Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can we afford to eat free range, organic and fair trade food?

It's late, much later than I would usually find myself sitting here writing a blog post, but I have this question burning in my mind that I need to get out into cyberspace. Incase you missed the title the question is: "Can we afford to eat free range, organic and fair trade food?"

You see the more I look at mass food production the more I know that my conscience and my health cannot carry the cost and that frugality can never be an excuse for me to buy food that I do not trust. Perhaps I should say what spurned my needing to put my feelings into words, yet again, about knowing the source of, if not all, most of your basic foods.
Eggs - fresh and glorious.

When we started growing vegetables in 2008 we realized how long it takes to actually produce a decent carrot, a healthy butternut and a harvest of spinach. Doing it with only natural soil, compost and worm tea takes a whole lot longer and as we decided to not use any pesticides the produce almost never looks perfect. This makes one question what is actually happening to the food that is grown and that we buy off the store shelf.

We soon found a source for free range pasture fed beef, chicken and pork and got to know the farmers and could trust their word. This makes another question surface - how do the rest of the creatures live and die? We quickly formed the opinion that if we were going to eat meat we would eat only that which we know has lived a good life and died humanely. Now vegans may have a problem with this completely and I understand your viewpoint, but we choose another way.

Celery giving us a second round!

With the beginning of my son's chicken and egg business we again affirmed that we really need to know where our food comes from and whom we are supporting with our hard earned cash. He recently had to do a report for his school work and he wrote a piece on battery chickens (see his blog in the link above).

Further to this, yesterday I had the most delightful visit from a woman who is busy with her thesis at Stellenbosch University on sustainable agriculture and wanted to see what we are doing here on this tiny scale. While we were chatting again God was confiming in my heart that we have not "lost the plot", we are not "slipping off the deep end" but that this is part of His plan for our family. Why? I don't have all the pieces of the puzzle, but we continue on under His guidance.

Handmade pastry - getting up close and personal with food

This meeting helped me cement in my mind that we can afford to eat free range, organic and fairtrade produce because not only is it right for us to support those who are being wise stewards with the earth and it's creatures, but it is also the best thing for our bodies that He gave us to take care of.

So how do I know that we can afford free range meat, organic and fairtrade products? Well this is how I think:

1. We make our own cleaning products - soap, vinegar and bicarb for the house, laundry soap or liquid.

2. We cook from scratch every day 3x a day.

3. We hardly ever eat out - it always leaves us feeling greasy and gassy and yucky...reason enough.

4. We do home based entertainment, anything else social for the kids they pay for with their own earned cash.

5. We grow as much of our own veggies as we can.

6. We keep chickens for their lovely eggs, companionship, bug removal and manure.

7. We are careful about using our car on a whim....

Which means that there is more disposable income for good clean food, organic products and far trade items.
Stock - using up leftovers, offcuts and giving us nourishment
I am sure there are more, but this is off the top of my head (and late at night for an early bird). Perhaps for others there may be more hints that you have and will care to share, so please leave your comments for other to read.

The short unnatural life of a broiler chicken
Notes from the frugal trenches
Down to earth simple living series


Wilma Tarr said...

To me it seems that you are not comfortable with your choices? Go vegan- there is just simply no other way to save our planet, end cruelty (yes - even organic milk meat and eggs involve cruelty) and to sleep with a clear conscience at night. Even so-called 'free-range' animals still suffer a terrible death and miserable life. These creatures have every right to be alive and be free - just as much as YOU and I. You can justify this all you like, watch Earthlings and tell me you think eating animals or animals products is justified?

Tracey said...

I don't agree with Wilma. As a trained biologist with majors in zoology, I firmly believe that we are meant to be omnivores. We are meant to eat an amount of meat in our diets as well as a wide range of plant products (our teeth and guts are designed for this). I do however support vegetarians and vegans in their personal choices, but would like them to understand that these are PERSONAL choices that we all make ourselves. I also believe we are not meant to eat the massive amount of meat that many people consume and that we should know where our meat comes from and be happy with the life that the animal had before it died.
On the frugal vs fair trade and organic matter - we too are currently working through this. Years of caring for the environment, and yet feeling that we needed to be frugal to survive have meant that we haven't eaten organic and fair trade in the past. We are now at a point where our life, like yours, is so cheap in all the aspects that you talked about, that I also understand that we have enough hard earned dollars to be able to spend them wisely on the food that we buy. It is still a challenge to source these 'new' products, but I feel that the money is better spent on them, and so worthwhile.
Great post.

Linnie said...

I totally agree with Wendy's well written article. Due to the same reasons (though our vegetable garden is not nearly where Wendy's are!) we CAN afford to eat free range, organic and fair trade! I cannot imagine taking care of this one body, the body of my dear husband and the little bodies of my precious children in any other way!
On Wilma's comment, from creation until Noah, man was strictly vegetarian, but after the flood, (the time of Noah Genesis 9:3) man's diet was changed by God himself, who then permitted ALL animals for food (meat to be eaten; anything that moves could be for food.) God specifically commanded every living thing as food for them, the only prohibition, don’t eat it with the blood. “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” But I'm sure that was not the scope of the posting :-)
Thank you Wendy!

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Thanks for the comments all. No, I am not not comfortable with my choices, we are all very happy meat eaters but we do it ethically for the animal and for ourselves. Tracey I am glad that you can start making better choices for your family, you go girl!

And my precious friend Linnie, thank you so much for the scriptural basis. I agree about the responsibility we have to offer our children the best that we can.

Karyn - Graceful Girls and Brave Boys said...

I so agree with your post, Wendy! Another reason we can afford those things is that we do not have doctor's bills, nor do we choose to have medical insurance - instead we spend our money on healthy, organic meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables and good food supplements so that our bodies have the best possible immune systems. God designed amazing bodies for us and wonderful herbs to help our bodies be strong and to get well when we are sick.