Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Compassionate Eating: My life as a locavore

As I mentioned in my review of The Compassionate Carnivore, I enjoy a good steak. Now that’s not to say that every meal I eat has to contain some sort of meat product, and in fact, about a year ago I moved to cut back on the amount of meat my family and I eat to one meat meal a day (with smaller portions of meat) with two or three total vegetarian days each week. Last April, I made the decision to get our beef and chicken exclusively from a small, local farms (i.e., the farmers’ market) instead of King Soopers or Costco (or even Whole Foods), deciding that I was no longer going to opt-in to supporting the factory farm model of meat production. The Compassionate Carnivore has strengthened my resolve to the extent that now, when I go out to eat, if I can’t be sure of the source of the meat, I’m going to eat vegetarian. I really just can’t bring myself to eat factory farmed meat anymore. (Of course, thanks to my determination to avoid high fructose corn syrup, GMO’s and trans fats, my options are even fewer, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.) Fortunately I don’t have to. Within the past month I’ve found local and humane sources for beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and bison; even my eggs and milk come meet the standard of humane and local. The addition of meat to my locavore ways has been a recent and welcome addition to my diet. For the past few years, the only time I’ve purchased non-local produce has been when the farmers’ market has been closed for the season, or if I happen to get a particular craving for bananas, oranges, or some similar food that can’t be grown locally. There have even been increasing numbers of meals at my house that are 100% local; last week I made a stir fry that consisted 100% of ingredients from my local farmers’ market, and I washed it all down with raw milk from Windsor Dairy. (It was pretty tasty if I do say so myself.) Has this new and improved locavore lifestyle been a lot of work and effort? Oh yes, definitely. Making sure I could eat locally year round meant tracking down a farmer who offered a winter CSA as well as a steady meat supply. I’ve been able to set up a year round supply of meat, and I’m able to get fresh, local veggies for nine of 12 months; the only time I may end up having to rely on frozen or grocery store produce will be January-March, which isn’t so bad, and since things like bananas are in season then, I’m still able to eat seasonally if not locally. It also means that on those days when it’s pouring down rain (or snow), I still find my way to the market to get my groceries; as I told one farmer on a particularly cold and rainy Saturday a few weeks ago, “My determination to eat locally and support local farms overrides my common sense that tells me to hit a nice, dry, warm supermarket.” The result? My food tastes better and because it is more nutrient dense, I’m eating less (dieters take note!), and in many ways I feel a lot better. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I know my food is also safer, and not subject to the whims of an ineffective FDA. One of my students recently asked me if the difference in taste and my health was simply psychological. Is that possible? Yes, but in the long run, does it matter if it’s “merely” psychological, or if it’s psychosomatic? The end result is the same, really, and as I’ve said before, living mindfully may not be convenient, but it is worth it. (With no argument from my kids… they are beginning to understand the issues more with every recall of food, toys, and other products.)

For the rest of this article, go here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Almost 12 full months of local food!

As I've mentioned in two previous posts, I've really been making a concerted effort to eat locally produced food instead of heading to the supermarket, regardless of which market it is. With the Boulder Farmers' Market coming to an end on November 1, I've been working hard to set things up for the months of November-March, and I've been successful in getting my meat and dairy set up, but my concern became veggies and fruit. Thanks to the Abbondanza farm, I now have the opportunity to continue eating local until the end of December. That means that I may end up only having to hit the grocery stores for produce during the months of January, February, and March (since I didn't get quite as much canned as I wanted to... bleah!)... not bad.

So what does this have to do with teaching? Well, one of the topics of the climbing team curriculum is food and nutrition. We typically spend a week talking about what we put in our bodies and why it is important, and the importance and advantages of eating locally produced food is a part of that conversation. Teaching our children to eat well or at least setting that example is important for any educator, regardless of subject area. Our students watch and listen to us more closely than we give them credit for sometimes, and so it is important to send that consistent, healthful message. With rising rates of obesity, cancer, and other illnesses, combined with rising fuel prices and the FDA's inability to protect our food supply, especially imported foods, eating locally produced food truly is a national issue, or perhaps it should be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Well, it took some searching, but I've found a source for humanely and sustainably raised lamb, pork, and chicken. At first, I was going to go with Larga Vista Ranch outside of Pueblo for my pork, but cost was a bit of a factor; I'd have to buy 40 pounds of pork at a time, which would be fine and would be a good supply for a few months, but at $7/pound on average, that's $280 I'd have to pop down all at one shot. Ouch. After a bit more searching around, though, I found a place in Erie, just a short drive from home, where I can get my lamb, chicken, and pork (beef and bison is taken care of already, and while I'd love to go through Wisdom Natural Poultry for my chicken, it would mean taking a Tuesday off from time to time to get it, something I really don't want to do). I'm pretty excited about it, and I'm looking forward to stopping by there this weekend.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The more I know

If you've been following my "Currently Reading" sidebar, then you know that I've been reading The Compassionate Carnivore by Catherine Friend. I'm not going to say much about the book since I'm going to post a review of it on Elephant Journal, but I will say that this book has definitely had an impact on me. I've been really changing my food choices, especially when it comes to where I go out to eat, and now this book has increased the challenge. At this point, my choices when I go out are to ask the waitstaff what they know about the source of the meat (unless I already know), or go vegetarian. I actually don't have a problem with the latter option, particularly since two out of my three meals each day is vegetarian, but it's getting so that my options to go out and enjoy a meal are getting increasingly, frustratingly limited. If I combine the "no factory-farmed meat" with the "no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats" decision, then my decision becomes even more difficult. It's interesting.

I had a talk with a recent alumnus about it over the weekend, and he asked me if I ever get overwhelmed by it all and want to just say "forget it." I can't say that I'm not tempted sometimes, but then I realize that my decisions aren't just for me and that I'm not the only one affected by the choices I make, and so my resolve to stick to my choices actually becomes easier for me.

On Saturday I spent time at the farmers' market making sure that my meat supply was going to remain steady over the winter, and with the exception of pork and lamb, I'm pretty much set. I have yet to hear back from the farm where I want to get my pork, so I may end up calling them this week. My lamb will come from a vendor at the farmers' market that wasn't there this past weekend. My beef and chicken are both all set, so that's a nice plus. Seems like a lot of work, I know, but I just can't go back to factory-farmed meat. The only exception would be if I was at someone's house for a meal. For example, this December I will be heading back East for the holidays, and while I am with my family, I am not and will not turn down the food that is being offered; that would just be rude, and to expect them to change for me would be just as inconsiderate, and so my decision will be put on hold. Besides, I'm there to enjoy being together with my family, not to proselytize my lifestyle... my choices may be right for me, but it is not mine to force those decisions on others.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!

So according to the FDA, melamine is safe. Right. This is the same chemical that killed dogs and cats last year and sickened thousands of kids in China just a few months ago. Of course, the FDA, in this 2007 report, admitted that they are not able to live up to their own mission statement, which doesn't make me feel overly good at all.

So why do I shop local and organic? Oh yeah... it's because I like to know my food is safe for my family and I to eat.