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Understanding the true cost of cheap food

Our roosters Limpy and Roostie. Understanding the true cost of cheap food. Little eco footprints

It's easy to not appreciate the true cost of our food when it’s so cheap. The full ethical and environmental costs aren’t included in the "Cheap, cheap. Down, down" prices you’ll find at the supermarket or fast food outlet. This undervaluing of our food causes a cycle of increased food waste, continued environmental degradation, and far from ideal farming practices. Thankfully, once you become more connected to your food, cheap undervalued food becomes easier to resist. 

Australian households waste more than $5 billion worth of food each year. This waste is not only costing our hip pocket, it’s costing the environment.

Greenhouse gasses are being emitted, land cleared, and water guzzled – to grow good food that ends up being tossed in the bin. 

Most of us know that food waste is wrong – yet plenty of us still waste food – and feel guilty about it.

It’s easy to find tips for reducing food waste. We can meal plan, write a shopping list, store our food properly, and embrace leftovers. But behaviour change can be challenging if your heart isn’t in it.

Truly understanding where your food comes from can provide the motivation needed to avoid cheap food and reduce food waste.

Bethany Turner,  a researcher from the University of Canberra, studied the food waste behaviours of consumers and found that "people who grow some of their own food go to great lengths to prevent food waste.  These consumers speak of the time, effort and care that underpins food production,  and are motivated to avoid waste out of respect for the food itself as well as its producer". 

Processing our rooster. Understanding the true cost of cheap food. Little eco footprints

I felt this strong motivation to avoid food waste at all cost when I recently processed one of my roosters.  The value of chicken meat in my mind has increased exponentially. 

We raised our two roosters from eggs, and despite my original plan being to process the roosters for meat, I chickened out. I fell in love with both of them.  "Soup" and "Stock" were saved from the pot and were renamed "Roostie" and "Limpy".

But then the crowing competition began. They were trying to out-crow each other – all day – from 4 am.

So in the interest of being a good neighbour we decided one of them had to go. Roostie, the most frequent crower, reverted back to his original name – Soup.

So almost a year after learning how to process chickens at Buena Vista Farm, I finally found the courage to process one of my own chooks. Kind of.  Daddy Eco thankfully did the deed and I managed the plucking and gutting.

Given the effort we put into raising him from an egg, feeding and eventually butchering him, I made the most of his nutritious and delicious meat.

He became four meals. 

Connecting with our food. Rooster coq au vin. Little eco footprints.

The first meal was a coq au vin inspired casserole and I served leftovers the following day.

Making rooster bone broth. Little eco footprints

Then I used his bones (plus feet and gizzard) to make a super healthy bone broth which became a delicious chicken and vegetable soup that fed us for two more meals.

I’m not suggesting you go out and grow your own roosters to process. Perhaps you can grow a pot of carrots or lettuce. If you do,  I’m sure you’ll be less likely to toss slightly floppy carrots and you’ll be carefully storing your lettuce so that it stays crisp as long possible.

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 2nd February 2015.