Print Story Where's your food from?
Food
By blixco (Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:29:29 PM EST) (all tags)
For the past few months, I've been putting my money (and a lot of time) where my mouth is, so to speak.


Where does your food come from?

Right now in my refrigerator, I have roughly 50 percent locally sourced food items.  Of that fifty percent, 80 percent of it is produce, twenty percent is meat or stocks I have frozen.  The other fifty percent is organic prepared foods (sold by www.greenling.com) or Asian stuff (we eat a lot of Vietnamese and Thai food) from the local Chinese grocery.

Right now I can find out, in a few minutes, where my food was grown, what was used to grow it, and (in the case of the meat and eggs) a whole chemical analysis of it.  My meat has a chain of evidence from pasture to plate.

Great, but what does that buy us?

Well, I think we're all aware by now that both industrial food processing and the global economy have radically changed both what we eat and how we eat.  The goal of an industry in a capitalist economy is to make as much money as possible while still providing you with what it is that you paid for.  If they're a public company, they have to do this to satisfy their share holders.  If they are a private company, they do this for many reasons.  In the end, it comes down to cash.

Some companies / providers have conscious.  This is due to the owner or shareholder insistence that the business be run according to a set of morals, morals that may not actually be profit oriented.  Early Ben and Jerrys, early Whole Foods (for an example of how Whole Foods used to be, check your area for a grocery co-op)...there are companies out there that make money and manage to have the interests of both their profits and their consumers at heart.

What do we want, as consumers?  I don't know what you want, but I have the following requirements for my food:

  1. if possible, beef should be from pasture fed animals from a local (within one day's drive) ranch
  2. if possible, eggs should be from pasture fed chickens
  3. if possible, poultry should be from pasture fed chickens or wild game (quail are very prevalent here in Texas)
  4. Venison, bison, and "alternative" red meats should be as close to source as possible, i.e. I know a few local processors who sell venison that is local
  5. Produce should be seasonal to my area and locally grown when possible, but the minimum requirement is organic, sustainable.
  6. Minimum use of processed foods, no "fast food" unless it fits the above models.
So, how do you do this?

I used EatWild to find two things: a local organic produce delivery service (in Austin we are so, so lucky to have www.greenling.com) and a few different ranches for meat, eggs, and such.  I also hit up the local farmer's markets to find ranches and farmers not listed at eatwild.

The ranches I've purchased from, I've toured.  I've asked tough questions and been given tough answers (ever seen your dinner get slaughtered?) but in the end, I know precisely what made my dinner every night for the last three months.

How much does it cost?

A lot.  I won't lie: small providers charge more.  My produce / sundries bill each week is $200 without meat, on average.  That's for two people, and includes $140 worth of produce, eggs, butter and bread, and $60 for diet Dr Pepper (my wife requires this to live, apparently), chemistry (cleaning supplies, flours, pharmacy) and etc.  That's 800 a month, for produce and sundries.  My meat bill every week is $70 to $100.  A week.  That is beef, mutton, chicken, fish, and "other" (bison, quail, ostrich, goat).

Compare that to processed foods and "cheap" meats...I used to live pretty well for $150 a week.

The upside

The upside is: I am eating healthier.  My diet has not changed at all.  I still cook every goddamn night.  My cholesterol has gone down (because grass fed meats and eggs from pasture-raised chickens have a ton of omega 3, and at the very minimum balance their omega fats), my weight is still, meh, high.  But my protein is quality stuff, and I do not have stomach problems like I used to.  I developed a wildly sensitive stomach...I couldn't eat at, say, Chilis without getting sick.  Now?  I make some pretty impressive "dangerous" meals (oysters rockefeller with a 4oz extra-rare locally-source kobe prime rib) and I feel fucking great.

The produce?  The produce is amazing.  We started getting summer squash and eggplant, and I guess I've never had summer squash or eggplant before, or at least never tasted it fresh.  It's a whole different thing.  Man, we get onions that, I only have to use one small one small one where recipes call for many.  Our local mushrooms are astounding when sauteed in some Texas wine, a stick of organic Wisconsin butter and a some local garlic and poured over a venison steak.

The salads?  There are greenhouses here, man oh man, they grow everything.  I get spinach from ten miles away, it's amazing stuff.  Tomatoes?  Sweet potato?  All of it, holy crap.  I can't get over how good our produce is, and all of it is due to the folks at greenling.com.  Each delivery has a hand written note from the guy who packed the order, last week had "Happy happy happy happy happy happy happy friday, Jason!" on it.

When was the last time your grocer wanted your Friday to be happy?  When was the last time he knew your name?

Intangible

What we eat is a large part of who we are.  I was telling Laurea the other night that when I was a kid, after the divorce, we had no money at all.  My mom would get flour tortillas and hotdog buns (from the second-day line at the local Mexican bakery), a $0.69 pack of hotdogs, and a can of "Q-so" cheese sauce with chili.  That was dinner for a week.  Breakfast was dried milk and cheap cereal (in the summer) or provided by the school (we got free breakfast and lunch for being, ya know, poor).

