September 1, 2014

Rebel with a Cause: Foodie Elitism

How should we respond when we’re called elitists because we buy more expensive, local food?

By Joel Salatin • Photographs by Molly McDonald Peterson

© Molly McDonald Peterson

Because high-quality local food often carries a higher price tag than food generated by the industrial system, the charge of elitism coming from industrial foodists is often vitriolic, and embarrassed foodies agonize over the label. For all their positive energy surrounding food, I’ve found latent guilt among this group—guilt for paying more for local food when others are starving, guilt for caring about taste when others would happily eat anything. Instead of cowering in self-guilt, let’s confront the issue of prices head on.

Why It’s Worth It

First, it’s better food. It tastes better. It handles better. And it’s safer: Anyone buying chemicalized, drug-infused food is engaging in risky behavior.

It’s also nutritionally superior. For those willing to see, scientific data shows fresh foods’ conjugated linoleic acid, vitamins, minerals, brix readings, omega 3–omega 6 ratios, and polyunsaturated fat profiles are empirically superior.

Better stuff is worth more.

Second, economies of scale will continue to progress as more people patronize local food, which will bring prices down. The collaborative aggregation and distribution networks that have been fine-tuned by mega-food companies can and will be duplicated locally as volume increases and regional food systems get more creative.

Third, eating unprocessed foods is the best way to bring down your grocery bill, regardless of where the food originated. A 10-pound bag of potatoes costs the same as a 1-pound bag of potato chips. Cultivating domestic culinary arts and actually reinhabiting our kitchens—which we’ve remodeled and gadgetized at great cost—can wean all of us away from expensive processed food. A whole pound of our farm’s grass-finished ground beef, which can feed four adults, costs about the same as a Happy Meal. (And guess which one is more healthful?)

Fourth, non-scalable government regulations—which are designed to protect eaters from the dangers inherent in the industrial food complex but are not relevant in a transparent, regional food system—inordinately discriminate against smaller processing businesses like abattoirs, kitchens, and canneries, because the costs of complying with the (inappropriate) paperwork and infrastructure requirements cannot be spread out over a large volume of product. These regulations lead to price prejudice at the community-based scale: Small processors are at a disadvantage because they must pass those costs on to consumers, making their products more expensive than the mass-produced ones. These burdensome regulations also discourage entrepreneurs from entering local food commerce.

Fifth, unlike huge, single-crop or single-animal farms, diversified farms like ours do not receive government subsidies. Nor do the production, processing, and marketing of our food create collateral damage like that caused by factory farming—damage left for taxpayers to fix. Subsidies and government clean-up measures are not included in the price you pay for processed food at the grocery store, but if they were, local food would not seem so expensive in comparison.

Consider the Rhode Island–sized area in the Gulf of Mexico now known as a “dead zone” because nothing can survive in the oxygen-starved water, a result of manure and pesticide runoff. Who pays for the clean up and the reversal efforts? Who pays to address antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria like MRSA, caused by the overuse of antibiotics in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations)? Who pays to treat people with Type II diabetes, which they get from consuming processed food that is sold cheaply because the corporations making it have received subsidies? Who pays to clean up stinky rural neighborhoods with densely populated poultry and livestock compounds? And what is the value of the land irreversibly damaged by bad farming practices?

Sixth—and this is where I wanted to head with this discussion—plenty of money already exists in our economic system to pay for good food. Can you think of anything people buy that they don’t need? Tobacco products, $100 designer jeans with holes already in the knees, KFC, soft drinks made with high fructose corn syrup, Disney vacations, large-screen TVs, jarred baby food? America spends more on veterinary care for pets than the entire continent of Africa spends on medical care for humans.

I won’t belabor the point, but if you took all the money people spend on unnecessary baubles and junk food, it would be enough for everyone to eat like kings. We could all be elitists.

With that money, we could create a suburb of Lake Wobegon, where all the people eat food that is above average. Almost everyone I know who owns a community supported agriculture (CSA) share could afford to purchase an extra one for an impoverished family. And if you had to give up a few $4 lattes to do it? What a pity.

