A few months ago, I forwarded an email to Pretty Bride saying she should add Food, Inc. to her Netflix que, because that Dave guy from Blogography recommended it, and it sounded like the “type of shit you’d like to watch.”
Why the snide assumption? Because before the three pregnancies that almost immediately followed our getting hitched, Mrs. Muskrat was a paleoethnobotanist. She used to dig up dead people or their poo and research their sources of food. Her Masters thesis had something to do with acorns. Pages and pages of acorns. And people actually came to hear her speak about nuts at international conferences.
For the 6 years or so that I’ve known this woman, she’s been anti-corn. She says it makes us obese and helped Hitler or something. She has whole books about corn and food with chemicals in it that came from corn or some other genetic re-engineering, and she doesn’t seem to like Monsanto too much (cringing when I cover our backyard’s weeds in Roundup). I always figured it was from too much academia and examination of the berries in Ben Franklin’s turds from some loo out of Philadelphia.
So, we watched the movie. She got excited and drew an air heart with her fingers when Michael Pollan appeared on screen (his books have been surrounding me while I sleep, I now know). We talked about the stories and messages conveyed. I was disgusted. And I felt sorry for all the farmers interviewed, who are either being pushed out of business or being forced to participate in the mass production of super cheap food product they know is awful for us.
I’ve known since childhood that colas were horrible substances to put into our bodies and, accordingly, allow myself only a few per year (usually with bourbon). I didn’t realize, however, just how widespread the use of corn syrup is. Or how our government encourages the ready availability of cheap, processed food at the expense of farmers all over the world and millions of future obese people right here in the U.S. It’s bad. It even makes people feel like they’re not full when they are.
Then we watched King Corn. Also disturbing. Did you know our government gave over $51 Billion in subsidies to corn farmers from ’95 to ’05? That the average American consumes nearly 100lbs of corn syrup in a year? That there are nearly 100 million acres of corn grown in the U.S. — so much that there are piles of it sitting outside of stuffed silos all over the midwest? Millions of farmers all over the world are out of work because of our government’s subsidies to help produce super cheap, unhealthy food. It’s not a vegetable; even the farmers growing it don’t eat from their harvest, as they sell to the government and let it become cattle feed or sweetener.
One would think that a great way to pay for this new government healthcare bill would be to stop sending billions toward production of food that increases our healthcare costs, right?
Have you ever seen where chickens are raised? Cows? How the number of FDA inspections has drastically fallen as the amount of food produced has drastically risen? Or what happens to cows when they’re stuffed full of corn at the slaughterhouse?
That we’d grilled Bubba Burgers for dinner didn’t help.
So, I surrendered. I decided that having a $400/month grocery budget–while cool for a family of our size who almost never eats out–is not worth the chemicals inexpensive food puts into our bodies. Starting this week, all our fruits and vegetables are organic. Chicken will be free range, and beef will be grass finished (and less frequently consumed).
Tonight we had potatoes, strawberries, and french toast chunks with cane syrup. I’m not sure what’s on tap for tomorrow, but I know Pretty Bride spent a good bit of time reading labels today and has already planned the next few weeks’ meals.
While I think it might be interesting to have a “we’re going to try and eschew corn syrup and corn-fed animals while trying to still eat in this country” blog, I’ll refrain. I may, however, write about it from time to time.
And if you’re smart, you’ll watch these films and/or read some of Pollan’s books for yourself. And for your family.
I did watch those films and agree that corn and corn syrup is the enemy. I try and avoid corn syrup in our foods because it really effects me by making me tired. I grow a garden each year and was going to take this year off. Not any more.
@next martha, We kept saying we’ll start a garden, but then we think: “Our house is on the market, so why bother?” And, our ‘hood has a community one. We also have a farmers’ market nearby. However, enough yard for a garden is on our checklist for whatever new house we buy (assuming we can ever sell the current one).
It is scary, scary stuff on an epic scale.
In all honesty, I think some of the horrors are pretty much unavoidable in one way or another. Particularly with government subsidies for things like beef… which is not only questionable for our health with the steroids and other not-so-nice things they add… but killing the planet with massive environmental waste disasters to boot. And yet, the price is far cheaper than healthier food alternatives because the government uses our tax dollars to make it happen.
Sadly, this will continue for as long as we let it.
Or as long as we are too poor to force an alternative.
