Saturday, April 9, 2011

Food Inc. ... What do we do now?


I recently watched Food Inc (merci Netflix!!) , the documentary made by Robert Kenner...and while I had watched other documentaties along the same lines (Supersize Me or Fast Food Nation), and while I am aware of the power of large agro-business and distributors companies in this country, I have to say that it made me think even more on how to best feed my family.
My conclusion is that it's a "quadrature du cercle" unless you are either wealthy enough (but we are talking REALLY wealthy) to be able to eat LOCAL ORGANIC food ALL YEAR ROUND... ! Since I can't, what do we do?

As I like to tell my daughter when she has a hard time making a decision as to whether she wants honey or jam on her tartine (and boy, that drives me crazy!!) , we process by elimination...
First, we eliminate processed food as much as possible, especially GMO products. In our family, the only processed food we eat these days are frozen dumplings, fresh cut ham, yogurts, apple sauce pouches, a few cookies, jam, and a few sauces (chutney, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, etc.). I have started to use dry beans more (I buy them in bulk) instead of the canned ones. I find that once you have cooked dry beans, you can freeze them. This saves me time and enables me to have some "on hand". Besides, it's cheaper by the pound and has less sodium...
Then we try to go for organic when "affordable"; it is my experience that sometimes organic produces and products are not THAT much more expensive that conventional ones. Forget organic raspberries in the middle of winter... but for instance organic pears (on sale) this morning at Wholefoods were not more expensive than conventional ones at the Reading Terminal Market where we also shop.  And when there is a bargain on some organic products, especially the ones we eat a lot, I stock. This comparaison-shopping requires time though...
The hard question to answer is:  is it better to purchase organic pears that come from Argentina or conventional ones that come from California?  If prices are equivalent, no matter the carbon foot-print, I purchase the organic ones. Why? Because the lack of pesticides in organic products is not only better for me and the environment, it's also better for the people who work in the fields... and that's worth it!
When it comes to meat and fish, I purchase less so that we can afford the better quality products (organic or grass-fed or free-range.)  It has worked fine with us for the last few months...Even my meat-eater husband feels OK with our semi-vegetarian diet (he just does not want to say that he feels better!!)
When organic products are just not within the reach of my wallet, I try to buy "local".
And if none of the above options are available, I either go for frozen products or I make exceptions. And  I do make a lot of exceptions. I figure that if 50% of the time, I am able to purchase either organic or local foods, then it's OK for me to purchase conventional products, even if they come from the other side of the world. And I think that even if it were 10% of the time, it would still matter. No need (who can afford it in the first place) to be radical... just a few changes will do everybody good! Especially in the longer term.. and that's what matters to me... being able to raise healthy kids and leaving them with a better place...
What's for dinner tonight? A salade composée made with (conventional, from California) wild rice, organic fennel, (conventional, from Florida) cherry tomatoes, fresh organic dill, and toasted (conventional, from California) almonds.  Bon Appétit!

1 comment:

  1. Such a quandary! Have I sent you to "learning to eat" blog? A local woman (Caroline Grant) who turned her last set of blogs into a book and is quite consistent. Prob. looks into similar issues. Focuses on the process of teaching kids about food... hers. Nice to hear from you. Best, Heather