Spare Change?

This winter, the Front Range Permaculture Institute invited me to come to Fort Collins, Colorado, and give a speech at a fundraising event. They filled a huge community theater with people, and ticket sales were enough to pay my travel and honorarium—with enough left over to buy 40 CSA shares for poor families in their community. What a wonderfully empowering local effort. (They didn’t wait for a government program.) Perhaps nothing would reduce perceptions of elitism faster than foodies buying CSA shares for impoverished families.

At the risk of sounding uncharitable, I think we need to quit being victims and bring about change ourselves. Don’t complain about being unable to afford high-quality local food when your grocery cart is full of beer, cigarettes, and People magazine. Most people are more connected to the celebrities in People than the food that will become flesh of their flesh and bone of their bones at the next meal.

The other day I saw precooked bacon in a box at the supermarket—for $30 a pound. Do we really have to buy precooked bacon? If you took the average shopping cart in the checkout line and tossed out all the processed food—everything with an ingredient you can’t pronounce, everything you can’t re-create in your kitchen, and everything that won’t rot—and substituted instead locally sourced, fresh items, you would be dollars ahead and immensely healthier.

We can all do better. If we can find money for movies, ski trips, and recreational cruises, surely we can find the money to purchase integrity food. The fact is that most of us scrounge together enough pennies to fund the passion of our hearts. If we would cultivate a passion for food like the one we’ve cultivated for clothes, cars, and entertainment, perhaps we would ultimately live healthier, happier lives.

Embracing Elitism

To suggest that advocating for such a change makes me an elitist is to disparage positive decision making and behavior. Indeed, if that’s elitism, I want it. The victim mentality our culture encourages actually induces guilt among people making progress. That’s crazy. We should applaud positive behavior and encourage others to follow suit, not demonize and discourage it. Would it be better to applaud people who buy amalgamated, reconstituted, fumigated, irradiated, genetically modified industrial garbage?

The charge of elitism is both unfair and silly. We foodies are cultural change agents, positive innovators, integrity seekers. So hold your head high and don’t apologize for making noble decisions.

Internationally acclaimed farmer, conference speaker, and author Joel Salatin and his family operate Polyface Farms in Augusta County near Staunton, Virginia, producing and direct marketing “salad bar” beef, “pigaerator” pork, and pastured poultry. He is also co-owner of T&E Meats in Harrisonburg.

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  1. What an amazing article! Joel Salatin does it again and I’m once again reminded why he is one of my heros!

  2. Carri Craver says:

    The world needs more people like you, Joel. You are spot on in everything in this article. The insult food elitist is so insulting and disturbing. Just b/c someone does not want to consume complete garbage, does not make them an elitist.

  3. Marie says:

    Thank you Mr. Salatin. I was beginning to feel like a food elitist, especially when I sit down to a restaurant meal or one prepared by friends or family who do not buy ‘clean’ food. I find your article truthful and encouraging. By the way, I also want to thank you for living out what I believe to be your purpose on this planet at this time. You have a calling, and you have answered it.

  4. Hank, an uprooted Yankee says:

    Be careful dude, methinks your drinking your own kool aid!

