For Thanksgiving this year we attempted a 100% local and organic meal. We ended up with a 90% organic and 90% local meal. Maybe 70% was both local and organic. It was much tougher than we thought it would be. We found that organic food is not widely available in our area and some of what is available is prohibitively expensive. We also found that we could find almost everything we needed from local producers; however, this too was (at times) prohibitively expensive. The point of the exercise was to see what was possible in our area. We know that the availability in the summer would be much better; however, we have to eat in the winter months too, so a November test case was warranted.
How did we get here?
We've been slowly migrating to more sustainable standards over the last two years. We were alarmed by the number of food recalls and food related deaths that were occurring. This caused us to do more research into our food supply, where it was coming from, how it was being produced, and how it got from farm to plate. I must admit that we were totally ignorant! I foolishly believed that chickens ran around on farms and cows grazed wide open pastures. I had no idea what was truly going on in the food industry. Not only were animals being caged and never saw the light of day; they were also being pumped with steroids and antibiotics that ended up in the foods that we eat every day. Our produce was being drenched in chemicals to shield the farmers from crop loss and the produce available at local stores was chosen -- not for taste and flavor -- but for how well it survived transport and shelf life. We stopped eating food out of boxes and cans years ago, but I had no idea what was going on with the fresh foods that I was eating! I won't rehash everything that I found here, but a simple Google search will provide you with any details you desire.
As I looked into how we could adjust our eating habits to be more aligned with what we thought we were eating, I discovered that there is an American revolution going on. There is an undercurrent in America pushing food producers towards sustainable methods. Organic farming is one of the fastest growing industries; food producers now want to label their products with terms like Natural and Cage-Free; consumers are showing up at farmer's markets in mass; CSA and community gardens are all the rage; and the corn industry even wants to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar because of the negative image HFCS has. Ha! Sure, that will fool us.
So I ask, what is food?
Our health teachers taught us that food is a way to nourish our bodies, to provide energy and fuel for our activities. Our doctor tells us that food -eaten improperly- can cause several health ailments like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc... Scientists tell us that food can actually be used to prevent diseases; that there are cancer fighting foods; foods that lower your risk for heart failure, etc. The food industry has basically told us that food is a business. It matters not how healthy it is or isn't for you. It matters not which tomatoes taste best (it's the ones with shelf life and travelbility that we will sell you). It matters not that grass fed cows have lower fat content and higher Omega 3's. It costs too much to allow cows to graze grass. But what do consumers say food is? We decide with how we spend our money. If there is a demand for it, someone will find a way to produce it. Americans spend less of their income (% wise) on food than most any other nation. So what do you say food is?