My Thoughts on Food, Inc.
I finally watched Food, Inc. this weekend. Wow. Where do I begin? I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the state of our nation's food systems. But this film really opened my eyes even more. Especially as an omnivore. Now, don't jump to any conclusions, I'm STILL not going vegan. At least not yet. I guess that's a good place to start though. Food, Inc. opens up the doors of the big mid-western slaughterhouses and chicken factories and shows us just how absolutely DISGUSTING this industry actually is. Thousands of cows standing in massive lots, knee deep in their own excrement. Thousands of chickens packed into huge, dark closed up chicken houses. These animals being fed genetically modified grains and pumped full of antibiotics. Fattening them up as quickly as possible so that they can be slaughtered and sold. They get so big, so fast, their bones can't grow that fast and many of these chickens and cows can barely hold themselves up.
Speaking of genetically modified grains, and not only grains, genetically modified foods in general. I was blown away by how much of our food is not what we think it is. That tomato that looks so ripe and fresh? Think again. It's been genetically modified to resist going bad too soon. The film talks a lot about corn and soybeans, which if you've ever read anything by Michael Pollan you aren't surprised by this. Corn and soy are found in just about every single food item on the grocery store shelves and these are also modified crops. They are engineered to resist insects or to be resistant to pesticides or who knows what else. One company in particular dominates the GMO industry so much that it's putting organic soybean farmers out of business. I dare not say too much, otherwise I might get sued. Seriously.
I used to pride myself on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. Fruits and veggies, meats and eggs. Keep it simple. I thought I was making the best choices, but perhaps the chicken breast is not all that much better than the potato chips. Think that's a stretch? I don't. Recently I have been trying to shop for organic products but didn't go crazy about it. After watching this film, my shopping methods are about to get a serious revamping. Now I'd like to find local organic farms that sell grass fed, free range, antibiotic and hormone free beef. Sure it's expensive, but you know what? Living a long and healthy life is worth it. Lately I've been spending a lot more time at Whole Foods. I've been buying cage free, organic eggs and you can really tell the difference. The yolks are brighter, the whites are clearer, they taste better. And you know what? They really are only a few cents more expensive.
One of the biggest arguments for eating crap is that it's cheap. So many people can't afford to eat healthy. Yet they pay a fortune in medical bills and prescription drugs to treat their diabetes and heart disease that could most likely be healed if they just used all that money to shop smarter. I don't have time to cook, I don't have money to buy healthy food, what's your excuse? I'm a single, unemployed girl with a ton of credit card debt, rent, utilities and I rarely get to hang out with my friends but you know what? My first priority is grocery shopping. You do what it takes to be well.
I could probably go on for days about this film and what it's made me think about, but I won't. I just highly recommend that you see it. And really think about where your food comes from and what food really means to you.
Have you seen Food, Inc.? I'd love to hear your thoughts!!
It says a lot for the movement, that you are willing to spend money that you don't have, take the time that you don't have, and make sacrifices to eat more organically.
I wasn't planning on watching Food Inc, because it sounds like it covers (quite graphically) a whole bunch of info that I firmly believe in. However, it's easy to forget. It's easy to stop at your parents' place and open the cupboards for a snack. It's easy to be at a party and reach into the chip bowl. We all need to be reminded.
Thank you for that, Jenny!
So, anyway, I went right out to our local green grocer store, looking for free-roaming, grass-fed, non-antibiotic, chicken. What I found in the store freezer was about six packages of locally raised chicken. A couple of packages of chicken legs/thighs and some packages of breasts. Not much of a selection. I ended up buying one package of three chicken legs for around $7. The chicken was very good, but to tell you the truth, I didn't see much difference in that then in regular supermarket chicken. I will probably buy more at some point. I'm hoping that maybe the demand will increase and there will be more of a choice! Unfortunately, we don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joes in our area. :(
The other thing I struggle with is that while we are supposed to eat organic, locally grown fruits and veggies, but, living in Upstate, NY, there are very few local fruits and veggies during the winter months. Does that mean that we can't have blueberries, strawberries or blackberries until summer? They are all imported from South America and who knows what happens to them there???
Oh well, I guess we just do the best we can and try to shop as mindfully as possible. :)
Lisa, the chicken may not have tasted different but I guarantee that it your body appreciated it more than you know. Eating healthier chicken makes us healthier people.
And as far as seasonal fruit goes, unfortunately that is one of the downsides, we are used to being able to eat anything we want all year round but that's just not how it's supposed to be. If you want to purchase those berries from South America, that's your right but like you said, you have no idea what's been done to them to make them stay ripe for that long. Not to mention the ecological affects of shipping food that far.
Our biggest change was in signing up with two CSAs three years ago - we've got one for fruits & veggies that feeds us June-Jan, and we supplement that further with the farmer's market. We also found a small organic meat CSA, visited the farms and felt good about the way they were raising their animals to have a REAL animal life before sacrificing their lives to our table. And the meat - it's amazing. And did I mention that it costs LESS than shopping at Whole Foods?! Check out localharvest.org to find local CSA opps near you.
I do try to eat seasonally as much as possible, and even in the winter, we have an all-local farmstand that I visit year-round, and a winter farmer's market once a month - it's more expensive, but we still like to shop local as much as we can afford to. And in the summer months when produce is cheap and beautiful, I'm freezing and canning just like my momma taught me, so I can have blueberries and tomatoes in winter when I want them.
Sometimes, I actually forget that how we eat isn't "normal," because it's the only way I CAN eat. When I see people guzzling soda, or loading up their grocery carts with boxed foods, I'm horrified! Granted, I do love cooking, but even if you don't making fresh food doesn't take that long. Ideally, I'd love to craft my worklife into helping people eat well, but haven't figured out how to do that quite yet...
I agree totally with you. I think about everything I buy these days. Food has to be not only gluten-free, but as organic and local as possible. If we all did that, maybe things in the food industry would change!
I really like Jenn S's ideas about freezing and canning. We live in a townhouse with limited storage space and no room for an extra freezer, but I think I will definitely give that a try this summer, when the local produce is available! I have never canned before, does anyone know of any good websites with good instructions on how to do that?
I also have a very small container veggie garden on our deck every summer (tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers), herbs and some strawberry plants. I wish I had space for more!
Thanks for all the good advice!
Jen...I love your blog! :)
I am taking a long hard look at the way we eat.
We are planting our first real garden this year, and in the meantime we've joined our local CSA (got my first box of organic, local produce today!) and are committed to buying grass-fed, organic beef (while reducing overall consumption), pasture chickens and free-range, local chicken eggs.
Great Review Jen!
We are going to split a 1/4 grass fed cow with Mike's parents, 100 lbs. of grass-fed and organic beef for $550.00, not bad if you have the freezer space!