The Federal government spends $35 billion per year subsidizing commodity crops which artificially lower the prices of corn and soybeans, encouraging their overproduction and making them much cheaper than other crops. There are so many of these crops that they're used for the production of cheap - or fast - food. The result? The price of soft drinks decreased by 23 percent between 1985 and 2000, while the price of fruits and vegetables increased by almost 40 percent.

  • Big companies control every aspect of food production. Take Monsanto. They developed Roundup Ready, a weed killer. Then they engineered a soybean resistant to it. It shouldn't be surprising that they now control 80% of the soybean market and routinely sue farmers for using anything but.

Now, I'm not going to get up on a soapbox and preach vegetarianism or consumption of organic products. Those are decisions you need to make for yourselves and I'd just come off sounding like an asshat anyway. But if I could plant one tiny and completely genetically unmodified seed here, it's this - question where your food comes from. That's it. Just be an educated consumer particularly about your food. Because what is more basic to our existence and survival than food? Nothing. Except maybe air. And we really can't shop around for that.

How closely do you pay attention to what you eat? What food-related issues are you most conscious of? And have you changed what you eat and buy as a result?

Update: With rather bizarre and coincidental timing, a study was just released that concluded Monsanto's genetically modified corn causes organ failure in rats. Read more about it.

Posted by Chris at January 13, 2010 7:00 AM

Yes, it all bothers me. I garden and I can my own fruits and vegetables. I try to do everything from scratch. I only eat wild fish, no farm raised. And free range chicken. It's tough. But you can only do what you can do. Try not to think about it too much, because it can make you crazy!

Posted by: Maribeth at January 13, 2010 7:12 AM

You may be happy to read that Monsanto recently posted a 19M 1st-qtr loss due to reduced sales of it's Round-Up brand. Shares were down 3 cents on that report.

It may not seem like much but I think they are being sent a message by farmers/consumers/etc.

'We are not as stupid as you want us to be.'

There are flaws in the local food system also but at least the drive continues to learn about where our food comes from, why we need it to be in its most natural form #if possible# and how to get it.

A long way to go. I think teaching our children is the first step, but then you come across articles like this, http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/201001/school-yard-garden and you realize that there are still consumers who blindly back these corporations up.

Posted by: Angelica at January 13, 2010 7:19 AM

I just finished "the unhealthy truth", a book about how unhealthy our food supply is. I'm already a vegetarian, but we are trying to eat mostly organic and no food dyes or anything artificial, and it is hard. I highly recommend the book.

Posted by: jodifur at January 13, 2010 7:31 AM

I haven't seen it yet, but I plan on watching it soon.

I have a friend over here who is American and she works for the Army, but because she is a civilian contractor, she doesn't have commissary privileges. She was a vegan back in the states for these very reasons. She recently started eating dairy & fish & poultry products due to the lack of availability of alternative products here.

But, luckily for her, the situation over here in Germany is much better as far as the food.

Driving home from Ramstein yesterday and during frequent trips back and forth to Frankfurt, you see farms and crops of all sorts. The eggs I buy are fresh. When possible, I buy all my fruits & veggies & eggs off post. And I DO have commissary privileges. But I GREATLY enjoy buying my food from the very person who harvested the items themselves.

It's healthier AND I feel like I'm supporting hard working folks that care about their land and their bodies. They take pride in it.

We are not currently vegetarians. Though, I do not eat a lot of meat. I just haven't ever classified myself. However, I'm thinking after watching this film, I might make some major changes in our diets.

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at January 13, 2010 7:39 AM

I watched that too and yes, it makes you look at the food on your plate differently. I do try and buy A. what is actually in season B. locally grown/raised. I made the choice to eat less processed and no red meat (less meat overall) about 18 mos. ago. To the people who say it costs more to eat healthy, I disagree. I would argue that you put a shopping cart full of processed and packaged foods up against a cart of fruits and vegetables and it will be the same if not less to eat healthy. Unfortunately, eating healthy isn't as convenient and if your plan is to live on Taco Bell then yes, you can probably eat cheaper but the chances are you will end up on the Biggest Loser tv show.