@dave2, All of us are a little bit lazy by nature, so the path of least resistance–processed foods–is going to be the road more traveled. But what bothered me most is how much the government is involved with encouraging this behavior. It’s like the government’s sponsoring the lottery or encouraging our reliance on debt by making credit card interest tax deductible (until the 1986 tax reform): it’s wrong. It’s also horrible policy now that the government is going to start paying even more for our healthcare. And the 1,000,000 out-of-work Mexican farmers? Wouldn’t our immigration issues and drug war casualties decrease if Mexicans could still make a living farming corn?
“we’re going to try and eschew corn syrup and corn-fed animals while trying to still eat in this country”
When I moved from Japan to the USA, I thought I varied my diet very little. But the effect of hidden corn sweetener in prepared foods meant that I put on 12 pounds in six months, without trying.
Eat real food. Definitely.
.-= headbang8´s last blog ..Photo Friday: Cleanliness =-.
@headbang8, I eat cereal for b’fast every day and bring sandwiches and fruit for lunch during the week. But did you know corn syrup is in bread and many cereals? Had to change what I thought were healthy practices!
Serious stuff about the situation with subsidies, stuffing for slaughter, silos spilling, soylent syrup. Scotch and soda?
@avatgardener, scotch on the rocks with ionized water, actually.
I think the scotch will kill anything in the soda. but soda is the “s” word that came to mind. I’m a Jack and Coke gal myself. May have to go to just Jack. Faster buzz, that’s for sure!!
We don’t eat organic, but we do eat mostly whole foods as opposed to processed foods.
At least at home.
Jared just started trying to eat like that even during the workday this week and I swear he is suffering from detox symptoms right now just because he’s cut out processed foods from his diet.
.-= Miss Britt´s last blog ..On Building Walls. Or maybe promoting a World Tour, it’s hard to tell at this point. =-.
@miss britt, It’s harder when eating out for sure. I bring my lunch every day, but I’m told I need to go out to lunch more to network, etc. Maybe pack an emergency bag of candy corns for Jared for when the shakes begin?
You can save a little money by focusing your organic purchases on the “Dirty Dozen” group of produce, and buying normally from the “Clean 15” group. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. It allows you to come to a good compromise on budget vs. health-conscious eating.
.-= Avitable´s last blog ..Shocked and appalled cat watches 2 girls 1 cup =-.
@avitable, Thanks! That’s good intel. Here’s the link for y’all:
I’m afraid to watch those movies. I know my eating habits are pretty gross and I SHOULD change them, but . . . I don’t want to. So that’s probably a good reason why I should watch those movies.
Thanks for the post. Very interesting.
.-= JD at I Do Things´s last blog ..80s Music Videos Saved My Life so you don’t have to =-.
@JD, Sure thing…maybe you could have a “I quit corn syrup for a week so you don’t have to” post!
I’m disappointed that you didn’t make a single joke about how your wife has a PhD in nuts. Truly a missed opportunity.
I saw Food Inc. and thought it could be better. I got the feeling that they weren’t telling the whole story, just the parts that backed their angle. But I’ve been eating all organic and free-range and so forth for years, mostly because I think it tastes better. Happy dead cows are delish.
.-= Grant´s last blog ..(Lack of) Health Update =-.
@grant, Ha! I’ve seen fruit taste better when organic. I’m sure that, like all documentaries it seems, the views presented were biased. But still.
Look at you, all hippied out! That says a lot for the facts.
.-= Swedish Skier´s last blog ..More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys =-.
@swedish skier, Yes it does. Don’t look for me on the wrong end of any firehoses, though.
I am so touched. I had no idea you’d even been listening all these years! Ah, you love me…
I never doubted it!!
@PB, But of course! Most of the time…
Allergic to corn. And, therefore, ANYTHING that is in a box or plastic container. Even domestic wine. Yes, wine. Apparently, a lot of winemakers add some sort of corn derivative to the wine to preserve it… I mean, really, people. It’s wine.
My husband and I were actually discussing this specific issue the other day. And I thought about how when a scientist comes up with an idea like this, I doubt that she (or he) is thinking, “Oh, wow, this is going to make our food sell so much more,” or the like. No, they start off thinking, “Wow, we’re going to feed the whole world, nobody will ever go hungry again…” And then. “The Man” takes over and makes it about money.
