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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Pollan’

That’s just one of the great lines featured in the documentary King Corn. Yes, I have a one-track mind. And it’s set on learning as much as I can about our food system, and what’s wrong with it, so I can influence people to smarten up and think before they eat. Not only for the planet and the animals that inhabit it, but for their own health as well!

The documentary was created by two local guys (inspired by Michael Pollan’s work) who decided to go out to Iowa and grow an acre of corn. During this process, they learned about how farming in the Midwest has drastically changed in the past generation and where the corn grown out there ends up.

Here’s the super-abbreviated answer: a small part of the corn becomes ethanol. A large part is used to quickly make feedlot cows fat. More on that in a second. A larger part is processed into high fructose corn syrup, which can be found in almost every processed food we eat, especially soda. In a nutshell (or should I say corn cob?), corn is America’s crop, and it has taken over. It’s all about the bottom line instead of our health and well being.

Back to the cows. You’re probably wondering, why do I care what cows eat? Cows are made to eat grasses, which is why they have a rumen (specifically there to digest plants, such as grass). Grain isn’t part of their diet. Feedlot cows are fed a diet that’s primarily corn. Because corn is high in starch, is causes their stomachs to become more acidic, which causes health problems for the cattle. To paraphrase someone from the film, feedlot farmers are killing the cows by feeding them so much corn, so it’s a good thing they get slaughtered young since they’d die anyway. How does that affect us? First, corn-fed beef is much higher in saturated fat than grass-fed beef. This is due to the food they eat and the limited space the cows have to move. Meaning they don’t get exercise, while at the same time stuffing their faces with starch. Second, these feedlot cows are given antibiotics to help them fight the stomach disease–acidosis–caused by the corn diet. This is one reason that disease has become so prolific – due to all these antibiotics we unknowingly ingest, the viruses become resistant to antibiotics. Third, feedlots create TONS of pollution that threatens public health.

So why so much corn? (And yes, I’ve blogged about this before.) The government makes it so that growing many acres of corn is more profitable for farmers than growing any other crop. That’s why the “family farms” of yesteryear have become fields of corn as far as the eye can see. It’s also why high fructose corn syrup has become the number one sweetener. For more on this and how the corn subsidy came about, click here. I highly recommend you read this article.

You should watch King Corn, if not to learn a little more about what you’re actually eating, then at least to see a couple of Bostonians “grow” corn, eat it, and “sell” it. (And find out why I put grow and sell in quotes.)

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I recently started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: the Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan. I chose the “young readers edition,” because I’m so young at heart. Actually it’s because I was in such a rush to get the book and spend my gift card at Borders.com that I completely ignored all book information except for the publish date. I thought that since it was the newest edition, it would have the latest vital information that wasn’t in the earlier editions. Instead, it has lots of cool pictures and a really large font. And hey, that’s cool too. I’ve always been a visual learner.

The reason I purchased this book, and a couple others like it, is because I’m on a quest to find out as much about what goes into my food as I can. And it’s not just about what I’m eating and my own health. It’s about the world I live in, and how the creation of this food impacts it.

This all stems from the fact that I’ve always had a soft spot for animals and the environment, ever since I was young. Unfortunately, loving animals and the environment isn’t just about adopting a dog and recycling, one of which I did and one of which I currently do. Don’t get me wrong, these are steps in the right direction. But there is so much more. This blog is partially to document what I learn and spread the word. I need a place to organize my thoughts, so that it doesn’t all seem so overwhelming. After all, change doesn’t happen overnight.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with me being corny. I’ll get to that now. It’s partially because I’m my father’s daughter. But it’s mostly because I am what I eat. And, as I’m reading the above-mentioned book, I’m learning that corn, or some derivative of corn, is in almost every processed food I put into my body. Even though I never eat corn on the cob, I’m eating corn when I eat cereal, desserts, condiments, candy, non-dairy creamer, sauces, etc. Even meat.

What’s the big deal? So I eat a lot of corn, without even knowing it. How does this relate to animals and the environment?

Oh, you will find out! You’ll find out about that and so much more. Just be patient.

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