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Have your local consumption been influenced by The Omnivore's Dilemma?

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nasilemak Oct 16, 2007 07:16 AM

I have been wondering if local Chowhounders have switched or considered changing their shopping and or consumption practices after reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.
I have been buying more from local organic farmers as a result and avoiding more of the regular chain supermarkets.
Does anyone have an opinion of the chicken store right in Chinatown? Thanks in advance.

  1. rubysdad Oct 17, 2007 03:02 PM

    I now conspire to make a visit to Blood Farm part of my normal business rounds, and try to carry a cooler in the car to store purchases. The Farm School (Athol, MA) CSA delivers to the Arsenal Mall office park, which is convenient for The Queen to pick up and we're happy with the quality of their produce. Am trying also to "pass" on mass produced and cruelly raised pork-- the folks at Blood's in Groton provided us with a lovely little (102lb) pig which roasted up rather favorably, as y'all can see below...

     
    1. SeaSide Tomato Oct 16, 2007 09:46 PM

      OD absolutely changed the way I choose my foods. I always used Farmer's markets when I could--now it's my priority to do that. Since I'm on the road a lot for work, I stop at those whenever possible--and my local Quincy FM has just about everything I need.

      OD also inspired me to expand my organic gardening this season which is just ending (boo hoo).

      The biggest thing it's done for me is to change my purchase of animal products. I can live with IMP tomotoes (or even conventional grape tomatoes if I must occasionally) but I can no longer buy conventionally raised meat/poultry. If it wasn't raised humanely I don't want to contribute to the industry, nor eat the poor creature. So I get meats at my local heath food store (Good Health), TJs, WHF and Wild Oats--but only those that I know are organic/humane--or know to the best of my abilities. Farm Raised would be ideal and I was able to get some Stillmans beef last week (still in the freezer), but a CSA has yet to be at all logistically possible for me as of yet--but I'll get there!

      That's grocery shopping--when dining out I try to make the most sensitive choices I can.

      So for me, OD was a real turning point. So much so that now it's become a fine balance between sharing the info with folks (for instance, before I read it, I really did not know--or maybe did not pursue knowing--about the poor pigs with their tails cut off, etc. etc.) and sounding like a zealot who preaches.

      Anyway, I'm glad we have options in the Boston area--wish there were more--and will continue to support those we have as best I can.

      Thanks for raising such a great topic!!

      oh, and of course, it all has to be delicious!!

      1. The Chowhound Team Oct 16, 2007 12:48 PM

        Folks, please help us keep this discussion focused specifically on how/where you can shop in the Boston area. If you'd like to discuss the general topic of how your consumption/shopping practiced have changed (or not) as a result of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, please start a new thread on the General Topics board. Thanks.

        1. Chris VR Oct 16, 2007 12:43 PM

          Absolutely. I read it right after I joined a meat CSA (Houde Family Farm, which delivers to my town, Melrose) and it really reinforced my decision to do that (plus the quality has been phenomenal, and I really enjoy the personal connection to the farmer). I've been a member of Farm Direct Coop for a while now so that takes care of most of my veggie/fruit needs in season. It'll be harder now that we're entering the winter though.

          1. coney with everything Oct 16, 2007 12:09 PM

            I've definitely become more conscious of what I buy as a result of Omnivore and other reading. I shop at the farmers market or roadside stands when I can, and avoid HFCS like the plague that it is. I'm also in the hunt for non-industrial meat, but am still working to convince DH that the extra money is worth it.

            But all these recalls of industrial food are making the case even MORE convincing!

            12 Replies
            1. re: coney with everything
              p
              powella Oct 16, 2007 12:21 PM

              Omnivore really opened our eyes (and, dare I say, ears?) to the whole maddening cycle of corn overproduction in this country. We've never been big corn eaters but this summer I had an even harder time working up an appetite for even the most delicious CSA corn. Looking forward to a new documentary I heard about last week on NPR, I think it's called "King Corn"? That's probably the biggest effect Omnivore's had on us that hasn't already been discussed above.

              1. re: powella
                m
                mrsx Oct 16, 2007 12:37 PM

                FYI "King Corn" opens at the Coolidge Corner Theatre Oct 19th...