@faiqa, Really? Allergic? No wonder you’re so slim and healthy.
The idea of inexpensive food is a good one on its face, of course. I think they said Americans spend just over 15% of their income on food, which is crazy low. This helps us have a higher standard of living. But at what cost? Isn’t our health more important? Yes.
Thanks for the post and the link. This is definitely “food for thought.”
.-= SurprisedMom´s last blog ..Hump Day =-.
@surprised mom, I do what I can.
I’m totally organic and healthy. Except for my Diet Coke. And Splenda. And Chick-fil-a. And Eggo Waffles… Wait. Maybe I’m not that healthy.
.-= Carolyn Online´s last blog ..I feel an intervention coming on. =-.
@carolyn online, Maybe all the preservatives in your diet are what keep you looking 15 years younger than you are?
I watched Food Inc too and was unpleasantly surprised. I also read Fast Food Nation to the same effect. While I’m not really onboard with the whole organic thing (practicality being the primary reason), I stay away from processed foods. Unless it’s Girl Scout cookies, because, hey, you’re helping the Girl Scouts. Some causes trump others, especially when there’s cookies involved.
.-= BusyDad´s last blog ..Nature Pwns Nurture. =-.
@busy dad, I hear you re: thin mints!
I’m hip to this stuff. Love it! A friend of mine [a cinematographer] shot a few days on “Food, Inc.” Because we have a son with type 1 diabetes, and one on the spectrum, we’ve had our noses in nutrition books and statistics for years, starting with John Robbins, “Diet for a New America”.
Freaks me out when I think about what I’m putting in my kids’ bodies. You guys might want to check out “The Perfect 10 Diet”. Corny title, but I like some of the principles and the research that supports them.
Good for you and Pretty Bride! You all will have healthy bodies and uber big brains!
.-= Chris´s last blog ..My Money Troubles =-.
@chris, Thanks…I’ll check it out!
Think of changing to raw milk, also. It is WAYYYY more expensive but worth the health benefits.
We have one dairy here in CA that provides raw milk and invites testing by anyone anytime. Did you know that having cows live out in large grassy pastures is actually healthy and leads to less diseases being spread. Hmm, and I always thought those cows trudging thru their own manure looked so sanitary. ugh
@jade, Never thought about “raw” milk, but I hear you re: bovines standing in poop. It’s especially awful when they’re tightly corralled.
Do they seriously study dead people poo? That is so freakin cool!!!
.-= J.R. Reed´s last blog ..Happy Dyngus Day =-.
@JR Reed, I believe so…maybe my wife invented a new technique.
I started watching the movie Super Size Me. I couldn’t finish watching it, it was so gross. We are what we eat and if we feed ourselves loads of crap, our bodies will become that!
.-= Mely Wilcox´s last blog ..Smoking Bad. Cowboys Cool. =-.
@Mely I didn’t see that one, because I heard there’s a lot of checking of bodily fluids and stuff, which makes me pass out. And, I’m not sure a film about fast food’s being bad would be very enlightening!
Food has become kind of a thing for me lately as well. Most of it is garbage, especially if it comes in a box with handy microwave instructions. We’ve started eating a lot less meat (which sucks) and a lot more organic crap (which is OK, but crazy expensive). It isn’t just health either, there are a lot of environmental issues with the way we eat. All that corn. All that beef. I just wish healthy/environmentally sustainable food tasted like Popeye’s fried chicken.
Man, I miss Popeyes. Do they still have Bojangles down there? They could cook some fucking chicken.
.-= A Free Man´s last blog ..There’s a time and place for everything I’ve got to get it through =-.
@free man, I really like BBQ. I will probably still allow myself some from time to time. I don’t know of any Bojangles in Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any anywhere. I know they’re in Birmingham, AL still. We do have Popeyes, however. As a matter of fact, we had one at Balad Air Base, Iraq.
There’s a Bojangles on the corner in the neighborhood we’ve been hoping to move to. If we finally get in, we’ll air-lift you a to-go box, homie.
I’m really looking forward to when I can not be a poor grad student, and do more than grow a few tomato plants and peppers. As it is, we eat a lot of chickpeas and our chicken is Sandersons, because that’s as close as I can afford to free range and hormone free right now.
@amber lee, I’m looking forward to your upgrading from a poor grad student, too! We need more folks who can vote with their spending choices on these issues.
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