A little over a year ago, I did a three part series here on the blog about the role food played in my life growing up and the changes I had made over the years to the way we ate based on books and research I had read.
Part 1: Childhood
Part 2: Teens and Young-Adulthood
Part 3: Up to the then present
I think I felt kind of confident at the time that where we were at was a good place and I didn’t foresee any more major changes in the future. I felt pretty educated about the subject. I was also just kind of “done” on the subject of food research. It can be exhausting looking into all of the information and following rabbit trails. I knew what I knew and I was good with what I knew. I trusted some places and brands over others. I felt I was doing my best with the knowledge, budget, family support, etc. that I had.
Well, a year makes a difference. News stories are written. New books are recommended and written. Things get more complicated. Husbands read books of their own. And blissful ignorance isn’t good enough anymore at some point.
So I sort of feel like now this will be an ever changing and expanding storyline in my life. As I find out more things my values are going to change. There is a Maya Angelou quote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
So, enough changes have taken place recently in our diet and lives that I have more to share.
The biggest impact on our lives was that Stephen read The Omnivore’s Dilema by Michael Pollan and I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer.
There have also been numerous articles in various publications over the last year about the FDA, USDA, our country’s food system, farming, pesticides, conglomerates like Monsanto, etc. that have caught our attention and made us think.
In some ways, writing about this seems especially hard because we still don’t have it all figured out. I also don’t want to offend people or make them think that what they are doing isn’t good enough because it is a subject I can get pretty fired up about. Nor do I want to offend those we eat with in our circle of friends and family that may not either share our same values or for whatever reason can’t make the changes that we have made due to their budget or dietary needs, etc. So forgive me if I ramble or don’t seem to have it all together quite yet.
So a year ago we got our dairy, meat and eggs from Trader Joe’s. We joined back up with the CSA Abundant Harvest for our produce. We still ate out at places that were above McDonald’s, but didn’t claim to source their ingredients from organic farms or even any place different than where ever it is that McDonald’s sources their ingredients from. We ate processed food from time to time (snacks mostly), but I did try/have to make a lot of things from scratch due to the kids’ food allergies. We avoided soy (except occasionally in the fermented form of soy sauce) due to things I’d read about phytoestrogens in soy products. We avoided non-traditional fats/oils and instead used mostly real butter and olive oil. We sometimes splurged for grass fed beef, but I had a hard time learning how to cook it and it was expensive so we mostly just got whatever was on sale and marked “organic” at Trader Joe’s. We trusted Trader Joe’s. We trusted labels like “organic” and “free range.” We made little effort beyond the more “superior” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to find out where our food came from.
And that last line is where all the change comes into our lives. After reading the books we did, neither of us could be comfortable ever again just walking into a grocery store and blindly trusting. We wanted to know.
Google searches led to reports and news articles and farm websites that told us (or went to great efforts to keep secret) where our food was coming from and we didn’t like everything that we found out.
Labels like organic now mean nothing to us if the cows/chickens/hogs are fed the same “organic” non-traditional diet (in other words “organic” corn and soy) as their non-organic counterparts. Or if they are kept in identical claustrophobic factory conditions with a small door where they are allowed to access outdoors, but don’t because they are too sick/obese/etc to be able to do so.
We started eating way less meat/eggs/dairy. We only get meat/eggs/dairy from places that we can find more about and trust that the animals are treated decently, given food they are traditionally supposed to eat and space/lifestyle/habitat/etc. that they are traditionally supposed to be in. Mostly that means we source these things either through our CSA via add-ons to our weekly box (I just discovered they have a whole series of videos about each of the farms), our local farmer’s markets and sometimes Whole Foods carries “local” stuff (an example is that I discovered the chicken our CSA sells from a family farm in Sanger, CA is available at Whole Foods and about $2-3 cheaper).
We have like three places we feel OK about eating out at. We are trying to figure how to eat when we are in social situations with people that don’t eat like us and for whom this is of no concern. It’s daunting sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. I think the changes we are making send a message and have an impact even if it is a fairly small one.
If you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask questions.
And one more thing… Chicken, people… Just Google “chicken fecal soup” and tell me you can be comfortable walking into any grocery store and buying a package of “organic” chicken again (hint, make sure your chicken package says 0% additional moisture, you are welcome).