Sunday, February 6, 2011

Insourcing Food

Gouda in process, Photo by grongar

Yes, I've decided that the right term for I'm doing now is... insourcing! I have officially withdrawn from outsourcing as much of my food as I possibly can.

So much of what I have eaten over my lifetime has come from "elsewhere". It used to be that "elsewhere" was somewhere else in my own country, where the seasonal temperatures were different than mine and they could grow things I couldn't, like Florida tomatoes during my northern winters. More and more, the "elsewhere" (outsourcing) is to a foreign country, for whatever reasons (which I suspect includes profit margins). I'm NOT opposed to a farmer in Chile or Honduras making a living although I suspect they are governed by large corporations to the extent they grow one crop only, and perhaps import much of their own food.There's something wrong with this picture.

I'm not overly concerned about the safety of foods from foreign countries, since the USDA seems to be keeping check on imports (and I try not to buy them anyway). I'm just trying to get away from outsourcing in general, and when I do buy food I don't grow, I prefer it to be local. 

My community has become extremely poor in the last few years; all the manufacturing that used to be here has been outsourced to Mexico, or maybe China. The once vibrant local small dairy operations closed, not to send their milk elsewhere, but shut-down entirely, because a small dairy with a small output could not afford the expensive equipment now required to meet government regulations for dairy products. (They now receive subsidies to not raise dairy cows, but I won't go there right now.)

The whole "Eat Local" movement was an excellent start of opening my eyes to the expense our outsourcing actually costs, and while you can say I'm committed to eating local, it's a bit more concentrated than that.

When I say I am insourcing, that means most of my food dollars will be not only be spent locally, but a lot of the end product will be done at home. It is unrealistic to think I can raise my own hog, beef, chicken, lamb... AND garden produce... as a single 70-year old woman with a limited income and living on a few steep rural acres. However, I intend to do as much insourcing right here at home as I can learn and manage to do.

While I may not be able to raise my own cow or pig, I can certainly buy big chunks of the beasties locally, and turn them into edible delicacies, like bacon, corned beef, salume and hams. I can buy a cow share for local milk (there actually are some still around) and turn it into cheese... perhaps not as good as some European cheese, but delicious and healthy never the less. I can eat well, for less. and have a clearer conscious.

Another thing I hope will happen out of my efforts: someone younger will be encouraged to start to learn these age-old techniques, and they won't be lost again.

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