I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods, but here in Bellingham, many people within the community adhere to a buy local, seasonal, fresh food, know the source of your food, truly organic & natural sort of lifestyle. I've mentioned here & here about the book Animal Vegetable Miracle, which is both inspiring & thought provoking when it comes to eating seasonally & locally. It wasn't until recently that I actually watched Food Inc. I know, I know--I figured I knew the jist of it & had read other books about the subject, so I wasn't in any rush to watch it. Plus, it's one of those films that you really need to be in the right mindset to sit down to watch. And in case you're not much of a reader, or in general you haven't viewed it yet--then please do. I think it will make you question the sources of your food & what you can do about providing yourself, your family & others with truly good food.
I wouldn't call myself an animal rights activist and I'm definitely not just an herbivore. However, I think over the years in reading Genesis & seeing one of God's commands to Adam & Eve was being a steward of the Earth--it's about treating the source of our food well. In looking at the Israelite tradition of sacrificing an animal, they were given specific instructions from God on how to be humane about the kill & use the whole animal (meaning they did not let this animal die for nothing & throw away the animal's meat). Well, after viewing Food Inc. I wasn't comfortable seeing how the chickens, pigs, & cattle were treated, in order to give food to the masses. It was as though sanctity of life was thrown to the wind. The chickens were bred to get fat more quickly than is actually right, in order to produce more chickens in less amount of time. Meanwhile, these overstuffed birds are too big to walk more than a couple steps.
But the part that hit me the most as a mom was seeing a mom who's son died after eating a burger on a family vacation, due to e.coli found in the meat. Her son, Kevin, was around the same age as my oldest. It made me think of stopping eating fast food in general, where I'm getting my meat sources, & how much would it cost to get meat sources from local families/businesses.
On Meat: I know that when you look at grass-fed beef, open-range/pastured chicken & eggs, & pork--it can get rather expensive. At least upfront costs are much more expensive. However, if you take seriously the command in the garden to be stewards of the Earth and look at factory-raised chicken going for $4.00 for a whole broiler--they aren't factoring in:
- environmental impact
- health implications upon the consumer
- the farming practices of raising the chicken
- the money going back into the community you live
I'm sure there are other hidden cost factors that I haven't mentioned as well. One option is searching your farmer's market, 4-H, or internet for local resources of buying a share of a beef cattle, pork, broiler chickens & turkeys. You can typically buy a quarter, half or whole beef cattle & pork, while buying the whole chicken or turkey. As for the beef & pork, it is cheaper to buy the whole versus the quarter. In which case, you could go in with another family (or more). Check out Eat Wild to find out what is available near your home.
On Eggs: Our family probably goes through two - three dozen eggs a week. We don't buy as much meat, so I make up in the protein department with eggs. My oldest absolutely loves them and I'm happy both my girls are runny yolk lovers (is there anything better?). If you are fortunate to raise your own hens to get eggs--well more power to you. Here are a couple things to note about egg terminology:
- Just because it says "Organic," does not imply that the hens are free roaming, or even see daylight. It's unfortunate to see how this word is more of a marketing plow than standing for the spirit of the word.
- Cage-free does not mean the hens are free roaming either. Nor does it mean they see daylight, get outdoors--it simply means they don't live in a "cage."
- Free-Range, you would think this would mean the hens are free roaming; however, it's not necessarily true. Some just might; but, it is more along the lines of the hens living in a barn with the doors open to a limited bit of outdoor space. This does mean they get to go out; yet, it could also mean the door is only open at certain times, which limits their intake of bugs & insects to enrich the yolk. This could also mean that they are in a caged area outside to protect them from predators.
- Pastured eggs means the farmer allows the chicken to be outside everyday. You would have to ask the farmer as to how long they are outside. The hens eat earthworms, bugs, & other protein enriching critters, which enriches their eggs. For more info on pastured eggs, go here.
I bought two dozen eggs at the Farmers Market this Saturday. Today I poached eggs for breakfast and the yolk was totally superior to the other types of eggs I have bought in the past. It was a bright orange color, while other eggs have been a pale yellow. One thing I do know is how much more expensive it can be to buy pastured eggs versus factory farmed eggs (sometimes a $3.00 difference). Here are pastured egg farms in Whatcom County:
- Frianeza Farmstead
- Jordan Creek Farm
- Misty Meadows Farm
- Bellingham Farmers Market (you'll find a list of vendors)
- Holistic Homestead
- Local Harvest
On Local & Seasonality: I really do delight in going to the Farmers Market in Bellingham. It's more than just vegetables, artisans, farmers, etc. It's the experience. I have a bit of a ritual in going with my three year old. We both have our baskets and I look at what is available (in season), while seeing what I actually need in our house. If you are one who is an aesthetic, than know that you can only use a fraction of what you buy. I can easily get overwhelmed by the peak of the season availability.
We buy a $1.00 brown sugar shortbread cut out cookie with icing on top from Mt. Bakery about midway through the trip. We check out what single flower we can get (or find on the ground). And then, I want to get vegetables that will be out of season before I know it and savor it. I have been only buying a small portion, in order to spend my money on the best of the best. Asparagus for instance. It only has about a 5-6 week window, so we get it. Eggs are always used in our house, so I buy two dozen. When strawberries become available, that will be on my list. I've been thinking a lot about eating the fruit & vegetables when they are available and having it constantly in our home while we can. There is such a difference from eating strawberries farm-direct in June versus ones shipped from Mexico in February. This is what I've been trying to do in our family.
However, is that to say we haven't eaten strawberries from California recently? No. I guess I just don't make a habit out of it, but I do buy them when my three year old puts them in her little "customer-in-training" cart. Because I value her want & need to be my helper at the grocery store.
We have used a produce delivery service, Dandelion Organic, which I have been very pleased with. I have chosen a delivery every other week. They have a personal bin & a harvest bin. We get the personal bin and it's full of organic produce. They give a list of recipes, in case you don't know what do with sunchokes, kale raab, or beets. I have been getting this delivery for over a year now & I've been impressed with them a lot. I might be ending our delivery for a while, because I am wanting to get a CSA instead.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is basically buying a share of the farm. There are variations as to how much you want to buy, how long you want it to extend to, and if you want to add extras. Here are some CSA options in Whatcom County:
You can go to Community Food Co-op for a complete listing, as some do not have a website, but have information on their farm.
This whole eating healthy, living in an economically unstable environment, making ends meat is a tough paradigm to live under. My friend Hilary said to me a while back about her friend saying, "Well, buying organic or locally is a nice idea, but not everyone can afford to do that." She replied, "Yeah, I know, but maybe it's up to those of us who can, in order to bring the costs down." That has got me thinking about what is my role in this Slowfood/buy local/in season/organic movement. What do I compromise and what do I not? Do I buy pastured eggs, but not organic milk? Do I buy grass-fed beef, while not caring as much about organic produce? It is hard to draw a line.
What I do know is I am called to be a steward of the Earth. There are many non-Christ followers doing a better job at this than Christ followers, and that's a shame when given the Genesis story of the creation. I've seen many blogs devoted to eating this way (Christian and non) and I cannot help but think, how do they afford it? What is unreasonable & reasonable when it comes to buying food? Considering your family budget, do you think buying organic or grass-fed or pastured meat is even an option? How have you made it work? Do you do most of the preparation of your food--how much time does that take you? Please add to the discussion.