This is the first post of the “Opt Out” Series…ideas that can be implemented on an individual level to make a principled stand (no matter how small or grandiose the undertaking).
Ok, I have a confession: I have turned a little crunchy in the past few years! In fact, if my 25-year old self could see me now, I would probably laugh derisively at the fact that I’ve become a conscientious eater. It all started with a book – “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. I won’t spoil it for you, but the gist is that as a culture, we have lost our identity when it comes to food. We don’t know what we’re eating, who to eat with, when or where to eat, and have no idea where “food” comes from. In short, this book completely changed my relationship to food.
So – what is there to “opt out” of when it comes to food, and why? For starters, there is the massive industrial-agricultural complex, which typically produces food-like substances (think instant mac & cheese, any fast food item, or rubbery chicken pumped with hormones and broth). These foods have ingredient lists that are as long as the film credits after a movie, and they’re often packed with high fructose corn syrup and other corn/soy derivatives.
Why opt out? My strongest argument is that – if you’re lucky – you eat three+ times a day every day of your life. What you eat will have profound effects on your health and well-being. To me, it is common sense to eat things as close to their origin as possible, with a minimal amount of processing. The natural world has worked incredibly well in creating food for humans, and mankind has generally improved upon it by shepherding natural processes along. In the last century, industry and government subsidies have contributed to a food system that hardly resembles any sustenance found in nature.
What are some things to do? Buy locally. Meet the people who produce your food. Grow your own veggies and herbs. Vote with your dollar. Limit purchases at grocery stores to the outside of the store (not the aisles where food lasts for 3 years). Set a limit for ingredients. Support farmers like Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, who raises his pigs, cows, rabbits, and chickens humanely and with dignity. Better yet, put some chickens in your own backyard, city regulations be damned! Yes, it will take some extra time and money, but for something that you do every.single.day, it is well worth the effort. Life’s about choices.