Monday, September 19, 2016

Thinking about food

I've been reading Jane Goodall's book, Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating, for the past few days. The book came out about ten years ago so what she's saying isn't exactly new: eat local as much as possible. If you can't, avoid the conventionally grown produce that's either (a) traveled the farthest or (b) is known to be particularly bad for having pesticide or herbicide residue.

She also advocates eliminating dead animal flesh from a person's diet, but she doesn't push it, just notes that large-scale livestock and poultry operations can lead to some horrific conditions, both for the animals and the people working with them. If fewer people ate meat, the market for it would contract; fewer cows, turkeys, whatever would suffer; and the impact on the environment from liquified hog shit and other pollutants would be reduced.

Goodall might be right, but the average person isn't going to give up pork chops or steak because they're concerned about conditions at feed lots or in slaughterhouses. They don't care. They don't see Babe or Wilbur when they look at a package of pork chops; they see pork chops that for all they know or care were picked from a tree. Nope, if they cut back on the amount of dead cow they consume it's more likely to be because of sticker shock. Every time I go grocery shopping I find myself wondering how people with larger families manage to include much animal protein in their meals. I can remember when chuck roast was the cheap cut of meat. Not anymore. It costs as much per pound as t-bones did not many years ago. The S.O. and I are still carnivores, but we have indeed started including more meatless days in the monthly menu. Not because of some deep love for lentils that we've suddenly discovered but because we're on a fixed income and there's a definite cap on how much I want to spend at Larry's.

In contrast with beef, the prices on pork have remained comparatively low, with the exception of bacon. Bacon prices spiked during The Great Hog Shortage of a couple years ago and never did come back down. Pigs reproduce a lot faster than cattle so a piglet die-off one year is a short term problem, not one that lingers for years. There's only one problem with the pork at Larry's. It carries a Smithfield label. I was trying to avoid Smithfield before it became a Chinese company -- they had an appalling record when it came to how employees were treated, even worse than the usual dismal conditions in food processing -- and now they're a Chinese company I really don't want anything to do with Smithfield products. China has a remarkably poor record when it comes to food safety. I don't care if the packages are labeled born in the USA, slaughtered in the USA, as long as the company has any connection with China I won't buy it.

For what it's worth, I refuse to buy any sea food that originates in China or Southeast Asia. Between the allegations of human rights abuses (extremely young children working as virtual slaves on shrimp farms, for example) and the wretched sanitary conditions, I won't buy anything that's fish farmed in Asia. When I worked at the CDC. I edited a few too many research papers about parasitic diseases found on shrimp and fish farms in Vietnam. I've been thinking I'd like to have a pet again, but I don't particularly want it to be internal.

So, yes, Jane Goodall, I am practicing mindful eating. I read labels -- no high fructose corn syrup for the Mannikko household -- I try to avoid buying foods that are not in season, like grapes in the middle of the winter or pomegranates in June. We garden. I can. I have contemplated getting a few chickens (the coyotes would love me) and have thought about looking into buying a share in a beef steer locally. If we weren't being sort of seasonal residents, I might invest in some feeder calves myself. Food doesn't get much more local than when you grow it yourself. Would I be as mindful if we still lived in Atlanta? Sort of. Maybe. Does it count that when I bought fresh fish at Publix I wouldn't get the trout unless it came from a U.S. fish farm?


  1. I mostly eat chicken and would eat more fish if it was cheaper, or if I caught more.

  2. the growth hormones in meat is effecting the population. I used to be considered tall at six-two, but when I go into the college gym many of the kids there tower above me.

    Makes me wonder what other effects are being passed on?

    We are what we eat - and the water isn't great.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. I don't eat any fish except locally grown catfish..refuse to eat anything from Vietnam or china or any place other than Canada or USA


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