Posted by: Debbie at January 13, 2010 8:52 AM

YES! yes yes yes yes!! OMG, so incredibly apropos because after recently beginning to suspect that Red Dye #40 is turning my children into raging monster crazy zombies, I picked up The Unhealthy Truth and am reading it right now. Also suspecting that Mister's asthma could have been prevented.

UNBELIEVABLE and scary and blinding anger inducing.

Posted by: chatty cricket at January 13, 2010 8:54 AM

Fairly closely. We tend to have a pretty healthy diet anyways, but in the past couple of years I've definitely been edging closer and closer to more locally grown fruits and vegetables. I try to take advantage of the farmer's market, we are looking into participating in a CSA program this year and we are also looking at purchasing grass-feed, organic local beef from on our local farm. I've also started a "community" garden with our neighbor last year and this year have embarked on a mission to bake the majority of the bread we consume.
The reality is that we will likely never be 100% locavores, but yes, we could pay closer attention to what he consume. It affects our health, our local economy, our environment etc etc.
But I'll stop and not keep going. I don't really want to sound like an asshat either.

Posted by: varinia at January 13, 2010 8:55 AM

We have changed our habits over the last several years. We've been vegetarian for a long time, and we've been increasing our organic purchases over the last few years.

That being said, we are in a very fortunately position to be able to do so because of (a) the increase in availability in standard grocery stores, as well as a Whole Foods opening nearby recently, and (b) we can afford to.

I will feel much better as organic choices become more affordable for everyone.

Posted by: Kaz at January 13, 2010 8:59 AM

There's a great book on exactly this subject. It's called "Eating Animals" by Jonathon Safron Foer. Here's an Amazon link to it:
It's not just about going/being Vegan, he delves into all the issues you touched on. Ellen Degeneres has had him on as a guest, she's a big fan of his.

Posted by: LaineyDid at January 13, 2010 9:02 AM

I haven't watched this yet because 90% of people that I've encountered who have seen it have belittled anyone who knows where their food comes from and continues to buy non-locally/non-organically (you are in the rare 10%! :D). We're not able to afford either at the moment. I wish that films like this (I've not seen it, so it might do this) would emphasize the dire need of affordable, accessible local & organic foods for everyone, not just those fortunate enough to afford it all.

Small rant: I grew up on a functional(ish) cattle farm in a farming community in a state full of small farms. When I was about 13 or 14, a corporate pig farm set up shop about 10 miles outside of town, near where one of my friends lived. That was my first exposure to corporate farming. It was awful. No one wanted them there. They created tons of waste and pollution, treated the pigs inhumanely (because you cannot humanely farm that many animals in such a small space, sorry), and took income away from local farmers. I despise corporate farming. Small farmers are losing their livelihoods.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at January 13, 2010 9:23 AM

Ok, first Linda (at SundryMourning) posted about this and now you. Part of me really wants to see it, but the other part is terrified. I have horrible eating habits as it is. I will get so grossed out by the thought of food that I will then just not eat for awhile, so I don't know if watching this would be a good idea. I don't eat meat, but do eat some poultry (organic/free range). But, more often than not, if I prepare the chicken, I then can't eat it. I had no idea about soy being modified. Nice. I think I'm going to stick to fruits & veggies for the rest of my life. It saddens me that it is so much more expensive to eat healthy.

Posted by: js at January 13, 2010 9:27 AM

Over the course of several years, I have gradually changed my eating habits to the point where I eat meat maybe once a month. I have stopped eating red meat completely.

At first, I stopped buying meat because I was right out of college, broke, and meat was expensive. But over time, I have learned more about how nasty the meat industry is and its impact on the environment, and I have become purposeful in choosing vegetarian meals over meals with meat.

Posted by: Melody at January 13, 2010 9:30 AM

My spouse is currently doing her PhD on religion and food related issues. Seems there's a decided connection with reverence for the land, spirituality and food. So, we've learned a heck of a lot more than we ever thought about this, and yeah, it's disturbing. We keep going ever more green, and we vuy nearly everything weekly at the Farmer's Market. Thankfully, my little corner of Southwestern Ontario has some of the best farming land around, and the nicest people farm it. We freeze everything we cook, and it's great.