  5. Eric says:

    Thanks for the thought-provoking piece, Joel. I’d like to add a couple of things to consider alongside the excellent points you’ve made. For one, critiques of alternative approaches to food provision don’t come solely from industrial foodists, but also from commentators who believe in the value of alternative approaches but want to see the benefits thereof made more accessible to everyone in our society, not just those who are better off. The challenges of incorporating an explicit commitment to social justice are well-known by most folks who are engaged in alternative approaches, as attested to by the fact that many organizations are taking steps to meet these challenges. These ongoing efforts should be encouraged, not minimized by adopting a defensive stance towards critiques that are often constructive and right on. Second, your editorial touches on the issues of subsidies and regulations, but seemingly only as a defense against charges of elitism. Decisions made at the level of policy and legislation need to be critiqued as fundamental aspects of our current, problematic mainstream system of food provision, and we need to demand that our elected officials address these issues. In other words, “voting with your dollars” by buying local carrots is not, by itself, enough to effect the kinds of changes we need. Third, while we might all benefit by pausing to think about which of our expenditures are and are not “necessary”, I suggest that food advocates steer clear of judgmental, moralizing lists of “unnecessary” products. Clearly there is no universal standard on such a question, not to mention that this kind of stance fails to take into account the many factors (upbringing, education, advertising, pressure from friends and co-workers, etc) that undoubtedly effect our consumption decisions. Fourth, while your points about economies of scale and regional food systems adopting aspects of models developed by agribusiness giants has its merits, we should be aware of the potential for co-optation of local/organic/fair trade/slow/etc discourses by these very mega-corporations that already reap the benefits of economies of scale and sophisticated distributions networks.

    In short, I’m saying I agree with just about everything you’ve said, but let’s keep working towards a more just, sustainable future by taking seriously the quite substantive elements of some critiques of alternative approaches.

  6. Patricia says:

    I totally agree with Eric. The local and seasonal food movement is worthless if it doesn’t also carry a large component of social justice and activism.

  7. Jen says:

    A spot on comment Eric, and eloquently stated.

  8. I never thought of myself as an elitist, but hey I am ok with the label. The big difference between us and the social/political type of elitists is that we don’t think we are better than everybody else, we are simply making some better choices when it come to what we put in our bodies. Maybe I need to start acting like a food snob. :-)

  9. Joan Smith says:

    While I may not agree with the “Social Justice” position, I think the government ought to end agriculture subsidies so the playing field can be more level. I am definitely a food snob and proud of it – yesterday I realized my breakfast consisted of bread, butter and jam, all homemade and cheese that I buy from a local raw-milk farm. When people start looking at me cross-eyed while I talk about CSA’s, local, grass-fed and free range meat and raw milk, I just say,

    “Hey, I figure I can spend money on food or on medicine!”

  10. Holly says:

    “plenty of money already exists in our economic system to pay for good food.” Sure. But it’s not necessarily in the hands of those who need it to buy better food. This article is certainly not going to make the charge of elitism go away.

  11. Cycling Chef says:

    Here, here! I tell my friends who say they can’t afford organic that if they cut just one or two restaurant meals a month, they would have more than enough money to purchase healthy foods. Hooray for CSAs!

    • Marcy says:

      And for those of us who don’t eat out twice a month? Or even once a month? What then? My family doesn’t patron the local Starbucks, have cable, go to the movies, or have a subscription to People (or any other magazine or movie service). I bike to the library to save on gas$ and entertainment$, and most days we sweat it out with the AC off. I could cut out my son’s music lessons….good idea? I haven’t been able to bring myself to do that. I do bake all my family’s bread froms scratch (always whole grain of course) and prepare meals almost exclusively with whole recognizable fresh ingredients….which anyone who knows better knows is cheaper in the short- and long-run compared to junky pre-packaged and processed food. I get local and/or organic foods when I can, but that’s a rare priveledge. ‘Helpful’ cost-cutting advice pointing out how simple it is to be able to afford local or organic feels alienating and flippant to many of us who know better but always can’t pay better.

      • Marcy, I think in situations like this, it comes down to doing. I completely understand your situation and yet know how risky it can be to feed my children anything less than locally raised pastured meat, dairy and eggs. The hormones and antibiotics can affect their development as well as their immunity. Since it can be difficult to afford many of these things at “conventional” grocery stores I grow my own vegetables at our local community garden and raise my own backyard urban chickens for meat and eggs. I also am a part of a local Weston Price Foundation Group in town. I take part in local buy in’s…, I buy in bulk directly from my farmer whom I’ve formed relationships with. Like in the olden days, I barter! A website for a half side of grass fed beef. You can’t beat that! These are the perks of not just buying organic, but becoming a part of a community, forming lasting relationships with your local farmers, meeting other like-minded people who can share tips on cost saving techniques. Also, shop at your local farmers market and get to know those farmers as well. I’ve formed great relationships with my local farmers. Whenever they have extra produce, they save it for me and slash the prices! It’s a step by step process which can seem overwhelming but it takes time. I started with a simple backyard garden, moved to a community garden where I have met countless people living a local and diy life! Once you start canning and preserving, the supermarket will be a distant memory :)

