Monday, July 9, 2012

Making Food More Sustainable - Breakfast Burritos

From time to time I will be posting about how we can make the food we eat more sustainable. This is a good exercise for me, as it forces me to really think about what I am eating, and where the food is coming from. Nearly everything that we eat can be improved upon in some way, either to make it more sustainable or more healthy.

Today I will be focusing on breakfast burritos, because that is what I had for breakfast this morning. This isn't the breakfast I have most often, but it is something I have fairly frequently, especially on days that I've been outside working and come in wanting something additional to eat. The breakfast burritos that I eat contain sausage, eggs, cheddar cheese, and peppers wrapped in a flour tortilla. Following is a listing of where each of the ingredients currently comes from.

  • Sausage - We usually buy our sausage from a local grocery store. The sausage we normally buy is locally produced, coming from Robinson's Sausage Company in London, KY.
  • Eggs - We do not have a regular source of eggs. Sometimes we purchase them at farmer's markets, sometimes from the Goods Foods Market in Lexington, and other times at a traditional grocery store. Regardless of the source, we always try to buy organic and free range eggs, and whenever possible we buy from local sources.
  • Cheddar Cheese - We pretty much buy whatever cheddar cheese is available and cheapest at the grocery store. When shopping at the local grocery store, the options are very limited. 
  • Peppers - Currently we are using fresh peppers grown in our herb garden. Right now I am using the Super Cayenne, but will use other varieties as we harvest them. Previously we were using store bought Serrano or JalapeƱo Peppers. 
  • Flour Tortilla - We use store bought flour tortillas.
Now that I've described the current source of each of the ingredients, I will go through the list one by one with my thoughts on what we can do to source each ingredient more sustainably.


I'm actually fairly happy with the sausage that we are currently using. I like the fact that it comes from a local producer. I don't know, however, where they acquire the pork that is used in their sausage. Of course that is one of the biggest problems with buying goods produced by a company such as this. I did manage to find their address, so maybe I can stop by their office sometime and try to gather additional information. Certainly, though, if I'm going to buy sausage without knowing about the source of the pork I'd prefer buying it from a local producer. At least I know my purchase is supporting the local economy.

I do have a couple of options for purchasing sausage that I can feel better about. One option would be to purchase it from the Goods Foods Market, which not only sells many products made in Kentucky, but also sells products that are more sustainably produced, chemical and hormone free, etc. The other option would be to either begin purchasing sausage directly from a small producer, either at a farmers market or even at the actual farm. The benefit of this approach is direct interaction with the producer, which makes it much easier to find out exactly where the pork came from, and under what conditions it was raised. I also like this approach as it avoids one or more middle men, and puts more money into the hands of the local producer.

The final, and most sustainable option, is to start making homemade sausage. This would require us to either find a source of pork that we are happy with, or begin raising our own. I do not expect that we'll ever raise pigs, so the only way I can see us making our own is to find a source of local pork that we could use. It is something I have considered, primarily because I like the idea of experimenting with different seasoning combinations. Of course I also like the idea of knowing exactly what is going into the sausage.

Realistically, I suspect that we'll continue buying the Robinson's Sausage for the near future. The next time we are at Good Foods I'll see what options they offer, and will also be on the lookout for possible sources as we shop the area farmers markets.


I think that the first step we need to take in improving on the source of our eggs is to try to always buy directly from a producer, either at a farmers market or from their farm. Of course the difficulty with this approach is finding a local producer who raises chickens the way in which we desire, which is free-range, using no hormones/antibiotics, and supplementing with only organic feed. Also, its more convenient to just pick up a dozen eggs when we're at the grocery store, especially now that most major grocery stores sell eggs that claim to be free-range. I wish I knew how reliable those labels are.

The more desirable solution is for us to begin producing our own eggs. We do intend to have chickens at some point, primarily for egg production. I suspect that once we do this, we'll find that even a few chickens produce many more eggs than we use. Maybe when that happens, we can become a local producer for a family who is looking for the same things that we are.


Even though Andrea has taken a workshop on cheese making, I don't see this being something we do anytime soon. For that reason, I think our best option is to begin buying more locally produced cheese. Good Foods Market does sell some cheese made in Kentucky, although it is produced approximately 150 miles from here and is much more expensive than that we currently buy. I'm not opposed to paying more for locally produced cheese, but I would really prefer that it was produced closer to home. If we can find a source of cheese that is produced in a 50-mile or so radius, I'd be much happy to pay more. This is something that I need to do some research on.


Now that we are using peppers that we are growing ourselves there isn't a whole lot of room for improvement. The only thing I can think of for improving on our source of fresh peppers is to consider growing our plants in the future from seed that we save from previous plants.

One area that we can improve, though, is the use of peppers during the off season. We didn't grow enough this year to save, either via freezing or drying, in any quantity. Next year we can increase the quantity, and likely also the number of varieties, so that we can put away enough peppers to use throughout the off season. Because of the way in which I use peppers, I don't see any issue with using those we have saved either by freezing or drying.

Flour Tortillas

The obvious way to improve our source for tortillas is to make our own. We have a tortilla press, and Andrea has already made homemade corn tortillas a couple of times. One improvement we could implement right away would be to switch to homemade corn tortillas. I generally prefer flour tortillas, though, and have actually never tried the breakfast burritos with corn. The change we're most likely to make, I believe, is to start making homemade flour tortillas. We've already discussed it, but just haven't taken that step yet. I suspect this will be the change we will make most immediately. I would, however, like to try corn tortillas with the breakfast burritos just to see how they are, since corn tortillas are healthier.

Once we start making homemade tortillas regularly, the next area for improvement will be with the actual flour or masa meal, depending on the type of tortillas we are making. We have actually talked about grinding our own wheat. I think that grinding our own corn meal would be as option as well, if we were to purchase a good grinder. Of course corn meal isn't the same as masa meal, and I'm not sure if production of masa meal is within our capability or not. 

The mill where we buy our flour, which is located about 75 miles away, does sell wheat berries. So, if we decide to grind our own wheat, we should have a good source of berries. I actually like the idea of doing this, especially since we could buy in bulk since wheat berries can be stored for a long time. However, if we are to truly make flour tortillas sustainable, we can't be driving 75 miles to buy wheat, even if it isn't something we have to do very often. Growing our own wheat would be the idea solution to this problem. The same applies to growing corn that we could grind into our own corn meal. While I think that this solution is certainly feasible, I know that it will come after the previously mentioned steps of first switching to completely homemade products, then transitioning to grinding our own flour and cornmeal. 

It is clear that there is a lot of room for improvement in how we acquire the ingredients for breakfast burritos. On one hand, the task seems a bit daunting, but on the other hand, its easy to see how it can be done via a series of small changes. This is what I like about focusing on this type of change, as many small changes add up to significant change over time. Simply switching to more sustainably sourced ingredients for a single meal is a good step in the right direction. I'm confident that we can improve the food we eat one ingredient at a time. 

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