Monday, October 15, 2007

Where food comes from

Lets talk food here for a minute. Do you know where your food comes from?

If you are the typical consumer, you buy 60% of your food at a food store, the majority of which comes from corporate chain grocery stores. The other 40% comes from restaurants, institutional cafeterias and other sources of prepared ready to eat food (look up the numbers yourself and post a reference, this aint no damn academic term paper).

So when you spend a dollar at the food store, how much of that dollar goes into the pocket of Mr. Green Jeans the farmer? Almost none, if any.

72 cents of every dollar goes toward some corporate entity that handles the food after it leaves the farm and 28 cents of every dollar spent on food goes to the farm that produces the food, but where and what is that farm. More often than not, that farm is a gigantic mechanized crop or animal factory supported by the same corporation that sucks up much of the rest of your food dollar. Companies like Conagra, Archer Daniels, Midland, and Pepsico buy food at the cheapest price possible from huge corporate farms that they indirectly finance and then they transport, process and package that food for the supermarket consumer or restaurant. This food is produced as fast and as cheaply as possible. Huge amounts of fertilizers and herbicides are used in crop production. Those chemical products are just that, chemical products produced in chemical plants from raw materials. We're not talking pelletized cow shit here, we're talking about ammonium nitrates, ammonium phosphates, potassium chloride, and other compounds that come from such things as coal, natural gas and sulfur and other ores. Not a pretty thought that your groceries are grown using fertilizers manufactured from something as full of poisonous organic compounds as coal and natural gas.

You don't want to know what it's like for the millions and millons of meat animals that are produced in this country. . . . but I'll give you a brief glimpse. These animals are fed feeds that are grown by methods below the standard for crops grown for direct human consumption. Then these feeds are mixed with all sorts of chemical compounds to enhance growth. Very often the animals are confined to small cages ranging in size from large multi-acre stockyard for cattle to cages for poultry that allow less than one square foot of space per bird. Being in such crowded conditions, these animals are much more prone to illness and infection, so daily doses of anti-biotics are all a part of their feeding formula. Factory farm meat animals do not lead happy and content lives. What an animal eats becomes the animal.

I won't even get into the things that are added to processed foods. Read the labels yourself.

Think about it . . if you go to the produce section of your grocery store and buy a head of lettuce or a bag of carrots, more of your dollar goes directly to the producer, but if you go buy a can of processed meat product, or canned mixed veggies, very little goes back to the producer. Same deal with a fresh piece of meat and a bag of potatoes vs a frozen diner of meat and potatoes. Every added step in the process of getting the food from the farm to you means more dollars in the pockets of the corporate elite who make the real money in all this mess.

Now consider where your hard earned dollars go when you buy directly from the person who produces your food. It goes directly into that person's pocket. Now that doesn't mean that every dollar a farmer takes in is cash profit. Quite the contrary. Consumer focused farmers make very little real profit off the food they sell to customers. It costs organic producers even more per pound to produce meat animals or crops. We don't use chemical fertilizers and we don't use herbicides to clear our plots. Both of those conditions make for less yield per acre of crops. Our animals are not fed chemically enhanced feeds, causing them to grow slower and thus eat more feed in their lifetime. Compound that with the fact that organic feed is about twice as expensive as commercial feed when bought in small quantities. . . by small quantities I mean a couple tons or less. You see, commercial factory farms buy their feeds at rock bottom prices. When I go to the feed store and buy comparable feeds, they cost me at least twice as much and that is the price that I pay double for organic feed, so buying organic feed for my turkeys costs me at least four times as much as the feed the factory farms feed their birds. . . probably more and my birds eat more in their lifetime than commercially raised birds.

The other nice thing about buying from the small farmer whether he be organic or not is that his animals are probably pasture fed. That means they graze. "What" you say? "The beef I buy in the store doesn't graze?" Sorry folks, but the beef you buy in the store hasn't seen a green pasture in months. Those cows sit in stockyards and fatten up on chemically enhanced grains for many weeks and sometimes many months at a time before they are slaughtered.
Pasture fed farm raised cattle are happy cattle as are similarly raised poultry, sheep and any other animal raised in a natural environment.

So please, think about where your food comes from. After you've done that decide where you WANT your food to come from. If, like many, you decide you want to eat more healthy and have your money go where it is more ethically utilized, find a farmers market or even a local farmer. Contact your state department of agriculture and ask them where farmer's markets are located or where direct farm buying is possible. Take a ride in the country and stop and talk to a farmer or two. Farmers are pretty friendly people who won't be bashful about telling what's what in their neck of the woods.

So take a shot at changing the way you eat. Eat less processed food and more items from the fresh produce and meat section of the supermarket. Find yourself a farmer's market or some farms that sell direct. Eat less fast food, as it's mostly the dregs of the food processing chain. Think healthy.

I'll see y'all down in the barnyard.


Tequila Mockingbird said...

so that salty taste in my food is herbacides and fertilizers? i thought it was just jism. sure is tasty!

SagaciousHillbilly said...

tsk, tsk, tsk, Tequi, I'm tryin to focus on serious issues here. . . but glad you like the corporate agro-jiz that they force feed you.

AngryMan said...

I love corporate welfare. That's why I'm starting my own corp. soon. I'll get fucking rich.

C.Rag said...

That's why I buy local &/or organic.

C.Rag said...

Here's an interesting post about a study on the percentage of food that a state can produce.

here today, gone tomorrow said...

Well said.

Phoebe Fay said...

Great post. This is a topic that has been taking up more and more of my thought over the last year or two. I've always tried to be conscientious about eating, but I've definitely stepped up my awareness since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and some other things.

I decided to just stop eating mammals all together. One, my system doesn't digest them very well, and two, I won't eat the factory-farmed animals, and while I know there are some ethical meat producers out there, it's easier to just not eat it.

I've also switched to organic for all eggs and dairy products. Learning how much shit they pump into those cows and chickens was disgusting.

As for processed foods, I'm a big label reader, and once you start reading the labels, it gets really easy to just throw the boxes back on the shelf.

Tequila Mockingbird said...

suck on my chocolate salty balls. put em in your mouth n lick em. ohhh but those probably have too much preservatives in them