Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

Last week I was invited to do a podcast with Kenn Williamson of Wizardly Wisdom (you can listen HERE).  We were talking about various topics from learning history to what is happening on the farm this spring.  One topic that came up was knowing where your food comes from, buying local, or growing your own.

During that same week, a neighbor stopped by the farm to ask about our eggs and chickens.  He wanted to know what it meant for the eggs to be organic.  I told him that we feed our chickens a non-GMO/organic/non-soy diet and that they are allowed to roam freely and forage.  We also had a discussion about how a typical commercial chicken was raised and treated.

If you are following me, you are probably concerned about the quality of your food as well.  But do you really know and understand the process of how your food is raised/grown or where it comes from?  Do you know how the animals you purchased for consumption were treated and what they were feed?  Do you know how the vegetables or fruits were grown?  Was it in a sustainable manner? Was it in depleted soil?  Was it sprayed with chemicals?  If so, which ones?

Do you understand how advertising works in the market?   Do you know what the words natural, organic, grass fed, free range, cage free, humanely treated, etc., means when it comes to advertising?  It may not mean what you think it means.

But most importantly…..

Why Does Any of This Matter?


While the video is a funny and extreme example of knowing where our food is sourced, it cannot be stressed enough how the world of agriculture has changed.   The foods we eat have been modified, sprayed, injected, and processed.  The soil, the very foundation of our foods, is being depleted so much so that fruits and vegetables are not nearly as nutrient dense as they once were, even so called organic ones.

Have You Ever Wondered Why……

  • A home grown tomato tastes better than a store bought one? Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold.[1]  “So what?” you ask.  “I can get a variety of fruits and vegetables I might not otherwise be able to have.”  While this is true, consider the cost of transporting produce.  Not only economically and environmental, but also nutritionally.  All produce steadily loses nutrient value while in storage.  “Studies have shown that tomatoes harvested green have 31% less vitamin C than those allowed to ripen on the vine. Vine ripened red peppers too, have about 30% more vitamin C than green peppers.  It is not just vitamin C content that is reduced, in fact vine ripened tomatoes contain more of the important antioxidants beta carotene and lycopene than those harvested prematurely ….. Lettuce loses 46% of some key nutrients within seven days of cold storage. Spinach loses 22% of lutein and 18% of beta carotene content after just eight days of cold storage [6].”

Did You Know That…..?

  • You cannot trust the government to protect you when it comes to food quality and safety. Most of us have been told that the label “USDA Inspected” means that the consumer could rest assured that the quality and safety of the food they were buying is the best.  But thanks to the ties between government bureaucracy and corporate lobbying the USDA-approved label is less than assuring.  Many of those serving on the boards of these large corporations also serve in some capacity with the USDA or FDA.  Can we say conflict of interest?
  • You cannot trust corporations to be forth coming about the origins of meat and produce. “In an investigative piece, BuzzFeed  found that not one single company interviewed — including General Mills, Kraft, and Campbell’s — would divulge their meat suppliers. Those who responded to the inquiry claimed they could not name their meat suppliers because of the competitive nature of their business. However, the market is far from crowded. A 2012 USDA report found that four processing companies produce 85% of America’s beef and 65% of its pork, and three produce more than half of all of our chicken [4]”
  • When animals are raised properly, the resulting products are more nutrient dense and safer. “A recent MOTHER EARTH NEWS study found that compared to conventional American eggs, real free-range eggs have less cholesterol and saturated fat, plus more vitamins A and E, beta carotene and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids.”

Grass-fed beef contains more carotenoids, vitamin E and minerals like potassium, iron,    zinc, phosphorus and sodium [7].  “Depending on the breed of cow, grass-fed beef  contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed beef, and the average ratio of n-6:n-3 in grass fed beef is 1.53:1. In grain fed beef, this ratio jumps all the way up to 7.65:1 [8].”

