Quality Over Quantity? A Thought About How We Consume Food

– By Jakob Anderson, Food Writer –

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A beautifully marbled and proud ribeye steak sits in front of you at the local butcher shop. The glorious piece of beef taunts you from behind the meat case, pleading you to taste its prestige, to appreciate its grass-fed pasture raised qualities. Meanwhile a lovely, strong looking, corn fed ribeye steak sits in front of you at the supermarket. Beside it is another one, and another. They want you to buy them, To buy them all.

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Though they are convenient and cheap, there are so many healthier alternatives.

These two scenarios speak volumes about how we consume food. That ribeye steak from the butcher sits at $27.99/lb while the supermarket steaks rings in at $18.99/lb, sold in a “valu-pack” of 6. The ribeye from the butcher comes from a local farm where the animal is raised with high quality feed and no steroids, which means no antibiotics either. They are raised in open fields with lots of room to graze and, you know, do what cows do. Do I need to explain where the majority of our supermarket beef comes from? I don’t want to come across as a pretentious food snob. But it is important to know the steak from the supermarket you are eating en masse comes from a very sad cow. So without even bringing health and taste into consideration, you are paying less for a product that is literally, “sad”. It does not have to be this way, and only we as food consumers can change it.

I know, this is an age old argument. The likes of Michael Pollan (best selling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked) and Dan Barber (Chef at Blue Hill in New York and author of The Third Plate) have tirelessly fought to bring this issue to the forefront. The more exposure we have to the concept, the more likely we are to take action.

Free range cows result in better meat, and a happier animal. It's a win-win.

Free range cows result in better meat, and a happier animal. It’s a win-win.

Peter Sanagan owns the popular butcher shop Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Toronto. He offered his thoughts on the issue, specifically in the case of meat: “I think that consumers should really start asking questions about the food they consume. Where it came from, what it was fed (in the case of meat), if it is GMO free, or what pesticides were used (in the case of vegetables) are questions people need to start asking to improve their knowledge of what is going into their bodies. When someone buys a car they will take it for a test run, ask the seller for the repair history of the vehicle, and probably Google some Consumer Report about the make and model of the car they are going to buy. Armed with the answers, consumers can at least make a more educated decision when it comes to food. It’s hard (and biased) of me to say ‘eat better food but less of it’ because I have a stake in the answer. Of course I feel that everyone should eat meat that is well raised by local farmers you can trust, cut by a butcher who can answer any question you have. This of course comes at a slightly higher price point than meat that sits on a styrofoam tray in a grab-and-go fridge in a grocery store, but you get what you pay for.”

Quality meats may be more expensive, but the come from a reliable source.

Quality meats may be more expensive, but the come from a reliable source.

Sanagan also discussed the concept of conscious food consumption becoming a reality. “I think it is very realistic. It’s an approach that many people in Europe already have. Much like any change, people will need time to get used to how they budget themselves, but it will be worth it in the long run.”

Jakob Anderson is a trained cook and food enthusiast who approaches cooking as something that connects people in ways they don’t realize. “I love talking about food, eating food, thinking food, discussing food, debating food, think about debating food, fooding food? I love food.”

You can follow Jakob on Twitter @jakobanderson and Q-Avenue @QuincyAvenue