Archive | November, 2009

Food Inc. and change

8 Nov

As a fan of Michael Pollan’s, I’ve wanted to see Food Inc since its release in theatres in June. This week, E and I finally got to see it as part of the Marshall Artist Series’ Fall Film Festival. I’m in the middle of reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was about to see.

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About the film (source):

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

This was a seriously powerful film, and I was shocked to realize how much surprised me. I had several moments where I was thisclose to crying, and I’m not the crying type. When I left the theatre, I was angry more than anything else. Food Inc. covers a lot of ground, so I’m going to talk about the matter which affected me the most.

  • In 1972, the FDA conducted 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted only 9,164. In 1998, the USDA implemented microbial testing for salmonella and E. coli 0157h7 (an intensively dangerous deadly strain causing hemorrhagic colitis), so that if a plant repeatedly failed the tests, they could be shut down by the USDA. After being taken to court by the meat and poultry associations, the USDA no longer has the power. E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks have become more frequent in America,
    whether it be from spinach or jalapenos. In 2007, there were 73,000
    people sickened from the E. coli virus.

Our government is not protecting us. They are allowing corporations to rule in their own best interest, choosing bottom line and highest profit over humanity and ethics. If the meat you’re producing is making people sick or dead, you shouldn’t be allowed to produce it anymore. End of story. If you think that there are laws to protect you and your family against disease and unclean conditions, you are so very wrong. This doesn’t just affect carnivores – it affects everyone. E, as a vegetarian, is no safer than me because the waste and by-products from factory farming go into the ground, the water supply, and contaminate so much more than meat. We shouldn’t have to worry about peanut butter and vegetables making us sick, but we do, because the USDA, FDA and other government bodies are useless and too fearful of lawsuits to do anything about it.

  • SB63 Consumer Right to Know measure requiring all food derived from
    cloned animals to be labeled as such passed the California state
    legislature before being vetoed in 2007 by Governor Schwarzenegger,
    who said that he couldn’t sign a bill that pre-empted federal law.

Once again, WHERE IS OUT GOVERNMENT??!?!?! What kind of country is this that we don’t have the rights to see what’s in our food, the nutritional make-up of it or even to know whether it’s from a cloned animal or a genetically modified product. If we can’t count on being protected, we should at least be given the opportunity and rights to protect ourselves.

  • 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes; Among
    minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.

We are literally making ourselves sick. From all the fat, salt and sugar we eat to the 200 lbs. of meat the average American consumer consumes in a year, we are helping ourselves into an early grave. Diabetes is no longer something that’s a genetic hurdle, but a certainty. When it’s cheaper to get a hamburger than an apple, there’s an issue. The cost of food isn’t just the price at the store or on the drive-through menu, but in the medical bills, the despair and the early loss of life 5, 10, 20 years from now. Just because the burger you eat today doesn’t hurt you, the effects of it will.

It really bothered me to not see Perdue, Tyson or Monsanto present their point of view in Food Inc, which stated that they declined to comment. In fact, a Tyson farmer who was willing to show the inside of his chicken houses changed his mind after some visits from company representatives, and a Perdue farmer who decided to show both the chicken houses and speak on camera lost her contracts. To be fair, Monsanto and an alliance of meat production associations did both publish responses to the film, which can be seen here and here. 1208 026

E’s stepfather is a dairy farmer, and I assumed every farm to be like his – happy workers, happy animals and green grass and rolling hills. I visited the farm to feed the newborn calves last Thanksgiving, and had a blast. The animals are happy, playful and respected, and get to see sunlight, roam in the pasture and eat grass if and when they choose to. Basic care, right?

Wrong.

Most of our meat comes from plants and factories, where the goal is to produce meat as uniformly and as cheaply as possible. Chickens are raised with hundreds packed so closely together they can’t move, without sunlight or fresh air and grow so quickly so fast they can no longer support their own body weight, are unable to stand and can die from being so huge. It takes a chicken 3 months to reach 5 pounds, and commercial broilers reach that weight in a mere 49 days. Cows spend their days knee-deep in manure, never knowing, feeling or touching grass (the very thing they should be eating!) or are literally lying on top of each other. These animals are being treated as a product instead of as beings with needs. They aren’t respected from the day they’re born until the day they die, and that’s a problem. We are led to believe that without factory farming, we will run out of food and land and that’s simply not true. Humans have been farming and cultivating for thousands of years and have yet to have such a problem. In the last 50 years, we’ve done more damage to the Earth and to ourselves than in the last 5000.

I believe that Food Inc. is an important film, and that it’s important for the public to see it, especially now that it’s out on DVD and Blu-Ray. I will warn that it has some very graphic scenes, and I was horrified at some of the scenes I saw. Several of the bloggers I read had some interesting points to make about the movie as well.

At the end of the day, I’m angry. Really freaking angry, actually – at myself for being so naive, the government for not protecting us, especially from life-threatening diseases that are preventable, and the giant meat conglomerates for abusing their farmers, workers and animals to add another dollar in their big, fat pockets. Food Inc. has taught me an important lesson, though – I have no right to be angry or indignant if I’m not willing to do anything about it. Thankfully, there’s a silver lining to all of this – we can change. In fact, according to Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farms, “The irony is that the average consumer does not feel very powerful. They think that they are the recipients of whatever industry has put there for them to consume. Trust me, it’s the exact opposite. Those businesses spend billions of dollars to tally our votes. When we run an item past the supermarket scanner, we’re voting.”

