Real food education: an interview with Joel Salatin (part 2 of 5)

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Pastured pigs at Polyface farms

In part 1 of this 5-part video interview series, we asked the question, who is Joel Salatin? We heard his thoughts on accidental activism, his personal history of farming (his family’s history in central America, how he got Polyface Farms started, and more). He also talked about new ideas for Polyface, and what may be in store for the farm’s future.

In this video: Joel talks about the issue of “real food” education. What will it take and whose responsibility is it to educate the American public on food and agriculture sustainability? Joel talks about “degrees of penetration” when it comes to education about sustainability. He also answers the question, should we really try to convert everyone?

How do you rate?

So, where are you on Joel’s scale of food independence? What could you do to move up a level? How could you educate a family member or a friend to help them “climb the ladder”? Tell us in the comments.

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  1. Matt McCandless
    August 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Hey again,

    Price systems are the common tool in a developed society for determining scarcity or sustainability. As resources, food included, become more scarce prices raise and people change their habits.

    There is no reason why we can’t buy our organic produce from the same place we get our oil changed. Let’s not get so caught up in the idea of “local” that we forget about economics and real wealth. This stuff can work but it will take paleo culture embracing the same ideas that have made companies like Wal-mart so successful.

    • Robb Wolf
      August 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      True enough, but that will not be an option until some business is taken away from folks like Wal-mart. this is an intermediate step.

  2. Jim C.
    August 27, 2011 at 6:05 am

    This brings up a point I have been meaning to touch on, concerning buying local. What do you do if that is close to impossible? In my case, I have checked every market I can find in 15 miles around Clearwater, FL and there are almost no locally grown products. What little that I can find (be it fruit, veg or meat) is priced out of reach. Not to whine, but frankly affording the right foods is close to impossible. I do not mean difficult, I mean impossible. If you do find grass fed or finished beef, you cannot afford it. Same with anything but the standard grocery store eggs. Vegetables I have had better luck, but even those are not local. While I understand the need for the best foods, there has to be a way to eat properly on what a person can afford.

    TO give you an example, my wife and I both lost our jobs. We both took what I call McJobs. Just enough to make ends meet. One of the things that we had to sacrifice is buying the very best foods. Again, not to afford vacations or luxuries, but just to pay the bills. Now we are shopping at Sam’s Club, buying what we can to try and stay paleo, but it can be difficult. What I am trying to say is there has to be some middle ground. Is it always absolutely necessary to buy the very best cuts and plants, from local farmers (almost impossible where I am at) to maintain this lifestyle? One of the unfortunate side effects of the recent trend to organic and grass fed is the price shooting up. I am all for a farmer making a profit, but there comes a point it looks like taking advantage.

    Anyway, that is the point of view from those that cannot afford more than $3.00 a dozen for eggs, or better than $10.00 for three pounds of bacon. I see many articles on the web that make it sound like you either buy the best, or do not bother. There has to be some middle ground for folks, or this lifestyle will be restricted to only those within a certain income category. I am not trying to play the rich vs. poor game here. If you knew me, you would know that is not how I work. But paleo or primal on a small budget has to be possible. If Henry Ford taught us anything, it was to make it possible for the common man to get in on the game. Again, this is not a status rant, not a pity me rant. Just pointing out there has to be some way this can be done by anyone.

    My wife and I have both lost 60 pounds eating this way. Combined with solid exercise plans, we are making it. What I have been trying to say is take a step back and realize that this can be done on less that the best. Is it always necessary to buy the very best? What do you do when you cannot? I do not wish unemployment on anyone. But here is an idea. Next month, slash your food budget in half. Could you still maintain your eating? What would you substitute? Could you maintain your current weight and fitness? Again, not trying to start class warfare here, but as a paleo/primal community, lets see what we can do to open this up to everyone. I know I have wandered all over with this, but as I said, this has been on my mind for a while.

    • Robb Wolf
      August 27, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Jim!
      Consider the following:
      Hippy Excuse for Failure #1:
      “I can’t always find grassfed meat, so I’ll eat a bagel!”

      Hippy Excuse for Failure #2
      “I can’t Always find organic/local vegetables, so I’ll eat a bagel!”

      NO!
      We do the best we can, where we are, with what we have. Nicki and I lived on less than I did in grad school for 2 years getting the gym going. I bought bulk meat, bulk olive oil and tons of onions and cabbage because they were CHEAP. In a scenario like this I could make the argument for a 50lb bag of rice get some cheap/decent carbs If you are training. buy a can of fish oil to round things out…you are good to go.

