Itís All Corn
Our country is under siege. We’re dropping like flies from obesity, coronary artery disease, type II diabetes, etc. Even our children are affected, with many diseases traditionally associated with aging showing up in them.
We’re caught in a conundrum. What’s killing us is also what is sustaining us. Our food!
We need food. We can’t quit, like we can with smoking or drinking. We need to be able to afford our food, too. We’re told that processing, preserving, additives and mass production help to provide us with reasonably priced, wholesome food. This is pretty much not so.
Not only that, our food production and processing methods expose our farmers to deadly chemicals, destroy our soil due to erosion, increase our carbon load by using petroleum to power production of artificial fertilizers, and create huge pollution problems due to excess fertilizer runoff. It’s a nightmare.
In other words, we’re fat, we’re sick, and we’re polluting our environment, all in the name of food.
Are we enjoying ourselves, waddling out of restaurants, bellies overly full after a super-sized meal? Do we really like the aftertaste of a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch? What about packaged cookies, pasty bread and crackers, cardboard frozen pizza? Bleh!
I recently visited my son in California. He‘s an entrepreneur, owning a small ornamental iron company. He burns lots of calories welding, lifting heavy metal, and riding his bike from place to place to save money, not to mention walking up to his third floor apartment.
He shops for food at a Latin market in his neighborhood, buying fresh produce for much less than in grocery stores. Most mornings he prepares a huge vegetable and cheese omelet, topped with sliced avocado and accompanied by awesome home fries cooked in olive oil.
Lunch is often cheese and avocado sandwiches on whole grain bread with fresh fruit from the market. Often for dinner, it’s potatoes with greens, also sautéed in olive oil. It’s real, low in cost, maybe a little high in wholesome fats, but he is a calorie burning machine.
He is fit enough, at about the age his dad had his first, early heart attack, to ride up those San Francisco hills.
I knew about food when I went to visit Sean, but not nearly enough about America’s agribusiness.
Our food production system is based on corn. It is, indeed, all corn.
We grow this corn using oil as fuel in the creation of artificial nitrogen fertilizer. We also genetically modify it, and treat it with pesticides. Yum. Then the extra nitrogen runs into the Mississippi River and out to the Gulf of Mexico, where it has caused a huge dead space, a space where fish can’t live.
Secretive laboratories in the Midwest are working night and day to figure out what to do with corn, because we have too much. We, by the way, are paying farmers to grow it by subsidizing the price they get per bushel when they sell it.
We feed corn to beef cattle, along with blood products from their own deceased relatives. (The bone and other ground up products that have been associated with mad cow disease are now fed to chickens.) Most food additives found on food labels are fractionated corn. High fructose corn syrup is corn, too.
The steers that become our beef become riddled with fat throughout their muscles, they have big problems with indigestion and liver cysts as corn is not their natural food. They are closely monitored and treated with antibiotics and other medicines to help them through this experience. They also spend much of their lives standing in their own feces while awaiting those troughs full of yummy corn-and-blood feed. We prize this marbleized, corn-fed beef.
Some preliminary medical research suggests that this beef is causing our fat-related health problems, and that we could safely eat as much natural, grass fed beef without health problems.
There is also emerging evidence that high fructose corn syrup is much worse for our bodies than glucose as it is metabolized differently, recent television ads notwithstanding.
This information is circulating out there. Evidence of this can easily be found in your grocery store. Just try to buy an egg. There are brown eggs, white eggs, all different sizes. There are vegetarian fed, cage free, organic vegetarian fed, free range chickens producing these eggs. Then there are those agribusiness people who say that an egg is an egg. Try telling me that after looking at the deep orange-yellow yolk of a free range chicken egg and then tasting it. It doesn’t look the same or taste the same.
I think the answer lies in sustainable local food production, which could provide a good life for us, the farmers and the animals. It might cost a little more, but maybe a few bean and rice dinners could help to make up for it. They’re really good for you, not to mention the great salsas available for seasoning. Also, then, all your food wouldn’t be corn.
Recommended reading and the source of some of this column‘s information: “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” by Michael Pollan. It’s a relatively quick and engaging read, and packed with information.