Food: Decision-Making

It has occurred to me that I may well seem rather inconsistent in my choices, particularly when it comes to food. Ideally, we’d be eating nothing with GMO’s, everything local and in-season, everything from fresh, pure ingredients and nothing processed, period.  This is not our reality, and may never be.

Like most people, I have to pick and choose what will go into my body and into the bodies of the people I feed. This morning while making breakfast with a few frozen strawberries sliced in for a little something different, I looked at that bag of frozen strawberries and thought about the salmonella-contaminated organic frozen berries that turned up out west, the bananas shipped across the country to reach us, and the GMO-contaminated wheat in Oregon. I realized anew that it is simply impossible to know without doubt that what you’re eating is actually safe, for us or for the environment. Since we need to eat daily, that’s a scary thought! We literally take our lives into our own hands with each bite that crosses our lips. How to decide what risks to take? How to decide which risks must be avoided at all costs? How to deal with the results? As I pondered, I realized that I actually do already have a decision-tree already in place.  Consciously or not, I ask myself a few questions before making a decision.

  • Is this product likely to make an immediate, long-lasting, or profound difference in my health or the health of those whom I love?
  • Is this something that I tend to use a lot of? Or is it a rarity in our house?
  • Can I do without it? Do I want to?
  • Is there a viable alternative?
  • Is this produced locally, or is it shipped from who-knows-where?
  • What would be the impact on our budget if I chose the alternative?
  • Is this product something that we need, or is it something that we want?
  • What about packaging–the amount and the material?

My thoughts turned to the milk I was using in our frittata, where it came from, why it might be risky, and what our current alternatives are. First, this is milk in a recycleable glass bottle from a smaller, grass-fed dairy the next state over. It is pasteurized and homogenized. It is not claimed to be organic. It does claim to be free of artificial hormones. Other than the organic, grass-fed milk in quart-sized paper cartons at the food co-op that cost twice as much, it’s probably the best we can do right now. I’d prefer fresh, raw, local milk–but we live in West Virginia, where that is illegal. This is one of the few states where you can’t even legally share ownership in a cow!

Our options are to stop using milk products entirely until we can get a cow of our own, or to use the standard store milk in plastic jugs, or to buy organic milk from a large dairy conglomerate (also in the grocery store), or to continue with our current choice. Considering the time we have behind us already, having consumed the mass-produced milk all of our lives, it seems to me that stopping milk consumption entirely for the few months remaining before we begin milking a cow would be nothing but a useless gesture. It would have little or no effect on our health, so why bother? On the other hand, if there’s something better and available that isn’t significantly more expensive, why NOT bother? My choice is the bottles, because it is relatively local, the containers won’t leach anything unwanted into our milk, and it’s simply the best we’re able to do right now without sacrificing too many milk-dependent dishes to count.

How do you make decisions about what goes into your kitchen and your body? Do you ask yourself an important question that I’ve missed?

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