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Decisions, decisions

(article, Kim Carlson)

Daniel Gross, writing irreverently on Slate recently about the high cost of prized ingredients — think Scottish smoked salmon, Turkish pistachios, and Etorki, a sheep's milk cheese — told this anecdote:

bq.Over the weekend, as I sat in the well-appointed kitchen of a double-income family whose annual earnings run deep into the six figures, my host proclaimed, with exasperation, that $4 for a dozen organic eggs was simply too much. She was switching back to conventional eggs; chemicals be damned.

Now there are apparently some colossal differences between this particular woman and me, but I have, like her — like everyone lately — felt the frustration of rising food costs. I hate paying a dollar more for a loaf of bread than I did six months ago, or $20 per pound for wild salmon. 

[%image reference-image float=right width=350 caption="How much do you pay for eggs?"]

But eggs? I don't waffle much about whether I should buy the organic version from pastured chickens when I have the opportunity to do so, which usually I do, every Saturday at the farmers' market. 

To borrow that famous line from Nike, I just do it — and actually they cost $5.50 a dozen. I don't do it mindlessly, or without wishing the eggs cost less. But once you stop and taste the deep yellow yolk of one of these eggs and think about their source, it's hard to go back to the pale, conventional version from battery hens. 

Even if they are a third of the cost.

Michael Pollan, speaking in March at Google, addressed this very issue of expensive eggs. (Scroll ahead to about 43:45 to hear that part of the talk.)

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"Two eggs look alike," he says, "But \[eggs from conventionally raised chickens and eggs from pastured chickens are\] completely different foods. When you taste it, you'll know."

In fact, Pollan's example eggs cost $6 a dozen. But, as he says, if you have two of them for breakfast, that's a dollar. How many of us spend a good deal more than a dollar on a breakfast bar or a muffin from the deli? I do occasionally; just yesterday I bought a pain au chocolat for $2.15, and it was delicious, if not nearly as good for me as the eggs would have been.

Pollan's point, which he's repeated often since the release of his book In Defense of Food, is that we need to spend either more money (hence my eggs) or more time (hence [/mix/dinnerguest?author=1060 "Caroline's chickens"]) on good food if we can afford to do so. The idea is that by demanding organic food or other food that's sustainably raised, we'll eventually help bring costs in line with those of conventionally raised ingredients and thus make the higher-quality food more affordable for everyone.

Despite rising food costs, I will try to do that. I feel pretty adamant about it, in fact.

But everything is a trade-off. Recently, I entertained the idea of upgrading our cable package specifically so that we could watch the Food Network. Occasionally I might like to tune into Giada and Jamie Oliver and one of my real-life food heroes, Ina Garten. 

So, I called Comcast to ask how much it would cost to add fancy cable on to the basic cable we already have. The answer? Forty-five extra dollars a month. Which adds up to a cool $540 a year. 

In the end, I decided not to increase our cable. With $540, I could buy 1,000 eggs from pastured hens, and occasionally throw some line-caught salmon in my shopping basket too.

But it's pretty easy (borrowing from Nancy Reagan now) to just say no; I've never had Food Network and so don't have to go cold turkey, unlike some others out there.

I mean, it's not as if someone tried to take away my organic eggs.

reference-image, l