Sunday, May 8, 2011

Silent "Oh."

So, I'm waist deep in food research these days. And one thing has been becoming clear, there is a high price to pay for low-cost food.

The argument kind of goes something like this:

Most of the food Americans normally consume has no real nutrient value, poisons the earth, is filled with fillers and chemicals and requires us to abuse and use millions of animals a year. We subsidize farms for the filler (soy, corn and wheat) in order to put those products into everything. We jack up the farmer because most farmers have to purchase their seed through giant GMO Monsanto, which is knocking out other non-GMO food options, and making it not feasible to farm any other types of seed. The subsidies keep the price of the "filler" food at really low prices. The "filler" food leads to all kinds of health problems which costs the country millions in health care bills because it's calorically dense food with very little, if any, nutrients.

The other side goes like this:

There's enough food product to feed people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the "real" cost of non-filler food if the system was altered. In other words, more and more people would go hungry. There are seven billion people in the world and many of them are starving already.

Insert my silent "Oh." Here.

Well, crap. It's a total damned if you do and damned if you don't. Perhaps the reason other countries are so skinny is because they can't afford food and don't have the same subsidies that support "filler-food"? MacTroll liked to point out after we finished watching the first half of Food, Inc. that neither  Michael Pollan nor Eric Schlosser are vegetarians. They are instead what I've seen been referred to as "Selective Omnivores." People who eat meat that is only grown by animal-friendly farmers who produce meat that is organic. Because of the price of meat raised responsibly is so expensive (for an example a pound of Meijer bacon is $3.18 where as a pound of Triple S bacon at the Common Ground Coop is $8.25), it makes sense that having a primary plant-based diet with a few meat meals cuts out the incredible expense.

But it's not just the idea of a pig roaming free that makes it cost that much. It's the idea that factory farms soak your food in things like chlorine in a giant attempt to kill the billions of bacteria each animal picks up from living in close quarters standing up to their knees in their own and others' feces, which is on the meat that's been slaughtered, packaged and taken to your store in small, easily accessible, non-identifiable food packaging with a pretty farm label on it.

Food for thought: The next time you buy ground beef, one package could contain bits of who knows what from over 40,000 different cows. If there's something wrong with one cow, the whole industry goes bad -- or they just don't tell you and cross their fingers that no one else gets sick. But they have. People have died. Little kids have died. The movie interviews a mother of a two year old boy who died after eating a Jack in the Box hamburger.

So as we continually have recalls in meat, it makes sense why hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef are disposed of. They really can't determine where it came from except for the fact that all of the country's meat slaughters only go through a handful of slaughterhouses.

It's totally creepy.

Food, Inc., was fine to watch. It gave me lots of different views of the organic food industry (some better than others). It also interviewed Pollan and Schlosser about the realities of American eating (Schlosser's favorite food is hamburger and french fries). But it also gives an open door to the idea of selective ominivores everywhere, where as Eating Animals comes out and says if you eat meat -- you can't call yourself an environmentalist -- period.

On the other hand, this month's Vegetarian Times Magazine has a 28-day boot camp to vegetarianism. I plan on using it as a trial in June. I'll do a month of vegetarianism, take a break and try a month of "near veganism." (Still love that term from the book "Becoming Vegetarian.")

Until then, pity my "I'm an omnivore because I like vegetables wrapped in bacon" husband as I introduce him to food he'd rather not digest, but will, because he loves me and knows in his brain it's better for him and that he is at least able to get in the car and take X-man out for Pepperoni Pizza any time he wants. :-)

And please take note that I do not advocate for any eating plan. You eat what you want to eat. I'll eat what I want to eat. We'll leave each other to our happy bodies and bellies. Mine might run well on Cocomero. Yours might run better on carrot jalapeno soup. It's fine. Please don't think I'm self-righteous, because I'm totally not. I ate HMR bean and beef burritos with non-organic avocado and organic corn kernels today for lunch. Sure, I gave up my 100-calorie popcorn to air pop my own and avoid the transfats, but seriously, I also tried some vegan jerky that I just couldn't quite put my finger on. Did I like it? Well, I wouldn't choose to eat it as a snack. But that didn't stop me from consuming the little package from the Coop. Five little pieces and 100 calories later, I still couldn't understand what I was eating, or make a determination if I actually liked it or not.

What does it mean when you say, "I don't like it. But I'd eat it."

And then I realized, that's probably why big corporations started using neuroscience and trans fats to create more and more food products to begin with. Because some clueless person like me put an eggplant in her mouth and said, "I don't like it, but I'll eat it." And bing -- scientific lightbulb went off... and boom -- now we have Wal-mart.

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