Finding Balance

My thoughts today kept finding their way to a class I had in college on business ethics.  I minored in entrepreneurship and management.  In the class we read case studies and examined the choices that businesses made.  One case was for a major car manufacturer.  Do not quote me here because I am going from memory on this topic but the bottom line was that the car had problems and the fuel tank could explode causing an accident or potentially killing the occupants.   The car manufacturer was aware of these problems.  On one hand ethically speaking this company should have recalled all the cars because any risk to human life is too much.  But as black and white as it seems ethics should be they tend to be more like a murky grey.  From the company’s perspective the chance of the car exploding was X%. The cost of recalling all the cars $Y and the cost of paying the families affected by the malfunctioning cars was $Z.    $Y was SOOOOO much greater than $Z and the chance of the car malfunctioning was low so they made a calculated decision and left the cars out on the road.  People died.

There were more factors that also played into the decision such as who would ultimately pay for the recall and such.  Muddying the decision even further.

On a separate thought, I was at the grocery store today examining juice drinks that would satisfy my new ‘no apple juice concentrate from China’ rule.  There were other rules to follow in my head too such as:
* no high fructose corn syrup
* organic
* environmentally friendly packaging
* made in the USA (even better: made locally)
* price
* 100% juice
* carbon footprint or carbon offset

And all that was outside of any flavor consideration.  Some of these criteria carried more weight than others and that rubric had to be worked out in my head before I could make my choice.  Honestly, water was sounding pretty darned good because there wasn’t one juice that satisfied all my criteria even remotely well.  The best drink that I have found to satisfy these criteria is apple cider from Lohr’s Orchard, which I can purchase locally, is made locally, contains no apple juice concentrate from China, is not organic but is from a small diverse farm, the price is right but as far as I know they do not do carbon offsetting and they do not use sustainable packaging.

It is a balance.  For each decision I make at the store regarding the food my family eats and the products we bring into our home, I have to find this balance.  The connection to the story I shared regarding the car manufacturer is that, to me, it is business ethics for my home.  I have to weigh the possibility, even if it is small, of slow poisoning by arsenic or possibly harming a family or endangered species in South America due to slash and burn agriculture.  The black and white decision is that all food should be absolutely safe and cause no harm to the environment.  But the reality is that it is a balancing act of risk and cost.  Some of that information is shared with us, the consumers, but I would say the majority is not and is left to the manufacturers to share with us as they feel it (or the government feels it) is relevant.

Going completely off-grid food-wise is one way to circumvent a number of these problems, but not all and it is mostly unrealistic for my family.  So we are back to balancing the risks versus the outcomes and costs.  No answers here tonight, just a thought process.  I would love to hear yours.

2 thoughts on “Finding Balance”

  1. What a beautifully written and thoughtful post. These are thoughts that churn through my head as well. Milk, eggs, produce, etc. And now apple juice! Fortunately we don’t really drink much juice. I thought with Wegman’s would come easier food shopping, but now it is just more expensive food shopping 🙁

  2. Nice blog post. It is an ongoing challenge to consume food that has a positive impact on our bodies and our environment. I think most people prefer to ignore the truths and eat mainstream. I am grateful for the organic CSA we belong to, and sources for pastured organic meats. Keep writing!!!

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