              2. re: coney with everything
                g
                ginnyhw Oct 17, 2007 05:43 AM

                I second the non-industrial meat hunt and after the Coolidge Corner Farmer's market closes for the winter I'll have to try to come up with another solution. I have been buying Red Rock beef from them this summer.
                I have trouble with the restaurant options, other than Grille Zone, in the Brookline Allston area. I am always overwhelmed by the amount of packaging that comes out of take-out restaurants, especially the styrofoam containers and now I can't help but wonder where their meat comes from. I doubt if it's from a local CSA.
                Cost factor is huge for small start up restaurants and they are the ones Chowhounds love best. No way am I giving up the lions head meatballs from Shanghai Gate or any of a number of beef dishes from Taqueria Mexico!
                Yes, it is a dilemma.

                1. re: ginnyhw
                  Allstonian Oct 17, 2007 06:05 AM

                  River Rock delivers to Boston-area restaurants and markets such as Lionette's in the South End and City Feed in JP throughout the off-season, and will be happy to deliver an order to you. (My memory is that they come in once a week, maybe Thursday afternoons.)

                  http://www.riverrockfarm.com/

                  1. re: Allstonian
                    g
                    ginnyhw Oct 19, 2007 11:09 AM

                    This is good news, although I hope I can afford a delivery, and we will definitely be going to Blood Farm in early November. Do you know of any similar off season options in the Brookline -Allston area for poultry?
                    We always buy Bell and Evans at Kurkmans or whatever is on sale at WF, but hormone free and humanely raised are two different stories. I would be happier with a local farm. Thanks for your help as always.

                    1. re: ginnyhw
                      Allstonian Oct 19, 2007 11:25 AM

                      No, sadly poultry's been our big sticking point as well. We managed to get one chicken from Aidan of Stillman's Farm, late this summer - got an excellent roast and an even better soup from it (enhanced with some wild rice bought at the Saint Paul farmer's market when visiting my sister in MSP back in July. Boy - the farmer's markets out there put ours to shame!)

                      In the off-season we'll probably be on the B&E bandwagon as well, but I really wish there were a better local option. There were reports on this board about a farm in Concord, but it sounded as though it was very small and already overwhelmed by unexpectedly heavy demand. I think Chip-In in Bedford may also have chickens, although they're primaily egg producers. But there doesn't seem to be any good solution with, say, T access.

                      1. re: Allstonian
                        Chris VR Oct 19, 2007 01:35 PM

                        That would be Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds, at Verrill Farm http://peteandjensbackyardbirds.com

                        Their website says they are sold out for 2007. I'd love to look into it for next year though. I love the pork, veal and beef we're getting from Houde Family Farm but they can't sell chicken in MA, so we just haven't been eating much chicken this year.

                        1. re: Allstonian
                          9
                          9lives Oct 19, 2007 02:57 PM

                          Lionette's..market next to Garden of Eden.. in the SE sells Misty Farms chickens from VT..or ella Farms..very good but pricey; particularly when you're paying for the head and feet. I buy the MF at small markets/farm stands when I go to VT to visit family..

                          For "non local raised," I like Giannone Air Dried at Savenor's or B&E air dried.

                          http://www.lionettesmarket.com/Meat.html

                      2. re: Allstonian
                        g
                        Gabatta Oct 19, 2007 11:43 AM

                        We got an outstanding rib roast from River Rock for Christmas last year.

                        Our of curiosity, is their beef 100% grass fed? From their web site it is not clear.

                        1. re: Gabatta
                          Rubee Oct 19, 2007 12:33 PM

                          Yes, 100% grass fed. I'm a big fan of River Rock as well.

                          1. re: Rubee
                            g
                            Gabatta Oct 19, 2007 01:55 PM

                            Thanks for clarifying, great to know. Strange that they do not make that clear on their site. Nevertheless, the roast was a great hit and though I am eatling much less red meat nowadays, I will be order from River Rock when I do.

                            1. re: Gabatta
                              Rubee Oct 20, 2007 03:44 PM

                              You're right, curious that they don't mention it on their own website (though it is mentioned on others)

                              http://www.eatwild.com/products/massa...

                  2. litchick Oct 16, 2007 11:58 AM

                    Yes, our habits definitely changed. After reading it, we signed up for our first ever CSA -- Three Sisters Farm in Montague, MA. We loved the idea of the CSA, but we didn't love the stuff from 3 Sisters. They were a new farm when we signed up, and their fields and crops weren't really ready for prime time. This summer, we tried to sign up for Brookfield, but we were too late in the game to get a summer share, so I committmed to shopping the Copley Farmer's Market twice a week. In August, a late-summer/fall share came available through Brookfield, and we're now in week 6 with them I think. We have really loved their produce, and have been gratified to learn that the CSA is a good match for us as a concept, even if last summer's experiment didn't really work out so well. Ultimately though, the only reason we can really do this is thanks to the convenience of having a pick-up location very near our house, otherwise there would be too many weeks when we just couldn't make the pick-up in time.

