Cheap Food at Any Cost

It wasn’t until I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that I discovered just how radically the food industry has changed in the past 100 years, thanks in large part to fast and cheap transportation, not to mention the wonders of refrigeration.

Somehow, since the dawn of life, people in North America managed to get by without bananas. Citrus wasn’t shipped north and even coffee, perish the thought, wasn’t readily available.

In addition to weighing the value of eating organic foods–especially milk, apples, and potatoes–I’ve been looking into the possibility of eating locally. Typically I balk at the cost of farm stands and farmers markets, especially if the food is organic.

Lately I’ve been considering other factors that go into the cheap food at our supermarket. For example, shipping apples from West to East results in all kinds of emissions. Oil is used to make plastic bags for packaging.

Meanwhile the pricey local products have most likely traveled less than 50 miles and require little packaging. If they are organic, the high price tag is due to the labor-intensive farming that goes into organic certification.

We’ll never cut ourselves off from the supermarket, but while we have the farmers market as an option, we are trying to fight off our love of money long enough to purchase some pricey, locally grown food today. Americans love a bargain, but when we weigh the cost of cheap food to our environment–and ultimately to ourselves and our children–I think it’s worth looking into other options before stocking up at the local supermarket.

3 thoughts on “Cheap Food at Any Cost

  1. meggan

    i agree with everything you wrote except the lemons. citrus *was* shipped [in real ships 😉 ]up north, however it was a luxury, not a commodity. we use citrus in moderation-just like spices are something exotic, to be used sparingly on special occassions. heck, we use all kinds of shipped foods-mostly cause our local economy as far as food production in alaska is lousy. however, it can be done, i think. there are no local grains though. but yes, considering the true cost of food, it’s worth every penny, even if it is shocking to the pocketbook.

  2. ed Post author

    True about the lemons. Sailors really needed them. Nevertheless, OJ and other citrus products probably weren’t very common in the average home say 500 years ago or any time before then. That means people had to eat breakfast without OJ, and that really disturbs me! I forgot to pick it up at the store today and I’m already dreading breakfast without it.

    I guess I thought of lemons because I don’t use them moderately at all. More about that soon.

    Impressive use of the smiley face by the way.

  3. meggan

    funny-i didn’t even think about oj. i was thinking “food” but there you go-another thing we ship here [and enjoy]
    i meant to say this earlier, but i love that book. i read it twice this month.
    it’s very true that you miss what you can’t have [when you eat local]. i envy your accessibility to local dairy and apples and stuff like that. lots of other people would envy my seemingly endless supply of salmon. it was very frustrating to us to find out our “local” dairy was shipping up 95% of it’s milk from oregon and washington. for 8 dollars a gallon, we can get local raw milk from a condo cow, but it’s still eating shipped grain since there isn’t a long enough growing season here to grow feed, or enough grass for a herd [?] of cows.

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