Last night I watched the movie “Food Inc.” which probes into the factory, corporate methods Americans use to produce food. I was thrown back into my experiences on my grandparents’ black-dirt farm where I spent several years in early childhood. One of my earliest memories is of trying to herd fast, unruly chickens outdoors, running with a cane pole that got caught on a rock and rammed into my palm. I also remember Grandma catching a chosen chicken and cutting off its head with an ax. Grandma then plucked the feathers, cleaned the guts, cut the carcass into pieces, and fried the chicken for “dinner,” which was the mid-day meal in the country.
Unquestionably the corporate food system is very efficient at producing large volumes of food for Americans. The movie focuses on the accompanying risks to human health that keeping animals in very cramped quarters and stuffing them with corn bring. Some corporate chickens spend their entire lives in darkness as well as are crammed together, very different from what I saw as a child. The factory food production methods produce more animal diseases that infect the human consumer, who has little clue of how her food is produced, but they also generate the food volumes our society asks.
Corn has become the foodstuff of choice for the largest corporate providers of food in this country. Harvested corn is processed into corn syrup and various other food ingredients listed on packaging labels, and corn is converted into meat by cattle, pigs, chickens and other service animals. The food corporations are very powerful politically, and the federal government in effect subsidizes sweeteners and other products made from corn even though the health risks of high levels of consumption, such as Type 2 diabetes, are known.
I see no quick, good answers. For me, it’s smart to be more aware of the risks and possible costs of eating engineered, factory-made food products, and hamburgers are definitely out. But I’m sure not laying off food.
Image by איתמר ק., ITamar K. (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons