Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Chicken or The Egg

Today at lunch, my dear friend Nancy brought to my attention a New York Times article in which farm eggs had been taste-tested against grocery eggs, concluding that there was no difference. Heated, she vented that the reduced carbon footprint alone should be enough reason to buy farm eggs! Damnit! (You can read her vehement commentary below the article itself, #16).

I read the article when I came home. It was innocent enough. The writer of the Washington Post, which ran the original article, really seemed only to be concerned with taste differences here; it didn't dive into any deeper issues. However, the backlash was extraordinary, and lovely. People passionately argued for the fresh eggs, not only defending their superb flavor, but also the support of local economy, the organic benefits, and of course, the reduced carbon footprint (thanks, Nancy).

This made me think about why we do this, fellow greenies. It isn't just because fresh ingredients are (usually) more delicious, although this is definitely a perk. In fact, that isn't really what got me started in this at all. Mostly, I do it for my health. I began to get scared of the stories I was hearing about the food that we eat from the grocery store. For example, the dancer who was paralyzed from contaminated hamburger meat from one of the biggest beef producers in the nation. Or the connection scientists are starting to make between the chemicals in our daily lives, such as foods, cleaning products, beauty products, and autism rates. All of the chemicals and processing that we are exposed to are bound to have an effect on us. And that's just the beginning.

It does help our local economies. I teach in one of the most impoverished counties in New York State, whose livelihood is mostly founded on agriculture. Hearing the stories of my hard-working students about life on a farm has given me a closer look at, and a new respect for, the work that goes into making my food, and I don't feel as bad paying a little extra for my eggs or cheese, or the fresh spinach from the farm stand.

Read Michael Pollan's The Omnivores Dilemma, and you'll never want to eat a hamburger again, once you find out what our beef cows are fed (and sadly, what really goes into a Chicken McNugget, previously my favorite fast food treat). Animals are treated in deplorable, disgusting ways, hidden from our view. Nothing is really what it seems: even our bags of "organic baby spinach" aren't what we imagine (I'm a little afraid now whenever I buy greens at the grocery store that I'm going to get something grossly contaminated).

As I become more educated (and slightly more financially secure), I've made the decision to increase my "green" choices throughout my lifestyle, not only by the food I eat (which I realize so far has taken over this blog...sorry, I love food...) but also the cat litter I buy, and the products I smear on my face (more on these later). It's more expensive and less convenient, which I sometimes have a hard time dealing with-- I'm still a work in progress-- and this is what this blog is about: how to do it little by little. Most of us can't go all Kingsolver and buy a farm to feed our families, but in small ways, we can improve our health and that of our Earth.

And don't forget that carbon footprint! According to Kingsolver, if every U.S. citizen ate one meal a week composed of local and organic ingredients, our country's oil production would be reduced by over 1.1 million barrels per week. (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, page 5) Every little bit counts!

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