Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday, August 17—Day 17

What did we eat today?

Breakfast: Toast with honey and butter

Lunch: Goat cheese and crackers, carrots, cider. (Leftover pork chop for Scott)

Dinner: Sausage and onions, green beans, cherries and yellow doll watermelon.

(no photos today—most Fridays we are on the run, and this one was no exception)

Very excited for farmers' markets tomorrow (2 of them).

I had an email from a friend today—she had been reflecting on an article she read about cutting down rainforests to provide cropland for soy production. It got her to thinking about how much soy she had added to her own diet as a lean protein source, wondering where all that soy comes from.

Well, I suppose it can be hard to know. After corn, I would guess that soybeans are the #2 commodity crop grown in the US. To the extent that people see problems with conventional agriculture, be it in soil conservation, pesticide and fertilizer use, broken subsidy systems, or genetically modified stocks, soy has them all in spades. And taken as a category, soy beans have zero traceablility, which is basically the definition of a commodity crop. When you read your food labels and see "soy protein concentrate", "soy lecithin" and a million other things, this is what you are buying. That's not to say that you can't buy soy products that are not part of the conventional commodity market—I assume that you can, though I'll confess that I do not know for sure. Certainly certified organic soy products are part of a different economy, but as big as industrial organic growing has gotten, that only assures you that some of the issues above are addressed, but not necessarily all. If you care, you have to do the homework and find out.

But another thing popped into my head, and I shared this with my friend—soy is turning out not to be the wonderfood we once thought. There are a lot of compounds in soy that are suspected of mimicing hormonal effects, perhaps causing gynecological problems, among others. I also had to point out that soy is not exactly as lean as we might assume: a 4 oz serving of firm tofu has 6 grams of fat. Compare that to 4 ounces of skinless chicken breast at 1.5 grams.

We eat tofu occasionally, but we normally opt for other protein sources, some leaner and some richer than soy. Why? I'll admit that I like meat better than tofu, but tofu is fine—I'm perfectly happy to eat it. The big thing for us is that we know where the meat comes from. We get chicken from people named Kay and Matthew, beef from Jim and Rebecca, pork from Sue and Tony. If I want to know how fresh it is or how it was raised, I will just ask them, or better yet, go see for myself. But I know for sure that the meat our family eats is not implicated in any way with destruction of rainforests or any of the other issues I noted above.

That's what we care about, so that's what we choose. What do you care about? Do your choices support that?



Anonymous said...

Hi, Madison locavore here! Love the project.

I'm a vegetarian, though I'm not against eating meat. But I think it's worth mentioning that if the farmers you buy meat from feed their animals ANY purchased feed (which is likely), then you are still eating those soybeans and corn commodity crops. And in fact, you're eating a lot more of them, as it's pretty well known that animals will eat a lot more grain/bean products to produce a pound of meat than you would if you just ate the grains and beans straight up.

As far as the positive/negative effects of soy (or dairy, or wheat, or, or, or), variety seems the safest bet rather than basing a diet off of one central food.

Good luck with the local eating!


Lynch Family said...

It's a fair point, and one that bears examining. Our solution to it is to buy and eat pastured meats. That's not to say that there are never supplemental feeds, as chickens and pigs don't do well on grass alone. I know in the case of our chief pork supplier, Willow Creek Farm, that they grow supplemental grains themselves and they use non-GMO seeds. I understand that they do occasionally buy a bit of extra feed, and I don't know what the origin of that is. In fact, the corn we are eating is from Willow Creek's feed bin. And chickens do nicely on pasture, especially if they get lots of nice bugs to eat while they are out there.

Regarding beef, certainly there are a lot of cattle out there that have the misfortune of being fed corn. There are a lot of reasons this is a bad idea, but it is the reality for the vast majority of cattle out there, whether they are raised for dairy or for meat. We have made a point (and I am really the only beef eater in our family, but we all consume diary) to insist on grass fed. Do farmers buy extra hay? Yes, lots of them do, but as far as I am aware hay is not traded as a commodity the way corn and soybeans are.

We also don't consider it productive to try to opt out of that economy 100%. It's not that we would not like to, it's just that the stuff is everywhere and it is simply not possible. We're trying to be conscious consumers, not religious zealots. So we try to do the best we can with the time, money, and knowledge we have, and of course, more knowledge is always the easiest thing to get more of!

As you said, Variety is the key. It is not juts the "spice" of life, it is the "staff of life."

Thanks for your thoughts!