FOOD CONCERNS

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Most people will have some idea of the current mass produced food problem we have. Our first inkling of it was brought on by my son’s eczema. At the time, organic labelling was already huge but we had not yet paid attention to it. We did not realize how the industrialized food system had affected our lives on a very personal level. As we dug around trying desperately to find a solution to my son’s skin condition, we kinda stumbled into this rabbit hole and found a lot of people had done just the same.

Our current food sources and distribution systems are laced with problems. A lot of the diseases our modern society deal with are linked to the food we eat. A lot of what modern medicine tell us about our foods are tainted with propaganda and funding from the companies that started the problem. To summarize this massive topic as to how our family deals with it, I’ve listed it down into a few broad topics.

GMO-genetically modified organisms

GMO are foods modified at a genetic level. This is done so that a crop can either produce it’s own pesticide, or so that it is immune to the pesticide it is bathed in. There are thousands of sources explaining how this happens in detail and those sites may explain in better than I can. One concern then, is what happens as we ingest said pesticide producing crop? They claim it is safe,and their laboratory tests agree too. But if the company  producing the pesticide says it is safe-I have reason to doubt the validity of their claim simply due to a conflict of interest.
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GMO corn, inspected with a hazmat suit but deemed safe enough to eat
At the beginning, GMOs were heralded as a way to end world hunger. Decades later, new data is showing how sustainable farming is more profitable and more productive than gmo crops.
Consider this, GMOs are banned in some countries or at least require labeling. These countries include Italy, Russia, Germany and Switzerland. In these places, the citizens know what they are eating-whereas in the US multiple attempts at labeling GMO foods have been crushed by lobbyists and corporations.
Some of the most known GMO crops are:
  1. corn
  2. rice
  3. soy
  4. zuchini and yellow crookneck squash
  5. Alfalfa
  6. Canola
  7. Cotton
  8. Milk (cows are injected with rGBH)
 When consuming these crops/products, be aware that there is a high possibility that these are genetically modified.

Meat

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Feed lots photo credit from Carbonboy.com
Most of the meat you will find in the grocery today are grown in inhumane conditions called feed lots (aka CAFO) where cows are cramped in super high density fields, standing in their own feces and given food that increases their yield-such as GMO corn. The cows have an unnatural meat yield due to this gmo diet. You as the end consumer, end up eating a concentrated amount of this gmo diet. As a consequence of mass production, the harvesting has also been known for high contamination. Instead of improving the processes, the solution is to wash the meat with chemicals to kill contaminants. This should be okay as the USDA says the amount of chemicals they put in are within what they think is safe for humans to consume.
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The same case goes for poultry-with chickens being fed gmo crops and grown in enclosed warehouses. Their diet is designed to increase meat yield, with their bones unable to cope with the unnatural growth. Chicken eggs are then have traces of gmo soy. Consider how a large number of people are allergic to eggs, and how some realize they can consume eggs if they are from soy-free chickens.
For a great documentary on this issue, I suggest watching Food Inc.

Questionable quality of food

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As companies keep trying to increase profit, a lot of our foods are imported from less expensive sources. Or,outsourced to other countries with cheaper labor for processing. US grown chicken is now sent to China for processing. Garlic is bleached to make in artificially white. Farm grown fishes have a questionable diet. Some of the problem is due to those countries having different food quality regulations, but part of the problem is just that food quality is in general lower than it used to.
I grew up where our nearby market was a “farmers market” where food is brought in from farms around the city and not imported from another country. Fish was purchased from fishermen who caught it that morning, they were not frozen or shipped from a distant land. It was not called a farmers market, the way the term is used today. It was basically local food or food produced before the widespread use of genetically modified products and feeds. Today there are so many ways to cut costs and sacrifice quality.

Nutrient density

You will often wonder how you just ate a big plate of food but get hungry in a very short span of time. Some of this is due to your diet or overall health, but you also have to consider the nutrient density of what you just ate. There is weight in the meat you ate, but your body cannot squeeze out a lot of nourishment from it. Most of our grocery bought food looks perfect on the outside. There are no blemishes, crisp and firm to the touch. Most of these are bred into the crop, and are sustained by fertilizers. The soil in which it grew does not have a lot of nutrients in it. This translates to flavorless food and lower nutrient density.