Once a month, my dad would drop off the child support check and, like, a bucket of chicken or a pizza.  One every couple of months he'd get a package of steaks, and grill them for us.  That and some potatoes and greens?

Yeah.  Heck yeah.  For me, I was raised on three different kinds of food: Mexican food, southern food (I didn't know spaghetti was considered Italian until I was in highschool...redneck spaghetti is overcooked noodles, red sauce made from canned tomato paste, water, and oregano, and browned ground round) and whatever we could afford.

Now?  My food now is carefully chosen.  It is simple.  The preparation is as basic as I can get away with.  Every now and again I'll make something French or Indian that requires serious work, half a day of prep.  But for the most part?  Grilled, sauteed, or steamed.  Baked sometimes.  Raw when it can be done.  We eat steak three times a week at times (bison, grass fed beef, or the like).  I make a killer salad, mostly due to former roommate Joel's amazing salads.  When I do make Asian-sourced food, it is simple stuff.

It's sort of strange how my food went from basic cheap stuff to basic expensive stuff but the hope is the same: efficient, tasty nutrition. I wish I could do it fo4r less, but for now?  Until everyone starts buying their beef from Betsy Ross Farms, I'll have to pay a premium.

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Where's your food from? | 28 comments (28 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Your attempt at starting a food meme... by atreides (4.00 / 1) #1 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:38:44 PM EST
...though admirable, will fail.

He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

Dude, this whole meme thing? by blixco (4.00 / 1) #5 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:45:01 PM EST
Totally not my fault, though people keep blaming me.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Likely story... by atreides (4.00 / 1) #12 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 03:52:15 PM EST
I was wrong, by blixco (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:38:55 PM EST
on my math.  It seemed a little high....
I spent $172 last week on meat, sundries, pharmacy, etc, and $75 on produce.

Previous week was $100 at the grocery store, $75 for produce, and $50 for meat.

So, ignore some of the math.  I've had $200 weeks, but it's rare.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin

Not much more than what we spend... by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #7 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:45:45 PM EST
at an ordinary grocery store, eating stuff shipped in from god knows where. I get local eggs from a co-worker with chickens (who are very happy chickens). It is my goal to join a CSA - there's a very good one here focused on sustainable farming. It comes about to about $25/week, over the course of the growing season. Best part will be that we won't be able to eat everything that we bring home, so I'll freeze it or can it. Like my mom and grandmother did (if it hadn't been for gardening, we would've eaten much like you did).

Unfortunately, I waited until April to sign up this year, and the shares had sold out. Next year, I'm signing up in February.
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If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco

[ Parent ]
You know, by komet (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:42:26 PM EST
I think most of the food I eat was produced within a day's drive, because the entire country is within a day's drive.

You can get meat and poultry and veg here (in normal supermarkets) which states the exact address of the producing farm. Some even show a URL where you can see the free-range chickens on a webcam. Do you have something like that?

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<ni> komet: You are functionally illiterate as regards trashy erotica.

Nope. by blixco (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:44:22 PM EST
I can call the ranch (if it's meat or eggs) for info, and in the case of my produce Greenling will tell me everything about it.

But, yeah, the average grocery store in the US has produce from all over the world, meat from who knows where...and no way to tell what's involved.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin

[ Parent ]
damn by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 03:11:13 PM EST
that's it, i'm going to make my dad get broadband and set up a webcam over the entire yard. actually, it'd take several, to capture the daily activities of the roaming beasties.
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if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
yeah I'd love to eat local too. by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:45:35 PM EST
But what good is supporting local farmers if I don't have a house to live in

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Food as luxury item. by blixco (2.00 / 0) #8 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 01:47:08 PM EST
If you don't have a house, what are you doing posting here?

Regardless, in many cities the local food banks will supply local food because it was cheaper to get it to the food bank.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin

[ Parent ]
that's what I'm saying.... by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #15 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 06:39:01 PM EST
my rent budget would be cut in half if I bought all local food.

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[ Parent ]
So, don't. by blixco (2.00 / 0) #16 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 07:13:10 PM EST
I mean, it's not like I'm asking you to, or saying that you have to, or even implying that it will make the world better.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
ahhhhh by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #24 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 01:58:54 PM EST
But I want to.  When I was akid the garden grown stuff was so good.  Tomatoes?  I can't eat the store tomatoes they 'grow'  cripes.

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[ Parent ]
Well, by blixco (2.00 / 0) #25 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 02:44:00 PM EST
for veggies, you can garden for pretty damn cheap with a box and some soil.  Seeds from heirloom suppliers are typically pretty inexpensive.  A box cen be turned into a mini-greenhouse pretty quick, again for cheap, and placed on a roof, patio, or vacant lot.

Alternately, see if you have a community garden, one that allows people to plant their own plots.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin

[ Parent ]
no community gardens by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 04:57:38 PM EST
My neighbor planted tomatoes, so all the 'free' ground is already taken.  my deck is small. 

