Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ethical Eating

This month's copy of UU World has an article entitled "Dinner Dilemmas: Ethical issues at the Thanksgiving dinner table," by John Gibb-Millspaugh. The article states the ethical eating argument as I've heard it stated before by the likes of Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver or David Wann - to me, the argument for organic, sustainable, local food is pretty darn compelling.

It's pretty hard to argue with the idea that animals should be treated humanely, or that humans should not be forced to ingest toxic chemicals on or in their food.

But I ran into an interesting discussion on a blog I read, "The Journey" about the problem of the ethical eating argument. In short? It's really expensive. And the argument to eat "ethically" is elitist as a result, and can't/won't reach the general public as a result. (And because of the publication, it goes to follow, if this is what 'we' are preaching, then UUs won't grow, either.)

Yes, it is expensive. I say this with a sigh. We're struggling to balance our budget, and to make good choices about how we spend our money. When I stand in the grocery store, debating which products to buy, I feel a knot in my stomach as I face the price tags associated with different products. I buy $5 jeans from Value Village, but spend double the cost for my food budget to get organic milk, apples, and the like. We eat a lot more lentil soup than we used to, as a result. And eggs for dinner about once a week, in great part to cut our food bill.

So, on a personal level, I get it. Not as much as some people, of course. I know that I will get enough food; I am not struggling with poverty, but with choices.

Yet I feel deep within my heart that ethical eating is what we must do. I feel that it will save our bodies, our planet, and even our communities if we start to eat more ethically.

But we do have to figure out how to make it sustainable for our pocketbooks, too. And approachable for average people, not just passionate foodies like me, who have the means - including time - to follow through on their ethical eating desires.

The first step, I think, might be the hardest. I'm certain that it is possible to return to ethical eating practicies - hello....that's how people have eaten for all eternity not including the last 150 years! - but not unless people want to. The first step is for individuals and communities to decide that what they deeply want is ethical eating, and that they want to find creative solutions to help the less fortunate to eat organic, sustainable food, too, because it's good for ALL of us.

Right now, the crazies like me are committed. It's becoming mainstream to buy organic - WalMart and Safeway carry organic lines, so I believe that the ideas are becoming more mainstream, too.

But we have a long way to go.

We have a long way to go.

1 comment:

AnnMarie said...

I don't think it *has* to be expensive. It depends on what you HAVE to eat. Yes, organic milk and beef are expensive. But you don't HAVE to eat milk and beef. (Okay, I admit it. I *have* to drink milk. I can't imagine life without it. But that's just because I LOVE dairy products.) We eat almost no meat but lots of beans and rice (organic, but not local). Organic beans are expensive, but cheaper than non-organic meat even. I bought fruits and veggies all summer at the market, and buy almost none of them all winter long. No more fresh tomatoes (except what's ripening in the basement still) until next July.

Also, I got an interesting document from Organic Valley a couple years ago--a Mom's Organic Manifesto or something like that. In part of the story, she talks about going to a financial adviser. One thing he faulted them for was not having much charitable contributions in their budget. However, this "lack" in intention: her family eats local and organic as a way of supporting their local food sources and keeping them healthy (such as reducing pesticide runoff to groundwater and keeping migrant workers healthier). I found that a very, very intriguing viewpoint that I could stand behind.

My DH hasn't always been into increasing our charity budget but is perfectly okay with purchasing local food. So maybe our charitable contributions don't go up, but our food budget does.