If you buy conventional beef, Consumer Reports says there’s a pretty good chance it’s contaminated with fecal bacteria, some of it antibiotic-resistant. The contamination occurs when the intestines are punctured at the time of processing, and the methods used to sterilize contaminated meat don’t make it any more edible. These include high heat, chemicals, and/or radiation to kill the bacteria—and then the meat is shipped off for consumers to eat. Ground beef is the biggest culprit because the grinding process ensures that bacteria is mixed throughout the meat. [3].”

  • You can’t trust consumer labeling. The almighty dollar is the bottom line, not your health.  Get this:  Factory egg producers pay the American Egg Board $20 million dollars to convince you and me to buy their eggs (and that is just egg producers!).  Advertisers know psychology, and they know it well.  They will use trigger words to get you to buy their products.   For example, “‘Allowed access to the outside’ is how the USDA defines ‘free-range.’ This inadequate definition means that producers can, and do, label their eggs as ‘free-range’ even if all they do is leave little doors open on their giant sheds, regardless of whether the birds ever learn to go outside, and regardless of whether there is good pasture or just bare dirt or concrete outside those doors! [5]”   Chickens are NOT vegetarians, and an all vegetarian diet is not what is best for a chicken.  They are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal material.  “True free-range eggs are those from hens that range outdoors on pasture, which means they can do what’s natural — forage for all manner of green plants and insects [5].”

Really this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I know that it can be overwhelming.  On one hand, the future of agriculture seems dim.  The backyard victory gardens that our grandmother’s planted are fewer and far between.  Some cities and municipalities will site, fine, or throw you in jail for having a garden or animals in your yard.  And to top it all off, kids and adults are more and more disconnected from their food sources.

But all is not lost.  The revolution begins with you and me.  There are things that you can do right in your neighborhood.  Here are a few ways to get started.

  1. Become a part of the The Direct-to-Consumer Market

The direct-to-consumer market is currently the most established sector of local food distribution.    Direct-to-consumer means that all middlemen are cut out of the food distribution equation – farmers sell their products directly to consumers, rather than through third parties, such as grocery stores. Common direct-to-consumer operations include:

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are communal spaces in which multiple farmers gather to sell their farm products directly to consumers. Farmers’ markets may be municipally or privately managed and may be seasonal or year-round. Farmers may have to pay a vendor’s (or other similar) fee to participate, and must usually transport their own farm products to the farmers’ market site.

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) are direct-to-consumer programs in which consumers buy a “share” of a local farm’s projected harvest. Consumers are often required to pay for their share of the harvest up front; this arrangement distributes the risks and rewards of farming amongst both consumers and the farmer. CSA participants often pick up their CSA shares in a communal location, or the shares may be delivered directly to customers.

Other Direct to Consumer Programs

A much smaller proportion of the direct-to-consumer market are options such as pick-your-own farms, on-site farm stands and stores, and gleaning programs, in which consumers are invited to harvest crops that are left in fields, usually after harvest. [2]”

The beauty of purchasing local is that you get to know the farmer.  People are welcome to stop by and see our animals up close and personal.  They are free to ask questions and they can see how our animals and food is raised.

  1. Start your own garden. It doesn’t have to be big and I give you a few tips to get you started HERE.
  2. Educate yourself. The best defense is a good offense. Don’t be blind to the world that we live in.  Don’t leave the fate of your health and well-being in the hands of disconnected individuals who think they know what is best for you and your family.   As you learn and grow take what you have gleaned and act on it.

Resources:

Death By Food Pyramid, by Denise Minger

Sources:

  1. https://www.localharvest.org/buylocal.jsp
  2. http://www.sustainabletable.org/254/local-regional-food-systems
  3. https://www.seleneriverpress.com/three-reasons-you-should-know-where-your-food-comes-from/
  4. http://www.cheatsheet.com/health-fitness/3-reasons-you-should-care-where-your-food-comes-from.html/?a=viewall
  5. http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/free-range-eggs-zmaz07onzgoe
  6. http://www.aerogardenblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/White-Paper.pdf
  7. https://authoritynutrition.com/grass-fed-vs-grain-fed-beef/
  8. https://chriskresser.com/why-grass-fed-trumps-grain-fed/

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