Couple things:
Water is more basic than food, if you want to split hairs. Do NOT use plastic water bottles. The best bet for those of fortunate enough to have clean water is to just run the tap through a Brita filter and fill up your SIGG bottle.

There was an excellent three part program on the CBC a couple years ago called "Organics Goes Mainstream" ( http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/features/organics/index.html ). It features an author by the name of Michael Pollan, who I completely recommend on this topic. Being an avid reader, if you have an interest, pick up "The Omnivore's Dilemma". It's more eye opening and not as hard hitting.

Posted by: Martin at January 13, 2010 9:35 AM

Crazy story: my husband is allergic to penecillin (sp) and a couple of years ago he kept developing this occasional rash on his upperbody. We were baffled, all the allergist did was prescribe an EpiPen. After a while, we just learned to live with the outbreaks. We then stumbled upon an interview with Dr. Michael Boden (on Fox News) who suggested that people with penecillin allergies suffer allergic outbreaks from the milk of chemically treated cows! How horrific is that?!! We switched to organic dairy and meat products immediately. Over time we switched over to a completely organic diet. I also have read An Unhealthy Truth (another eye opener) and am working to eliminate even more potential toxins from our diet. I don't buy 100% local food, but am thinking of joining a community garden this spring. There are a lot of simple changes you can make, especially when you look at the potential risks.

Posted by: Tess at January 13, 2010 9:47 AM

I've tried to be blissfully unaware of all this, but I can't anymore. Living in South Dakota has given me the privilge of helping to raise the chickens I eat and gathering the eggs that I use. Lucky for me, my friends have farms. Last year was the first year I had a small garden and I can't even TELL you how wonderful it was to go out in my yard, pick a tomato and go back in and cut it up and eat it! And don't get me started about my butternut squash. I was so unhappy when I ate the last one.

Posted by: k8 at January 13, 2010 10:02 AM

Oh, I forgot to mention that since we switched to all organic animal products, my husband has not had one outbreak.

Posted by: Tess at January 13, 2010 10:04 AM

I think the question of cost is a really interesting one. In my experience, it takes longer, and is more work, but buying whole grains in bulk, veggies in their intact form, cheese that's not pre-grated, etc etc, can allow one to have higher quality food for a cost that's close to the cost of lots of foods that are pre-made. Meat is, obviously, way more expensive to buy organic/free range, and since we don't eat meat I'm sure that makes it easier for us. And of course frozen meals from companies like Amy's are way more expensive than frozen meals from companies like Kraft...

It's like, if you take menu A, which is what you currently eat, and remake menu A but with all organic components, it will likely be more expensive. But if you switch to menu B, which involves less meat, more grains, and veggies in season, with more components made from scratch, you can pretty closely approximate the cost of menu A as it's made with the unorganic stuff. Does that make any sense?

There is definitely a question of access, though. We're lucky to live in a part of a big city where I have lots of choices about where to buy my food, including markets that have local and organic stuff. I fully recognize that not everyone has access to that.

Posted by: pseudostoops at January 13, 2010 10:06 AM

I work and shop at a food co-op and buy local and organic when i can afford it. (No one ever got rich working at a food co-op)
One thing I find most important is to know where your food is coming from. I've been to the farm where they grow the beef i buy and the chickens. I am lucky to live in a place where I can do that and work/shop at a store what tells me where everything i eat is coming from.
I'm not seriously strict about it, life is too short to stress out, but I do try to do as much as I can.

Posted by: Katie at January 13, 2010 10:09 AM

Yep. Watched it last week. Totally changed how we shop now. I loved two things - the economic argument that the guy from Stonyfield made. If organic products can, in fact, be affordable (and sold in Walmart), then the effects of poor diet on the lower socio-economic folks are lessened. Also? That closing line that says we get to vote "three times a day" on what kinds of food we demand from our producers.

This ship will not turn easily - but with a signifcant grass roots effort voting "three times a day" I believe we will see better food options in the future.

