When I got home from work, I realized I hadn’t eaten any meat today at all. Twelve minutes later, I was eating a homemade cheeseburger with my favorite hot sauce on it.

How did such a wonder happen?

The bun was distributed for Kroger by some company I’ve never heard of called Inter-American Distributors. It was harvested from wheat, processed, and sent on a truck to a warehouse, after which it was moved to my local Dillons where I bought it for under $2.

The beef was raised in the form of a ~1400-pound cow. This was then slaughtered, ground, treated with chemicals to prevent bacteria growth, packaged into a one-pound tube of ground round, shipped on a refrigerated truck to a warehouse, then to the same Dillon’s as the bun. I’m not a huge fan of factory farm-produced meat and the life it entails for the cows, but paying double the price for meat isn’t in the budget quite yet (it’s a priority, though). I bought this pack for $3.29 on sale.

The Valentina hot sauce was made from chili peppers and spices, none of which I know the origin of. The sauce itself, however, was bottled in Mexico, presumably shipped to a warehouse, and then shipped to yet the same Dillons location. It is literally the best hot sauce I’ve ever tasted, and I bought a 12.5-ounce bottle that lasts me upwards of 5 months for $1.

The cheese came from a cow (several cows, rather) somewhere in the northern midwest, likely on a factory milking operation. The cheese was processed and distributed in Cincinatti, OH by Kroger, ending up on a refrigerated shelf right next to the eggs.

The glass of milk I drank with this cheeseburger came from a different herd of cows, this time residing in Oklahoma. Unlike the cows which produced the cheese, these were not part of a “factory farm” and allowed to roam in a pasture most of their life. This milk was heated and cooled to kill most (though not all) bacteria in the milk using a process you’ve probably heard of: pasteurization (developed by Louis Pasteur). This milk was then put in half-gallon jugs and shipped to one of five local Brahm’s Fresh Markets, where I bought it for $1.79.

I cooked approximately one quarter of the meat from the package on a non-stick Calphalon skillet. The meat, packed into a patty by hand, was heated via the skillet by a gas-powered stove, connected to a network of natural gas that runs through my entire city, which in turn is connected to a national network of natural gas lines. I normally pay less than $15 per month to my local utility for the use of this uninterrupted flow of flammable fumes.

The complexity of what it took to get these ingredients to me is an astounding, but not unusual example of free-market capitalism meeting needs and doing so at fair prices. Each facet was developed as its own method of meeting a need some other group or industry had and either charging less for the same service or offering a better service.

But hey, I didn’t need to know any of this was happening to get what I wanted. I just ate the cheeseburger.