Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Folly of Bourgeois Sustainable Food - August 3rd, 2011
My personal conversion to organic food came via orange juice. I was brought up drinking the conventional, extra-pulpy stuff from a paper carton, downing quarts of it on a daily basis. Then, while living in New York City after college, I discovered a grocery store offering an extra-premium, organic variety with bucolic visions of rustic farm crates and golden sunshine on the label. 

The flavor was unlike any other bottled juice I had ever known; it actually tasted like the juice of an orange. This was most distressing. What exactly was that mysterious orange liquid I had been drinking my entire life? 

I was instantly converted. To be able to buy a product that not only tasted amazing yet was also not tainting the earth with pesticides and preservatives felt like a tremendous leap for both the orange farmers and me. 

Then I looked at the price—seven dollars a quart. 

I love drinking real orange juice and not destroying the planet, but my ability to do both is directly related to my supply of disposable income. Without that disposable income, paying a premium for organic food—as well as local, fair trade, and sustainable—becomes exponentially harder to justify. At a certain point, when only the relatively rich can afford to not ingest bovine growth hormone on a regular basis, appreciating food and where it comes from becomes a bourgeois endeavor akin to collecting FabergĂ© eggs. When fair trade bananas hit five dollars a pound, consumption starts to seem conspicuous. 

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