Posted by: Pammer at January 13, 2010 10:14 AM

You are strikingly on point this week with your posts. First customer service and now food. It's striking because I just joined a local foodbuying club that puts consumers in contact with local products. I'll be placing my first order this weekend. Now, it's taking a bit to be happy about spending $15 for a chicken that I can buy for $5 at the grocery store - but my $15 will go to a local farmer who pasture-raised that chicken and who will spend that money in the local economy.

Posted by: Traci at January 13, 2010 10:21 AM

I live in South Dakota where not much is local for much of the year, but last summer I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver and it really changed the way I think about where my food comes from. I'm not so worried about beef, here in beef country, but out of season produce and the like. If you haven't read that one I think it would go nicely with the movie.

Posted by: Lisa at January 13, 2010 10:42 AM

You ever want to go more in depth on this, go into my field of profession... It's really amazing what happens to make all this possible Oh, and why there's a different Coke in Mexico? No corn subsidy to force corn syrup down our throats.

Posted by: alektra at January 13, 2010 11:07 AM

We pay very close attention...which is why over the past few years we have started growing more and more of our own vegetables in our backyard, we starting raising meat rabbits in our backyard (because I KNOW they are raised humanely and what they are or are not fed), and started hunting again (deer and feral hogs). At least I know where about 40% of our meat and veges are coming from and know that they weren't raised on concrete slabs, wallowing in their own waste, being shot up with antibiotics, and then having that served in a pristine little package at the grocery store.

I think that since I have to work so very hard at raising the rabbits and cleaning and processing a deer, that we respect the meat we eat a lot more than we would if we picked up a pack of pork chops at the grocery store. We use every last part that we can, making sausage out of the pork fat and venison meat that are just trimmings, we use the make soup broths from the bones, we use the rabbit droppings for organic compost in our vege gardens, and so on.

Posted by: Jen at January 13, 2010 11:24 AM

You should read Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. You'd like it.

Posted by: Dawn at January 13, 2010 11:28 AM

I canned my own food for the first time this past summer. I plan on doing it again this summer, but hopefully 10xs as much!

The last two grocery store trips I've bought more organic foods than I normally would, however with a family of 5 - its actually pretty hard to make the switch overnight. I'm planning on buying Organic Staples as I run out of what's in my cabinet - but when I can buy a 2lb bag of apples for 3.49 or an ORGANIC 2lb bag of apples for 6.49 - the choice comes down to the dollar. (personally I'd rather pick the apples from my OWN tree)

My husband and I have always talked about "our next house" will be a hobby farm. We'll have chickens (for eggs, and well .. chickens), maybe a pig and maybe a cow. A large garden and a couple of fruit trees.

Living in farm country, Wisconsin has its benefits.

Posted by: molly at January 13, 2010 1:22 PM

We try to buy locally-grown foods. Solves most of the problems you bullet-pointed above. It's more expensive, but it's something we feel is worth the money. And we're grateful that we have this choice, because of where we live and our income level.

Since food production is so poorly monitored, and relies so much on undocumented immigrants, it's lucky that a terrorist hasn't taken a job at a slaughterhouse and poisoned our meat supply. It would be so easy.

Posted by: Laura at January 13, 2010 1:43 PM

The quality of our food has become a recent concern in my household. I try not to read too much about it because I can only fight one battle at a time if I still want to eat.

My current mission is to get as close to cutting all the high fructose corn syrup out of my diet. Eventually I hope to completely cut it out, but right now I still compromise because it's damn hard to completely cut it out. I'm slowly replacing all my condiments with organic versions and have pretty much stopped drinking soda pop.. I only buy the natural cane sugar ones, and even that is done rarely.

I also buy local, organic meats and produce as much as possible. Sadly, the budget sometimes requires eating the evil stuff :(

Posted by: Katie at January 13, 2010 2:14 PM

I've tried to go vegetarian, but I don't feel quite right when I do, so now I spend 45% of my income on happy meat. If it didn't lead a happy life, I won't buy it. It's worth the extra money to me.

But I still haven't figured out what to do when I'm visiting family. They are decidedly not on the organic, whole food bandwagon, so in those instances I let politeness take over and I eat what is put in front of me.

