So after several years of many people saying "You have got to watch Food, Inc." Tracy, Ashley, and I sat down and watched it last night through my brand spanking new Roku XS via streaming from Amazon (totally free because I am an Amazon Prime member).
Quite frankly, and sadly, there wasn’t a lot in there that surprised me. Much of it I knew of through news reports or had made educated assumptions about based on the news reports or my own occasional investigations into food in the stores. My mind doesn’t just try to work out issues around Active Directory, Windows or even just computers, anytime I hear any kind of issue my brain goes off on its own and tries to work out how the issue could have occurred and what could have been done to prevent it.
However, I was completely shocked by the statistic that in the 70s the FDA performed on the order of 50,000 inspections of meat facilities but by the 90’s that had reduced to somewhere south of 10,000 with the idea that the companies could be "self-policing". Poppycock. Doveryai, no proveryai. The other big shock was over the part about the patenting of Soy Bean seeds and how one company pretty much owns all soy beans grown now. That not only shocked me but was outright ridiculous. Just plain stupid in fact. Then on top of it laws that prevent citizens from actually speaking their opinion on foods in states like Colorado? Hello? People bitching all over about what our current president is doing yet no major focus on issues we have had for years that have far more dire and direct consequence?
The piece on Kevin’s law which would give the FDA the right to shut a facility down that actively needs to be shut down and the fact that it keeps getting introduced in congress and never gets out of committee really pissed me off. Again, this doesn’t surprise me, I think government is one of the main sources of scoundrels and corrupt human beings but hearing of this absolutely common sense item being blocked for so long is insane. The fact that I can tell you the movie stars who got divorced this last month and who is going to what bowl games but had no clue this important legislation was being blocked for so long tells you how bad our "news and media" is in terms of reporting what is actually important. The whole country is being slowly poisoned by our food supply and we are more worried (or at least told by the press that we are more worried) about some nitwit nobody person who is famous for being famous marrying some noodle head basketball player who is now famous for being married and divorced from the person who is famous for being famous. Sigh.
Back to the soybeans… Monsanto was just doing what it could do to try and make money and get ahead in its business, you can’t fault them for that unless you feel that companies should be looking out for the welfare of our population which if that is the case, what color is the sky in your world because that certainly isn’t the world we live in. No, it was our government’s job to look out for our welfare and to stop the BS that Monsanto pulled off on the farmers. The government failed on a massive scale. Crap like that is the kind of thing that could get me to one day choose to run for office and try to find a way to stop the stupid stuff that gets through. In order to do it, it would require fixing how congress works at a fundamental level.
Now don’t think I am all "crazy" against everything the movie said I should be against. I didn’t agree with all of the points stated either.
The first thing I didn’t agree with was that they seemed to imply at one point that if this very low income family would simply switch to eating "good food" from the crap fast food then the husband/father’s Type 2 diabetes would magically clear up and all would be good and they would have to spend a couple of hundred dollars a month on medicine. This is a chicken and egg problem though. The family with their current level of knowledge can’t just switch and spend the money on the good food and hope dad makes it through the period "getting healthy" period alive or at least not blind without his meds. Though I also didn’t agree that fast food was always the cheapest food. Is it cheaper than the processed foods in the stores, almost certainly. But you can get unprocessed staple items for a lot cheaper than the special pears they were trying to compare the fast food to. Obviously one of the complaints was they didn’t have enough time to cook good food as well… That excuse doesn’t work for me, if you don’t work on eating better you won’t have any time for anything – you will likely be dead or in a hospital.
The next thing I didn’t agree with was the implication that if everyone just stopped buying the "bad food" and only bought from local organic farmers everything would be magically fixed. This is completely unreasonable from two viewpoints in my mind. The first being simple economics and the second being scale of operations.
First the economics… Have you looked at the cost of organic food? I looked up the yogurt mentioned in the show, Yobaby yogurt. That yogurt on Amazon (Walmart doesn’t carry it within 50 miles of my house) was $19.14 + $13.41 shipping and handling for six 4 oz containers. We eat a lot of yogurt, eat it daily, in fact I am eating a nice Yoplait Mountain Blueberry yogurt as I write this. I can tell you, I couldn’t fit that organic yogurt cost into my weekly or even monthly food budget with all the other stuff I am paying for (like my old house that I couldn’t sell in this market for anywhere near what I owe if my life depended on it thanks to the lack of real oversight by the government into the banks making crappy loans) and I make pretty good money – while I’m not in the "infamous" 1% I am not anywhere near the bottom either. If that were the cost of the only yogurt ever available again I wouldn’t have another bite of yogurt again which means some other possibly less healthy snack choice.
Another economic issue is with the CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). I took the time to look at a CSA farm that is about 15 miles from my house this morning. They want you to pay a subscription every year for 16-18 weeks of vegetables during the summer. The cheapest membership that gives you vegetables (and vegetables only) on a weekly basis was $600.00. Note that there is no guarantee of quality or quantity or that you will ever get ANY product at all, you as a member assume all risk. You pay the money, they try to produce something, whatever if anything they harvest you get a portion of if you come pick it up. I happen to have had the foresight and capital to buy a house in a relatively rural area so I have several local farms around me that I use extensively in the summer and I can tell you that even shopping at them multiple times a week I don’t even come close to spending $600, a more realistic amount is likely $360-$400 for GUARANTEED quality and quantity as I pick out exactly what I want before I pay for it and I get the type and quantity of the items that I want. Perhaps this week I want a bunch of radishes and corn but no peppers. Next week the opposite. I do not understand how anyone can think that that CSA makes sense other than the people collecting the money. Sorry, that model will not ever work in any significant way at those types of prices and the risk being solely assumed by the consumers. The other reason everyone switching to local organic isn’t going to work is sheer scale. The movie actually stated the problem but failed to recognize it and question the guy who was stating that buying local organic was the answer to everything. The problem is that farmers cannot scale to the volume required without themselves becoming a giant farm that they were pointing at as the bad guys. It was stated that a classic farmer could feed in the single or low teen digits numbers of people. Certainly that is higher with machinery but I do not believe for a moment that they are going to reach the volume the "big farms" can attain measured in the hundreds of people without the same shortcuts and pesticides, etc. Ditto all of that for local organic meat suppliers. Just thinking about the feeding of the cows alone and the amount of land it would require to expand the farms out to so that the cows could constantly get fresh grass is unrealistic.
There was more but I am done typing. If you haven’t seen the movie I do recommend it. It is likely to be extremely eye opening to many people. Perhaps if enough people watched it and responded to it the bitching about the government would be about things we could fix by removing the corruption versus the talking points politicians choose to throw out there as topics they want to talk about.