There’s an inconvenient truth about most convenience foods. It’s that convenient often means the cost is elsewhere or down the line as Prince Charles, staunch slow food and ethical food advocate, said in this wonderful piece earlier this week. Sometimes the convenience is packaged as time, and sometimes as money.
Take a look at this convenience item I found in the supermarket as the perfect example to illustrate this point – this one packaged as a time saver. I’m excluding brand as this is not about defaming, so much as raising consciousness. If we use harsher criteria overall, it won’t matter about knowing what brands to buy or not buy. With a quick scan of the eye, we’ll know in a blink whether the convenience is worth it or not, and many more people will make more leaps over to produce, from packet land.
It’s 125g of chicken breast, sliced and ready to go for a salad topper, sandwich or stir fry. I laughed with the ‘handy resealable pouch’ claim. It’s supposedly 2.5 serves – I suppose that’s to get you needing to snack all afternoon on more convenience foods to spend more money, because 50g of chicken sure ain’t much chicken.
Let’s look at how it costs us financially
$5.41 for 125g of non organic chicken. That’s a whopping $43.28 per kilo. One could buy 2 huge organic chickens for that price totalling about 4kg. No hormones, no GMO seed feeds. Free roaming. There’s zero cost convenience at all when you compare the kilo price. A 125g portion of organic chicken from home roasted chook, would be $1.90. So while one might be thinking, oh that’s good, a $5 lunch option with a couple of crackers and tomato, turns out to be quite expensive compared to what you could have prepared with nothing but the planning thought while making something else. Roast two chooks at once. I’ve got a delicious recipe here. One for eating with the family on the night, the leftovers of that one for a soup the next night and the other for cutting up and freezing for future grab and go meals and stir fries. Zero additives and organic *and* in this case being a massive saving per serve AND a massive saving on time down the track. Convenience redefined.
Let’s now look at the health cost of this convenience
The ingredients: 98% chicken with added Maize starch (corn), salt, carrageenan, citrus, flour, white pepper
Maize starch: for our GMO (genetically modified organism) clue there’s a corn ingredient and the product doesn’t specify GM free anywhere *and* it’s made from local and imported ingredients. So, I’m guessing that maize starch is hot off the fields of a GM corn farm in the states, sadly, as 90% of corn is GM in the states and makes its way into many packaged food recipes for its low cost and textural enhancement of foods.
Salt: Man made salt has 3 minerals. Real salt has over 50 minerals and often many more. Minerals have gone walkabout in our modern western diet with artificially fertilised soil, fake salt and processed diet choices, and any opportunity you have to add natural minerals back in: Take it! Magnesium deficiency, for example, can manifest with symptoms like spasms, cramps, tics, insomnia, chronic fatigue, migraine, IBS, anxiety… The Magnesium Miracle is a sensational book if you fancy delving into this subject a little more.
Carrageenan: A proven inflammatory stabiliser used in packaged foods which I’ll let the Health Home Economist fill you in on here.
Flour – Hope no one with gluten intolerance missed that on the label.
While these ingredients only make up 2% of the total product, I take the stance that there’s no minimum safety on toxic stuff and if we say to ourselves ‘oh, it’s only just a little bit toxic’ then what are we saying about our self-respect? You are WORTH natural, beautiful ingredients. 100%. Your current and future health is worth 100% natural, beautiful ingredients.
Let’s look at other costs
The ethics of feeding chickens on possible GM grains, possible excess antibiotics and not pasture raising them.
The consequence of buying food packaged in a massive plastic pouch relative to the size of the portion, and how much more plastic is used per chicken – about 10 pouches – relative to its weight, instead of perhaps 1 plastic sleeve over a whole chook, or even none, if buying fresh from your ethical butcher.
The consequence of the BPA in the ink dyes used to colour that pouch.
The consequence of the food miles of shipping all those plastic pouches around to supermarkets nationally.
Our ability to make a difference is in every food decision for our health, for animals we choose to eat / not to eat, and the health of the planet. We are in control and we can make a difference. I’ve no doubt most of you who read this are already actively shaping the world with your shopping baskets, but I still find now I can get better and better at doing it even after years of shopping better, so please share if you think this simple example might help someone shop more consciously.
They really try and frame it so well to make us buy stuff, and that’s fine if it’s a good thing that’s good for us and good for the planet, but when it’s not, I just LOVE making an example of them and helping more people see that we’re a real voice, here. They won’t make stuff if it doesn’t sell. It’s that simple. If we stop buying the bad stuff that’s overpackaged, with additives and unethical meat, then they’ll stop making it. Job done and when that day comes, we’ll be able to say WE DID THAT.
The cost of Real Food is often far less expensive, especially when we look at the big picture and as with this example, often we just have to redefine what convenience means, reshape it, and voila: We’ve still got it, just this time it’s aligned with our values.
What do you think? Seen anything lately that’s made you go all detective on it? Warning. Food ‘detectivism’ is addictive. Trust me, I’m a lifer.
Real Food. Low Tox Living.