Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Food principles

Mary and I are responding to each other quite a bit this week. A comment I made to a post she had written about scratch cooking vs. couponing caused her to post a deep-thinking post about Food and Values. It's worth taking a look at.

In my comment I said, in effect, that the reason we don't use too many coupons in my house is because they are usually for overly processed and packaged foods that we try to stay away from. I also said that most of the things coupons are offered on are "corporate foodstuffs," which I actually underplayed in my comment because I know from previous exchanges that Mary is not too sympathetic to this line of argument. And in fact she didn't like it and it seems to triggered much of her later post. She pointed out that a lot of people, including her husband, are employed by corporations. To which I would say, that may be true, but that doesn't mean you have to eat their food.

In fact the two elements - health and corporate influence - are intertwined. Michael Pollan points out that corporations are in the business of making profits, and the more a food is processed, the more profit there is to be made. A carrot doesn't turn anyone much of a profit. It's similar with the health insurance field - the product of the health insurance field isn't health, it's profit for the company. But that's another story.

Due to concentration in the food industry, it's acutally quite difficult to find food that is not corporate-related in one way or another. Most of the larger organic- and health-food providers are part of larger corporations, which is one reason I place such a high priority on buying from the farmers' market.

I buy a lot of stuff from companies that are on this list - that's my version of Mary's "semi" philosophy. The principles I work under are
  • less processed is better than more processed,
  • fewer ingredients are better than more ingredients,
  • ingredients found in nature are better than those developed in a laboratory,
  • not advertised on television is better than advertised on television,
  • less packaging is better than more,

and (after all that)

  • non-corporate is better than corporate.
By the way, this is not the same thing as being "anti-business." I'm very sympathetic to people who are trying to provide products or services that they think people need or that they are good at. The people who sell at the farmers' market are in business. Yoga teachers are in business.

I just buy from the smallest business I can possibly buy from. I believe that once a business gets to a certain size (or maybe its a certain level of impersonality) then the imperatives they follow no longer are what's good, but what's good for them. And then you get to the whole level of bribing-congress-to-make-sure-their-interests-are-protected, much to the detriment of everyone else and the environment, which is unfortunately how the country works, as we see from every farm bill that comes down the pike.

I also don't think it's all a matter of "free choice," as the free-market fundamentalists like to say. Corporations spend millions of dollars to develop the most effective marketing and advertising mechanisms to make you want to buy what they have to sell, they employ psychologists to help them do this, and they propagandize incessantly in every medium available. It's not a level playing field.

So as much as I can, I say, not me, thanks. And if that's not liberatarian - or maybe it's liberation - then I don't know what is.


Mary T said...

very thought provoking, as usual. :)

Mary T said...

I'll be posting at my other blog in reaction to this post. I need to give it some thought I think we may have some common opinions, maybe different ideas of what to do with those? I Haven't formed my mind on this topic yet, and doubt I'll be solid on much in one day. My other blog is
Its where I usually write my deeper thoughts, sometimes book reviews/reactions that sort of thing. I hope I'll have something or other to say today sometime. Thank you for giving me so much food for thought!

rebmoti said...

I hope you'll let me know if you post something there, I don't really look at Muck & Marl too much because it's too Christian for me, I hope you don't mind me saying.

Mary T said...

I don't mind you saying. I'm no more ashamed of my faith than you are. :) I'll let you know. I've had so many things on my mind lately--I didn't get to post anything today, I did start a couple times but I need to chew on my ideas more. The way my work schedule butts into the weekend It could be a few days... and I need to get a wedding present don't I?