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Real Food, Part 5: Real food at a real table

June 27th, 2007 · 2 Comments · Environment, Food selection, Healthy eating, local food

As fascinating as Nina Planck‘s book Real Food is, it reads as pie in the sky, albeit pie with lard-based pastry and locally grown, organic fruit filling.

If she’s right about the benefits of traditional horticulture and animal husbandry— and heaven knows her thesis may be better than most out there—then it behooves us as individuals and as a nation to make these foods available. Americans do slowly seem to be getting the message about more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but it’s a struggle for many, and her proposed way of eating goes further. Still, the more that people are aware of and seek out foods produced in more healthful ways, the more that producers will seek to fill the demand, and prices eventually might come down a notch.

Corn heavily subsidized; grass isn’t

The best chance for major structural change in the food industry, however, is if federal farm policy ceases to promote corn crops that are the basis for our corn-fed beef, corn oil and corn sweeteners. And the best chance for the policy to change (it seems to me) would be if Uncle Sam decides that this huge single-crop dependence is a threat to national security. Anyone remember the Irish potato famine?

The more likely near-term possibility, at least where beef is concerned, is that beef prices (and corn oil and corn meal prices) will soar as more corn gets diverted into ethanol. Those price increases will make grass-fed beef more competitive with feedlot beef.

Still, industrial beef prices will have to rise a lot for that to happen. A local producer here, for instance, sells ground beef for $5.15 a pound; chuck and rump roasts for $5.12 a pound; and steaks starting at $12.99 for sirloin, although most (flat iron, KC strip, Porterhouse, rib eye, T-bone) are $16.88 a pound. Ouch.

Changing habits

In the meantime, only the most committed are going to be buying raw milk; it’s too hard to find, illegal to sell in many states, spoils quickly and is of uncertain safety. Many people, though, can ditch the “industrial age” oils (soy, corn, canola) and transfats and embrace butter and olive oil and whole milk once again. But will it be from grass-fed cows? Only for a few people.

Planck set out to show that “real food” is better than industrial food. She has given us lots to think about and ideas about how individuals can make changes. Thanks to Real Food, I’ve become a convert to local (pasteurized) milk, and I’m giving unrefined coconut oil and a regional raw-milk cheese a try. (I’ll tell you about those sometime soon.)

I may try to eat the local eggs from pastured chickens more consistently, and but I’m still debating about meat. I don’t eat much of it, so I suppose I could bear the expense. On the other hand, because I don’t each much of it, whatever harm or benefit I derive from meat isn’t going to be very big either way. I already ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, from local sources when I can.

As for everybody else, until someone can provide a realistic vision of how these real foods could become widely available, most people will remain by (choice or by circumstance) hostage to what Big Food offers.

If you’re interested in reading the whole series, here it is:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the series—and that it wasn’t too much!

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Joanne

    I don’t eat meat all the time either, but I feel better about things when I buy meat that’s been locally raised, grass fed, and killed humanely. It does cost more but then I don’t eat it as heartily–better for me in the long run. There are no guarantees about this sort of thing, but it does taste better!

    As for pasteurization, I admit that as long as it’s the “safer” kind of pasteurization, the one that leaves more nutrients in the milk, I’m all for it. I don’ t know that raw milk on a large scale is safe… and I’m not about to start eating coconut fats on any kind of daily basis. I’ve lived without lard forever, too, and it’s worked out ok! Olive oil really works for me, and I’m substituting it wherever I would have used margarine in my cooking before…I’m still struggling though–today my grocery store decided not to carry my regular organic whole wheat flour for making bread. These things are not always widely available!

  • Janet Majure

    I’m sure you’re right about the meat, Joanne. I can buy local chicken without flinching too hard, so why not beef?

    How frustrating about the flour. Good luck finding a reliable source locally.