Food, Inc. and the Origins of Your Food: 3 Reasons to Remain Ignorant (Plus Free Movie Screenings)
Food, Inc., a movie detailing the origins and production of food, came to theaters last month and it's already ruffled some feathers in the food industry. (Pardon the poor pun.) Several groups have put up websites combating "misinformation" in the movie. (See, for example, Monsanto's "Facts" and GreenUpgrader's take on those facts.)
I haven't yet watched Food, Inc. (though I'm planning on seeing a free showing tonight, see details below), but a year ago I read In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto by Michel Pollan. Pollan examines what we eat and concludes that we should live by this mantra: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Philip wrote a review of In Defense of Food previously.
Even though I was already a healthy eater, In Defense of Food dramatically changed the way I eat -- and I highly recommend it for those interested in healthy eating and food production. For instance, up until last weekend when I binged on s'mores, you wouldn't have found any high fructose corn syrup in my house. (And no, the HFCS was not in the chocolate or marshmallows -- it was in the graham crackers.)
While I'm glad I've become more knowledgeable about food, in light of Food, Inc.'s release, I think it's worth examining the hidden costs of being an informed consumer. [Of course, in spite of the downsides I list in this post, I strongly believe that the pros of being an informed consumer far outweigh the cons.]
Costs of Being an Informed Consumer, or Why Not to Learn about the Origins of Your Food
1. Money. Once you learn where your food is coming from, you're likely to spend more money on it. You'll look for organic produce for its environmental and health benefits. I've never seen organic produce that's cheaper than conventional. It may not be significantly more expensive, but organic produce will cost more. What's more, upon seeing graphic images and hearing stories of the animals' plights, you'll likely start buying free range meat and eggs -- again, more expensive than conventional products. (However, in learning about the origins of your food you may decide to become vegetarian or vegan. Doing so will arguably save you money.)
2. Time. Once you're knowledgeable about the origins of your food you're going to start reading labels. If you haven't looked at a list of ingredients on your bread lately take a look today. You'll be surprised at how many ingredients there are -- thus requiring a lot of time to read when you're perusing the grocery store aisles. But what takes even more time than checking to see if high fructose corn syrup in your food? Cooking healthy food. Once you start learning about food production and stop buying pre-made items you'll spend far more hours in the kitchen.
3. Guilt. The immeasurable cost of being informed is guilt. If you learn about the origins of your food you may begin to feel guilty about biting into your hamburger, even if it is free range.
While I am a huge advocate of eating "real food" -- we belong to an organic farm share CSA (community supported agriculture), shop at our local co-op, and limit our consumption of meat -- sometimes the old saying really is true. Ignorance can be bliss.