After months of waiting, we finally got the documentary Food, Inc from the library! Wow, was this a powerful program, and I already was familiar with most of the ideas and information in it. Seriously, you absolutely must run to your library and put this on hold. The kids liked it so much they asked if they could watch it a second time (which they did today), and dh said after watching it that it impressed on him the significance of the food choices we make, not just as individuals but for society.
Food, Inc. covered a lot of ground in 90 minutes – industrial chicken/beef/hog production, e coli and salmonella contaminations and their origination in the contained animal feedlot operations, seed patents, poorly paid workers, the danger of mega corporations controlling our food and seed supply, and sustainable alternatives.
The main message that I walked away from this program with, was to recognize that every single person has some power to effect a change in our industrial food system. The only positive thing which you can say about it is that the food is cheap, which isn’t an insignificant point since cost is a very real concern for many of us. But when one looks at the overall picture, you see that the food that we think is so inexpensive actually has a much higher cost that we don’t see when we choose to buy a product. This program pulls back the veil so we get a glimpse of things that go on behind the scenes, facts that can help us make choices with a better educated perspective.
What I’ve generally found in the past is that I’ve felt powerless and discouraged when I looked at the multinational corporations that control our food supply and felt like whatever I bought or didn’t buy really didn’t make a difference. So what was most valuable for me in watching Food, Inc. was to hear a CEO of a major organic company say that while consumers think they have to take what industry provides for them and have no power, it’s actually exactly the opposite. It’s the consumers demanding something else that will bring about change.
We don’t have to be advocates fighting the battle on Capitol Hill to make a difference. Just choosing to buy the better product (even if it’s a bit more expensive) or letting the owners/managers know what we’d like to see is sending a message. Since watching this a couple of days ago I’ve contacted two local kosher butchers and let them know I’d like to see them carrying grass fed meat (and one said he is planning to have some in stock for the first time in the next few days – I am soooo excited!!), and plan to share a suggestion with the local kosher supermarket that they do the same (I’ll include ordering info and possible sources for them).
We really do vote with our food dollars. As it said in Food, Inc., every time we scan something at the checkout, we’re voting for the kind of food we want to see. When you’re on a limited budget, as we are, sometimes we may to forced to make a choice of quality over quantity, and sometimes we don’t have even that luxury.
It’s easy to say something like cut out all the processed food to make room in the budget for organics, etc, but that presumes that there are expensive processed foods to be cut out in the first place! I have a set budget to work within ($600 monthly for 11 people) and I’ve been able to feed our family healthfully and amply on that sum. I’ve been continually making nutritional upgrades to our way of eating over the last few years, and every one of them costs more than the previous option I’m leaving behind! So while I want to encourage everyone to be conscious that the choices you make when you shop really matter, I also believe that there’s no room for personal guilt if you’re doing the best you can and you find yourself limited by what you can do and what you want to do.
(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)