  12. What a fought provoking and informative article, thank you for sharing!

  13. MC says:

    I am a huge supporter of buying organic and buying local. You had me up until the part where you lump in veterinary care for pets with your list of “unnecessary baubles and junk food.” That’s too bad, because you diluted your argument considerably. How does valuing an animal’s health conflict with making better food choices? How is it the eqivalent of buying KFC?

  14. cat delett says:

    This post makes some really spot on points. Thanks for writing it, Joel Salatin.

  15. Srib says:

    This article is written by an incredibly privileged individual who is apparently unable to see that the 40 to 50 million people in America who live below or near the poverty line are unable to sacrifice luxuries like ski trips, $100 jeans, $30-per-pound pre-cooked bacon because, and follow me here, they don’t actually own those luxuries. Organic and locally produced food it also one of those luxuries. Swapping luxuries isn’t going to get where you want to go in terms of covering the people who could most benefit from increased nutrition of organic foods, Widespread shortage of simple supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores is a serious and pressing concern in improvised areas and Mr. Salatin is gibbering about sacrificing precooked bacon. In an article nominally about elitism. Mr. Salatin is so incredibly disconnected from actual issue facing many Americans that I am tempted to think this article is an a bad punch line to an elaborate joke no one wanted to hear in the first place.

    • There are affordable alternatives says:

      Precooked bacon aside, there is wonderful work by a Raleigh, NC woman Linda Watson,
      She has devised healthy “green” menus using tons of fresh fruits and vegetables, some organic – for less than the cost of the daily food stamp allowance. Check it out! Amazing stuff, wish it was more widespread and known.

      • Srib says:

        Oh, I don’t doubt for an instant that there are healthy alternatives to a fast food lifestyle that are affordable to people who live below the poverty line (assuming, of course, they have access to a supermarket-style store which sells vegetables and fruit and are not forced to purchase the bulk of their groceries from a gas station). I merely mean to point out that purchasing organic, locally grown, heirloom vegetables from the local down-funk bohemian farmers’ market is not an option for a good number of people. That is a fantastic luxury that can’t be purchased by people who are shopping for dried rice and cans of meat at the Wal-Mart Supercenter with an EBT card.

        This article is boils down to “Let them eat cake.” Salatin is making the same argument as a princess in an apocryphal story used to justify the wholesale guillotining of French royalty.

        • Jasia Steinmetz says:

          I am surprised when many characterize farmers’ markets as some yuppy, expensive, bohemian almost “bauble” in a community. Farmers’ markets and farm stands around the country are simple tables with people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, with dirt under their nails as common denominator. The long history of farmers’ markets as the place to get quality, affordable food has not changed. We recently did a survey of farmers’ market prices and the local stores, including Walmart and found the farmers’ market was a better deal by far. While this may not be good news for our farmers who struggle to make a living, it is very affordable for the customers. Many markets are making EBT terminals available to take advantage of these savings. There is also alot of ingenuity in bringing markets to all neighborhoods, including low income. We have a small truck that brings produce to our northern counties where the growing season is short and grocery stores far away. If everyone supports the farmers, then the farmers will be around for all income levels. When farmers can sell abundantly, they can pass those prices to their customers. The solution to having good food available to low income it so to support this with local government policy, activism with federal policy (Farm Bill, Child Nutrition Act) and community action.

      • rosel says:

        I looked through her menus. I think we’d be hungry at the end of the day. Yes she uses “tons” of fresh fruits and vegetables, but knowing the cost of (non-organic) produce in the stores near me, I think the portion sizes must be skimpy.

