Whether it’s the regular tweets of the big-name food pundits or the countless anonymous contributors to online food discussions, an astonishing amount of advice is now dished out on what food we should buy and where we should buy it. While much of this guidance is sound and reasonable, some of it is wildly inaccurate or just downright unrealistic. Take the latest mantra that cropped up in an online discussion that I was following: ‘Before you buy any food you should go and visit the farm, because that will answer all your questions.’ Buying direct from the farm or at the farmers’ market is something I wholeheartedly enjoy supporting. In doing so, my family hasn’t bought into the appalling practices of industrial agriculture; we’ve used our dollars to support local farms - and the food usually tastes great, too. But is it realistic to expect every conscientious consumer to have the time and ability to actually visit the farm first – let alone the expertise to assess what they see when they get there?
Yesterday we mentioned the new film, Food, Inc., in which Michael Pollan and director Robert Kenner explore the unseen costs of the food we eat. The upcoming movie promises viewers that they will “never look at dinner the same way again,” likely prompting viewers to seek alternatives to the industrial system it exposes.
However, many fear that this alternative “real” food is too expensive. The reality is that it can actually be cheaper than factory farmed products, and can save you money in the end. A recent price comparison showed that a shopper in New York City could source humanely-raised meat for considerably less they would pay in the grocery store, just by going to the farmer. Animal Welfare Approved proved this on the plate last Thanksgiving, serving over 1,000 of New York’s most in-need pasture-raised turkey for around a dollar per person. Utilizing the whole animal, working with value cuts and re-learning how to season with meat is ultimately more economical.
Reducing meat consumption to the recommended levels would save even more. Americans consume nearly twice their daily protein requirement in meat alone. Not only does this over-consumption waste valuable resources, it may actually be making us sick.
All of this information points to a simple strategy: eat sustainable meat, dairy and eggs in reasonable quantities. Pasture-raised products can provide a healthy, sustainable source of protein – without breaking the bank.