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If all this strikes you as rather a dismal state of affairs, take heart! Today's conscious consumer has options if he or she opts to seek them out. Although we may not realize it, eating in the 21 st century can be a political act in which each and every one of our purchases is a vote for which system of food production we choose to support. While buying meat at the supermarket is a vote for factory produced, corn fed beef, seeking out a local butcher who sources his meat from smaller, more local farms may be a vote for smaller scale production which is less straining on the environment. It is a purchase that says that you care about how your beef was raised, how far it had to travel to get to you and what impact you are having on the earth by simply eating your dinner!
Buying your produce at a local farmer's market is a vote for local, usually organic, mixed practice farming that is much less taxing on the environment than these giant mono-cultures of highly fertilized, imported vegetables that you find at the supermarket. These days, many farmers will offer harvest boxes full of hardy crops that will keep you stocked up with local produce through the winter. Keep in mind, though, that eating locally usually means eating seasonally. Winter is a time for squash and root crops, not fresh salads and strawberries.
It is easy to turn a blind eye to the realities of the unpleasantness surrounding our food production. After all, to most of us, it's just dinner , and we all have to eat. Seeking healthier, more environmentally friendly options when it comes to our food choices takes time and often costs a little more. But anyone who has ever attempted to grow their own vegetables or raise their own chickens can appreciate the work and cost involved and may no longer scoff at the idea of paying upwards of four dollars for a dozen eggs! Just about every product we buy comes in a wide range of qualities; some are built to last and others are just cheap knock-offs priced accordingly. Food is no different. But in the case of food, you often cannot actually see the difference. But the difference is huge, in terms of our health as well as the environment. Many of us claim we cannot afford a few extra dollars a month to pay for food that was produced in a healthy, sustainable manner, but in the last decade, most of us have found the extra cash to pay for cell phones, computers and internet access. I suppose it's just a matter of where your priorities lie.