You see it in every grocery store, near the back in coolers: plastic-wrapped packages of ground beef. It looks even less appetizing on the front cover of TIME magazine. In the August 31, 2009 issue, article author Bryan Walsh confronts Americans and their demand for cheap food, asking us to truly consider the price we pay.

While it may not be a stretch to consider our food choices as one of the causes of the obesity epidemic, it is much harder for us to connect our food to the unsustainable practice that produces our food: conventional farming. Chemicals and other environmental abuses are now a part of conventional food production, as well as the abundant calories and little nutrients that are a part of the food that we receive. Many of us are so far removed from our food, that we never think about a cow’s living conditions before it ended up in the many packages distributed all over the country, nor the tree that produced the orange many thousands of miles away from the counter you picked the fruit from.

Just to elaborate on how little many of us do know, 1% of cattle are raised organically, free range, eating grass and fertilizing the grass fields with their own waste. The other 99% spend most of their lives crowded in an industrialized feedlot, eating corn grown with subsidies and chemicals, and producing 240 tons of waste per year per 1,000 cattle. Conventional cows take antibiotics for their diet and crowded conditions. This is what the majority of us purchase in the grocery store. Also, have you ever looked at the sticker that finds itself on your produce? The oranges I just bought were shipped all the way from New Zealand. How much gas and energy did that take?

We are challenged not only to think about what we’re eating, but the true cost to the environment and our bodies. We are challenged to be a part of the change. Currently, 99% of farming is done conventionally, and that because that’s where the market is. Vote with your dollar, buy organic, and whenever possible, buy local. While a bit pricer in appearance, try to think of the crop subsidies, ecological damage and health care cost that need to be factored into that cheaper, conventional price. Maybe organic isn’t so pricy after all.

To learn more, read Bryan Walsh’s article The Real Cost of Cheap Food, and he suggests even more sources to check out. The first step to change is to become informed.

Here’s the link to the article:,8599,1917458,00.html