This morning I was going through my typical Sunday morning website perusal when I came across a headline on FARK about the latest rounds of ground beef recalls. For those of you not familiar with FARK, it’s not a “hippie foodie” friendly environment, so I was fully expecting to see a lot of comments about the recalls being needless and that anyone who was worried about this was panicking for no reason. And there were quite a few of those. But there were equally as many, if not more, comments about the need to eat local and the need to fix the cause of the E. coli in the meat instead of just taking this batch off the shelves.
Do these latest recalls worry me? Not for my household (this time), but I do worry about my extended family, friends, and co-workers who are still buying their food from the big chain stores. They worry me because of what they tell about the beef industry. At least the Tyson recall was for meat that still had some likelihood of being on store shelves. They worry me because of the obvious ineffectiveness of the USDA. They worry me because the supermarket chains will still be buying their meat from these same suppliers next week and the week after that because it’s more cost effective for them. They worry me because we American consumers tend to like the convenience of the one-stop shop, and we are all too likely to be too apathetic to take a stand and refuse to buy it.
Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation have described all of this so much better than I could ever hope to, but it all boils down to the same solution: know your farmers. If you see them and talk to them every week, you’re going to know how they raise the food you eat and how they took care of it to get it you. You’ll know that they’re not selling you something that will make you sick because they not only have pride in their products, but they also know that you’re going to be able to tell them (and other customers) about it.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always possible (I would love more local sources than a three hour drive for pork, chicken, and milk.), but I do believe that it’s more than worth the effort to buy from them when you can. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, do it. If you’re worried about ending up with more than you can eat, split the cost with a friend or family member. If you’re intimidated about the cost of eating locally, don’t be. Yes, some things are more expensive, but there’s a lot of other things that you’ll be able to pay less for than you would have at the supermarket.
One person acting alone won’t change the world we live in. But if we all do just a little bit, we can make a huge difference.