This is like big tobacco all over again. The only way things are going to change is by awareness and outrage on the part of the consumer. It could take a long time, but I believe we can do it. Are we really going to let people starve because Monsanto needs to make a profit? Ugh.

Posted by: Erin at January 13, 2010 2:26 PM

Just over a year ago I went from an omnivorous diet (though my meat and dairy consumption was not huge) to a vegan diet. Just like that over night, after reading 'Skinny Bitch'.
I have since read many books, watched many films, I follow many blogs and every day I am more comforted with the idea that a vegan diet and lifestyle is the right thing to do for my health, for the planet and for animals (not necessary in this order).
My husband is now vegan too, I care too much about him to lose him to cancer, heart disease or diabetes and he understands that. We don't have children yet but they will be vegan too, I mean, I wouldn't feed my kids, things I wouldn't eat myself right? Of course I will worry that they eat enough and what is right for them, but isn't that most parents worry anyway?
It's hard not to preach because self-destructive behaviors are extremely frustrating and scary. You are right to encourage people to at least think about what industry they support and what they put inside their bodies.
As for the price and convenience of organic, local grown, plant based and whole foods, well how convenient is it to be sick and live in a polluted world?

Posted by: Alej at January 13, 2010 2:29 PM

Oh and when I say that I don't feel quite right when I don't eat meat, I mean physically. I don't feel 100% physically. :)

Posted by: Erin at January 13, 2010 2:30 PM

monsanto is the devil.

i'm sure you've already heard of michael pollan's books. must reads.

my sister works for the USDA so i know more about this stuff than i even want to know. i wish i had $250 every week to spend at Whole Paycheck, because i would. but i don't so i just do what i can. everything in moderation.

Posted by: kati at January 13, 2010 2:54 PM

Another vote for Michael Pollan's books. We try and eat as responsibly as we can, I'm a vegetarian but my husband isn't. He eats a bit of meat every week but always makes sure it's organic and from a local farm. We get a weekly delivery of fruit and vegetables from a local farm and also shop at a farmers market. We still shop at a supermarket as well, but try to go for organic/local/fairtrade food.

It does cost more but it's important to us.

Posted by: Katherine at January 13, 2010 2:58 PM

Yeah, I try not to think too hard about it, which is so bad, I know...

Posted by: Heather at January 13, 2010 3:05 PM

I think about it constantly. I still do eat some junk, from time to time, but I'm always thinking.

Also, check out King Corn when you get a chance.
You can see most of it online on Netflix and You Tube, I'm pretty sure.

Posted by: Lora at January 13, 2010 3:20 PM

My 19 year old daughter and I saw Food Inc in the theater and promptly Freaked the F*ck Out... We've changed the household purchasing and eating habits (dragging the hubby and 16-y.o. along) as much as we could reasonably afford with more organics (iPhone app available for the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 to help with choices) and elimination of HFCS.

I highly recommend the following:
~movie: King Corn (HFCS)
~anything by Pollan
~iPhone app "Dirty Produce"
~and if you shop at Whole Foods, watch the ads! They actually have excellent sales-- I recently picked up whole organic chickens for $.99/lb

Posted by: leslie at January 13, 2010 3:27 PM

I read Omnivore's Dilemma so nothing much in the movie surprised me--except the Wal Mart part! I thought that was interesting and at least somewhat hopeful.

We try our best. It is easier sometimes vs. others. In the spring, summer, and early fall we are almost 100% local with our fruits and veggies (from our CSA membership and the farmer's market). But in the late fall/winter, it's a bit harder to do.

We get all of our milk and most cheeses from a local (ok, local-ish, they are in MD closer to B'more, I think) dairy.

This year I want to get local, grass-fed meats. Luckily there are many options in the greater DC area.

Posted by: Jenn at January 13, 2010 3:54 PM

We mainly went organic when we saw what conventional foods was doing to us. I can't say that we're perfect, but we steer clear of GMO's if at all possible (we do eat out, so again, not perfect, but we try to eat out once a week, if that). It's tough though, with a family of four. They definitely don't and can't make it cheaply. And that's what bugs me. Sure you can play the "coupon game" and buy crappy pop tarts and processed foods for fifty bucks a week and feed your family of 10, but what's it really worth to you or your health?

