A friend of mine and I argued recently over the costs of organic food. “It was just too expensive for a family of four,” she said. “Wild salmon costs twice as much as farm-raised!” Both her points may be true, but the price was worth it, I argued, and that choosing good food should be a priority. For this particular person it wasn’t a matter of not having the money (she and her husband drove cars retailing around $40,000.00 each), but that she valued other things more. I think she should rethink how important eating quality food is, and perhaps you should too, for the following reasons.
Pleasure. Good food just taste better. Fast food, processed food and convenience foods provide a temporary hit to our most basic cravings for salt and sugar, but this hit is a shallow and temporary pleasure and rarely is part of the slow, long joyful meals that Abundant Bohemians enjoy with good company. Yes, wild caught salmon does costs significantly more than farm-raised salmon. But I challenge you to buy a filet of each and tell me that you don’t taste a dramatic difference.
Health. Back to the salmon. Wild salmon provides the wonderful omega-3 fats that are so healthy for us because of salmon’s diet of algae. Farm-raised salmon are fed corn products, resulting in that salmon having twenty times less omega-3 fats than wild! And because farm-raised salmon are kept in small pens and forced to swim in their own filth, they contain enough toxins to actually cause more harm to our health than good.
True costs. If you buy half the portions of wild salmon as you would normally the farm-raised, you don’t have to allocate more money to your food budget. We tend to eat portions much to large for us, and as food guru Michael Pollen argues, meat should be the garnishment to a meal, not the main course. I think you will find that you will be just as satisfied and will be satisfied longer. In her book, Outdoor Fitness, author Tina Vindom advises that any protein serving should not be larger than the palm of your hand, a carbohydrate serving no larger than your fist, and a vegetable/fruit/grain serving no larger that what you could hold in a cupped hand. When our body eats bad food it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, and that means you will be hungry again quicker, meaning eating again, spending money again, and probably putting additional empty calories into our bodies that make us look and feel worse. If you eat well, you eat less. That’s less money spent.
Buying quality food doesn’t have to be more expensive. I’ve found that the organic eggs I buy at the local farmers’ market from the guy who raises his own chickens are no more expensive than grocery store eggs. The same applies to the fruit and vegetables that I purchase at the farmers’ market. I’m uncomfortable buying meats at the grocery for multiple reasons, so a friend of mine and I did some research and we bought a quarter of a buffalo from a ranch in Wyoming. The buffalo grazed freely on the plains for its entire life, was free of hormones, steroids and antibiotics, and was humanely slaughtered in the field and not in a slaughterhouse. Since we bought in bulk, it was only slightly more expensive than what you would pay per pound for beef at the grocery. But when you factor in the health benefits (grass-fed buffalo is lean and contains as much omega-3s as wild salmon!), the lessened environmental impact and the humane treatment of the animal, the small difference in costs was inconsequential.
Political and social reasons. Placing a value on the quality of food we buy, where we buy it and the ethical treatment of the animals we eat, sends a message. The more of us who show we care by how we spend our food dollars will only increase the market for good foods, continue to bring prices down, will help expand the market to others who have limited or no access to good foods, and will decrease environmental degradation and animal cruelty. The reason a cheeseburger cost 99 cents is because the U.S. government subsidizes wheat, corn, soy and dairy at taxpayer expense. If we subsidized organic food the same way, or at least leveled the playing field by cutting subsidies for unhealthy foods, prices for good food would fall dramatically.
Enjoying the epicurean delights is one of the great joys of being an Abundant Bohemian. We all will benefit by taking the time to be mindful in the purchase, the preparation, and the consuming of our meals. Bon appétit!