So I went grocery shopping today and now I’m thinking about what to cook for dinner and that got me thinking about my somewhat convoluted and odd thoughts on food.
Going grocery shopping at quality stores is one of the main things I miss about living down in the city. Up here there’s an Ingles, which isn’t horrible, and a few other chains that I wouldn’t even bother to go to. So it’s pretty much Ingles or nothing; I refuse to buy anything other than staples/dry goods at Walmart on the occasions I have to go there. Not to sound all conspiracy guy or nutty, but I don’t like the quality of the meat there or how only god and they know where it comes from.
I’m not really a wholesale organic food nut, but I do actually put a lot of thought into the quality of the stuff I buy, particularly meat, fruit, and vegetables. It doesn’t have to be organic, but I’m trying to buy stuff that’s actually in season and hasn’t been on a ship or plane on its way to me as far as fruit and veggies go.
When it comes to meat, it gets a lot more complicated. I don’t totally buy into the Whole Foods concept: a lot the ideas about the stuff they try to sell you is bullshit, but the one thing I’ll say for them is that they have quality meat and chicken, that is at least marginally raised better than the mass market stuff.
Part of my whole thinking about this sort of thing started when I read a great book by Micheal Pollan called the “Omnivore’s Dilemna”. He comes from a journalism background I believe and he sets out to follow the chain back to it’s beginning of four different meals: one from McDonald’s, one from stuff he bought at Whole foods, one from foods that he got from a selfsustaining farm in Virginia that he worked on for a week, and one from what he could hunt and gather in his area of Northern California.
Along the way he visits cornfields and food science labs, feedlots where mass market cattle are fattened on corn before slaughter, organic lettuce operations in the Salinas Valley of California, and the aforementioned self sustaining farm. It’s not one of those books that’s going to make you never want to eat a steak or chicken again, but it is one that will make you think more about the choices you make and what you choose to buy and to put in your body.
When you hear about a lot of the policies of the USDA as far as the raising of animals and food safety, it will definitely make you stop and think. And when you learn about the growth of the organic industry and how easy it really is to have something certified organic nowadays, and how many times the organic farms are just as big as the regular ones. How a free range chicken can simply mean that the chicken has a small door that it could theoretically use to go outside, but rarely does, it will make you take those labels with a large grain of salt.
One of the main things that I took from the book is that you have to make compromises whenever you buy food, be it at Walmart or Whole Foods. Unless you’re rich or live on a farm, you’re never going to be able to get truly “organic” or happily raised food.
My compromise is that I try to find the best quality food I can, as much for taste as for health. I look for beef, pork, and chicken that is hormone and antibiotic free, and vegetarian fed..ie..not fed byproducts from other animals. That’s not always easy to do at all up here at the aforementioned Ingles. There’s been plenty of times where I’ve felt like roasting or grilling some chicken one night but all they have that day at the store is Tyson or Perdue mass factory farmed chicken, which I just can’t make myself buy anymore.
I don’t have anything against those companies or anyone that buys their product, I just have made the decision to try to buy better stuff. The compromise that I make is that I’m not going to any farms to make sure my vegetarian fed chicken is actually hormone and antibiotic free. I don’t know if it lives any better of a life than a chicken on a Tyson contracted farm. But I do know that to me at least, it tastes better and I’m willing to pay the extra dollars to buy it over the cheaper stuff…and even if it is all bullshit, it gives me peace of mind in some way.
It’s basically impossible to find grass fed beef up here and I’m not always a huge fan of it anyhow..so I’m sure that the “organic” beef I buy is probably fattened on corn like virtually all beef, but I at least want to know that it’s not pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, or fed pieces of other cattle…which is most likely how mad cow disease started by the way: cattle being fed byproducts from other cattle, including diseased brain tissue.
Anyway, as I said, I’m not a total organic nut. I still buy plenty of mass produced foods and I’ll stop at a fast food place now and then too. I don’t judge people for the choices they make, but I can afford to buy better quality stuff so I do. I love to cook and that probably has as much to do with it as any moral or health concerns: to make the best meal you have to get the best ingredients that you can, and I try to do so.
I also realize that I’m a hypocrite in a lot of my ideas, I don’t go to the farms and see if what I’m being told is actually true. I’m honestly not terribly worried if the life of the chicken I eat kinda sucks as long as it’s not being dosed up on shit that can affect MY health. I’m not particularly a moralist when it comes to food and animals, I like meat and I’m going to continue to eat it; I’m just a guy that went from not giving any thought about what I buy to cook, to one that actually gives it a good bit of thought.
As I said, I don’t judge anyone for what THEY choose to do. Life is full of choices and compromises and you may think my way of thinking is stupid or pointless, and I respect your right to do so, and I hope I haven’t scared anyone off from eating meat for a few days with this post, as that certainly was not my intention.