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[ Parent ]
You're right. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 02:47:07 PM EST
And I'm lazy. I've got steak from the farm at the top of the hill in my freezer, but I'm still buying the ground stuff from the store. Tomorrow, maybe.

Here, local produce isn't going to lead to a winter of contentment; scurvy's more likely. But right now? I love it. I love this beautiful country, and all it grows. Seriously, British food's great, and it's a real shame only the Scots know this. Until the last apples have fallen, and the autumn's last blackberries gone insipid, we've got bounties of nature to dig through and savour.

Thanks, blixco. I'm going to wake up tomorrow and make sure my stomach gets filled with the good shit.

Prince Charles knows it. by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 03:58:24 PM EST
Or so I've heard.
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[ Parent ]
Yeah by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #18 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 12:12:59 AM EST
But he charges £3 for a packet of biscuits, which rather dissuades people from following his example.

Hope I didn't seem as jingoistic as him, though.

[ Parent ]
Where's my food from? by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 03:43:32 PM EST
Taco Bell, mostly.

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Cur etiam hic es?
Good going. by blixco (2.00 / 0) #13 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 03:53:27 PM EST
I didn't think humans could survive on that.
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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
All my meat is sourced from at most 2 miles by alien zero (4.00 / 2) #17 Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 09:15:57 PM EST

...from where I wish to eat it.  Cos I'm buggered if I'm going to walk further carrying this shotgun.

meat, etc. by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #19 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 07:33:47 AM EST
we got a serious deal on our meat (before the freezer died and killed it all) - split quarter for $2.50/lb hanging weight.  $0.58 processing fee.  the total came out to only $4/lb post-processing -  cheaper than the grocery store!!!!!!!

we finally found awesome eggs at the farmer's market, and he sells them for $7/3 dozen.  again, cheap!

produce is a little more difficult for us, since there's a bunch of stuff clock can't eat due to his blood disorder (nothing high in vitamin K).  we're still working on the best way to work around this.

we're also hoping to find a place to pick up whole chicken for a reasonable price.  $3/lb is a bit high, but we'll see.

of course, all of this might go out the window once the little dude gets here - i have no idea what our money situation will be (soon i'll post about all my financial anxiety i'm having, but not today).  my goal is to keep it local and fresh, but balance it with savvy shopping.  we'll see.

Is AssWhole Foods charging that much for chix? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #21 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 09:28:03 AM EST
Have you tried any Farmers' Markets?
I see a few farms that sell them, north of Dallas, but I think that's too far?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
dunnno about WF by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 2) #22 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 09:32:19 AM EST
the nearest WF to my place is 20+ miles away.  we only go if we happen to be in town for something else.

the few farms around Houston (that I've found so far) sell them for $3/lb.

at the grocery stores, i see regular (industrial) chicken for $0.99/lb (on sale for $0.69), "natural" chick for $1.99/lb, and "organic" chicken for $2.99/lb.

and yes, Dallas is a bit far (~250 miles)

[ Parent ]
Beef Price by glamorgan (2.00 / 0) #23 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 12:25:02 PM EST
Not bad at all.  I just bought a full side for $2.50 /lb (Canadian), cut, wrapped, and delivered.  I guess it helps that beef prices have been down over the last number of years.

If my freezer were to die and kill the beef I would be very upset!

[ Parent ]
we had only eaten a single steak by StackyMcRacky (2.00 / 0) #26 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 04:05:43 PM EST
when the freezer died.  we lost 150 lbs of beautiful pasture-fed beef.

we're still arguing with the freezer warranty dudes about getting some reimbursement (the freezer was only a month old at the time)

[ Parent ]
and re: Whole Foods by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #20 Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 07:55:15 AM EST
my sister works for Whole Foods, and she says they're making serious changes interally.  They feel they were "blasted" by the Omnivore's Delimma and are moving back towards a more locally produced model.

(I told her the OD didn't "blast" them - it just accurately reported their business model.  if Whole Foods isn't comfortable with how they do business, maybe they need to change it)

You go girl! by rizzo (4.00 / 1) #28 Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 07:35:39 AM EST
Man that's fan freaking tastic blix. Congrats on being able to swing that kind of nutritional lifestyle. I catch a lot of shit in my circles for idealizing what you practice while I overpay WF with a sinking feeling in my gut that I'm paying hippocritical lip service to the anti-corporate localization movement... Portland needs a grocery co-op, but at least we've got a twice-a-week farmer's market during the warmer-than-witch's-tits months.

And for the love of Bob, if you're going to go to all this trouble and expense to eat so healthily, PLEASE tell the wife to stop consuming aspartame right away, and the same goes for Splenda too, damnit. I mean really... excitotoxins? Isn't she a chemist?? Hell, straight-up Dr. Pepper sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup would be better for her than DIEt anything. Has she ever tried stevia?

/preach

Miss you man. I swear I'm going to start posting again Real Soon Now™. :-)
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Where's your food from? | 28 comments (28 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback