‘Real’ Food for Thought
Long gone are the days that we can go to the grocery store and trust that what we come home with in our grocery bags is really what we thought it to be: FOOD. Or I should say, REAL FOOD.
Over the last 30-40 years, the food industry has been doing what we see happening across corporate America: consolidating to fewer and fewer companies offering a larger percentage of the food items you see in the grocery store. This means less choice, compromised quality, and greater expense to the consumer.
According to Philip Howard, PhD., and author of “Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat?”, there are currently 10 firms that control one-third of food and beverage sales in the U.S, and those numbers continue to get smaller through acquisitions.
This means that as consumers, our choices are getting smaller and smaller, and we have to be more aware of what is going on “behind the scenes” in order to be able to ensure
what we bring home is safe for us and our families.
Shockingly, stories about U.S. chickens being exported to China for processing, and then re-sent to the U.S are true! How can this be? How does this even make sense? The answer: labor costs are lower in China: $2 per hour for chicken processors in China vs $11 in the U.S.
Another ulterior motive is the hope that if the U.S. sends its chickens to China for processing, then China will re-allow the U.S. to export beef to China (beef exports to China have been banned since 2003 with the mad cow disease episode in 2003). The short answer: Profit and Profit. As of this writing, “chicken nuggets” and chicken wings are sent to and sent back from China, but there are wide concerns that that will soon change and start to include the whole chicken as well.
If you have come in to see me as a patient, you have heard me say, “Food is Medicine.” Naturopathic Physicians strongly believe this adage, and we see everyday how food choices impact health. It gets really frustrating when we as consumers are TRYING to make healthier choices and are unknowingly purchasing foods that harm our health instead!
So what can you as a consumer do? It is almost impossible to keep up with what is happening at the corporate level, but you CAN absolutely take control in a HUGE way:
- Grow your own food – even patio container plants are a step in the right direction.
- Support your local farmer: Attend the farmer’s markets in your area.
- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where you buy a “share” of the farmer’s crop for that year. This allows the farmer and the consumers to share in the risk and the bounty of the yield. In Ohio, there are several farmers in the area offering CSA’’s: DeSimone’s in Litchfield, Morningside Farm in Hinckley, Earth Song in Lodi, and Trapp Family Farm in Peninsula, to name just a few. My husband and I recently found a meat CSA, which we became members of, and so far, it has been a great experience; we pick up our share once a month from a farmer (Bindel Farms, Spencer) who grows pork, beef, chicken, and eggs on his property. We LOVE knowing that our food is raised free-range, without antibiotics, AND we are supporting our local economy/farmers instead of large corporations.
I heard just this morning of an Amish Farmer who may be having to discontinue offering cow shares and his CSA because companies are starting to move into the community market area. I go to the Valley City Farmers Market EVERY Saturday during season. It is a smaller market, and not as “sexy” as the Medina or Howe Meadow Market, but for me, it allows me to get what I need for the week. When I do want to purchase cheese, nut butters, or other specialty items, then I do go to Medina or Howe Meadows.
There is a saying, “You can choose to either pay your farmer or your doctor” – my vote is for the farmer – every time – and twice on Sunday. 🙂