The choice between values and value
Todayâ€™s Pocketmint topic was inspired by Dogs or Dollars, where thereâ€™ve been recent conversations about the frequent conflicts between oneâ€™s budget and oneâ€™s beliefs, especially as relates to food for both humans and pets.
These are some of my beliefs:
- I believe in farms owned and worked by families or co-ops, not owned by corporations and worked by underpaid slaves.
- I believe in humane treatment of any animal with a brain complex enough to experience misery.
- I believe in protecting our planetâ€™s ecosystems, rather than trashing them for short-term gain.
Sometimes, I put my money where my morals are. Iâ€™ve written before about my switch to buying only environmentally-sustainable seafood, and the changes I made in order to offset the higher cost.
I also support local farms with my annual twenty-week CSA subscription. This is expensive. I stopped trying to calculate exactly how much more expensive, because itâ€™s just too complicated, but itâ€™s definitely more than double what I would pay for the non-organic equivalents in the grocery store. I can tell you that my final cost this year, after various discounts, is $26.16 per week. About $110 per month, or one-third of our grocery budget.
Itâ€™s a conscious choice that Iâ€™ve made three years running. Iâ€™m voting with my dollars. Nevertheless, I still flinch at the cost. Not just once in the spring when I hand over nearly $600, but every single week for twenty weeks. Iâ€™m anchored at grocery store prices. And although sometimes the CSA quality is better (strawberries with actual flavor!) more often itâ€™s indistinguishable (zucchini is zucchini is zucchini). So the tangible benefit alone does not offset the increased expense.
I cram all of my produce-related virtue into those twenty weeks. The other seven months of the year, I buy from grocery stores and prioritize cheap. I do my best to buy local and in-season, as those complement thrift rather than conflict with it. But I almost never spring for organic. And in any case, I have to assume that even the local stuff in the grocery store is primarily sourced from large corporate farms.
I am mostly able to sidestep the issue of factory livestock because Iâ€™ve made the personal decision to not eat meat or poultry. Jak is happy enough to have someone else do all the shopping and cooking that he doesnâ€™t mind the dietary restriction. So we are contributing far less to the problem than most Americans do.
But there are exceptions. Two glaring and constant exceptions, in fact, plus a couple of occasional deviations.
- Most of the eggs we eat are factory-farmed. This bothers me, but I canâ€™t justify a 500% price increase in a staple food, quite aside from the additional time and difficulty of acquiring them. I am looking for alternatives at a lower price point. Even though I donâ€™t see myself ever keeping chickens, I am cheering on every backyard coop in the city, because the more people I know with too many eggs, the better my chances. I will barter. I would pay double to get ethical eggs, maybe more. But so far, it hasnâ€™t been a consistent option.
- I feed my dog and cats kibble made with factory-farmed poultry. I already pay extra to get kibble that isnâ€™t primarily grain and filler, for health reasons. That means more meat, and I am under no illusions that the meat had a tolerable life. Even when I was splurging on a part-raw diet, I chose the cheaper â€˜conventionally-raisedâ€™ poultry over the free-range organic. Because $1000 a year in food for one medium dog is just too much for us.
- Now that I no longer buy the professionally-mixed raw dog food, I occasionally will buy a cheap package of chicken wings to supplement Tessaâ€™s diet, out of concern that she doesnâ€™t get enough protein from the kibble alone. Once in a blue moon Iâ€™ll buy Jak turkey lunchmeat from the deli if itâ€™s on sale. I have no excuse for that except that itâ€™s a nice treat for him. I draw the line at mammals — no bacon in this house. But yeah, some of our grocery dollars go to support mistreated birds.
I think about this every single time I buy any of the above things. I never stop thinking about it — questioning my decisions, considering different sacrifices, looking for ways to move my financial support away from a practice I believe is wrong … without skyrocketing our cost.
I have some longer-term ideas for change. Itâ€™s an evolutionary process.
Do you compromise your budget for your beliefs, or the other way around? Or have you figured out a way to honor both?