Sunday, February 24, 2008

In Defense of Food

I just finished reading In Defense of Food, another brilliant book by Michael Pollan. I think Ominivore's Dilemma is a better book for the average American that is still buying meat, eggs, and milk from the grocery store. If you still buy animal products from the grocery store (which I know most of you don't, but I also KNOW some of you do) you NEED to read Omnivore's Dilemma.

Warning, rant ahead:

I am appalled that people do still buy animals products from the grocery store. Knowing what we know about how the animals are treated while being raised and in their death, knowing what we know about what is given to these animals (antibiotics, growth hormones, animal byproducts as feed), knowing that meat from animals that eat grass is much healthier for us, the eaters, than animals than eat grain, how can someone justify buying animal products from the grocery store?

I know these products cost more when purchased from a farmer who treats his/her animals currectly, but that is a good thing. The average American spends less than 10% of their income on food compared to 15-20% in other, healthier countries. The average American also spends 15% of their income on healthcare compared to 5-10% in other countries that are spending more on food. Coincidence? Also, most American should eat less animal products, so spending more on them will encourage this and be healthier in the long run. It is amazing to me that for most people their number 1 consideration when buying food is price! Food is one of the most important things in our life and for our health and we are deciding what to eat based on price? How did our priorities get so screwed up?!

Sorry for the rant and I know for most of you it is preaching to the choir, but I do know some people who I've told all these things to on numerous occasions that still go and buy their meat and eggs based on what is on sale at the grocery store. How many meat recalls are we going to need before these people wake up and put a little more effort into getting their food? Local, healthy animal products are available pretty much everywhere. Isn't it worth 1 Saturday a month to make the trip to get these products? Isn't it worth a little more money to increase not only your health but the health of the earth?

In conclusion, read Omnivore's Dilemma if you haven't yet. Then read In Defense of Food. You'll never view food the same way again!


Anonymous said...

We read Omnivore's Dilemma last summer and are currently reading In Defense of Food. I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

I have always been conscious of the quality of food. I worked in a natural foods store for eight years and have also been a homesteader in the past.
However, the price of food is important, when you have to spend an inordinate amount of your piddling salary on gasoline just to get to a job (in a rural area) where you spend more on heating your home every day..etc etc.
The increasing inflationary cost of food (due to governemnt subsidies of ethanol, causing the cost of everything else we eat to go up) does make the cost of food a priority for people on limited incomes.
I, too, am concerned about the quality of food, but lately even my effete attitudes about cost have been brought down to the reality of the cost of flour, soy and even my lowly cabbage hitting the roof!

Wendy said...

Yep. Totally agree. I'm reading Omnivore's Dilemma (and trying to figure out how to get my husband to read it :).

I think the biggest issue is that we've lost our love of food. If we valued it more, and believed it were more important, then we wouldn't care to pay more for it, but few of us have ever grown or raised our own food, and have little or no idea what goes into the making of it (please note that being "obsessed" with food is not "loving" food).

The other issue is that we have a diet that is so devoid of flavor. For most people, salt and pepper are the only seasonings. If we could learn to relish the abundance of flavors food has, we would enjoy it more, but enjoy less of it.

And then everything would even out - pay more per unit for less food is the same amount we're paying now, but we'd have better nutrition, improved health, and an increased vitality that only comes with eating good food.

I guess, in short, the axiom "You get what you pay for," holds true here ;).

Christy said...

Wendy - I think you're totally right, I don't think people in this country honor food the way they should. They see it as a means to not be hungry instead of the life giving substance it is.

I also agree that when eating is a satisfying experience you eat less. That is one of the main points of In Defense of Food, in other countries they pay more for their food, they savor it, eat it slowly and flavor it well. Therefore they eat less because what they do eat is satisfying. We also seem to believe in this country that we need to be full all the time. I always stop eating before I am full and spend most of the day a little bit hungry. I think it is the way things are meant to be.

Good luck getting your husband to read Omnivore's Dilemma, my husband read the first chapter and quit. He said he hated the guy's writing style. My husband isn't nearly as concerned about the quality of food as I am.