The Food Inc. website has some fantastic tips on how we can make a difference:

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The way I feel about food now has forever impacted me, and I’m making changes in my own life. I’ve been a vegetarian before, and E is a vegetarian, but it’s just not the right choice for me, but this is:

  1. Eating ethical meat – if my meat isn’t naturally-raised, pastured or grass-fed, I’m not eating it. I believe that animals have the right to be respected and treated humanely, whether I choose to eat them or not. I stopped eating veal after my day with the calves, and pork went out the window a couple of weeks ago. I will only be purchasing meat for myself or eating meat served in a restaurant or in someone’s home if it fits the criteria. A few retaurants, including Savannah’s and Jewel City Seafood in town and Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston are safe, and there’s a farm about an hour away where I can buy meat and poultry. Otherwise, my options are to have a meal consisting of ocean-friendly fish/seafood or one that is meatless. The only exception to this would be game that is caught by a loved one, such as venison or wild turkey.
  2. Continue buying organic milk, yogurt and produce, and buy other natural and organic products as budget and availability allow.
  3. I will make more of an effort to learn where my food is coming from and what it’s made of, and to respect the seasons, and not just what was flown in.
  4. I will support companies and products that I believe in, and let every dollar we spend vote in our best interest.

Have you seen Food Inc? What opinions or thoughts did you have about the film and/or your eating habits? How do you vote at breakfast, lunch and dinner?

an adult tuesday

6 Nov

So, my last post was a little confusing, but completely on purpose. Wait, that doesn’t make a ton of sense in itself. But…oh, never mind. A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to be a volunteer for a new community kitchen that opened in town. They have an amazing collection of cookbooks, give free lessons 4 times a day, 5 days a week, and use all organic produce and ingredients.

Oh, and this guy:

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Seriously.

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The Kitchen’s goal for this week is to have 1,000 (or 2% of) people in Huntington cooking, and so a cook-a-thon was thrown! From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., there was a cooking class held every 30 minutes, taught by Jamie, for free. They made a beef and scallion stir-fry with noodles, and it smelled amazing – going outside was torture!

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We had a great turn-out; the firefighters and the media came out, and by 3 p.m., we’d had 250 people cook. Considering 20-30 people were cooking at one time, that’s crazy!

So, did I meet him?

YES!

He’s super-sweet, and at one point, he even called out to me from the stage, and was all, “darling, are you okay? we having fun?”. Oh yeah, we totally bonded. I’m bummed I wasn’t able to get a picture with him, but he was running around like a madman, and I hated the thought of bugging him like the crazy foodie fangirl that I am. I did get the next best thing, though.

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Yup, totally posing with his shirt. Love the fact that I looked thrilled beyond belief. For a shirt. I’m such a weirdo!

After coming home and eating dinner, E dragged me away. Don’t I look terrified?

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Just kidding! It was more like a treat…AVENUE Q!

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The show was amazing. The puppets were incredible (and I hate puppets!), the songs were amazing, and it was just darn plain funny. I would definitely recommend it, but not to young children, anyone uptight, or those who have no sense of humor.

Now for the food!

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9:15 a.m. Kashi GoLean and Honey Sunshine, with a teeny banana on its last legs, pecans and nonfat milk

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12:25 p.m. Clif Mountain Mojo Trail Mix bar – sheer heaven!

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12:50 p.m. ‘Bucks’ Grande Passion Tea with 1 Splenda

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4:35 p.m. Worst lunch ever! Benny’s Hickory Chicken sandwich, no bacon and no Swiss and a garden salad with no cheese and ginger dressing on the side. Seriously disappointing – too much bbq sauce, stale bread, off salad dressing, and obviously cheese. Ugh. I ate all the veggies, 1 tsp of dressing, all the chicken (with half the sauce wiped off) and half the bun. Everything else got tossed, although I able to salvage the cheese for E’s next lunch, which was about 1/4 cup’s worth.

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Now some girls are all about little blue boxes, but for me, my heart melts for a certain medium red one.

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Oh yeah. The fastest way to my heart is chocolate-covered fruit, and to me, Edible Arrangements is king. The best part? Thanks to Facebook, it was free. Definitely had to sample to make sure it was up to par.

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5:20 p.m. Granny Smith covered with dark chocolate. I was a good wife, and split it with E.

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6:30 p.m. Cedarlane LF chicken burrito. I’ve never had a Cederlane product that I didn’t like, and this was no exception. A little spicy, a lot of chicken. Almost too much chicken, but can there ever be too much? This guy was small but filling, especially with Blue Smoke salsa and shredded mozz on top.

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7:00 p.m. And of course, fruit for dessert! Dark chocolate-covered pineapple, split with E.

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Now there may or may not have been a junior whopper, no mayo, consumed after the show, on the way home at around 11 p.m. Not ideal, but it happened. Just saying.

Who’s your foodie rock star?

Mine are definitely Jamie Oliver, Rick Bayless, Grant Achatz, Giada deLaurentiis, and Paula Deen. Edited to add Martin Yan, Alton Brown and Michael Smith – how could I have forgotten? Thanks for reminding me, Susan!

halloween downtime

3 Nov

Hi guys!

Happy belated Halloween – was it a smash?
E and I had planned to go to Athens, but between the rain, refinishing the bedroom and E putting in an 8 hour day at the office, it just didn’t happen. Instead, we had a veggie turkey dinner, complete with homemade cranberry sauce and triple-chip pumpkin raisin muffins, followed by drinks and appys and a visit to the pumpkin house. Not exactly how we planned it, but fun nonetheless.

E and I mad a late-night run to Target last night when we realized that both of our cameras’ batteries were dead, and the only charger we could find wasn’t working. Bought a new charger, tested it out and thankfully, it works like a dream! Today’s plans? A touch of community nudity and hanging out on the Avenue.

Confused yet?
I’ll explain everything in the next post – happy tuesday!