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Oh, organic food. Why are you so expensive?

by Karen on October 7, 2009

foodincWeekend before last, Tony and I saw the documentary “Food Inc.” for free on his campus. It was an incredibly well produced, enjoyable film, even for people who aren’t into documentaries. But it scared the crap out of us.

I won’t go into gory details here. I do recommend watching it, but if you’re squeamish you might want to read about the issues on the website instead. The scenes inside the hatcheries and “farms” are pretty brutal. I’m not particularly squeamish, but it was hard for me to take.

I’ve never really liked the idea of something dying so I can eat, but I’ve never been a vegetarian either. This movie almost pushed me there, not just because I feel guilty, but because I have serious concerns about the sustainability of current farming practices, the effects on our environment and our health.

So. Where am I going with this? I have a point, I promise.

My husband and I decided to try a halfway approach to organic and sustainable food. We’ve always bought organic produce when we can. We shop in season and try to buy locally, which is good for the environment and for our budget. Organic meat is just so expensive. Our solution is to buy the expensive organic meat — only less of it.

This week at the grocery store, we bought a whole organic chicken (marked down 25% because the sell-by date is tomorrow) that we’ll cook tomorrow and use in three meals. We also bought a pound of organic ground chicken that we’ll use next week because it was on sale for half price.

I left the movie feeling pretty powerless. We spend all this time trying to make the right choices for our health and the environment, and yet so many decisions about our food are made before we even have the option to buy it.

Unfortunately, this won’t change unless we’re willing to change our lifestyles — and our budgets. It means shifting the grocery budget to allow healthier food without spending a fortune. The only uplifting part of the movie is that it reminds us how much power we have as consumers. If we demand healthier food from producers, then they will deliver. And as the movie says, “We vote three times a day.” Every time you make a choice about what to eat, you’re telling food producers the type of food you want to buy. If you choose healthier foods, they’ll get the message.

After finishing our grocery shopping this week, we felt empowered. Our grocery bill was only about $5 more than normal, but we bought all organic meat and more organic, local produce than normal. By making smart choices (like buying higher quality meat only less of it or stock piling organic foods when they’re on sale), we can minimize the impact on our budget and still eat a healthier, more eco-friendly diet.

If you want to get involved, you can sign a petition here asking that school lunch programs serve healthier, more nutritious food to children. Or you can also learn more about how to change the food system.

I usually try to keep politics out of my blog, but I really believe this is a bipartisan issue. It affects our environment and, most importantly, our health and the health of our children.

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For inexpensive organic meat, the freezer is your friend
December 8, 2009 at 11:11 am

{ 6 comments }

1 joanna October 7, 2009 at 8:18 am

Our solution to this last year was buying half a side of beef from a local farmer for our chest freezer. It’s the only beef I’ve bought all year, and, while $4/lb is pricey for conventional ground beef, it’s on-par with grocery store prices for organic ground beef- and, for $4/lb, we also got a whole bunch of steaks and roasts, too. which is a steal.

As for chicken, we have friends with an organic farm and “work” for our meat by helping with “chicken processing day”. While I haven’t seen Food Inc yet, reading Michael Pollan’s books have convinced me that local, free-range meat is the way to go.

And, yes, because organic meat is more expensive, we eat less of it, which is good for us. It’s rare we have a meat-only main dish.
.-= joanna´s last blog ..Alternative to the Holiday Madness =-.

2 Cathy October 7, 2009 at 9:28 am

We have found grocery store organic & free range meat/eggs to be too expensive and have found http://www.localharvest.org/ and http://www.eatwild.com/products/index.html as great places to provide local farmers that provide the produce, meat, eggs and milk that we are looking for. We now pick up a month’s supply of food for about what we would spend on non- organic at the grocery store. We like knowing where our food is coming from and like that we can get it at a good price.
.-= Cathy´s last blog ..The Gluten Free ‘Dish’ =-.

3 Jennifer October 7, 2009 at 11:54 am

Have you read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma? that is very eye opening too. I can’t wait to see Food, Inc. Also, check out the Eat Wild website. You can find locally raised organic meat near you. We have bought 1/2 a pig and some beef through it and have been very happy.

4 anne October 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I like your approach. We try to eat local/organic when possible but definitely keep our budget in mind. I buy nuts, seeds, beans, etc from the bulk bin at a local health food store. We eat less meat and more beans and lentils. Also lots of product from our farmers market. It’s not organic but fresh and seasonal.
.-= anne´s last blog ..Favorites in Blogosphere Right Now =-.

5 Margot October 7, 2009 at 2:33 pm

It’s great that you’re doing your small part to help the environment, animals and your health. However, just be cautioned that “organic” meat bought from grocery stores doesn’t necessarily address a lot of the problems raised in Food, Inc. “Organic” usually just means that the animals aren’t given huge levels of antibiotics and other pollutants. In terms of the horrific scenes in the movie, it doesn’t mean that the animals are treated any more humanely, that they are raised in less crowded facilities, that they are killed more humanely, or that their byproducts (feces, etc) don’t do just as much polluting because they are still being raised by large-scale, industrial farming.

The only way I’ve found to address a lot of the problems raised in Food, Inc. is to buy meat and dairy from my local farmer’s market. I ask (and they have photos) and can be certain that the eggs come from normal, healthy chickens that run around a green farm and that eat food that chickens were biologically meant to eat. I don’t eat meat, but it’s also clear that the chickens and cows were raised more humanely at the farms at my local farmer’s market. I encourage everyone to get to know your local farmers — either at farmer’s markets or by actually driving into farm country. That way you’re directly supporting people, animals are being raised outside of industrial production, and ethical and environmental concerns are somewhat alleviated. Also, every local farm obviously doesn’t treat its animals the same. I recommend talking to the farmers about your particular concerns.

6 Amanda October 11, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Keep in mind that you can also often find organic products at banana box stores and places like Big Lots. Some friends of ours buy organic products through buying co-ops.

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