Saturday, November 07, 2009

IKEA and Thoughts on Cheap Food

I visited IKEA, Shaumberg, IL today. We arrived right around lunch time and headed straight for the restaurant. Todd was excited about meatballs. I was excited about dessert (since I'm not eating meat this year). We marveled over the cheapness of the food ($15 for the two of us) and wondered (once again) how they manage to keep it so cheap. Knowing IKEA's "socially responsible" take on things, I fervently hoped that the beef in the meatballs came from "happy cows" and that my salmon had been caught in the wild (and especially not raised on corn). However, one can never be sure...

So what is a closet food activist to do? Never eat out? Eat only at "Certified Green" restaurants? (Guess how many there are in Wisconsin... One: Cafe Manna)

Well, at least one can try to avoid cheap food (unless it's at IKEA...). Cheap means highly subsidised which means big company which means industrial which means hidden costs. Let's take a McDonald's burger... Imagine the energy and water that was required to produce that burger. Think about the health care costs we incur to treat people who've had one to many burgers and now suffer from diabetes and heart problems. And what about the salaries of the people serving the food so that you can have a $4.00 Big Mac? Not enough to make it above the official poverty line... Cheap food doesn't work.

A complimentary strategy is to support grocery stores and restaurants that are socially conscious and buy local food and meat from farmers who treat their animals humanely. CSAs are another good option for supporting local agriculture.

It's not going to be cheap up front, but you will feel good about putting your money where you're heart is. In addition, your money will help stop the insanity of the cheap food and hidden costs which ultimately ends up costing society more than if we had just stuck with the original small-scale, sustainable, local food economy.

Eat like food matters.

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