We Get What We Pay For

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Photo by Fotolia/Sherri Camp
Every time we choose to buy organic produce — or grow it ourselves — we get a better deal: nutritionally, environmentally and ethically.

In our June/July 2014 issue, we take a close look at the shortcomings of industrial food production.

Noted environmental journalist Richard Manning outlines in Hidden Downsides to the Green Revolution: Biodiversity Loss and Diseases of Civilization, how agriculture’s so-called Green Revolution of the mid-20th century is delivering a high-carb but nutrient-poor diet, which causes chronic health issues for humans and livestock. Contrary to what Big Ag likes to claim, industrial agriculture is not feeding the world, nor is it “sustainable,” given its heavy dependence on fossil fuels. We interviewed food and farming activist Vandana Shiva to expand upon these points and to highlight community responses to the advances of corporate agriculture in Farming Free: An Interview With Food Sovereignty Activist Vandana Shiva.

In Try a Flexitarian Diet for Better Health and a Better Food Budget, food writer Kim O’Donnel illuminates many of the negative consequences related to the production of meat in huge confinement facilities. O’Donnel discusses why many people are switching to a more plant-based diet, choosing to become “flexitarians” by eating less meat and choosing higher-quality meat than what comes from the industrial food system.

When we decide to spend more for superior-quality, grass-fed meat, our choice not only fosters our health, it also helps mitigate global warming. As climate-change researcher and rotational-grazing rancher Wayne White explains in Pasture Management and Carbon Sequestration: Healthy, Diverse Pastures Are Natural ‘Carbon Sinks’, the proper management of grazing livestock on pastureland actually allows the soils beneath the grasses to become “carbon sinks,” pulling climate-altering carbon dioxide back into the ground, thus helping to reduce global warming.

These experts present compelling evidence that we have allowed industrial agriculture to steer civilization onto a destructive path. It’s up to us to change that direction. Every time we decide to pass on junk food and instead spend a bit more for pastured eggs and meat, or opt to buy organic grains, produce and dairy products, we win in three ways: better health for our families, more humane treatment of livestock, and less damage to soil, water and other natural resources.

For example, our report in Is Organic Milk Better? summarizes a new study showing that organic milk, from cows fed on pasture and forage, is more healthful than milk from industrial dairies that feed their cows mostly on grains and “concentrates.” The organic milk samples in the study averaged an incredible 62 percent more essential omega-3 fatty acids than industrial offerings.

The old adage “You get what you pay for” holds true here. If we choose to buy whatever food is cheapest, we get less value — nutritionally, environmentally and ethically. But if we understand the consequences of cheap food vs. quality food, we will opt to pay a little more for the good stuff, which will help deliver the good life.

Simple daily choices, made by thousands and thousands of individuals, are what will ultimately foster the emergence of a sustainable food system that can truly feed the world and protect the planet.

We hope the articles in this issue will convince you it’s worth it to pay a bit more for your burgers.