Is Your Food Safe?

Ray…. the brawn behind the Toy Box

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, states in the opening scene of the documentary, Food Inc. “The way we eat has changed more in the last fifty years than in the previous ten thousand”. The changes appear to be driven by the demands of the fast food industry.  The question that comes to mind is, how can fast food affect the whole system? The practices implemented, as revealed by this documentary, and highlighted by the use of Concentrated Animal Feed operations (CAFO’s) in our food system speaks volumes of a system out of control.  Large conglomerates such as Con-Agra, Monsanto, Tyson, and Smithfield, say CAFO’s are an efficient way of handling large amounts of product, but at what cost? Throughout the documentary, all four companies have refused to comment on the documentary.  The statements put forward in the opening dialog, “A deliberate veil, a curtain between you and where your food is coming from”, and “The industry does not want you to know the truth about what you’re eating because if you knew you might not want to eat it,” seem to demand an answer. We must ask ourselves why their silence is bad and why they did not comment about the information presented.  They want to control food from “factory” to market. One company, Monsanto, went so far as to patent feed seed which they genetically modified (GMO), to resist pesticide, as their exclusive property. This patenting of seed has never happened before in the history of agriculture. Why does a chemical company want so much control of our food system?

The magnitude of the change, how the raising of beef has shifted from cattle ranching to the use of huge feedlots, is demonstrated by the images of the CAFO’s.  McDonalds ,being the largest consumer of ground beef, pork, chicken, potatoes’, lettuce, tomatoes, and even apples, controls the  production standards to what they want . Consumers are getting products that have been tailored for what McDonalds wants, whether we like it or not. The changes implemented by the McDonald brothers in their early restaurant had far reaching effects, not just in the food industry, corporation have taken McDonalds approach to labor and applied it universally. This was shown within the documentary, and can be further researched in the Eric Schlosser book, Fast Food Nation. If we look at the scenes of the slaughter houses and feed lots we see a glimpse of the way contamination, and disregard for food safety has been allowed within the system. After  years of regulations making them safe, the slaughter houses have again become one of the most dangerous places to work, the demands for cheap, expendable labor has made what was once a good job revert back to its  unsafe beginning’s. The filth of the lots and the way cattle are moved to slaughter is appalling; the scene of the cows being forced down the chute and the fecal matter on their backs is a compelling argument for the documentary. The conditions of the feedlots provide a breeding ground for e-coli, with cattle standing knee deep in their own manure.  Since Agra businesses have started feeding their cattle corn instead of grass, a new strain of the e-coli family has emerged, specifically 157H7. The practice of the CAFO’s storing the manure in large holding ponds which has been leaching into the water table, has triggered e-coli out breaks in foods we never would expect contamination from fecal matter in. Should we expect to have e-coli in spinach and peanut butter?

The scenes with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms were meant to convince the viewer of the cleaner practices of a more traditional farming environment.  These scenes offer a solution to the problem. The Polyface approach was demonstrated briefly by showing clean farm practices, while Salatin briefly explained his philosophies on his traditional way of farming. The images used here were more appealing and fit the images of what we assume a “farm” should look like. A more down home look in contrast to the CAFO images presented earlier. His animals were cleaner, better cared for and did not seem stressed from crowding. The manner in which Salatin spoke was upbeat and excited in contrast to the way Troy Roush, a corn farmer, who spoke earlier about his dealing with Monsanto.

The arguments put forward by the documentary were effective, made poignant by the hearings in California about meat labeling. The California Farm bureau representative argued against the labeling of cloned meats, saying it could create fear in consumers.  What I heard was consumers are not smart enough to know what’s good for them. This seems to reverberate throughout the documentary, as the way these corporation’s all do business. Consumers are told, it’s all good for us, when all the corporations are concerned about is there bottom line. The farmer has been reduced to indentured servants as illustrated by the chicken farmer, Carole Morrison and corn farmer, Troy Roush. After reviewing the documentary in the class I was not sure some examples were explained fully, more information could have been provided on some details. I find the information reliable and factual, the testimony of the farmers would seem to substantiate the information, and after doing some of my own research over the years, I have found this to be trustworthy information.

I agree with the argument that our eating has changed over the last fifty years, and that corporations are trying to keep the resulting changes hidden from the consumer. The public would not like what has transpired, but if we can’t “see” it, we will not address it.  I did not like what is happening, I avoid buying Monsanto and Con-Agra products, which is quite a task.  I have decided to vote with our checkbook, and am trying to buy local and organic whenever possible. If consumers only learn one thing from this film I hope it is that a difference can be made in the system by what we purchase. Money, the bottom line, is still what drives Business; ask for a product, buy it and they will respond.  Wal-Mart responded to the demand for no rBST in milk and recognized the demand for organic yogurt. Troy Roush, a corn farmer, said they are growing what is in demand, if we demand good whole foods and they will produce it. Should we really just give in to Monsanto because they are so big?

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