Where did that come from? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Where did those blackberries come from? What about these bananas? And do I even want to think about where this chicken came from? The question of “where” has been followed by countless others. How far did this food travel before it got to my grocery store? How was is grown? Is it natural? Were chemicals used?
Which is better, organic or local?
All of this thinking is new to me, and it’s thinking that’s starting to takeover the majority of my thoughts. In the past, I’ve purposely opted to be blissfully unaware about my food, especially when it came to meat. I didn’t want to think about how the meat got into the meat case at the grocery or why all the chicken breasts there were disturbingly similar sizes. I didn’t want to think about what the chicken had been fed or if she lived a happy life free to frolic around the farm. I certainly didn’t want to think about feed lots, or chicken houses with next to no fresh air or room to spread your wings, or chickens who were raised hopped up hormones causing growth so outrageous their poor legs were too weak to hold their bodies up. I wanted nothing to do with any of that.
But here I am thinking about all of it, and frankly it’s uncomfortable.
Over the past couple of months, all of those bullets I’d been dodging started making contact. It started with a little curiosity about organic fruits and vegetables (and if I should be shelling out the extra cash to buy them). When I went home to visit family in Ohio I popped the question to my mom, who always seems to be on top of the food scene and has been pushing grass-fed meat for years. She showed me this video, which I encourage you all to take two minutes to watch.
My Potato Project; The Importance of “Organic”
It’s disturbing, but the fact is the bulk of our produce is grown chemically. Chemicals are used to prevent weeds, deter insects, and artificially enhance the quality of the nutrient depleted soil. All of these chemicals become a part of our produce, and this chemical usage and industrialization has a negative impact on the quality of the product the system is producing (i.e., our fruits and veggies). One example of this is the significant reduction in the nutritional quality of an apple when compared to the apple nutrient stats in the 1950’s. Today, you’d have to eat THREE apples to get the nutrients one apple provided back in the fifties. Nowadays, the majority of farmers are using genetically modified seeds, which are magically resistant to chemicals like Roundup and Bud Nip. These seeds are planted in pesticide saturated soil and throughout their growth are sprayed frequently with, you guessed it, more chemicals.
But what does that mean for us, the fruit and veggie eaters?
As we speak, there is a large russet potato on my kitchen counter. It is slightly dirty, and I know it will need a good scrub before I bake it. I think about how this non-organic potato was grown—submerged in poor quality chemical ridden soil—and I wonder what good washing it will really do. Sure it will get the bit of dirt off of the skin, but what about all those chemicals that have inevitably seeped into every cell of the spud as it grew surrounded by toxic pesticides? Would I spray kitchen cleaner on this potato to clean the dirt from its skin? Absolutely not. We all know it’s not safe to ingest kitchen cleaner. But apparently it’s safe to ingest Roundup? And Bud Nip?
Unanswered questions keep piling up in my mind. I’ve read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and I’m currently working my way through Maria Rodale’s Organic Manifesto. I watched Food Inc., and there are a stack of library books on my counter waiting to be read including Food Matters, Botany of Desire, and Food Rules. I am passionate about learning all that I can about the industrialized food industry and growing organically.
But the more I learn, the more appalled I become.
The studies are alarming. Diagnoses for autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, asthma, diabetes, and childhood obesity are at all time highs, and according to a study done by Dr. Devra Davis, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer at some point in their lifetimes. Is it coincidence that our nation’s health has deteriorated as the use of chemicals in the American food industry and the number of processed goods in our stores have soared?
These are the questions filling my head, and I’m hungry to learn all that I can. What do you think? Do you choose not to think about these issues? How do you feel about eating organic? What about eating local? How do you know local foods are, in fact, organic?