Well I took a blog vacation, and now I'm back, fairly fresh from reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma." I found the book very interesting. My personal favorite line was when he says that Americans are becoming the koalas of corn. For readers who may not know what the book is about, Pollan traces the path of food from the fields where it is grown to our plates. He checks out conventional industrial agriculture, "supermarket pastoral" or the organic food sold at big supermarkets, food grown at small farms, and hunting and gathering.
I'm still digesting (ha ha) what I learned from the book. It is relevant to my thesis, which is about livestock production systems in Israel. I have still not mentioned anything about organic livestock production in Israel, partially because it is very minor--there is only one organic dairy farm.
I was a vegetarian for a while, 8 years. I was a vegan for 4 of them, although not the strictest vegan you could find. I eventually stopped, and like any personal decision it is complicated. I was in Guatemala, and didn't have facilities to make food, for one thing. There were vegetarian options, but generally in real restaurants only, and for 10 times the price of options that included meat. At any rate there was more to the decision, which also involved health and hunger : )
One of the most surprising statistics that Pollan cites is that for one calorie of Earthbound organic lettuce to reach an East Coast plate, 57 calories of fossil fuel must be expended. Yikes! Of course the choices are complex--there are no artificial fertilizers or pesticides used, so at least the landscape is less polluted than it might otherwise be. Pollan doesn't ultimately endorse any method of growing food. He points out the total unsustainability of the McDonalds meal and of the meal hunted, gathered and grown. So he seems to indicate that either supermarket pastoral or locally grown is the way to go, while recognizing that in the case of big organic, it isn't environmentally friendly enough, and in the small farm, it isn't practical enough economically.
I've been thinking about this in terms of small producers from Bedouin to Jew who leave a small footprint but produce very little of the country's output versus the bigger farms on kibbutzim who require intensive inputs of energy to produce a large chunk of Israel's food. I have to come up with conclusions and am not sure that I have reached them yet either (well okay I have a few).
It is interesting to me that the local food movement ties in with recognizing indigenous knowledge. I read an interesting book by Gary Nabhan that mentions the Indians of the Sonora desert beginning to grow indigenous crops again, an example of ethnonutrition. Reading about Bedouin nutrition prior to westernization, I see that they also had a healthy diet. It would be interesting to see if that is changing.
Meanwhile, I already try to eat from whole foods. We buy very little processed food. Our meals come directly from fruits, veggies, meat and milk. Very little is organic, partially because it is more expensive and partially because there is very little organic food at supermarkets in the area. I have been eating breakfast cereal, though, and I guess I am going to try eating muesli instead (organic and locally produced I think). As soon as this box of cheerios is done.