Fixing it:

Avoiding GMOs

In general we avoid gmo foods. We know we will still end up eating it in some form-the canola oil in our chips or those occasional meals at the drive thru. However, in our regular grocery shopping we aim not to buy gm foods. If we need corn or rice, we buy from brands that clearly state they are not GMO. As an example you can look for those with the non-GMO project label. Also, I used to think I was okay if I am buying from the nearby Asian grocery because the brands are from a country that bans GMO producs. However, after realizing a lot of them were an Asian brand but grown in the US, I had to be more careful. Now, we read the fine print of new brands and stick to brands we know and trust. One example for this is non-GMO rice from the brand Nishiki.
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Buying items with the “organic” label is also an option. However it is cost prohibitive for us. Also, a lot of products do not pursue the organic labeling due to the cost of being certified. Small farms cannot always get the certification due to the cost tied to it, but their products may be better than organic. I have seen how amazing some of these types of farms work-they are well beyond organic.
We also have found a safehaven in the Trader Joe’s grocery chain. Trader Joe’s has a company pledge that states products with their name brand on it will not have gmo crops. From their website:

Trader Joe’s Products are sourced from Non-GMO ingredients.

Our efforts began in 2001, when we determined that, given a choice, our customers would prefer to eat foods and beverages made without the use of genetically engineered ingredients. When developing products containing ingredients likely to come from genetically modified sources, we have the supplier of the product perform the necessary research to provide documentation that the suspect ingredients are from non-GMO sources. This documentation is in the form of affidavits, identity-preserved certification of seed stock, and third-party lab results from testing of the ingredients in question. In addition to this work done in developing a given item, we conduct random audits of items with potentially suspect ingredients, using an outside, third-party lab to perform the testing.

Given our position on GMO ingredients in Trader Joe’s label products, and the work done in support of that position, it is our expectation that our products test as non-GMO. We’re unable to make the same claims for branded products (products not in the Trader Joe’s label).

You can check here if your area has one nearby.
 

On meats

As for meat sources, currently I do not have a great solution for it. I cannot afford organic meat. The organic meat from the grocery is expensive. The meat from the local producer at the farmers market is also out of my current budget. I understand that the average meat is cheap (due also to subsidies) and that good meat is not really expensive. However for me right now I can not afford to buy only good quality meat. We are still trying to find a way around it. Part of the solution is to buy wild caught fish. I am also trying to get into hunting so I can supplement our diets with wild game. I will update this as I figure out a solution for it.

Finding nutrient dense food

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Permaculture-offers great soil building which produces nutrient dense food. I plan to apply these concepts in our long term solution. -photo credit from Permaculture Research Institute
Even the organic labeled food you find in the grocery can have low nutrient density. To really have good quality, nutrient rich food, I plan to grow my own. I am not great at gardening and growing food. I have failed miserably in the last 2 years since we moved to Texas and had this wonderful summer here. However, I learned in running my small indoor urban farming operation that I can grow some things if I pay close attention to them.
I plan to keep on gardening to learn more and increase my success at it. I should at least be able to grow some of my common veggies and herbs. As I get going I will add an irrigation system to deal with the heat here. I also now know not to plant under direct sunlight at my location. This is a skill I am learning, similar to how I am trying to get into hunting as a way to supplement our meats. This is a long term solution and I know it will be worth the effort.

Final thoughts:

The problem with food today will be with us for a long time. The solutions will come from different sources. Most of the solutions will come from local producers. In the long run, the plan is to become a small producer as well.
A small garden with small livestock. A small permaculture garden with perennials, herbs and annual veggies. A few chickens to provide us with enough eggs every day. For supplemental meat, I hope to have some rabbits. Right now these are overall ideas I am still exploring. I am not certain how well they will work. For example, I do not know how rabbit meat will taste like, or how my family will like it. As with all things, we will need to figure things out together.
In the interim we will need to negotiate our way around things using the solutions I noted above. We’ll be improving on the solutions as we go until we know which options work best for me, my wife and the kids. Every family is different, and you will need to find out how things work best for yours too.