The hubs loathes Monsanto and everything they stand for ("the man"). And they have the wool pulled over most of America's eyes.

I haven't seen Food Inc. yet, but it's in our queue. I'm hoping to see it soon. I have a feeling we're going to be even more irate after watching it, though.

Posted by: statia at January 13, 2010 4:20 PM

Ever the librarian, I have to mention a great website that I use often to help me with food choices. It's practical and useful.


Posted by: Librarian Girl at January 13, 2010 6:19 PM

Here in France, out of season stuff is pretty hard to find (you can get strawberries in December, but not easily) and we buy most of our fruit and vegetables at a local market (not necessarily organic - too expensive - but locally grown at least). For genetically modified cereals, according to Greenpeace, only 0.1% of Europe's cultures use them, which is encouraging, and the French are very protectionist (?) so most stuff you buy here is French. We do worry about honey, but have found a guy at the market who sells mountain honey which is supposedly less affected by Monsanto etc. pesticides (no agriculture to speak of at high altitude). I do think France is doing pretty well in the food thing. Yes, McDonald's and the like are popular, but in general French people eat pretty well. I see a huge difference when I go back to Britain to visit, where you can buy anything, in any season, where sweet stuff is sweeter than here in France, where there are so many fast-food possibilities, so many pre-made meals...
I like what we eat - come and live in France!

Posted by: Kirsty at January 13, 2010 7:21 PM

I'd adopt a diet with less meat if it was totally up to me - as it is, I don't eat a lot of meat, but my husband and kids would be pretty pissed if I cut it out altogether.

Though I'm not as aware as I should be, I do take care to buy local produce whenever possible (in the warmer months we have a farmers market weekly in my town) - and I do as much cooking from scratch that I can, eliminating "boxed meals" for about 90% of our diet. We don't go out to eat much so I pretty much touch everything we cook, versus fast food/convenience foods.

But, there's a lot more I could do... I just don't.

Posted by: Sarah at January 13, 2010 8:09 PM

I, too, would recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma. Wasn't Food, Inc. the one where they have the "windows" in the cows, so that they can reach inside the cow and check out what's being digested? WTF???

I definitely try to buy more organic, locally-produced items, less-processed items when I can, but every once in a while, I will still give in and buy McDonald's (although not as frequently after watching Food, Inc.!) or a case of soda. My eating habits aren't perfect, but they're better than they were, and that's something.

Posted by: Dreamybee at January 13, 2010 10:07 PM

I try not to think about it too much because it'll make me crazy (ignorance is bliss right?) I pay attention to some things and not so much to others. When I have extra money I go to a farmers market over the grocery store. Growing up my parents used to get meat from a local farm where they knew what they were fed and how they were raised. I'd love to do that but would need to research it more and get a deep freeze for my basement. Lately I've been hearing about people buying in (almost like shares of stock) to farms and every week throughout the growing season you get a bag/box of what's being harvested at that time. Sounds like a good idea.

Posted by: Rose Winters at January 13, 2010 11:07 PM

As if it wasn't hard enough feeding a family of 5 nourishing, fulfilling meals. There's so much to think about. I miss the days when I didn't care about this stuff so much. Ignorance is bilss.

I really enjoyed reading the comments, so many great ideas!

Posted by: Nila at January 14, 2010 4:16 AM

I read Kingsolver's book mentioned above several years ago and have been trying to buy more local/organic ever since. We have avoided (mostly) processed foods for close to 10 years now - I make a lot from scratch. We are lucky to be able to afford to join a CSA and shop at Whole Foods. Time magazine had an article this past summer called "Getting Real about the High Price of Cheap Food" that I recommend as well!

Posted by: Sue R at January 14, 2010 11:20 AM

My daughter saw Food Inc. in her culinary class in HS and is now a vegetarian. I'm not willing to go there yet (watch the movie or become a vegetarian) but our family eats a lot less meat now. And I'm pretty careful about where my hamburger comes from after reading a disturbing article in the NYT about hamburger.

