Monday, November 23, 2009

Food Inc

Over the weekend, I rented Food, Inc. I found the movie interesting and it gave me something to think about regarding where my food comes from and my involvement in the process. After sleeping on it and giving it some more thought - I'm sad and disappointed in myself. Why? The way that I participate currently and the way that I was raised don't exactly match.

Let me explain.  Growing up my dad brought our milk home and I don't mean from the store, yes, I know this is not common. Up until I was about 2 and a half, he worked on a farm and just brought the milk home from the farm. After that he hauled milk for the almost 25 years and brought home almost every dairy product imaginable. The benefit? I knew where my dairy products were coming from, who was producing them, what their farms looked like, and how the process happened. I'd been on the farms when I'd traveled with my dad, met farmers, even been offered pets and I'd seen the processing plant. I also remember how often my dad tested this milk for bacteria and other issues - daily. So while I wasn't directly involved in the process, I imagine my parents felt comfortable about the start to finish of the dairy I consumed. And given the opportunity, I still will jump on the chance to get the products from them because I think the quality is better than anything I can find in the store. I'm also well aware that a lot of milk comes from the happy cows of California. Easily the number one producer of dairy in the country. Nowadays, when I go to the store, I have no clue how my milk gets there. None. It magically arrives on the shelf, I buy it and drink it. And repeat. I've switched to organic milk since the kind that I drink is local (by that I mean it's only a few hours away, and chances are good I could actually drive by their operation). I was encouraged to find out that Wal-Mart is no longer selling milk with rBST. While I don't shop at Wal-Mart, I can only imagine that other retailers will follow suit.

I could go on for days about different things from the movie that I'm concerned about - ammonia being used to "clean" or "purify" 70% of our meat from e coli and mad cow disease. Which after driving by some of the feed lots that I do, I somewhat understand. The entire segment on the larger chicken manufacturers/producers made me ill, but I feel pretty good about where my chicken comes from: My reason for feeling good about this type of chicken is because Market to Market (Iowa produced PBS show) did a piece about this Nebraska based business a few years back and the owners gave the producers free access to anywhere in the factory from production line to kill floor. Nothing was off limits. That tells me that they are comfortable with their operation. I was so dismayed when I moved to MI a few years back and Smart Chicken wasn't available there. I looked yesterday and they now sell at the local Meijer's. I was also quite surprised to learn that the majority of soybeans come from only one manufacturer. How can that be legal? Wouldn't that be a monopoly?

One of the things that really frustrated me was seeing this overweight family saying they could not afford to eat healthy food. It's cheaper to do the dollar menu at the local fast food place. Come on. Give me a break. Heck it'd be cheaper to make a box of mac and cheese. (Healthier, no.) Or buy a loaf of bread and some lunch meat when you average the cost out over a few meals - amazingly, I can do math. I didn't exactly grow up in a weathly family as a kid, but my parents were smart enough to figure out how to plant a garden.  A packet of seeds doesn't cost that much and could yield quite a bit.  Also, call me crazy, but if you don't want tons and tons of something, maybe you and a friend could split a package of seeds? Or if you're like me and don't have the space to plant a garden, try container gardening. Here's a quick list of some of the stuff I remember us growing over the years: grapes (annual), raspberries (annual), tomatoes (annual), rhubarb (annual), plums, peppers (annual), corn, potatoes, watermelons, carrots, radishes, green beans, peas, cucumbers, and lettuce. And then there's two crazy processes called canning and freezing. OMG! Also, eating out when I was growing up was a luxury and was pretty rare.

p.s. Do you like the photo? It's from a local place called Brewburgers that was on the Food Network. And no I didn't eat all that cheese.

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