Thanks to xkcd for summing up my life entire in one panel. Ahem.
Two things bugging the shit out of me today. Rather, a selection of two of the things bugging the shit out of me today. Let's be honest.
One: Meat is Murder. Murder of YOU.
When I heard this story on NPR, I was unable to stop myself from sputtering and waving my hands in impotent rage. Who the hell funded this, and why have they no respect for basic statistics? WHY DO THEY LOVE ERROR? Okay, look: red meat = muscle from large ungulates (and it looks like they include pork too? Whatev). Red meat =/= HOT DOGS and HAM and BACON and fucking PASTRAMI. At least not for the purposes of a medical study on diet! Hellooooo, interference!
Even someone utterly unfamiliar with the different vitamin, saturated fat, and fatty acid profiles of grass-fed versus conventional meat should be able to grok that even a conventional hamburger, made of plain ground beef with maybe a little salt and pepper, will have a far different short-term and long-term effect on health than a bacon pastrami dog. Salt, sodium nitrite, nitrate, erythorbate -- so hey! Why not lump them together?
You know what I'll believe? A study that compares people who consume the typical American diet with regard to meat, against people who consume only grass-fed and/or free-range meat. Don't control for fat consumption, just compare one type of meat (exclusively) against the other. That, I'd base a behavior change on.
Two: Take the Local, or, Yes, Alice Waters Was Being a Dipshit, but Why Tar Organic Food with That Brush?
I love me some Shapely Prose, and a big part of what I love is the comments section. Smart, incisive, observant, challenging. This time the comments are pissing me off royally, like with ermine robes and a scepter and shit. Why? Because we've moved from the calling-out-privilege trope, of which I heartily approve, to the organic-is-silly-local-is-for-chumps trope, of which I do not.
But isn't it true that organic is boutique food for rich people? Well, kind of, these days, yes, barring a backyard garden (and that in itself could be a privilege marker, depending on where you live). Less so than it used to be, but more than it ought to be. I'm not actually disputing that organic often costs more and is more difficult to get. What I'm saying is, it shouldn't be. Organic, sustainable practices ought to be the default in food production, whenever possible -- and without agricultural subsidies artificially deflating conventional food prices, it wouldn't be any more expensive. (In fact, how about we subsidize organic farming, and drop subsidies for anything with a little Monsanto sign in the ditch?)
But but! you say (if you are the comments section). Isn't it true that organic food requires a lot more land and other resources for a relatively low yield? Well, no, it isn't, actually. Properly built-up soil, healthy living soil, can be enormously productive of the right crops. If what you want is monoculture, the same kind of corn for millions of acres, then you grow a variety optimized for high yield in a thin matrix of sterile dead soil, dependent on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, not to mention irrigation. Sure, it looks like you're getting more bang for your buck, but you're actually spending far more than you reap, once you factor in the financial costs of all those chemicals (again, subsidies!), the environmental costs of a dead watershed (all those chemicals have to go somewhere) and water rights issues, and the health costs of all that crap being dumped into our water. Oh, and you have to drill the oil and natural gas and refine it and blah blah blah. See what I mean?
So no, it's not actually true that organic requires more resources.
Oh, and but! you may say. Local food is stupid! It's cold here! Or hot! It's a desert, or Vermont! I don't want to live on beef/turnips/nopales half the year. God, local food is d-u-m-b.
Except -- and you knew I was going to say this, right? -- it isn't. Because if you're eating nothing but beef ten months out of the year? UR DOIN IT RONG.
Eating local doesn't mean eating what's locally produced on a mass scale. The way we've optimized and specialized means that all the farms near you might grow nothing but soybeans or feed corn or factory-farmed chickens, but that is not what eating local means. That is, in fact, missing the point entirely. The point of eating locally is to explode that specialization so that there's a great variety of locally adapted food available in any given place. It's not something that's easy to do on your own; it's part of a societal shift. And it also demands a more wholistic way of looking at the food year. If you don't preserve the summer harvest (or whenever your harvest is -- spring and fall in a hot area, maybe), then yes, you'll be living on rutabagas all winter. But that's not how people ate when they ate local out of necessity. Maybe they had rutabagas every night, but they also had different meats, dried beans, canned tomatoes, dried vegetables (all those make an awesome stew!), bread, fruit preserves, all kinds of grains. The list goes on. You can have green peppers all winter, provided you froze them or dried them. And nowadays, aren't we lucky to have the option of freezing food to preserve it, or safe pressure canning? My point is, it's not easy or convenient the way we're used to, but it is possible to get a decent part of your diet locally. (Some things make sense to transport -- grains, pasta, beans, flour, spices, coffee, um, soy sauce.)
Remember: people have lived in all sorts of environments all over the world, all before modern food transportation and homogeneity of diet. There are all kinds of things to eat that will grow in pretty much any climate.
And just to add a pinch of doom: We'd better get back to using those things while it's still a choice, and not a matter of necessity. /doom
As for the class factor, I am never, never going to blame any individual without the income to buy local or organic food, or the time to grow it. Never. Because that's not how societal oppression works. That doesn't mean that you can't eat quality food if you're poor, though. In some places you have options; Philadelphia is one, with community gardens and farmer's markets that accept EBT cards. This isn't the norm, and frankly it's the responsibility of the community as a whole to provide good food options for everyone who lives in it.
It's late and I'm starting to ramble, but there you go. My answer to the internet.
(Some people are saying the same things I am saying, there. I don't wish to pick on any one commenter, either. It's just that these things keep coming up, in my world, and I finally hit my "lash back" point with the comments there.)