Tuesday, February 6, 2007

I have been thinking....

I have been thinking about organic food purchases.
Since we did the refrigerator "thingy" I have been thinking about what was in my fridge. Now, I am not having fridge food envy or anything like that. Nor do I believe my contents at that moment were completely representative of how we eat but I started wondering about food choices--and ultimately what is in our fridge.
Most of you, I know, have read Micheal Pollan's book "The omnivores dilemma" and for those of you who haven't here is a quick low down on what I would like to comment about:
Micheal Pollan --in the "chapter" where he is spending time with Joel Salatin---comments that eating local/ organic, will and does, cost more than cheap industrialized food. Industrialized food that is heavily subsidized as Pollan and Salatin both point out by : pollution, antibiotic resistance and residues, food borne illnesses, crop subsidies, subsidized oil and subsidized water. All of these are hidden costs paid by all of us every time we shop---whether we like it or not.
Pollan then goes on to point out that until this "food system" changes organic or sustainable food will cost more: More than some can afford but not most.
He goes on to state how in the 1950's food was one fifth of our disposable income versus the one tenth it is now and also points out how many people now pay for cell phones, cable/satelite t.v and even water (versus a well). His point is that more of us than we think can afford to purchase sustainable.
My question is this: Exactly where do you decide to spend your organic dollar? As a general rule we try and buy organic cream (probably 95% of the time we succeed) and yogurts, cheeses that are organic or artisanal, grass fed meat if we plan correctly, and organic fruits/ veggies when available. We try and eat somewhat in season---though I am still working on how to do that since, other than avoiding some things like tomatoes, I don't completely know what to prepare that includes only "in season" products for every meal. (practice makes perfect). Anyways here is my dilemma: What about things like milk that have a tendency to be more expensive AND heavily used by most people AND full of crap. We as a family, on average, go through about 9 gallons of milk a week (rarely less and depending on which of the kids friends are here it can be much more). If you consider that regular milk runs me about 3 dollars per gallon that is 27 per week or approximately 108 dollars a month. So, if that is "5%" of my budget then of course I should really try to move towards buying sustainable/organic at double (or 10%) of my discretionary income. Which would be approximately 216 per month or almost the cost of a lower price car payment. Not too bad for good health though right? On the other hand, organic milk cost about $8 to 9 dollars a gallon around here---and using my example----would cost me about $288 or even a bit more. That, with only milk factored in, is the cost of a car (just to keep perspectives). Now I will admit I have NEVER had a problem with paying more for something so that say.....a farmer can have a "living" wage. EVER. But, using my milk example, I wouldn't be able to (and even really can't) afford to purchase all sustainable/local/organic products for my family. I don't have enough money. And just to set the record straight: No, I don't have a cell phone and my husband's work pays for his. My husband's work also pays for our internet connection. Yes, we pay for water (though that runs about 15 a month) and satellite (but we only get the most basic package---no frills or HBO for us).
How do you get to the point that you can feel comfortable about what you feed your family? Sometimes when I watch my son drink that big glass of milk----I feel guilty for not purchasing organic for him. I know that if we had a larger community of sustainable agriculture near us that the cost could be lower and still give a farm a decent wage. But of course---we don't live in that type of community. No California is this area. There is some---just not much---and quite a bit is at least a couple hours drive. Drives are fine for grass fed meat that will last for months but how do you store 18 gallons of milk so you don't have to drive every week 2 to 3 hours one way to purchase? Or 36 gallons if you only wanted to go once a month :-O I'd have to have a commercial walk in freezer at least!
We have always been interested in growing our own food---and have many many times in our life been good at it. I believe now though is the time to try and be very very successful at growing and "harvesting" as much of our food as we can---especially in this newer climate of ge/gmo foods, added hormones and lack of care by the FDA/USDA for our health. Even if I never get one of our cows to freshen---if I can take pressure off of the rest of my food bill then maybe I can afford organic milk---and that walk in freezer.

NOW---do we want to talk about the "cons" of industrial organic milk??


Joe Greene said...

We are fortunate to have a family-owned organic dairy in our area which bottles and sells milk and butter in several stores around here. It is non-homogenized and minimally pasteurized. We use about 3-4 gallons a week for drinking and making homemade yogurt. The cost is $3.29 per half-gallon but they sell 5 gallon bags for around $21.

Have you tried milking any of your Dexters?

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Wow Joe!
great price on the 5 gallon---we could drink that easily before it went bad. That's not even including butter,yogurt or any other "by product" from it.
No we haven't gotten to milk our dexters yet. We had a lot of trouble getting a bull that wasn't related to our females (we ended up getting one in Texas) so we still have some time before we will get to milk them. I am looking forward to it though.

El said...

Tough issues!

I think, Monica, you can at least feel somewhat enabled in that you at least have two cows. They'll eventually get preggers and produce for you.

Re: organic dairy products: I think MY own issue is twofold: cows are poorly treated production units, so if they're at least not given rGBH I do feel a little better about buying their milk. And organic: I know pesticide residue gets tied up in fat cells, and what are little kids but little butterballs of fat (even the skinny ones), so that's why I don't spare the expense.

But yes, you have more kids than I do. I guess my advice would be reduce where you can, and try hard to find other sources. Look into http://www.realmilk.com/ to see if you can find raw milk near you and get into a milk share.

Getting a freezer would be great, wouldn't it?

We try to put away as much as we can, especially tomatoes and beans and potatoes, and we still have some in the larder downstairs. We also are part of a food co-op through M's school (actually I help run it) that is an organic box of (California) veggies and fruit for $35. It benefits the school's snack program, and it's a lot less expensive than getting that produce at the store.

I try to buy in bulk. I have recently found an organic grainery/mill not too far away from our house, and they also are an organic wholesaler of things like pasta and beans and health products. So I get big shipments sent out to us.

Now, I do all this even though we're probably wealthy enough to spend far more than 10% of our income on "regular" food. I do it certainly out of some thrifty streak, but I also do it because our food choices are fairly average around here, and that's not good enough for me!

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Hey El
We do buy grains, rice etc in bulk from a somewhat small organic place (only one within 45 minute drive). Pretty good prices (not as good as when we lived in Texas though---bigger area I suppose is the reason) Price isn't really that huge --most things aren't that much more expensive (grains, veggies, fruits etc)
There is a co- op kind of close to us but I am having trouble finding them. It's one of those---"I know a friend of a friend that I think does it so I will get you the information" but I never do get it. I never thought of starting my own though---how did you get in touch with the California place?
Also---believe it or not I only have two kids. I have to threatened to beat them if they drink too much milk in a day (almost serious). My son's best friend will drink a gallon just in the time he's here spending the night. If I didn't really get on to them---They could easily pack away 12 or more gallons a week of milk!! Crazy isn't it! It's a bit lower in the summer but...
And yes, I have found two dairies through real milk and the other site called.....can't remember off hand--local grown or something like that. Anyways--both are at least 2 hours from me: one in Tn and one South of Atlanta. But I just don't have the storage right now. I need a really large freezer since I will soon have lamb anyway-- maybe then I will break down and drive the drive to get milk.
Someday---I will have my own almost free milk!