agriculture

The American Eating Disorder

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Food seems like a simple enough subject. Life on Earth exists for and because of it. Calories are, quite literally, the fuel for life. As long as something is growing for something further up the food chain to consume, life continues. It really is that simple, right?

Wrong.

Humans have managed to complicate things. We have taste preferences and cultural differences and growing regions and if you’re an American, you have it so good, you can pick and choose right down to the person you want to grow your food. And if you throw a big enough fit, you can dictate how they market that food. Wait .. we are talking about the very thing that sustains human life, right?? Just calories?

Imagine my surprise as I heard again and again in today’s news cycle that Amazon cut prices at Whole Foods up to 43%. Excuse me? Where in a grocer’s margin is there 43% to cut?? So that the bunch of bananas you just paid $1.00 for was actually only worth 57 cents?? And at 57 cents, Amazon – a multi billion dollar global company – has deemed that bunch of bananas profitable. Because they wouldn’t cut prices by that massive margin unless they could .. Right??

Do we then assume that Whole Foods has been ripping off every granola crunching hiker, spandex wearing yogi and college coed in town? How could they prey on Soccer Moms wanting to do the best for their children? Moms and Dads who have done their research, ad nauseam, to make sure they only consume ethically sourced meats and organic produce. Would a massive corporation take advantage of their sheep? Er .. I mean, valued customers?

But I’m not completely sure we need to blame Whole Foods, Amazon or any other major corporation for filling the needs (read: preferences) we demand.

Follow me for a minute ..

Say you and I are standing out in front of your favorite grocery store. Totally empty but for their familiar shelves teeming with all your heart and belly desire. Not a soul in there, no one will see what goes in your basket. I hand you a crisp $100. Buy whatever you want. What goes in your basket? Mine would have a good bottle of wine, some veggies, a better cut of steak than I usually get, maybe some chicken breasts for the freezer, a few new spices I’ve wanted to try – oh and I couldn’t forget my favorite half gallon of ice cream! What’s in your basket? What percentage of that $100 did you spend on organic? Ethically sourced? Non GMO Verified?

So, same store. New, crisp $100. Your mission is to purchase food for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Grab everything you can to send to Houston. Granted, they probably need non perishable items but really, did you spend the same percentage of that $100 on organic? Ethically Sourced? Non GMO Verified? I know there’s Non GMO Rice and Non GMO pasta. Be honest. I’m guessing the answer is, no. Probably far less. You might not have even checked labels. Why? Do they deserve less? Because you’re not preparing it? Because they’re not your family? What if it’s another spandex wearing yogi that was evacuated to the Houston Convention Center? Doesn’t that family deserve the same quality of food that you consume?

Back to Whole Foods. As a corporation, they did such a good job marketing what they sold – no matter what it actually was – as wholesome and good, that their customers were willing to pay whatever they asked. Even if it was 43% more than necessary. Even if it was 43% more than what was fair, realistic, even ethical.

Nourishment has become so much more than simply, life-sustaining calories. Americans have cultish behaviors about brands and restaurants and trendy foods. Did you know we nearly starved an entire village because American demand for couscous priced them out of their staple food? Explain to me that kind of ethical eating?

As American consumers, we’ve assigned very little of our time and effort to actually growing our own food. Instead, we choose to have two income households, eat out or order in rather than cook at home, we even trust our nourishment to foreign countries who can grow our food choices more economically than we can. But our obsession with food has the average consumer micromanaging the farmer and rancher and believing every blogger who finds a worm in their salad. How about we redistribute some of the wealth that we so willfully gave to Whole Foods. Maybe take out a corner of the lawn and plant some vegetables. Maybe not pick on the guy who hunts food for his family. At least he knows where his meat came from.

Maybe it’s time we overcome the American Eating Disorder.

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