Weekly food log:

During this first week class I have begun to uncover unique characteristics of the farming industry and food system.  On a basic economic level supply and demand system can never be fully effective for farmers.  If the yield and product supply is high then the price of goods is low and farmers have trouble competing.  At the same time if there is low supply the price is higher causing farmers to compete by lowering prices and losing profit.  This never ending push and pull does not exist in other industries.  Any form of government assistance through subsidies does not solve the economic hardships of farmers, but only encourage a greater struggle for production.  At the same time through the modern food system processors and input organizations are controlling the costs and purchases of farmers.  The struggle of farmers and economic power of the government, processors, and input organizations is unsettling.  Nevertheless, it is more nerve ranking that most Americans do not understand or think about these issues.

Another economic factor to consider is globalization.  This is something I have seen and experienced firsthand; going to grocery stores in the dead of winter and being able to purchase any type of produce and explore isle of international foods.   Consumers like me are unaware of the farming industry; we just observe a large diversity in large grocery stores.  I am inclined to assume that international trade creates more competition between farmers across the globe.  If a product from a different country is grown more easily and cheaper than the US, it will mostly be imported instead of being grown domestically.  International competition also incorporates the issue of food and farming safety standards that are maintained by each country.

It is clear that despite economic hardship of farmers, we have expanded our food system by producing and importing new, delicious, and exciting food.  This has been made possible through methods of industrialization and globalization of our food system.   Yet, this system has no connection to the natural processes of farming and consumption that humans have survived on for centuries.  The only hopes to returning to a more agrarian society are presented in the environmental, sustainable, and organic movement brings hope by that pulling our food system towards more traditional methods.

Weekly Response:

The article “A Budget Neutral, Better Way to Boost Food Safety” by Dr. Richard Raymond (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/01/a-budget-neutral-better-way-to-boost-food-safety/) discusses the US food safety system and ways it can be ameliorated.  The main point of the article is to demonstrate the impracticalities of our food safety procedures in the Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  The problem is dual jurisdiction. For example, the chicken in chicken noodle soup or frozen buffalo chicken pizza is inspected twice; as a single ingredient and in the final product.  This means that the FDA and FSIS both inspect the same chicken.  So chicken in chicken noodle soup is inspected twice, once before it is in the soup and after.  Logically this is a waste, in theory the chicken could just be checked once in the final process and by one organization.  While I understand Dr. Raymond’s point, you could also argue that if chicken is contaminated it is better to catch it before it is sent to the soup factory, than after.  In some ways Dr. Raymond is asking the soup companies to make a blind investment.  They would not know whether they were receiving edible chicken or not until they have produced their product.  Overall, I think that it is acceptable to check the chicken twice, whether or not it is done by the same organization does not matter.

On another note the article points out that imported produce is not inspected, while the FDA carefully checks meat such as pepperoni, chicken, and beef.  Imported fish is also not inspected.  These inconsistencies in food inspection are discomforting because many people including myself just assume that all food, especially that is imported, is inspected.  In this instance, I agree with Dr. Raymond, that these imported products (especially fish) should be inspected.  At the same time, I contest the idea of taking inspectors from dual jurisdiction products and transferring them to inspecting fish.  By just expanding inspections to have chicken inspected twice in addition to fist, food safety can become more inclusive.  The idea of expanding food safety in such a way is unlikely considering that it would increase costs; yet we can always be hopeful.