Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Questioning our Food Choices

Over the last couple of years, Jeff and I have gradually been changing our food shopping habits. Back in Oregon, I would go to the discount grocery store and buy whatever was cheapest, without regard for brand. I typically purchased the generics and we kept a well-stocked pantry. While we still keep a stocked pantry, we now try and pay attention to more than just the price of the food we buy. We are trying to buy locally and organic.

The other night we watched a rather eye-opening documentary, King Corn on Netflix. It showed how our government farmer subsidy programs have set up a system that contributes to unhealthy, fattening foods being readily available for cheap. And that has contributed to our obese nation. In the documentary, we learned farmers receive $28 for every bushel of corn they grow. And without that price support, they would never be able to grow corn at a profit. Anyway, with the subsidy farmers have been growing more and more corn every year. And that corn goes to make corn syrup that is used so often in foods now.

They also use the corn to fatten up cows on feed lots. Before this documentary, I had been sold on the marketing that grain-fed beef is a good thing; it isn't. They used to fatten up cows on grass, but it took a long time. Now, they put the cows on feed lots and feed them as much as they can eat and the cow doesn't get any exercise so they gain weight--lots of it. So, come to learn, marbled beef isn't good for you.

(On our recent trip down to Southern California we actually drove by a feed lot along Interstate 5 that was absolutely huge. We were driving at least 70 mph and we were next to it for several minutes. I couldn't believe how large it was. I think I have now managed to figure out that this was Harris Ranch and it has 700+ acres. They have something like 100,000 cows and they, of course, don't provide shelter for these animals in the heat and cold. And the smell—ugh, it was disgusting.... Those poor cows. Now I know at least one brand of meat I won't buy! Yuck! This was the best picture I managed to take, unfortunately. )
Since moving to Redwood City, we've starting going regularly to the local farmers market, as well as Whole Foods. We're now buying many more organic food products. Also, this summer we purchased a quarter of a grass fed cow. We have learned from Jeff's cooking efforts that it has practically no fat and it tastes really good too.

So, now we sacrifice some of our discretionary spending money so we can buy food that is at least a bit better for us and for the environment. Unfortunately, it's hard to wean myself of my love of all this corn-syrup laden fattening food; I've been struggling for years to give up Coca Cola.

There are also a couple of other good documentaries I found today that you can watch online.

Here is a really good one that talks about the environmental effects of our consumption: The Story of Stuff.

Umm, this one is a series of pretty depressing videos about factory farming: The Meatrix


  1. What's sadder is that many farmers trying to "do it right" are being run out of business by the corporate farms; a couple of dairy farmers and steer farmers I know have gone broke trying to do what they love. It's just not possible to be a subsistence farmer anymore when you're under the thumb of the state to sell only to certain suppliers and not directly to the public. Luckily for me, corn syrup makes me feel like crap, so I have no problem avoiding the stuff. Hugs, K

  2. Well, as a new year resolution,I did quit Coca Cola this January. At 1st I had this really bad need but now, I feel like a drug addicted who is finally free. You can do it too! =)
    Hugs from sunny Brazil!