      Here are the things to get from all this:
      1-You will NEVER see affordable, locally produced food if we do not push that agenda.
      2-In the interim, you can do very well, on very cheap.

      I’m helping some folks locally who are on disability and a fixed income of less than $8k/year to make smart choices in all this. they are looking, feeling and performing better (both have wicked autoimmune issues which are rapidly resolving) and it is cheaper than the wonder bread and other foods they were eating before.

      HANG in there!! You have community here, but you just need to take care of yourself and family, and make it all work for YOU.

      • melissa
        August 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

        I would love more details on what you are doing with the people on the $8k/ yr budget and autoimmune, possibly in an upcoming post? i myself am a type 1.5 and between jobs and on food stamps. I just blew most of that with the “week one” menu in the book. thanks for being awesome!

        • Robb Wolf
          August 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

          Melissa- it’s mainly bulk buying. I’ll see what I can put together. Hang in there!!

          • Rich Chessario
            August 29, 2011 at 5:40 am

            I’m extremely interested as well..I’m 29 and have had Reynaud’s and high blood pressure since I was 14. I was a 3 sport athlete and still work out daily, consume no sugar and few grains, but can’t seem to get rid of either condition.
            Thanks for all you do.

    • Heather C
      August 28, 2011 at 7:51 am

      Glad to see this comment as my brother and I were lamenting the cost of the good stuff just last night. Rib eyes were $21 a pound at Whole Foods in Seattle. I am following the “buy the best I can afford” plan and having great success. To be proactive in promoting the ability to buy sustainably raised products at the chain stores, my plan is to send emails requesting it. Repeatedly. Probably won’t work, but hopefully it’ll put it on their radar.
      Love the site, love the book, podcast,advice. You’ve helped turn me into a real freak. Thanks:-)

    • Rachael
      August 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      Look harder…and ASK for the food you want. Write your grocery stores and talk to restaurant managers. In my area, we have CSA’s that are pro-rated based on income, and many farmers markets now take food stamps. Keep looking. Find others in your area who want a farmer’s market so even if its a little far you can carpool (or start a local market). Don’t buy nice cuts of meat- buy really bad cuts and make wonderful stews– better yet, do what I do and get a local hunter (of the hunters for the hungry program) to give you some venison or other game meat. And remember that until a few decades ago people used to spend 40-50 percent of their ENTIRE INCOME on food (now American’s typically spend between 5 and 15%). Our grandparents and every generation before them survived by being frugal and creative- we can do the same.

  3. Jim C.
    August 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Robb, Thanks! We really appreciate it. Your book is what got the both of us on this lifestyle. We have not “cheated” once on this since we began 2 months ago. As a matter of fact, we have become two of the biggest cheerleaders for Paleo/Primal in our social groups. My wife and I both have felt the inspiration of Will Allen’s herculean efforts to bring affordable fish and produce to the poorest neighborhoods. We have felt inspired to do something to bring the good news that you can eat healthy, exercise and feel better on little money. I guess we just needed to hear it from the man himself.(you)

    One thing we have wondered is getting Paleo/Primal groups going in areas. Especially cities, where getting good foods can be difficult. That there is something at the local grocery, Sam’s club, Costco, etc. that anyone can do to improve their health. The government and Big Food have done their damnedest to turn us into gluten and sugar hogs. I agree that we need to fight back, and show this can be done on any budget, anywhere. I hate to use the term support groups, but that does seem to be the best word. I realize this is bucking conventional wisdom, government indoctrination, and decades of advertising. But it has to be a grass roots event.

    Robb, I know you are a busy man, but what would you recommend can be done locally for this? Something that works at a local level? Anyone else that has had success feel free to chime in. I am dead serious about making this happen. I do not want to beat people of the head, but I do want to let folks know this is possible for anyone. Thanks again by the way, you have alleviated a lot of frustration on this end.

    Jim

    • Robb Wolf
      August 29, 2011 at 9:26 am

      Starting CSA’s, farmers markets, growing some of your own food, bulk GF meat buys…this all get and keeps it rolling.

  4. pjnoir
    August 28, 2011 at 11:43 am

    To quote a wonderful book – reviewed here:

    http://ingredients-mp.blogspot.com/2011/06/well-raised-meat-book-review.html

    Only in modern times do we expect to eat meat three times a day and consider a 20 ounce steak to be an individual portion.”