  16. Thank you for explaining it all so articulately. I get this question a lot. I agree that the process of change can come with an increased price tag – it is a temporary situation. But I also know from my personal experience that it does not even have to more expensive during the transition phase, since growing some of your own food, trading with neighbors, joining farms offering CSA shares, buying in bulk, eating less meat, eating more whole foods and cooking more, all contribute to cost savings. And that’s before the greatly reduced health care bills! As soon as you look at the big picture, eating local whole foods actually costs less… I’d even say, much less.

  17. Poor People Everywhere says:

    That’s great. Good for you that you have a choice white man.

  18. Let me share a scene from my local farmer’s market, which is in a part of town that borders on both prosperous and lower income areas. We are at Alvarez Farm’s stand. They grow some of the most beautiful potatoes and all types of peppers you could ever hope to find.

    A pair of older Ethiopian Muslim women (educated guess, knowing my neighborhood, but could be Eritrean or from some other country) has just filled up a small produce bag of lovely little creamer potatoes. They go to checkout, and the guy from Alvarez tells them it will be $20. They are in shock. They ask like 4 times because they simple can’t believe that 4 or 5 pounds of potatoes could be $20.

    To me, this is sad, and where the argument in this article falls down a little. Now of course I don’t know, maybe these women do have a house full of People and smokes. Kinda doubt it though. They just wanted to buy some nice potatoes, and couldn’t remotely afford to pay for them. The Alvarez guys have every right to earn a fair price for their food though! Nobody was wrong here, but there was also no way for them to get that good food.

    I’d love to see more discussion of how we can make high quality, local agriculture work for everyone.

  19. Barb Brindza says:

    So when the rotten corrupt FDA lets the market flood with GMO salmon, the people who buy it
    will be engaging in risky behaviour according to your philosophy? Sorry, but that is blaming
    the victim especially when wild salmon is just not available unless you live on the West
    Coast. And when nutritionists and doctors go on and on about how gmo foods and industrialized
    produce are nutritionally equivalent, I really question that they can be blamed for making
    the choices their budget allows.

    • Jack says:

      This is the issue that has not been mentioned. Food lobbyists are one of the largest lobby groups in our government. They have a hand in how the FDA rules. The GMO products are NOT nutritionally equal. The GMO products are force grown in soils that are likely nutrient deficient because the GMOs will grow faster and produce more money. Do the diligence and look outside what the FDA and nutritionists say. The people who are buying into a genetically modified fish or meat and claim it is some omega 3 silver bullet is complete lunacy. Fish is built to grow fast from less food. The feed is in pellet form and is built to mimic the nutrition levels a salmon would normally get in its naturally carnivorous diet. It should be well known that you get more and better Vitamin C absorption when you eat Vit-C rich foods, NOT pill supplements. This is the main difference, Salmon farmers are just using the Omega-3 claim on fish that is in all likely hood inferior. Make your own informed decisions and take the first answer as law. It is not a case of blaming the victim but that of Buyer Beware. As for Wild Salmon, I would go so far as to say it is BS that it is only available on the West Coast. Living in Ohio and commuting to remote areas of it, I can tell your first hand it is available. Also we should also plug the Internet as one of the most useful and under rated ways to purchase high quality food.

  20. Julie says:

    “Can you think of anything people buy that they don’t need?”

    This is where you completely lose me. My husband and I try to buy as much local stuff as we can afford to, we’re lucky to have a two income household without any kids, but we still can’t be perfect. And we don’t waste our money. We, like most people, have to find a balance in our life between savings, food and shelter, and our small list of wants. You completely alienate a whole group of people who would be sympathetic to your view when you start judging them for not spending enough of their budget or time on organic food. Why not encourage people to do as much as they can to help their local farmers, and in turn helping their whole regional economy? I support the idea of local food wholeheartedly, but when you make your argument in this narrow, judgmental way, you’re not going to get many converts.

