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July 17, 2008 by 8junebugs

I have not eaten red meat in eight days. I think. I’m not keeping a food journal at present, so it’s hard to say, but I think the last beef I ate was the steakburger I had with my brother the day I left Vermont. I seriously considered jerky on my trip to Harrisonburg the other day, but I went instead with the almighty Keebler cheese and cracker combo.

This is vaguely on purpose — as I mentioned when I came back, I’m taking a shot at healthier, more organic, more conscious eating. As much as possible, I’m trying to be a locavore and/or support neighborhood business owners, while still, I don’t know, trying to save for retirement.

Or a home of some kind.

But an organic chef in a recent Bon Appetit article made a point that resonates with me — roughly, “This is the real cost of real food. Get used to it.” Having seen firsthand the struggle to maintain a functioning farm, with or without profit, he’s right. Growing crops, raising cattle, butchering humanely, pasteurizing dairy products…all this is expensive. The “food factory” phenomenon has made it all but impossible for family farms to continue — they can’t compete with companies that supply McDona1ds and charge pennies on the pound because they sell in bulk. Big bulk. And if you can’t taste the difference between a McDona1ds hamburger and one made from grass-fed cattle butchered by a knowledgable and caring expert, then maybe your tastebuds deserve a break today.

Listen, I’m not saying we all have to drive out to the country and pay $5 for a pound of ground beef. We’ve all got our own priorities and our own budgets and our own number of mouths to feed, and I love a bargain as much as the next consumer. But I do think that, the further we are from our food source, the less respect we have for it and for how much of it we eat.

Think of it in terms of other industries — if you know the lifecycle of a product, you are more likely to assign to the product a more realistic value: The more you know about web design or publications, the more you appreciate a well-designed site or book. If you met the farmer who raised the cow that became your hamburger, would you see the burger the same way? Or would you see a process of work and care that went into feeding you?

Just something to think about…


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