A question presented during this morning’s trip to the Farmer’s Market. ‘…Scraps off the slaughterhouse floor, of course!’ Extreme? Maybe. Truthful? Possibly. Thought provoking? Definitely. While this organic grower may have let his disgust for commercial and factory farming dominate our conversation about our shared passion for real food grown with love and integrity, his somewhat sensationalized claims really got my mind reeling. How can one possibly make a profit by charging less than $1.00 for a cheeseburger?
“Does anyone ever question that?” I wondered. In my opinion, not often enough. Most of the time we seem more concerned with how much more the salad costs at the fast food restaurant than how cheaply made the hamburger actually is. Rarely do I encounter patients who say, ‘Processed food is just too inexpensive. It concerns me.’ However it’s nearly everyday I find myself educating clients that it’s really not ‘more expensive to eat healthy’. Behind the veil manufactures have cast that healthy food is more expensive, they’ve hidden the fact that processed food is incredibly cheap. We’re not just taking $$ here, we’re talking quality, nutrients, and love. What does buying cheap food by the droves say about our values? What does that say about where and how we choose to spend our energy, be it time, money, or physical labor? And what does that have to say about where we’re headed as individuals and as a civilization? Lets be real for a second…
· The US government provides subsidies (grants, aids, tax breaks) to farmers who grow crops such as wheat, corn, and soy. Maybe not such a terribly thing, but it doesn’t end there. These crops are then taken from their whole form, and processed or refined into a form that our bodies simply do not respond as well to. Because this is done in bulk with large, efficient operations that have been in place for years and years, labor and energy investments are minimal. These refined materials are the main ingredients in most of the packaged foods you’ll find down the grocery store aisles or in fast food establishments. They lack diversity, they’re stabilized with chemically engineered food additives and they’re just down right not great for our natural human make up.
· It’s not that growing soy, wheat, or corn is less costly to the farmer than growing broccoli, apples, or cucumbers, but there’s no rebate, tax breaks, grants or incentive. The down fall? All other crops are perceived to be more costly when we go to purchase them at the market. Yet, they’re far more nutrient dense and diverse. Attributes our natural human makeup requires to stay healthy.
· While the government is the entity providing these subsidies, we’re the ones doing the voting. This sort of voting doesn’t require a registration or paper ballot. Each of us votes at least three times each day. Be it at the grocery store, the drive through or the minimart. What we choose to buy determines the demand. What we demand, the government subsidizes, in essence.
So what’s the solution?
One suggestion is to start by asking what’s most important to our families and to ourselves. Saving time? Saving money? Saving energy? Where else would we rather spend it? Is avoiding obesity, type II diabetes, hormone imbalances, and or other early onset lifestyle diseases important? What’s a better way to spend our time? Spending 30 extra minutes preparing a meal for your family to enjoy using whole foods, or watching the latest episode of the Kardashian saga while perusing Facebook? Once we narrow down our values, perhaps we’ll come to realize that maybe it’s not about how costly the food is, but more so what the food is worth.
Next, start to weigh out the REAL cost of food. What costs more per serving, a 5-pound bag of whole potatoes or an order of french fries? Does it cost less to buy a jar of peanut butter with corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil, or a bag of whole peanuts that you can blend up yourself and store in a mason jar?
Educate yourself. Food companies spend a good chunk of their yearly budget on incredibly provocative marketing (we’ve already determined they don’t have to spend all that much on food). The ads and sales pitches prey on our impulsive nature and often times, ignorance as consumers. A good tip here is to think about the ‘price per unit’. Don’t just go with the price at face value, think (or do the math) of how many servings you’ll actually get from the bag, box, can, etc. and how full of nutrients (the magical components that determine how healthy the food is, and in turn how healthy we are)each serving contains.
Develop a few basic cooking skills. There are way too many internet videos, cookbooks, free classes, cooking demos, culinary schools and good ole’ mountain mommas out there to not know how to cook real, wholesome food. You’ll be amazed at how easy and how pleasurable chopping onions, braising carrots, and searing tuna really is.
Learn to grow some of your own food. If you really want your food to cost less money, the easiest way is to grow it yourself. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t take a lot of know-how, time, space, or energy. Pick up an intro to gardening book, attend a Master Gardner class, go visit your grandfather or call up your local Department of Agriculture Extension agent for tips on how to feed your family real food no matter where you live or how much land you have.
Keep it real. As I mentioned before, each time we pull up to the drive through or purchase the boxed mac n cheese, we’re voting to have our food cheap, easy, fast and devoid of many of the nutrients it’s original whole food contained. Whereas taking a trip to the farmers market, buying a pack of organic seeds, or asking for an extra side of veggies as opposed to the bun is an easy way to vote for better food.
It’s no secret that we are what we eat. But we are also how we eat, where we receive our food from, and when or how long ago it was prepared. These factor into how nourishing it is to our bodies, minds, and souls.
Lastly, no New Year’s post would be complete without a nod to resolving something in the New Year. If you haven’t given much thought to a resolution for 2016, a vow to choosing more whole, real and sustainably harvested foods when you can is one worth giving a go!
Cheers to health, wealth and prosperity and a very Happy New Year!