                    We also have been trying to buy more locally raised and butchered pork, chicken, and lamb (we don't eat beef), and have liked what Stillman has had on offer so far. I wish it were easier for us to get to a consistently stocked supplier for these meats. Especially for chicken. Right now, we've switched almost entirely over to the Bell & Evans chicken from Wilson Farms, though when in need of vast quantities (like for bbq parties) we do succumb to the Costco chicken breasts. The packaging is extreme (though very convenient), so I don't feel great about that, but we're on a budget, and just can't afford to shop exclusively for local meats & poultry.

                    And we planted a garden this year, pesticide-free. Not all the harvest worked out (damn squirrels/opossums/skunks and their love of our eggplants) -- the cukes and zukes were a total bust -- but the tomatoes and herbs and peppers were great.

                    We're trying to buy as little processed factory food as possible, and the challenge this winter will be to try hard to limit our purchases of out-of-season, long-distance-travelling produce. It won't cease, but we'll try to reduce.

                    I think probably that book has had a greater effect than anything else on our eating/shopping habits. We were already predisposed in the direction the book pointed towards, we just hadn't made the move and changed our ways.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: litchick
                      i
                      icculus Oct 16, 2007 12:44 PM

                      Absolutely. Pollan's writing was one of several factors that lead my wife and I to give up meat for a while, starting last January. We've made it through bbq and baseball season successfully thus far (hoping for a little more baseball season though). But like Allstonian I'd say it reinforced my existing beliefs about going local. It's not as though I was eating McD's prior to Pollan.

                      It hasn't been as hard as I initially thought it would. We eat a ton of fish, both at home and at restaurants and have been more conscious about buying local and sustainably produced goods. Going to farmer's markets or buying local at Foodie's, WFM, or South End Formaggio was an easy choice to make.

                      Last summer we tried Boston Organics, but weren't happy with the quality or the 'localness' of it (avocados?). Other's have had great luck this year with them according to some posts on this board. We've found the Copley market (Tues and Fri) and the South End Sunday market to be better options for us.

                      As we're approaching the one year mark we've started talking about bringing some meat options back into the mix. I haven't researched much about where to get sustainable meat, but these sort of tenets will act as a guide for making those decisions
                      http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/

                      For seafood I try to make decisions based on this ever-updating resource
                      http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                      And for restaurants... eh, we try but there's not a firehose of eco-conscious choices in the Boston scene yet. Yes Oleana, Lumiere, Rialto, and Craigie St immediately come to mind, but none of them are in the random weeknight quick bite arena.

                      1. re: icculus
                        litchick Oct 16, 2007 07:10 PM

                        Za and EVOO are mostly locally sourced, as is (I believe) The Garden at the Cellar.

                    2. BarmyFotheringayPhipps Oct 16, 2007 09:01 AM

                      I think the book crystallized a lot of Allstonian's thoughts on the subject -- I haven't read it yet -- but I don't know that it specifically has had that much of an effect, because we've been heading in this direction for a long time anyway. We realized this weekend as we were making our last pickup of the season that we've been members of Stillman's CSA for 8 years now, we buy as much of our meat and dairy from local/regional sources as we can, and we were already fairly seasonal eaters. To be fair, all this is as much because we like our food to taste like food as it is for the health and environmental aspects, but that's as good a reason as any!

                      Honestly, so much of the whole "carbon footprint reduction" idea is just common sense when you live in the city. We don't have a car mostly because of parking, insurance, vandalism and hassle issues. We use our own shopping bags just because the ones from Shaws and Stop and Shop break so easily. We use compact fluorescents so we don't have to get out the stepstool and change lightbulbs so often.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                        Bob Dobalina Oct 16, 2007 10:24 AM

                        I joined the Waltham Fields Community Farm CSA (communityfarms.org) a few years ago on that basis - It just made economic sense to get LOADS of fresh veggies for as good if not a better price than the supermarkets. Reason 1A was because you cannot beat the taste of fresh, locally grown veggies. (Just this past Sunday my gf and I had a dinner that incorporated beautiful princess eggplants, kohlrabi, garlic, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and rainbow swiss chard (don't worry - three separate dishes - but all from the past two weeks of deliveries.)

                        For me, that's why the idea behind CSAs will continue to work - as a chowhound, it just makes sense.

                        Of course, I will still go to Russo's to get off-season ripe tomatoes...

