We eat to refuel. We eat when we're hungry. We eat when we're bored. We eat when we're stressed. And we hardly care about what we are putting in our bodies, as long as it tastes good and can be found fast. But, do we ever take that second to think about where it comes from? Who made it? What is it? Is it real, authentic food? Or is it processed crap that fancy laboratories have invented to take advantage of the extremely low and government subsidized staples in the agricultural industries? Should it turn our milk pink? Should it come from animals who are fed and fed and fed until they cannot ingest anymore? Should it be swarming with monopolized pesticides a la Monsanto?
The night before our Ash Wednesday mass I watched a chilling documentary that is sparking my new mission to give up industrial food, nationwide discussion, and some Academy Award buzz, Food Inc. It depicts the horrors and politicalization of our nation's food consumption. And before you start thinking that is is another sucker-turned-PETA-supporter rant against the mistreatment of animals and meat, it's not. I fully believe in eating meat. But from animals who eat what they have been eating for thousands and thousands of years and not the hormone saturated corn feed that is fed to 94 percent of our nations beef and chicken industry. Every time we make a purchase, when we scan that bar code across the sensor we are essentially casting a vote. This vote reflects what we want, what the consumer wishes to buy. And for most of us, we fall prey to smart advertising and convenience all too easily. Almost everything we find in the supermarket aisles and fast-food chains is a derivative of corn in some way. Does that even make sense? Should our most basic lunchbox additives stem from one single crop that is so heavily given government aid? The answer, really, is no. Corn should be corn. But, thanks to science it has found it's way into over sixty six percent of all of our shelf products from chips to detergent to jam and even "pure" orange juice. It's all part of the process of making things sweeter, saltier, more enticing to our reward pathway so we continue eating it and craving it. And the three big food companies know it. Pesticide company Monsanto has absolute power over all of our crops and has made it impossible for us to grow any sort of crop that isn't Monsanto approved and resistant to (you guessed it) Monsanto pesticides. Before I had even heard that these phenomenons existed, I was completely oblivious. I thought that the American farmer was an individual, respected entity. That the integrity of food was still kept in tact by different brands and the whole "organic" wave that was crazing the nation. But it isn't. When talking about how the agricultural industry really works, a farmer in Food Inc. states that it's like...
"Lady justice had the scales and you piled cash on the scales, and the one that piled the most cash on the scales and hired the most experts and the ones most willing to tell the biggest lies that was the winner. that seems to be how our justice system works right now. it's terrible."
Famous author Michael Pollan (author of An Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) is highlighted in the film as well, sharing his views on how apparently difficult it is today to eat. He's not talking about the process of chewing and swallowing, but of making the food itself. His argument is simply "eat real food, not too much. mostly vegetables." But, the commitment to staying loyal to local vendors and staying out of fast food change is becoming harder and harder for the average American. Many poor people have to buy bad, processed food because it is so cheap. This in turn is a direct cause of obesity and many of these poor people have accumulating health problems due to weight gain and poor eating habits. Our food is a vicious cycle, run by monopolized industries that make everything faster, bigger, stronger, and more efficient. All at the expense of moral integrity and respect for the consumer and farmer.
I would encourage everyone to take a look at the film and think twice about their voting habits (again, every time you make a purchase you are voting for "what the consumer wants"). Or, I would suggest becoming more informed about where that burger you just ate came from, how they made those chips you just bought, and what it really means to be a conscientious consumer.