Monday, April 5, 2010

Food Inc., I finally Watched It. Twice. And the Debate On Organics

To say I was disturbed is a gross understatement.
I now know why I put off watching it for so long.

I've also now put off writing this post for over 3 weeks.
People get wicked passionate about food, especially mothers and what they feed their families.
I mulled over how to write this without offending anyone, or coming off as preachy.
At the end of the day though this is about me, and my family, and the choices I will make for them going forward. With that being said, please take it all with a grain of salt.

The top 2 take-away points for me were:

The Meat Industry: We as a family eat meat at least 5-6 times a week, be it beef, chicken, pork or fish. As a shopper, I buy whatever is the cheapest that week. Chicken breasts for $1.99/lb, roast beef for $3.99/lb, pork tenderloin for $2.99/lb. If I were to be honest in the back of my mind I did sometimes think, "hmm, how can we get this meat so cheap?" But I didn't want to think about it too much lest I be scared out of my mind.
The scary truth is that even if I prepare the majority of our meals at home, and eat very little fast food, I am still feeding my family meat produced by the system that produces meat for the fast food industry. Cows that are fed only corn, then pumped with antibiotics to stave off e-coli; chickens that are fed hormones to get them bigger, fatter, faster, cheaper.

We will never be a vegetarian family, but I can make better choices for my family that I feel good about. Going forward I am only going to buy hormone free, grass fed beef and chicken. To offset the costs, we will just have to eat less meat. Plain and simple.

Fruits & Vegetables; Buying Locally and In-Season: As soon as I finished watching the movie, I emailed my friend Jenny and asked her to sign us up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) veggie box right away. I learned that the average fruit and vegetable travels over 1500 miles from farm to grocery market. Living here in California, where we have a cornucopia of fresh fruits and veggies to choose from all year long, there's really no reason why I can't get everything I need from locally grown farms, thus limiting the amount of ethylene ripened tomatoes and apples and Chile grown strawberries we ingest.

The Organic Debate: I said in my prior post that I hadn't bought into the whole organic thing, and even after watching this movie I can't say that I am 100% convinced to buy nothing but organic for my family. My friend Miranda sent me an article that I thought addressed many of my concerns and obstacles I see with the Organic movement:

Organic doesn't necessarily mean it's sustainable as well.

*Some of my questions are still unanswered such as what is really the difference between buying regular milk from cows not treated with RBST, versus spending twice as much to buy organic milk?

*There still is no concrete evidence that proves pesticides cause long term harm, especially on some of the "peel" fruits and vegetables that show little traces of pesticides. So are they really worth the extra money?

A big one for me is I don't like the way the Organic movement has been used as a marketing tool aimed at moms and families to spend more for food that may still be highly processed and bad for you. Much like the way Disney has marketed to young girls with the Princess movement, I often feel like I'm being pushed to "jump on the bandwagon because it's the cool thing to do" by not so well-meaning corporations. You can slap an organic label on a chocolate covered granola bar and claim it to be healthy, but at the end of the day it's still a big chewy cookie in disguise.

*Finally, this is where I might offend some people, but again, this is based on my own experience. I sort of resent the elitism that comes along with the whole organic realm, particularly the way some people that only eat organic present themselves. I've had a mom not feed her child the peas I was serving at my home because they were not organic. I've had someone offer me wine and preface it by saying "it's Organic", as if it being organic makes it something other than an alcoholic beverage, AND, as if I wouldn't drink it if it wasn't organic. I've actually had a mother at preschool tell me, upon seeing the Yo-Go that was packed in my child's lunch sack, "You know Stonyfield Farms makes an excellent Organic yogurt in a tube like that. You should try it."
Ummm, thanks, I'll make sure to check it out the next time I'm at the market buying crack laced Pop Tarts and Flaming Hot Cheetos for my 2 year old.
There is a way to be respectful and non-judgmental about people and their choices, but clearly I have come across a few that could use a lesson in humility.

Of course these are extreme examples, but real life examples nonetheless.
I can't help but come to the conclusion by these real life examples that sometimes the organic equation goes something like this:
Feed your child Organic=Good Mom
Don't feed your child Organic=Bad Mom
And this equation makes me cringe a bit, and the Aries in me becomes a bit stubborn about the whole issue and almost take a stand against it.
I know it may be silly, but I'm just being honest.

And the fact we can even debate whether or not to buy organic speaks volumes as to how lucky we are to even consider such things, when so many struggle just to put food on the table.

I've been writing this post since 9 am and I think it's time to wrap it up.
Bottom line, I liked the movie tremendously and got so much out of it.
I did not think it was one sided or slanted towards the hippie, crunchy, tree-hugging left, which was a huge relief to my father, whom upon learning that I had watched it quickly asked in a defensive tone, "What was the agenda?" The man hasn't seen a Hollywood produced movie in over 20 years.
Documentaries can very easily steer in one extreme direction. Case in point, Michael Moore. But I really felt that this documentary came from a good place and was well meaning in its intent.

We should at the very least, have easy access to the facts about the food we eat, where it comes from, how it was grown and produced, and its effects on our health and our environment. Once we have those facts, its our right to do with them what we will.

Good Eats my friends! And if I did offend anyone, Sorry.


  1. Super good post!!! I really enjoyed it and want to comment, but I have to make dinner--organic homemade pinto beans on white flour tortillas :)-- so I don't have time. But I'll be back.

  2. Loved your post! I have been wanting to see the movie... but I feel like I will be irreversably changed after I see it and honestly... I am not sure if I have the energy to change right now... as I type this, I realize how stupid that sounds, lol.

    Okay, I will watch it ;) Thanks for your well thought out insights, I appreciate it!

  3. Well written. very good points. Nice follow through!

  4. Well, I wasn't offended...does that help? :)
    I like your honesty and yes you are incredibly correct about the whole "organic" marketing thing. It's gotten ridiculous.

    You're already doing all the main things:
    *Thinking about WHERE your food comes from
    **Supporting local agriculture (CSA)
    ***Growing your own food (hello garden!)

    A good guide to work with when trying to go organic is the "dirty dozen" list for fruits and veggies.

    And as far as organic cereals/bread go...wheat is not heavily sprayed at all, so buying that stuff non-organic should not be an issue.

    Ok, sorry such a long comment....

    I do agree that the mmovie (Food Inc) comes form a nice/respectful view, not a crazy dogmatic one...which is why I think it has the power to reach so many people.
    Ok, done now. :)

  5. Bravo! (Now that you've summarized the film, I don't have to watch it, right?) BTW, can't wait to have a kitchen back. I am SO over shrink-wrapped dinner!

  6. Andrea that review was great! I agree with you a lot esp. in regards to the whole "you are a bad mommy if you don't do organic" debate. Sometimes I feel that I am the bad mommy for not being 100% organic too, but I can't let it bother me. I do what I do and while I do miss the true local foods I used to get up north (I find them way more accessible) I am slowly finding things that work for us here too, like Foster Farms chicken at Costco, and occaisionally the organic veggie box from Tanaka Farms.

  7. thanks for everyone's thoughts on this, and glad I'm not alone on the whole organic thing. Laura, your information was fantastic. thanks so much. Amber, don't worry, i used that same excuse for a long time too about just not having the energy. it does take a lot of energy and thought. I guess overall though the little rugrats are worth it!


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