  21. Kai says:

    What about encouraging people to grow their OWN organic food? Container gardens on balconies, small plots in the yard, community gardening? Why is this not a solution to the elitist label? Sure, it might not feed a whole family, but every little bit helps. In our area there is a volunteer group that builds raised beds for low-income people/families, fills them with good soil & compost and then assigns a mentor to the owner for the season to teach them how to garden. Sustainability isn’t always about buying power and you can’t get any more local than your back door.

  22. Lori says:

    Thanks for writing from the heart. Growing, buying and eating locally produced food and canning/preserving for the winter was pretty much the ONLY way to eat in rural South Dakota back when my grandparents lived on their farms. Trying to get back to some of the ways they did things (not just food but the other practical things they did, like recycling–which they did to save and even make a little money) isn’t elitist to me. For me it’s honoring what the people who came before me knew better than me–that we lose something vitally important when we let go of knowing and caring about where our food comes from and that food from afar is a special, sometimes once-in-a-lifetime treat, not something we should expect every day. Both grandma’s remember the one or two Christmases that they got an orange as a gift and thought it was the most amazing thing ever dropped to the earth for them by Santa Claus.

    I don’t spend much time worrying about the label elitest (or other labels) being tossed at me by people who don’t know me. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause (Gandhi said that, not me). Keep the faith in what you’re here to do. Listen to nearby others who are close enough to see your intent. They know you and will let you know if you do something annoying. It’s the nearby and close-to-us voices that matter most!

    • Karen G says:

      The nearby and close-to-us voices are often saying what we want to hear. If that’s all we listen to, then we become narrow and small minded very quickly. This is when the charges of elitism and intolerence become justified.

  23. Emma says:

    Good article. We spend way less of our disposable income on food, as a nation, than anyone else, which is a pretty messed up way to live. Plus, come on, it costs us far more to treat people who get sick from dirty eggs than it would for us to have a safe, clean, sustainable food system. Or systems, I guess, since the creepy, centralized mega-model clearly doesn’t work.

    Plus, I’m getting really sick of all the meaningless cries of elitism. Working for the betterment of society doesn’t make me an elitist; it makes me an activist.

  24. Sarah Diligenti says:

    Nice to read such an excellent article by the very guy from whom I buy all my meat! This was a very voluntary counscious choice: if I have to feed my family meat (they love meat, I less so), I want to make sure that what I cook and put in their plate is not going to kill them. Also, they were so able to make the “taste test”, that is to say, to notice the difference, that they much prefer eating less but of the best, than stuffing themselves with any old crap.
    Thanks Joe Salatin for yummy Polyface Farm!

  25. Hopefully as the small family farm makes a comeback via the surge in demand for profitable and sustainable organically grown food, everyone will have access to clean produce and be able to afford it. Our motto: if you can afford to buy it, it’s not health food. We do everything we can to make local and organic affordable. Drop in to see us the next time you are out this way!

  26. Scott Smith says:

    The fascistic industrial food barons cannot abide those who choose to step off their agrichemically-infused conveyor belt-driven ways. Let them cry “elitist” whilst I enjoy my healthy untainted food and respond thus, “eat your own food and leave me alone.”

  27. Scott Smith says:

    A simple and practical way to lower the cost of food is growing your own. It doesn’t even take a plot of land for those living in an apartment or condo. Buy a bag of organic compost and lay in front of a window. Slit the bag lengthwise and spread it open. Viola! Instant planting bed. Sow your lettuce and spinach and let the “feeding yourself process” begin!

  28. Andy Scheurer says:

    Some people are missing the point…

    It is up to those that can afford these foods and are willing to take extra time and steps to procure, demand, and buy them. This, in turn, increases demand and supply while driving down prices making them more accessible for everyone.

    Salatin recognizes the problems with poverty and hunger in America, frankly much better than most. He recognizes that our industrial food system is part of the problem!

    We all have a choice, but it IS up to the most privileged to take the first steps.

  29. JJ says:

    Amen! Great article Joel :-)

  30. Janet says:

    This essay kind of proved the point. Poor or struggling Americans are NOT taking ski trips or the other examples used as proof that “oh you TOTALLY can afford it! you just choose NOT to” is really what is going on here.

