Monday, July 20, 2009

Food is ugly

I'm reading Food, Inc.

I wouldn't say that there are many surprises in the book. I already knew that I didn't like the idea of poisons on my kids' food (or in our air, soil and water). Genetically modified food already freaked me out. I was already convinced that feeding animals hormones and antibiotics is bad. And I've always had a problem with the issue of immigration and farming. But now I feel like I'm on some big crusade within my own home.

Have you ever seen battery cages?

Or a feedlot?

Did you ever wonder who is out there, hand-picking your strawberries?
The USDA comes right out and tells us that about half are illegal (and almost all are foreign), and that 80% of them work 40+ hours/wk for an average of $318. In the sun. Immersed in pesticides. So we can have strawberry shortcake in February.

Basically, this book has taken all of my earlier concerns and made me realize that I'm not just paranoid. There are funky things going on in the food industry and I'm not being forced to participate. I'm being forced to work really hard in order to opt out.

I took my daughters to the local farm market this past weekend. They picked out half a dozen ears of corn (since we planted late). They were relatively short ears. The kernels varied in size and had some "interesting" patterns to them. No two looked alike. In other words, they were perfect! Grown from nature's seeds (not a lab's), in clean, local soil, recently harvested by the people who were paid for them.

We did pay slightly more than we would have for supermarket corn on sale. What we saved were the chemicals, the Frankenstein breeding, and the extra transportation. And my girls got to see that Amish people really do exist!

I can't completely change overnight. I managed to choke down some mass-produced chicken last night, and a Shop Rite cheeseburger the night before. I did talk to one of the farmers about getting half a cow and some chicken for our chest freezer. From a cow that lives in a field and chickens that have never seen a cage. Or been fed antibiotics. Or bred to grow at rates that would produce 300+lb human toddlers.

I know many people already think I'm weird with my slightly-crunchy take on the world, and a whole bunch are going to think I've really gone nuts now. But that's okay. If it's nuts to want to avoid buying a 10yo a bra or feminine hygiene products, or to contribute to a farmer's livelihood instead of a corporation's stock, or to eat real food and avoid poisons, than I'm happy to be nuts. Organic, locally grown, fair-wage nuts!

If you don't mind eating animals that were covered in feces before being cut up, eating species that have been spliced with other species and not knowing what species that might be, or getting your lettuce from China, that's your business. And I think you're nuts.

For the record, there are some points in the book I disagree with. But I do recommend everyone read it. Or see it, if you don't live in the boonies like me. If you can get through it without wanting to make a single change to your kitchen, I'll eat an unwashed supermarket strawberry.