Throughout readings this week the distance between food and consumers has become blatantly apparent.  On one level cows that are raised and slaughtered for meat travel from the pasture to feed pens to slaughter houses to processing factories all to become human or animal food.  This is really different from traditional farming when a cow lived on a farm was slaughtered and then sold.  The complex process is actually not very long because cows now feed on a corn mixture that fattens them more quickly.  Nevertheless, a consumer can never know where their meat came from; as in they do not know which farm.  Since this process is so complex consumers are separated and left to decide what to purchase based on cost.  On another level consumers are not allowed to witness parts of this path of production.  It is illegal for consumers to enter animal slaughter houses.  This is something that is surprising on many levels.  First of all this indicates that the methods of slaughtering an animal are so brutal that it is a federal offense to trespass on to slaughtering property.  Furthermore the federal government is supporting the industrialized food system by preventing consumers from understanding or seeing how their food is processed.  Most Americans do not question this distance as long as they are receiving the safe and cheap food that they are demanding.  But what about the animals?

I think (and like to think) that consumers would have different demands for their food if they understood the life of a beef cow.  People would be applaud by the fact that cows are force fed mixtures of corn, cow blood, and cow fat; food that cows are not meant to eat.  These methods of production violate animal rights.  Moreover, if consumers were aware of the methods of slaughtering used, they also would not accept these methods.  Every time an author or journalist says we or the consumers want processed foods, I have to disagree.  Consumers do have demands; however, their demands are controlled by corporations and the government.  They control what farmers are growing, what ingredients are in our food, how our food is grown, and the price of food.  If consumers had more of a say or the government was protecting the interests of the consumers I believe that our food system would be more traditional and less industrial.  It is understandable that humans have a natural curiosity and desire to progress, yet why does that have to be at the expense of the animals and even consumer health?  We have enough smart scientists and farmers to create a stronger food system economically and one that is more nature friendly.

 

The article Cheers for USDA’s new nutrition standards introduces improved recommendations for healthy eating in the US.  Overall the standards support more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and milk that is 1% or less.  Other standards were to eat less starchy vegetables and cases like pizza sauce did not count to as vegetables; yet these two were not approved by Congress.  Potato growers and suppliers of school pizza pressured Congress not reject these two standards.  This is a perfect example of state capture, farmers and producers are preventing the government from recommending a diet that could hurt their industry.  This is incredibly discomforting; the USDA is an established organization that is supposed to support national health, so Congress should not have any say in what standards are accepted.  They are not established nutritionists or doctors; they are looking at food from a purely economic and political point of view.  Nevertheless the USDA is not perfect either; Tom Vilsack is the Secretary of the USDA was endorsed by the Corn Refiners Association, the National Grain and Feed Association, and many other farming organizations.  So these new standards most likely protect these associations’ interest.  On another note this post states the government will leave it to schools to figure out how to fund and institute these changes.  It is hard to convince children to eat more vegetables and grains, yet schools must find a way.  This is a direct example of how the government standards will favor the economic strength of food that meets any of these standards.  In the end these standards seem more healthy, but I disagree with the method of approval and the demands that are placed on schools.

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