    That there was a focus on that argument, that of wealthy and middle class persons of privledge, shows that this indeed is a class/elite way of thinking. Those who are buying precooked bacon with foodstamps because they can’t pay their gas bill should be given a long hard thought.

  31. Willem says:

    “-Joel’s honorarium is $4,000 plus expenses for nonprofits, publicly-sponsored seminars, sustainable agriculture groups/businesses, and educational organizations. His honorarium is $7,000 plus expenses for corporate and for-profit business and organizations, including non-agricultural trade associations. Polyface reserves the right to determine the venue category. If your organization requires a signed contract, please add $1,000 to pay for the added secretarial and bureaucratic paperwork.
    -Daniel’s honorarium is $2,000 plus expenses per engagement.
    -The honorarium is the same whether it is a 30-minute presentation or an all-day seminar.
    -Expenses include travel, meals, lodging, and parking fees.
    -We reserve the right to negotiate concessions to these terms per our discretion.
    -Normally the hosting organization sells our books on consignment with a commission.”

    I see 26 talks on Joel’s calendar between now and December 2011. That works out to between $104,000 and $182,000 for speaking engagements. Not too shabby.

  32. Nick says:

    Sadly the article itself is élitist because it totally fails to address the issue of people who simply can’t afford to pay more for good food.

    As an example, we like to use organic produce (and if it’s locally produced, so much the better). But as a family on a tight budget we often can’t afford the luxury and have to settle for cheaper alternatives.

    Consider, too, a family living in (say) a trailer with very little money and only the most basic cooking facilities. Nice organic, locally produced joint of beef? Can’t afford it and it wouldn’t fit in the oven that they don’t have. Sadly it’s cheaper for them to go to Macdonald’s for breakfast, dinner and tea.

    Those are the real issues that have to be addressed, not whether well-fed middle class noses are being put out of joint.



  33. Bekah says:

    Ok, here it goes! This article was obviously aimed at mosly average middle class families who feel that eating well is snobbery. A lot of folks in my family feel that way, but would never turn down free garden produce or my jams. These people have simply not made healthy food a priority. My fiancée and I make less combined than most of our family members make individually, but we opt out of things like cable and high speed Internet service (we have only one net acessable cell phone.) and yet we always seem to have an abundance?! Don’t tell me that the poor cannot access good food! Garden seed is covered by food stamps and WIC programs. The farmers market I sell at is run by the local WIC office! I live in an incredibly impoverished town and I know many, many people who while on public assistance still have the latest tech gadgets, cable or sattelite, and the latest food “product”. If I’m feeling the pinch money wise I find a way to make more money, ie. baking bread, pies, jam, preserves, etc. to sell! I even buy expensive fancy unadulterated cream to make my own butter and that’s a big seller! You can even flavor and shape it pretty. I just don’t understand how with all the opportunities out there people still can’t eat well. I know a lot of food stamp recipients will even barter with their food stamp card for cash, say “give me $20 cash and I’ll let you buy $30 worth of groceries on my card”. I know that some people truely need and properly use these privilages, but around here anyway I’d say the majority do not.
    I refuse to be made to feel like I don’t care about others because I work hard
    for the food I produce and pay others fair prices for the food I do not! I know that many farmers would be glad of extra help on butchering days, planting and picking days, etc. and would gladly give you meat or produce in return for pulling your weight, there are even work csa arabgements if you are serious about getting good food. The opportunities are there go find them!

  34. claire says:

    I’ve been reading all the comments and trackbacks from the Joel Salatin article and it never ceases to amaze me how much vitriol people spout over some perceived judgement regarding their own choices.

    Unless you are rich, and I’m not, there is only the will to make healthy choices. I personally struggle to keep a small business afloat and give local people jobs in my community. I have no health insurance. I rent. I’m a poster child for “too poor to afford organic”

    Well I may have made choices that limit my wealth, but I exercise my will by learning how to cook. My will is choosing to learn to preserve and not waste food. My will is learning how to grow food in a community garden. My will is to eat less but better meat. I want to feel good and eat good tasting stuff. I’m not waiting until I’m rich. I’m figuring out how to do it now. Judge that as elitist. The difference here is we can all choose to build our skill set in this area. If you choose not to find a way that is up to you. I’m not judging or patronizing anyone’s choices, however I should be able to make mine without the label.