    I only buy Grass fed and yes it cost more but I also know the farmer and feel it is better to gave him a few bucks instead of a CEO in a big city office. I also eat less meat- I am fitter and healthier- all win wins. And I cook with bones and other lesser meats- I COOK- best diet in the world- to cook ones meals.

    I buy local but still need coffee and avocados and French Red wine. 80/20.

    mp

  5. pjnoir
    August 28, 2011 at 11:56 am

    one last point before my blood cools down- cheap food in America is whjat we call today a bailout. A bailout of big AG and a artifical comfort for Americans. Cheap food makes us sick because cheap food makes us very fat and not because of the quanity but the quality.

    • Jim C.
      August 30, 2011 at 6:05 am

      Let me see if I understand pjnoir, are you saying there is no way you can get healthy, lose weight, and get fit unless you buy grass fed? (which is a label that can be misused, much like organic) You may want to read my post above, and Robb’s response. Then ask yourself what is the priority, building good eating habits first, or asking the general populace to spend more money on food, with little knowledge as to why the food is better. Keep in mind availability, income levels and other economic and social factors.

      There is more to “cheap food” than just “artificial comfort”. In these times especially, it can be education against 40 years of bad training, and economic issues (hard to feel superior about your top quality food when the lights are off)To quote Robb “We do the best we can, where we are, with what we have.” Melissa is a perfect example of of this. She has the education. The high quality will come in time.She did the tough part, and shook off the bad advice. A step by step process. Try to imagine you are explaining paleo in a low income neighborhood. What would you tell them? How would you get them on board? What would your focus be?

      I am not saying that there are no benefits to high quality foods. Having grown up on a old fashion cattle ranch in Montana (and seeing it lost to a factory farm conglomerate) I know the difference in meat, both taste and nutrition. But I feel a big part of taking Paleo mainstream is making available in one form or another to everyone. Like Melissa, I am eager to hear the work Robb and Nikki are doing helping folks at a low income improve their health. To me, that sounds like the best place to focus attention. On those who may not be able to experiment much, or not have the knowledge that there is a different way to eat and live.

  6. Nathan
    August 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Would love to see farmers selling stuff using cell phones and trading in bitcoins! Ultimate decentralized, f*** the FDA/FED/state transaction.

    http://www.weusecoins.com/

  7. JD
    August 30, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Interesting discussion. Although right now my wife and I can afford GFB and are members of a local CSA. There were certainly times when that was not the case. I currently buy my GFB from Knee Deep Cattle Co. in Eugene OR and have it shipped to the OC. The net cost with shipping is under $6/lb. I looked long and hard to find them too because I refused to pay $15-20/lb. They simply choose not to gouge their customers.

    Even if it’s not possible to get affordable GFB where you live you should be able to find non-GFB and other meats for cheap. Just stick to lean cuts and maybe up the fish oil. I’ve bookmarked all the major grocery store’s circulars which I check weekly and am always seeing things like London Broil and boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb. Costco/Sams and the like usually have decent quality food for reasonable prices. Check out the cost of buying a freezer so you can stock up on the deals.

    Jim C, what about fish? You’re in Florida – think local. Befriend a fisherman! Are there any deals at the local docks? Our local Henry’s (errr…Sprouts) has fresh, wild salmon for $7.99/lb right now! I can often find shrimp for $5-7/lb and other fish like Alaskan Cod for a similar price.

    A final thought – where are you spending your money? If you’re unemployed or under-employed I realize you’re essentially in survival mode and this doesn’t apply to you. I also sincerely hope that your hardship will be brief. But beyond that, I think this often comes down to priorities. I you take a hard look at your budget, is it that you really can’t afford optimal/improved nutrition or there are simply other things you are not willing to sacrifice?

    Food for thought. (Sorry, I literally couldn’t resist.)

    JD

  8. badraoul
    August 28, 2011 at 5:31 am

    One of Joel Salatin’s comments was on using a common cash register. I can see how this might start to cost some money in infrastructure and effort e.g. Bar coding, making sure the right vendor gets paid for the carrots, etc. And cash is kind of a pain (I use cash for farmer’s markets and not much else). Maybe and easy solution is a smart card that you charge up and swipe at each vendor stall using a simple smartphone bolt on (all the farmers I meet have iPhones it seems). This way they vendor gets paid, the customer can buy more conveniently, and the system stays pretty flexible for adding new vendors.. Hmmm…business opportunity?

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