Anonymous - I understand the price of food is going up and it can be a hardship for some. I also know for some of these people who claim they can't afford good food, they have a cell phone and cable and internet, they have big screen TVs and game systems for their kids, etc. It is about priorities. To me, my priority is the health of my family. If that means we have to go without cable or a cell phone, so be it. If that means we have to turn down the heat in our house or drive less, so be it.

It is possible to still get good food on a limited income. Buy in bulk, eat less meat, eat more grains and vegetables. This is all possible for anyone to do without buying grocery store meat that is raised and killed in horrendous ways.

The traditional western diet is killing people slowly with chronic diseases that just don't exist in other countries. With what we would save on health care by eating a healthy diet, we could afford good food.

Christy said...

I also wanted to say that I do understand there are people for whom any food is a luxury. I know there are people who are honestly struggling to afford any food. This isn't who I was talking about in this post.

I know so many people who could easily afford to eat good food but choose not to because their priorities are mixed up. I know people who have all the luxuries, go on vacations, drive new cars, but when shopping for food their number 1 priority is price. This is messed up.

Christy said...

OK, sorry, last comment from me. I also found our food bill went down when I started buying local, good food. Because I stopped buying processed stuff. Basic ingredients are cheaper than pre-prepared foods. I pay more per pound for meat than I used to but we eat a lot less of it. We are healthier and aren't breaking the bank to be that way.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually read the books aloud to my husband, who would never read them on his own either. It's great bonding time (especially while driving somewhere, what else can you do really?) and we spend lots of time discussing what we've read.

And I couldn't agree more about taste. Whenever I eat anything processed (at someone else's home for instance) I'm inundated with the taste of salt and chemicals. And to think that's what I used to think these foods were supposed to taste like!

As for cost, I find many people around me complaining about the rising price of dairy. But for me, the price is static, because my dairy doesn't have to ship out it's product.

hillbilly2be said...

Both books sound great, and reviews on Amazon look very good. We'll have to get ahold of a copy and read them.

I also think being too busy causes a whole host of problems in our culture. I know that it is true in our family's case - when we get too busy, we are much more tempted to go out to eat, or to toss things in the garbage that could be reused with some creativity, or to buy things new that we may be able to find used and spare more landfill material. Even things that would otherwise be enjoyable become a stressor when we feel pressed for time.

We sure are looking forward to the veggie garden this year! It is comforting to know exactly how one's food is grown.


Christy said...

Ron - yeah being stressed for time can make a big difference. We used to eat out or get take out when we were really busy, but my husband never liked doing that and pretty much put a stop to it over 10 years ago. Once you adjust and get some quick easy recipes under your belt, it just becomes normal to cook even when you are really busy. I'll admit I need to work on the creative uses for trash thing though.

Erikka said...

Omnivore's Dilemma was a great read and very eye opening, even to me, someone already moving in the general direction of food sustainability that he writes of. No, I'm not hunting my own food and foraging in my back yard, but I am looking for local, grass fed meat if I get any and trying to eat more veggies.

Pollan succeeded in giving me more info and more ammo to resolve in eating healthier. have you ever read any of his other books, on gardening? They are lovely and though not rants or tirades, encourage the same message.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the average tax payer pays $350 a year toward farm subsidies? They're paying with their tax dollars and again at the check out for lesser quality food. In the long run it's less expensive to buy locally and support your own community.

Christy said...

I wish we could opt out of paying the taxes for farm subsidies. I wish I could say I buy my stuff locally, directly from the farmer so I don't need to give money to the industrial farms because I don't eat their food.

Stacey said...

Okay, I think your the eighth person who has suggested Ominvore's Dilemma, I think it's next on my list.

Jennifer said...

Sounds like a good book and I will put it on my list to read. I recently watched both "Food,Inc" and "Fresh". Both are good and definitely worth the watch. The problem is when I tell people about them the only ones that will take the time to watch them are people that are already concerned about industrial agriculture and are interested in food sustainability.

It is kind of like preaching to the choir, but the people I know that should be watching these shows or reading those books you mentioned don't seem interested in the least in learning more about this subject. I am thinking of certain members of my family, like my mom.

Christy said...

Jennifer, you are completely right! My mom also isn't interested in learning about this stuff. It is frustrating. But I guess people aren't ready to hear things until they are.