  35. Dan says:

    This is a great piece on why buying better food isn’t elitist, any more than buying a more expensive car (with additional safety features) is elitist.

    It all comes back to the fact that food today is artificially cheap, due to economic externalities.


  1. [...] one complaint I hear most about good food is that it is too expensive and is only available to the wealthy people.  I disagree with this, I think it’s just a [...]

  2. [...] do you think?  Read his entire article and join in the [...]

  3. Raw Rag™ says:

    Watch an 11-year-old boy give an excellent (and very short) talk about what’s wrong with our food system…

    This video “What’s Wrong With Our Food System? And How Can We Make A Difference?” filmed at TEDx in Asheville is only a wee bit over 5 minutes, yet Birke Baehr presents a lot of thought-provoking information. And he is occasionally humorous. Bonuses…

  4. [...] on the topic of “food elitism” by Joel Salatin. The whole article (it’s short) is here, but the main point is in this [...]

  5. [...] The lowdown on foodie elitism [...]

  6. [...] In this article, “Foodie Elitism”, the well-known sustainable farmer Joel Salatin takes that accusation on directly, and shows the many ways in which it is wanting. [...]

  7. [...] McWilliams defended Pollan’s stance in the midst of the resulting public outcry. Joel Salatin deconstructed the “foodie elitism” label and tried to allay the guilt of consumers who pay higher [...]

  8. [...] Great essay on foodie elitism and another about the egg recall by Joel Salatin (farmer featured in Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma) [...]

  9. [...] They are slightly unrelated though related just the same and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on them but mostly just pass them on to those who might enjoy them or be interested in the topic. I know the whole ‘food’ thing isn’t something everyone is interested in. However I personally believe it is an EXTREMELY issue. Where our food comes from, how what we choose to eat can have a very big impact not only on our lifestyle, our health but also on the greater community. Joel Salatin wrote a very interesting article about ‘food elitism” that I found to be very compelling, arguing why paying more for locally grown produce or organic produce, etc etc is important and not crazy, but in fact the sane thing to do. You can read that article here. [...]

  10. [...] think of how we waste money in our lives.” More recently, he tweeted approvingly a link to a column in which Joel Salatin countered charges of foodie elitism, saying “Don’t complain about [...]

  11. [...] a moment to reflect on all the luxury items that we have deemed necessary in our everyday lives. Flavor Magazine took on this exact question this summer and listed out the following: Tobacco products, $100 designer jeans with holes already in the [...]

  12. [...] a moment to reflect on all the luxury items that we have deemed necessary in our everyday lives. Flavor Magazine took on this exact question this summer and listed out the following: Tobacco products, $100 designer jeans with holes already in the [...]

  13. [...] argument for Foodie Elitism by that crazy awesome farmer you were introduced to in Food, [...]

  14. [...] ethically and responsibly makes you an elitist”? (For half of a response, read Joel Salatin’s article about the idiocy of local food elitism [...]

  15. [...] brings up some interesting issues, at least for me. The charge continues to be laid–and answered–that the SOLE movement and its near cousin the “foodie” movement are elitist, [...]

  16. [...] Rebel with a Cause: Foodie Elitism. Share:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  17. [...] more on food elitism, from a farmer’s point of view, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms wrote this article a while [...]

  18. [...] food available. But maybe if as a nation we began prioritizing our families’ food budget over big-screen TVs and McDonald’s happy meals and didn’t equate caring about food quality with snobbish “elitism”, then perhaps food [...]

  19. [...] food available. But maybe if as a nation we began prioritizing our families’ food budget over big-screen TVs and McDonald’s happy meals and didn’t equate caring about food quality with snobbish “elitism”, then we could reach a [...]

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