                        1. re: Bob Dobalina
                          u
                          uman Oct 16, 2007 10:39 AM

                          I also belong to this CSA in Waltham and love the challenge of trying to use as many of the veggies as possible to make space for the next week's supply. Going to the farm once a week is a great way to get some peace of mind and refuge. I wish I would have joined sooner. Very fresh, very delicious, and frankly, very affordable considering the heap of food -we got 20 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes one Sunday :D

                          1. re: uman
                            Bob Dobalina Oct 16, 2007 10:42 AM

                            I still have about 10 lbs. from that week in my freezer!

                          2. re: Bob Dobalina
                            BarmyFotheringayPhipps Oct 16, 2007 10:56 AM

                            "Of course, I will still go to Russo's to get off-season ripe tomatoes..."

                            That's actually one of my rules, and again, it's primarily from a culinary perspective: I basically just don't eat fresh tomatoes between, say, October and June. It's not gonna be worth it, so why spend the money?

                            We do go to Russo's just about weekly whenever the farmers markets aren't active, though.

                            1. re: Bob Dobalina
                              Allstonian Oct 16, 2007 11:01 AM

                              Funny - we've had consistently poor luck with tomatoes at Russo's, even in season. They rarely look any better to us than the ones at the supermarket, and often even worse.

                              As BFP says above, the book did more to crystallize my thoughts and reinforce beliefs that were already pretty strong for me than to actually change my buying habits, althoug it certainly strengthened my desire to find more locally raised meat and poultry. I don't worry too much about organic vs. conventional - local New England farms are almost by definition small operations, and IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is good enough for me.

                              I've preferred shopping day-to-day according to my mood for most of my adult life; I've shopped local farmer's markets since they first started up in Boston some time in the (late?) 80s. But we have to eat year-round, so we shop Russo's or the supermarkets as well when we have to. We do the best we can but don't make ourselves crazy over it.

                          3. MC Slim JB Oct 16, 2007 08:38 AM

                            Thanks to Pollan and others, I definitely feel more guilt than I used to about my consumption of high-carbon-footprint foods. But I still consume quite a bit of them.

                            I get most of my produce from local Chinese supermarkets, which I don't think are necessarily that eco-friendly, and still buy most meats from chain supermarkets. I haven't been a consumer of many highly-processed foods for years, and I avoid HFCS where I can (is there a cane-sweetened Hines ketchup?) I try to patronize the farmers markets in season, though I often drive to Coolidge Corner rather than using the ones closer to me.

                            I've tried to bring some attention to the efforts of worthy local-food-specialist restaurants like T.W. Food in my freelance food writing.

                            I'd welcome information about CSAs that deliver to the South End.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: MC Slim JB
                              j
                              JRL Oct 16, 2007 09:54 AM

                              I also avoid HFCS where possible. Heinz makes a non-HFCS organic ketchup, which I first saw at Legal Seafoods. It contains, according to the ingredients label, "organic sugar". Whether or not that means cane sugar, (is there any other kind of organic sugar?), at least it's not HFCS.

                            2. u
                              uman Oct 16, 2007 07:55 AM

                              I switched to eating locally after watching the film "The Future of Food". It was a maddening film. I immediately joined a CSA the next day. I started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, but could not finish it for some reason.
                              I haven't heard anything about the Chicken store.

                              1. 9
                                9lives Oct 16, 2007 07:46 AM

                                I haven't really changed my eating habits. I haven't shopped much in supermarkets ever..cept for cat food, and dry goods. I live in the city and buy meat in butcher shops, fish in fish markets, chhese shops and more local when I can..wherever I can find the best quality.

                                I bought a chicken once in that Chinatown mkt. Baked it. It was awful..tough meat. I'm not a chicken expert but someone here said that it might have been due to the way it was handled..pre slaughter. They take it from the cage..and weigh it, hanging it by it's feet. I'm not squeamish and the bird puts on quite a show (Ms 9 left the store)..flapping and struggling. I know if large fish struggle a lot, it adversely affects the flesh..so maybe it's true with chickens (that's why harpooned swordfish is so desirable).

                                I'd try the "fresh killed" again but for a soup..as suggested by a few hounds her

                                I find the chickens at Cmart to be better than the "fresh killed"..based on that 1 experience.

                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396393

                                1. ScubaSteve Oct 16, 2007 07:26 AM

                                  changing? no. if it's good, i'll eat it. if it's organic/sustainable/local etc, so much the better but my primary directive is yumminess.

                                  the chicken store,,,, it smells really bad in the doorway and that's as far as i can get.

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