Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sustaining the High Cost of Sustainable Food

You might think this video is ridiculous. It is. But... I have been both the waitress answering to such inquisitive people and to some extent the diners who are super over-the-top. I know I don't ask those questions when I go out to eat, but I also know I am thinking at least some of those same annoying questions. I could easily find myself in a Portlandia episode on more than one occasion throughout the day, but really that isn't who I am. I come from a long line of poor people. Most of us do.  We don't buy meat we can't afford, we just buy less. I consider it a flat out luxury to be able to buy food that fits our environmental, health, and social standards.


I know cows aren't supposed to eat corn, yet most of this country's beef is stuffed with it. I know cows gain weight faster/go to slaughter faster if they stuff themselves with carbohydrates rather than greens.  I know that shoving all of our cows into a feedlot to get them fatter quicker has horrible effects on the livestock, on the Earth, and on our own bodies. I also know that our buying choices are powerful... and are mandated by what is actually in our bank accounts. I can't shake my head at the guy in front of me with styrofoam packages of ground beef because I don't know how much money he brings home and how much he pays for rent, and frankly it's none of my business. I am not in a place in my life where I can pay $6 a pound for the 'perfect' beef... but my conscience will not let me get away with paying $1.99 a pound for feedlot cattle either. I think we are somewhere in the middle.   
We buy our meat from Duma's. You can read about their practices right on their website. Right now our buying pattern has been about 3 pounds of each: chicken, ground beef, pork chops, pork sausage, and beef round steak. The total comes up to  $48.15 This comes out to be about 12 meals or 3 times a week with meat. We eat a lot of beans. We eat a lot of vegetables. I am so torn about the sustainability of fish right now that I can't even really think about it because it makes my brain cry.
 If I really thought about it all, from the standards of organic certification, to the gas drilling beneath our soil, to the chemicals in the water we dump on our carrots I would likely starve to death. The saying "high cost of low price" has been shouted from the rooftops. We have been been relentlessly reminded of the effects of our choices. The saying that goes through my mind and brings me a little bit of peace comes from my mother-in-law.          
We do our best within our means.   
 This to me, is the core of sustainability. I want to save the world, I do. I want to do all the right things that will turn this doomed ship away from the iceberg... but I cannot become an unsustainable system myself. I don't know the long-term effects of multiple systems built on debt, but I can only imagine that it is a monumental disaster. So we make our best choices with our paycheck and we cross our fingers that some day we can raise our own meat and forget about these decisions altogether.

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