One obstacle to switching to locally produced food is the cost. People on low incomes cannot afford to give up the savings of shopping at discount supermarkets, where local production is not a priority. It is a sad fact that even in a country like Canada, the working poor cannot afford a healthy diet.
I recently read In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan, in which he argues we should concentrate less on what nutrients we eat and more on the quality of food. Buying locally is one of his principles I’m trying to apply, but it’s hard to do. I’ve given myself a new rule about buying meat from the farmers’ market only, so I know where it comes from. It’s also more expensive, so I’ll eat less meat, which may be a good thing.
Sometimes it pays to experiment. Healthy choices may not be as expensive as they seem.
Here is a case in point. I love milk. I used to buy a 4-litre bag (about 1 gallon) of milk and go through it in less than two weeks, easily: a glass of chocolate milk after work and a bowl of cereal in the morning. For a long time I wanted to switch to drinking milk from happy cows. A few weeks ago I started buying 1-litre bottles from Harmony Organic at a local health food store. The Southwestern Ontario company has the goal “to minimize stress and maximize cow comfort in everything we do”.
At $3.50 or so per bottle I would not be buying more than one for a week. That milk has to stretch a long way. Could I make it work, without feeling frustrated and deprived?
So far, so good. Here’s part of the strategy: I choose milk with 3.8 percent milk fat rather than 1 percent partly skimmed. I’m worrying less about reducing fat, and more about eating quality, whole food. This is delicious milk. I have four or five servings per week. Every one tastes like luxury. It is deeply satisfying. This change doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. I’m spending about the same amount of money on milk but consuming less. Meanwhile my consumption has shifted more toward plants: fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, which are healthier for me. I also have the satisfaction of supporting a way of life for happier, healthier cows.
It would be hard to justify going back to cheaper milk, which is more costly in many ways.