Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Fast Cars or Fast Food? (Gadgets or Healthy Food Choices)

The final straw was when yet another person commented on the current horse meat scandal in beef burgers. The assumption is that only people on low incomes or with very constrained budgets buy cheap, processed foods.  I think it is not only inaccurate but it is patronising and smug. 

In my experience over the years, through the recession in the 80's to the boom of the noughtys back to the current recession, it has nothing got to do with budget.  The vast majority of people care little about what they eat and are incredibly uneducated about food, nutrition or budgeting.  And before everyone gets up on their collective horses let me explain.

When I was growing up in Dublin, the kids on my road lived in houses where the "good room" was locked up and not available to them.  They ate kids' food - fish fingers, burgers, tinned beans and peas, white sliced bread with plastic cheese for their tea while the adults entertained in the good room and went on foreign holidays.  

I remember asking my mother why we did not have a "good room".  The answer I got was that we did not have such a room in the same way we did not eat "children's food" nor did we go on foreign holidays.  This was, she explained, because we spent our money on food and education.  I don't know what age I was but I remember it clearly and from then on I began to notice what she meant.

Years later when my own kids were small and we lived in a middle class area in the UK.  I noticed the same thing.  But even more surprisingly I noticed how well-educated people on good incomes spent so little on food.  Oh they had the cars, the foreign holidays, the sound system and the good room. But very often the fridge was empty and the cupboards bare. 

Now back to the current debate and the people on very tight budgets.  Stand in a supermarket any day of the week and look at what people on all sorts of budgets put in their trolleys.  Then stand back and look at their clothes, their kids' shoes, their watches, their smart phones and their cars.  Then check out the price per kg of many of the processed foods they are buying.  In almost all cases the processed foods are considerably more expensive than buying the basics.  Yes they lack the knowledge and the skills and to a certain extent the time, but they have plenty of knowledge and skill and time when it comes to operating technology so they are not dumb.

So now do you see my point? It is a matter of priority.  People regardless of budget have different priorities.  Food is in many cases low priority after the latest must-have gadget for adult and child alike.

On last night's debate on RTE's Frontline programme, Darina Allen said she would rather spend her money on food than give it to the doctor or the chemist.  But how many really think like this?

Instead we have people including journalists writing for The Guardian making sweeping statements about poeple on low budgets in the same breath as denigrating people who have an interest in food. How do they know the people they sneer at as "lifestyle foodies" are not prioritising their budgets in favour of good, healthy, wholesome food?

RTE Frontline  The Guardian  Darina Allen  Horse Meat in Burgers

Monday, 7 January 2013

Cheap as Chicken

Apparently chicken producers in this country get 37 cent per chicken they raise and produce.  Supermarkets get €2.50 and the remainder goes on processing and distributing.  In the average supermarket the consumer pays around €5 or €6 for a medium to large oven ready chicken.

I wonder is there anyone out there who thinks that breakdown is fair? Probably not, but go back to the chicken producer for a minute.

For 37 cent he has to feed that chicken you are going to eat...... He also has to heat the house the chickens are raised in.  I think it is probably fair to say that the chicken is going to be fed the cheapest food possible to keep it alive and reasonably healthy and fatten it up in the shortest possible time. 

That food is going to consist of imported, genetically modified grain, in particular soy and maize.  It will contain antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease in the cramped, confined conditions.

The chicken is going to have enough space to just about turn around.  It is going to be raised in a house where the litter is not changed once throughout it's life.  It is going to grow so fast that it's legs won't be able to support it's weight.  It will therefore spend a large percentage of it's time lying down and will get ammonia burns on its body.  It will also inhale a large amount of those ammonia fumes and will never see daylight or get fresh air.

According to the EU and Department of Agriculture guidelines and to quote a vet "this is legal" and that was as much as he would say.  I think what he didn't say spoke volumes.

But at least it's an Irish produced chicken the consumer will say.  Not a cheap chicken from Asia.  Well in a race to scrape the bottom of the barrel, I fail to see that there is going to be much of a difference.

But consumers "demand" cheap chicken.

You know the old saying "no such thing as a free lunch"? What if eating cheap, low quality food will ultimately catch up on you? 

As they say there are precious few atheists on their deathbed......

Tags: Ear to the Ground Cheap Chicken Cheap Food Department of Agriculture