Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Changing the way we live

I've been thinking a lot lately about why we do things the way we do. Why we buy the things we buy, and eat the things we eat. And why we're so hesitant to look at other options, and so quick to laugh and label different ideas as "crazy liberal ideas". Ideas can't hurt us, so why don't we do research and then accept or discount the ideas based on their actual merit?

I've been reading books like, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, and Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and watching documentaries like Botany of Desire and Food Inc..

I gow a garden in the summer, and can as much food as possible for winter use. I raise chickens for eggs (if they'd start laying again), and I try to eat real food as much as possible, though we do still eat convenience foods more than I'd like.

I've been thinking more and more about living in a sustainable way, and the changes I would have to make are scary, but I think they're scary because we've grown up thinking that the way things are are the only way.

What do we do when we can't go to costco and buy a jumbo bag of frozen chicken breast? It sometimes feels easier to live in ignorance of where your food comes from, because once you've seen it, it's a lot harder to continue eating it.

I've joined the coupon craze, though mostly for non-food items since we don't eat a lot of the things there are coupons for (though I got a great deal on walnuts and butter and now have a nice supply in my freezer), but even for things like razors, I've had feelings of guilt for quite some time. I can get razors for free, but not the extra blades, so to never pay for razors we'd end up throwing away entire razors every time the blade goes dull. It's hard to balance the desire for a years supply of all things and still not be part of a rampant consumerism culture.

There are lots of things to think about, but in thinking about starting small, I'm researching how I can avoid eating commercialized meats. Being taught not to waste things, we'll finish up the bag of frozen chicken in the freezer over the next couple of months, and hopefully by then I'll have ideas on where to buy chicken that was raised in a sustainable way, that is healthy for me, for the farmers, and for the planet. I'll also look into the milk I buy and decide if I need to pay more for organic milk, and if that means that we'll be drinking less of it. And, if my chickens don't start laying again, I'll be looking into cruelty free eggs.

I know all of this sounds crazy to some people, but I feel strongly that we humans were placed on the earth to be wise stewards over all things, and I can't justify supporting companies that don't care if they're making us sick, or if their chicken farmers are developing allergies to antibiotics because of their overuse in the chickens, or workers on a killing floor who lose their fingernails to infections, or who care more about their bottom lines than about people dying from e coli poisoning.

I'm adding links to locally grown/sustainable farms as I find them. The one I have so far is Christiansen's Hog Heaven, which sells heritage breed pigs all processed and delivered in little packages. We're ordering a whole pork and splitting it among family.


Lisa said...

We've been thinking and talking a lot about consumerism at our house too, as far as how many things we buy, buy, buy, only to have them cluttering up our house, or only to be thrown away.

I certainly don't think your meat thing sounds crazy, but there are more sides to this than you might be thinking of. Tyson supervises a crew of 50 in the packaging department of the Hyrum beef plant of JBS, the largest "protein provider" in the world. Beef plant as in slaughterhouse, I guess would be another name. This is his job, it provides us our livelihood. We are glad there are people out there eating commercialized meat...it keeps us eating anything at all!

Interestingly, Tyson also comes from a cattle ranching family. His uncle currently owns and runs the family ranch, which straddles the border of Idaho and Utah. It is a cow-calf operation. The ranch sells calves to other ranchers to raise. Eventually these cattle go to feedlots, and then to plants like the one Tyson works at. Seems we are mighty steeped in the beef industry in this household.

It is good to be informed about where our food comes from, and to make the choices that are right for you and your family. I commend you for that, but there are plenty of families on the other side of this equation.

Sorry...thoughts not really fully formed on this topic.

Charlotte said...

This doesn't sound at all crazy to me! I struggle with this issue as well. You said it so well: "It's hard to balance the desire for a years supply of all things and still not be part of a rampant consumerism culture." Thanks for sharing your thoughts - I love seeing how you work around these issues and find solutions. (P.S> Did I ever tell you that you inspired Jase and I to look into raising chickens? Sadly our city ordinances forbid it...)

Alice said...

Lisa- I think as demand for grass-fed beef increases, the big cattle operations will change the way they work to meet the demand. Kind of like how nearly all milk is the growth hormone free milk now. Just a few years ago it was hard to find the rbst free kind.

I certainly don't want Tyson to be out of a job. I hope, and I'd imagine that not all slaughterhouses are as bad as depicted in Food Inc, but I'd like for workers to not be getting infections and losing fingernails from their working conditions. Even if it means I have to pay more for, and eat less meat.

Charlotte- city ordinances didn't stop us from having chickens. Our immediate neighbors know, and we bribe them with free eggs every once in awhile. There are a lot of cities changing their ordinances.