Friday, 10 May 2013

Getting what you pay for


Yo bitches, we be famous.

OK, maybe not Gourmet Farmer famous, but the 23 people who listen to Food Fight on radio 3CR in Melbourne have heard our dulcet tones on the radio again.  (Sorry Jonathan, I am sure you have more than 23 listeners.  Really.)  The link to it is here: http://podcast.3cr.org.au/pod/3CRCast-2013-04-30-68243.mp3

So it is time for us to use this amazing position of power for good, not evil.  And here is my contribution…. please stop complaining about the cost of food.

Hear me out.  The average Australian spends $14 a week on fresh fruit and vegetables.  That’s right, $14.  And the supermarkets talk about price inflation in the press while the cost of unprocessed food in Australia is lower now than at any point in the last 30 years.
Some tasty quinces going into making quince jelly!

But more than this, for most people the axiom “you get what you pay for” doesn’t seem to apply to food.  People are happy to apply it to so many other aspects of life but when it comes to food there seems to be the view that cheaper is always better.  And this low price has costs that you are paying, but you just don’t see it on the price tag.
Follow me on this..... just like these goats!
Let’s take a few seconds to follow this idea….

The farmers get squeezed by the large supermarkets pushing cheaper food and the spectre of food price inflation – telling farmers to become “more efficient” while paying them less.  Google Queensland dairy farmers and Lion Group, or Tasmanian potato farmers and McCain, or King Island beef and JBS.  These farmers going out of business put real strain on our economy, as any corporate replacement doesn’t employ the same number of people, nor contribute to our community (unless you are a shareholder).

These farmers, trying to avoid going bust, told to produce more for less, have to use chemicals like 24D and other pesticides that are aerially sprayed, increasing incidences of cancer and lymphoma in their communities, the costs of which we all bear.

They also have to use capital-intensive farming techniques that treat animals like commodities, subjecting them to terrible living conditions in the name of efficiency.  They also have to use antibiotics and steroids to allow the animals to cope with these unnatural intensive systems.  This profligate use of antibiotics lead to more and more resistant strains of bacteria, affecting your family’s health and your tax bill as health costs rise.
Who wouldn't want to pay a bit more to see more pigs kept like this?
If none of the above arguments have swayed you (and if statistics are anything to go by, they haven’t), then try this on for size: the good stuff actually tastes better.  If you don’t care about the conditions a chicken is raised in, try eating a true free range chicken and see how it tastes compared to cage-raised bird.  You will find a whole world of flavour that is well worth paying the extra money for.

And if you think the answer is going vegetarian or vegan, think again.  Every cow that is being milked will have its calf killed this year (why do you think they are producing milk?).  Egg-laying chickens don’t get a nice retirement scratching around the farmyard, they are killed after 3 years and put into meat meal.  Farmed salmon is fed Chilean fish meal made from their rapidly vanishing sardine-run (in a ratio of 5kg of meal to 1kg of farmed fish).  Even fruit and vegetable farmers have to shoot possums and wallabies to protect their crops (I have heard tell of one apple farmer having to kill 150 possums per year).
Some wild caught salmon we smoked - great tasting stuff and no added Chilean fish meal.
The answer is not to eschew all food, but to spend that little bit extra money at the checkout, and a little more of your internet time (over lunchtime perhaps) looking for where your food comes from.  Make contact with a direct marketing farmer (they do exist!) and really get to understand what it takes to produce food ethically and sensibly.

Trust me, when it comes to food, you truly do get what you pay for.
Oh yes, Autumn is here!