The ultra fabulous and funny Ms. Pug recently wrote a post about the cost of responsible eating. I began to write a comment, but around the third paragraph I thought a post might be more appropriate. The three points that stuck out at me most were 1. That many people prefer not to know the specifics of the food they eat 2. the idea that eating from local farmers that use sustainable, humane best practices is expensive 3. that it’s classist (this is a comment form another, not her) and the high cost of joining a CSA.
Since I’ve started to eat meat, our food budget has definitely grown and we’ve had to prioritize our budget in different ways. We have an old, tube tv, and there are definitely parts of our apartment that are woefully unfinished. It’s taken us longer to fix our car, because it was simply lower on the priority list. Our grocery bill jumped most when we started to filter out processed foods in favor of fresh ones. In some ways it has become less expensive-it’s cheaper to make your own bread than to buy it. But, I don’t have the time to bake that much bread… so we usually purchase it. In others, more so because we are purchasing a spaghetti squash ($5) instead of spaghetti(.99).
For me personally, the majority of the time that I eat, I eat the way that some people would refer to as responsible or ethical. But, it’s only classified that way because currently, that is not the norm for most people in this country (let alone the planet). I try to eat smaller portions because I want the food we purchase to go farther, and it’s better for my health. I house a moral dilemma each time I shop, and frequently when I eat. I fully admit that the way I approach food, especially meat, is different from most people. When I eat a burger, I think about the cow. From my conversations with the meat eaters I know, this does not appear to be normal behavior.
Currently the cost of a sustainable food chain is more expensive for the consumer. I think it’s a shame that farmers are being essentially bullied when it comes to what they produce, and what they are paid for it. Take note of the recent anti-trust DOJ and USDA/Dairy farm issue. As a side note, do you think cows should be fed donuts? It’s not that I think quality food HAS to be expensive – it’s that prices and certain (commodity) crops have been so subsidized that things are a bit bonkers. There has been an insane over consolidation of food producers and consumers are ultimately the ones who deal with higher taxes and unsafe food production.I want to see a point in my lifetime where this isn’t the case.
As far food politics being a classist issue. It is. But, I think it would be more accurate to call it a social justice issue. Why are there urban food deserts-why are there so many Mcdonalds and so few grocery stores in lower income areas? Why are there so many barriers for lower income people to purchase healthy, quality food? Why is there a lack of nutritional education for children of all classes? In DC, and in many other cities, food stamps are able to be used at the farmers market-but if the choice is to buy a $5 roasted chicken at Safeway, or a $30 chicken at the farmers market? Well…. you do the math. How can we work to change this structure? I’m pleased that Walmart is making efforts to purchase from local farms, revive local economies and agriculture. Though, this seems to be working out a bit better in theory than in practice. But, it’s a great step since Walmart’s business decisions have far reaching implications.
When Pug inquired about the CSA with drop offs around the corner she was told that it’s $1,000 a share. But, what I think is important to have a few important answers in regards to CSA shares: How long is the season, how many people does a share cover and what crops are included. If the season is long enough, and the crops are varied enough, a half share at $500 might not be so bad. We currently spend around $400 on groceries per month and the bulk of this is fresh fruits and vegetables. We also have just a mini fridge..so we’re shopping pretty frequently and DC food prices are steeper than in the suburbs. If you’re looking for a CSA (though, it’s a bit late to get into the summer share game) I recommend checking out Local Harvest and Eat Wild for farms and other resources. We joined a local metropolitan meat buying club, so our meat is generally not that much more expensive than CAFO meat from the grocery store. Our Hedge Apple beef that we love so much? Ground beef is only $3 per pound which covers several meals for Nick and I.
Eating in ways that support local small business is currently more expensive, and yes, some people are priced out of the options currently. Eating is a personal choice, and as time passes the personal truly becomes more and more political.