If there is one thing that I think I know after my 31 years on earth so far, its that having a standard and a set of values is a useful way to navigate the endless possibilities and choices in this information rich age. For me, what to read, how to spend time, who to spend time with, what path to follow, and what decisions to make, most of the time come down to me putting the question at hand in front of the mirror of the things that I have decided I value the most. Of course the things that I value now have evolved over time, and I am sure they will evolve further as I meander through life, but at the minute, I hold integrity, anti-fragility, and enjoyment of life as my main values, and find that running my big decisions through my the filter of my core values generally helps me make decisions that I enjoy and are a good fit for what I believe in. It took a lot of deep thinking, meditation, reading, and experimenting for me to decide on my current set of values for life and recently I have noticed that these days we generally lack a set of values what in comes to the food that we eat, which could potentially be seriously affecting our choices, our state of mind, and our health.
The saying ‘If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything” springs to mind. Think about all the information that is out there on the internet, billboards, and in shops that are designed to influence what you buy and what you eat. You think “They wont fool me, those marketing tricksters!”, but you can rest assured that unless you have a set of values when it comes to what you and your family eat, you will fall into the trap of buying what the big shops and companies want you to buy. Teams of marketers and researchers are out there every day studying the colours that attract our attention, the text that sparks our interest, the sounds and smells that spike our senses, the images that make our mouth water, and even the places that we are most likely to see. Most crucially, large food manufacturers are even onto the biological responses that make us crave certain foods. We are hardwired to seek out fat, sugar, and salt, from a time gone by where those three things would be either in short supply, seasonal, or required for survival when available. When there was no real choice, and definitely no chemical preservatives or lab-created foods. These things are well documented in the research, and product placement is big business for a reason. I feel like this industry has kind of snuck up on us, the unsuspecting citizens of the new age. Not so long ago, we would have to make do with what was in the local shop, and not so long before that, we would have to make do with whatever the hunters of the community were able to kill and/or forage of a days hunting. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that the following are what most of us think we value when it comes to food:
Alas, the powers that be have those three factors all tied up! Open a branch of <INSERT NAME OF MULTI NATIONAL FRANCHISE HERE> on every corner so that its convenient, mass produce so that its cheap to buy, and lace it with salt, sugar, or fat so that we keep on coming back. On the face of it, this seems like a great deal for all involved, but in reality, what we value (or what we think we value) is being dictated to us by enormous marketing campaigns, science, and manipulation. The bottom line is that very few huge mass producing companies care for the real quality of their product, or your health or the health of your family or community (as long as you don’t drop dead in the actual shop). They care little for the welfare of the workers (evident by the wage received by any supermarket clerk, factory worker, or shop attendant). So what should we value when it comes to food? Well its not for me to say what anybody else should value, but for me there are things that need to be considered before we fall for the convenience trap.
Personally speaking, I want to know that the production of the food I eat did not cause harm to the wellbeing of another human being in its production or in terms of the producer of the food being given a raw deal by the sellers/ buyers of the produce. I would like to be sure that the food I am eating does not include ingredients or contaminants that are going to harm my health, or the health of anyone else that I happen to be sharing it with in the short term or the long term. I like to know that I am contributing to the development of a sustainable method of food production so that the generations to come can enjoy the benefits of real food. I want to know that the money I spend on food goes back into the development of the community or region that the money is spent in, and not into funding some rich executives foreign trips and luxury car. When it comes to eating meat, I like to know that the animal was well treated, well fed, and looked after before it ended up in our food chain. I also like convenience, taste, and value for money.
Do I eat an all-organic diet? No.
Do I have enough income to sustain a full diet rich in locally produced and artisan foods? Definitely not.
Do I judge anyone for not feeling the same as I do. Hell no.
Is it even possible to know that I am eating according to the values highlighted above? Probably not all the time, especially when shopping in supermarkets.
Do I try to stick to my food values as often as possible? Absolutely.
Do I spend a bit more on locally produced food when I can? Yes. I am fortunate enough to have a local Farmers Market nearby each Saturday.
Do I feel like I am contributing to the local community by supporting local producers? Yes indeed.
Do I think that locally grown food produced by a knowledgeable farmer is better for our long term health? 100%.
Just a few thoughts.