This is my soapbox manifesto. Mostly I just wanted to articulate it for myself, but thought I'd share it with anyone who was interested.
A Little Background and My Driving Factor
I've been thinking a lot this past year about the various food movements: "slow food," "real food," "raw food," "traditional diet," "organic," "sustainable," "fresh foods," "unprocessed," etc.
I hadn't given much thought to any of this other than, perhaps "they're health nuts," "they're liberals," "they're environmental extremists" or "they're crunchy hippies." Then I saw the (propaganda-laden, no doubt) film Food Inc [Part 1 and links to the rest are here]. After that I started doing tons of research.
You know what? It made a lot of sense to me.
There's nothing "liberal," "extremist," "hippy" or "nutty" about the unprecedented rise in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, infertility, and obesity of this past half century, not roughly but precisely correlated to the demise of the family farm and the takeover of the industrialized food mega-corporations.
What finally hit home for me, though, was the outrageous number of fake foods that effect our hormones and fertility. Bearing the painful cross of infertility myself, that's when it got personal.
The Basic Principles
For anyone unfamiliar with these movements, the basic principles are:
1. God's food (fruit, vegetables, grass-fed meat, raw milk) is good.
2. Artificial food (chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, fillers, genetically modified grains, soy-fed animals) is bad.
3. Local, in-season (zucchini in Summer), fresh (picked ripe and recently), minimally processed, sustainable food (cultivating rather than damaging the earth) = good.
4. Imported (Chinese apple juice, Taiwanese shrimp), out-of-season (strawberries in December), weeks-old (picked pre-ripe and ripened with chemicals sprays), ultra processed/ultra-pasteurized, unsustainable (soil toxicity, increase of pesticides, earth damaging) food = bad.
Some of the blogs I frequent, nowadays, where you can find more are: Kitchen Stewardship, Heartland Renaissance, Food Renegade, Gnowfglins, Cheeseslave, and The Nourished Kitchen.
Harsh Realities of Living It
But how do you get local oranges in Iowa, or corn in Florida? Well, as in everything, use prudence. The idea is, what you can get locally, you should, even if it's a higher price (the principle of subsidiarity, and of supporting your local economy).
Once you start to shift your paradigm and attempt to live the principles of these movements, however, you get slammed with reality.
Either you have to start making, growing, and raising the bulk of your own food, which is practically a full-time job (and was for many of our great-grandmothers and all of their mothers), or you have to pay through the teeth to buy organic, grass-fed, raw local food.
I don't work out of the home anymore, and I'm finding that setting up a daily rhythm allows me to make bread and freeze summer produce between math lessons and vocabulary quizzes. Yes, it's work, but it feels more human, and is much more fulfilling.
How I'm Incorporating the Principles into Our Lives
We are so dependent upon processed packaged foods that the idea of doing all of this was, at first, overwhelming. But I started with what I considered the most pressing and the most expensive. Putrid feed lots that can be nosed several miles away and e. Coli infested slaughterhouses scare me.
I'm blessed to be married to a farmer and have access to a few acres I can play with. We bought a milk cow and some chickens to start with because there's no way I can afford raw milk ($10 a gallon and $8 per pound of butter; other raw dairy products aren't even available) or pastured poultry ($4 a dozen eggs and $15 for a whole pastured chicken).
Our fat cow still hasn't had her calf, but once she does we'll be able to raise some hogs for grass and milk fed pork.
My goal for the next year is to raise all of our own meat.
Putting It Into Perspective
When I first embarked upon this step of raising our own meat, I put the pencil to the paper to figure out how much we would need to raise.
Chickens: We were buying about 3 packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts a month. Wings? Blah. Thighs? Never. Legs? On occasion. Organs? Do chickens still have those? Quick calculation: 18 chicken breasts a month (9 chickens)... that's 108 chickens a year for 2 people! But no, that's just 108 chicken's worth of breasts. We'd eat less than half that many chickens if I cooked with the legs and the thighs (and we'd buy zero chicken stock and no bouillon if I used the bones).
Pork: We were going through a pound and a half of bacon a week. That's 78 pounds of bacon a year. A pig (roughly, and it does vary) has about 18 pounds of bacon on it. We're going through 4 hogs of bacon a year!! A family of 4 could comfortably live on one hog a year!
Beef: I won't go there. We like tender juicy steaks. And we don't have the freezer space to handle the number of cows we'd have to raise to maintain our current steak consumption.
We are a classic case of the unsustainable diet of many Americans. We pick out the choice cuts and discard the rest. It's not real, and it's not right.
By changing our habits, bacon will be a treat instead of a staple. Chickens won't be valued for their boneless skinless breasts. And prime rib will be a Christmas feast instead of a normal Sunday meal.
The Bottom Line
Since beginning to adopt these principles this Lent, I have more energy, have lost 10 pounds, have clearer skin, have much much much less drastic mood swings, and for the first time since I've been doing NFP charting (almost two years), I'm starting to have real signs of fertility.
I'd really like to hear from any of you to see if/how you've adopted and adapted these principles in your life. Or do you think it's quack bunk? How has your diet, shopping, budget changed? Have you lost weight? Feel healthier? Saved or spent more money? Or what negative effects have you seen?