Thursday, April 22, 2010

Food for Thought

First off, Happy Earth Day to you all. No matter where you are today, I hope you find a way to celebrate & do something good for ole' Mother Earth. Today we've been busy hanging clothes out to dry, enjoying our newly working pond pump, and planting the remainder of the potatoes (and hoping they'll grow better this year!). But there is something else on my mind.

Last night we watched 'Food, INC.', a fantastic movie that really should be a mandated thing to see. It has taken me until today to blog about it because I was that moved by it, and even now I'm having a hard time knowing what to write.

If you're reading this you're probably like me and already know a lot of the horrors that go on within our mass-produced food industry. You've probably seen the video of forklifts trying to maneuver downed cows (cows to sick to stand up) so that they can be slaughtered for food. Here's the link - if you haven't seen it, you ought to take the moment to watch it:

You probably know about battery caged hens kept for eggs, and the mass-lots they're raised in. You probably already hate Monsanto. You likely have heard of Micheal Pollan or Joel Salatin (Polyface Farm in Staunton, VA) & the good that they're doing. So, if you know all this why should you watch the movie?

For starters, there is the story of 2 year old Kevin Kowalcyk who died from E. Coli. In 12 days. I listened to his mother tell what happened and the battle they've gone through trying to help make sure this doesn't happen to other families. ~ Those of you who know me personally know I am a weeper, so it won't come as a shock to you to know that I weeped during this part of the movie. I am crying now as I type. This poor child ate the all-American hamburger, got E. Coli from it, and died 12 days later. --- Do you really know what you're feeding your children?

Then there was hearing the farmer's talk. Somehow I had begun, in my mind, to put some of the blame on the farmers. After all, they're the ones growing this stuff or raising the animals. I was completely unaware how tight a hold the bigger companies had on them. One lady agreed to talk on camera. She raised chickens in "old fashioned" chicken houses that had open, screened windows. She still had to walk through there with a mask on and described the conditions inside as disgusting. She talked about chickens being bred to hit a "mature" weight too early, causing them to be able to barely take a couple steps before collapsing from their own weight. Americans do love big breasts, but the cost is too great. She talked about how the companies farmers sell their goods to put pressure on them to keep "updating" how they do things. She ended up losing her contract because she wouldn't "update" to an all-dark, windowless tunnel chicken house. How the hell is that considered an update?? According to the film a farmer averages over $500,000 in debt yet makes only $18,000.
Or that farmer who was saving seed. Yea, saving seed! And encouraging others to do so as well. He had a machine (whose design dated back to the 1800's) that cleaned the seed for saving. His name wound up on Monsanto's list. Monsanto has genetically altered the DNA of seeds, and it is currently legal for them to sue you if they think you're infringing on their policies by saving seed. They sued him. And sued him. And ran him out of business. This wasn't the first farmer they attacked, it won't be the last. They currently have 75 men out patrolling the country & farms. Ex-military men, ex-cops, threatening and intimidating farmers who are just trying to make a living. And, before you think "well, they shouldn't use Monsanto's seeds" remember that seeds open-pollinate. They can, and do, blow in on the wind causing this meshing of varieties.

What really got me though was that you can be sued for talking about this. Barbara Kowalcyk can't even say what they eat nowadays for fear of being sued for 'veggie libel.' No joke.
Oprah was sued for talking about Mad Cow disease on her show and saying how she didn't want to eat another burger because of it. Several years and way more money than most of us have later she won .... but could we fight such a suit??
'Veggie Libel' laws are very real. In Colorado, for example, it is a felony. Talking bad about food, about food companies who DESPERATELY need to have whistles blown because they ARE that bad can land you in some seriously hot water. Showing photos of what goes on inside feed lots, slaughter houses, and meat processing plants gets you in equally hot water.
Let me get this straight then -- we're not supposed to be able to see where our food is grown or raised. We're not allowed to look inside how it is processed (unless the company gives us the tour it wants us to see). And we're not allowed to talk about the bad stuff going on? Where the fuck are we living that this is acceptable?!?!

There were many more things in this movie that are well-worth talking about. It is worth talking about how it is cheaper to buy bad food than it is to buy good food. That is wrong. It is wrong when you feel forced to make a choice that you know isn't as good of a one as you would like because of the way our current food system is.

And even though I am sad and angry, I want to try and end this on a positive note. What can you do?? You can do lots!!
~Plant a garden, even if it is a very small one.

~Shop at local Farmer's Markets. If there isn't one where you live, work to get one started, you'll be surprised how many people will want this.

~Ask questions about how food is grown. If you are getting your food from farmers, ask them how they're growing it/raising it. Do they use pesticides? Do they pasture-raise their meat? Most farmers will want to talk about this as they put so much energy into it.

~If you can, keep some chickens. Finding heritage breeds is even better. You'll get fresh eggs that are likely healthier for you, you'll get fertilizer for your garden (and if you don't want it, post it for free on Craigslist or FreeCycle, surely someone local will gladly take it!), and you'll know your chickens got to live a life like they were meant to -- on grass, in the sun, happy.

~Lastly, remember the power of the almighty dollar. Stores aren't starting to carry more organic & locally grown items because they care, they do it because they realize they can SELL it. Every time you buy something you are voting with your money. Don't be afraid to call the stores, speak to the managers, and so on either. Let them know what you want to see in their stores. Every time I've had to drive across town to go to a better grocery store I've called my local one to let them know about it. And I told them how I saw other local people there. They don't want to lose your business, so make damn sure you get your voice heard!!

Happy Earth Day everyone!

1 comment:

Carole and Chewy said...

A most excellent post! I missed the first half of Food Inc last night, didn't realize it was on.
I was just in time to see the part about Monsanto prosecuting farmers who save seed. And about the idea that companies want Americans to think their food comes from some happy rural farm (think 50's kids picture books), when nothing could be further from the truth. Depressing and eyeopening at the same time.