Posted by: Carolyn at January 14, 2010 12:47 PM

I've only recently heard about Food Inc. in passing but now really want to watch it. I think. Maybe I don't. Maybe I'm better off not knowing.

Posted by: Kevin Spencer at January 14, 2010 2:55 PM

I haven't seen this documentary, but I think it covers the same things as the sources I've read and watched. I chose to be a flexitarian two years ago for this reason (my family of 5 eats less than 3 pounds of meat a week - and those come from grass fed and/or pasture raised local sources). I garden and grow a lot of our food or get our food from people I know (and can trust their methods). I'm using heritage seeds this year in our garden.

In general, though, I try really hard to make environmental choices altogether. Every day, we improve our lifestyle choices and you know what - it hasn't been hard at all.

Posted by: Jen R. (emeraldsunshine.org) at January 14, 2010 2:56 PM

Scary, isn't it? This is the first I've heard about that film, but I've done some research into Monsanto before and genetically modified foods and all the messed up stuff that ends up in things like milk. Did the film talk about the crazy history of aspartame or "butter substitute"? Two things that are banned from our house.
It's amazing the differences in our population's health over the last 30 years or so, especially for children...since they started introducing these things into our food supply. Again, scary.

Posted by: Amy at January 14, 2010 5:28 PM

I have commented on Beth's grocery bills question and one of the things which struck me really forcibly was how much cheaper the average American shopping basket is compared to the Irish one. My husband, who understands these things, says part of this is due to the EU's common agricultural policy (the CAP) which subsidises farmers (though you might think that this would make food cheaper).

I personally think that there is a big problem with treating food production as an industry like any other. Creating food is not the same as making tyres. You can make the processes more efficient but there is a cost to be paid both in terms of damage to the landscape and human health.

I was talking about this with my mother - when I was growing up we would drive up to a country butcher near where she grew up and buy pigs, sheep and cows which he butchered, which came from his brother's farm which we knew and which were labelled and put in our freezer. Our fish came from the fishmonger in the market whose son did the fishing in a trawler and our vegetables and apples came from the back garden.

30 years on and I haven't got a clue where any of our food comes from. We buy organic meet and it says on the label that the animals are traceable back to Joe Soap's farm but that is very different from knowing Joe Soap and having had a cup of tea in his kitchen. There is just something very wrong in our relationship to food and our unwillingness to pay a cost which will give smaller farmers a living wage.

On the plus side, with the French actively supporting the CAP, I can't see the small farmer disappearing from the European landscape (much to the chagrin of the British who LOVE industrialised farming). Another reason to love France.

Posted by: Anne at January 14, 2010 6:55 PM

I was a vegetarian for 12 years. Eight years ago I slowly went back to fish, then fowl, then the whole hog.

For the past 6 years, I have almost exclusively bought organic meats, eggs, fruits and veggies. My husband didn't care one way or the other until he saw Food Inc four weeks ago and declared that we will never, ever, have non-organic animal products in our house again.

The only one whining is our checking account.

Posted by: Mandy at January 15, 2010 12:50 AM

My parents had a small orchard and two vegetable patches, and and went to a proper butcher's when I was a kid. They weren't big into organic, just trying to save money! Consequently, supermarket food generally tastes like crap to me, and I know to eat seasonally if I want local food and stuff that actually has a taste.

About eighteen months ago I was lucky enough to move across the road from an old-fashioned local grocery store. The butcher counter consists entirely of meat from grass-fed, antibiotic-free animals -- and you can tell the difference when you eat it. The produce is local and organic when possible -- they even sell apples from their own trees.

It actually doesn't cost me more to buy most of my food from this local grocery. Why? They don't sell a lot of processed/prepackaged foods -- they have no room to stock them. That means that if you shop there, you have to cook. Fine by me.

FWIW, I've lost about ten pounds since I started eating their food instead of the supermarket stuff. No other changes in habits.

Posted by: Kat at January 16, 2010 1:00 PM

If you want to buy real estate, you will have to get the mortgage loans. Moreover, my mother usually utilizes a college loan, which supposes to be really fast.

Posted by: Alston22Connie at March 21, 2010 2:12 PM