From the time that Europeans first arrived, North America has always been a land of plenty.
The fear of famine was a scourge of the Old World, not the New. North America has an enormous amount of arable land compared to its relatively sparse population. And North America’s native staple crops – potatoes and corn – produce an impressive number of calories per acre compared to wheat and barley.
Because technology continues to improve even faster than its population grows, North America is now facing a strange new problem: extreme food excess.
It has become easy and inexpensive to obtain enough food to sustain oneself, and most Americans consume far more than we need to survive. While our Old World ancestors worried about famine and blight, we are faced with an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
How did this happen? How did food become so abundant, and why are the unhealthiest foods the cheapest? The documentary film “Food, Inc.” does a pretty good job of answering these questions.
Partly because the Federal government subsidizes corn farmers, the United States produces an incredible abundance. Indeed, we have been inspired to devise amazing new ways to use all that maize.
Corn bi-products like corn syrup are found in most of the bottled and packaged foods we find in the supermarket. Good news for everyone except those who are struggling to maintain a moderate, well-balanced diet.
There’s so much corn that we now feed it to cattle in lieu of grass. Now cattle are cheaper and more abundant than ever. Good news for people who enjoy a tasty burger at an affordable price. Bad news for folks who concern themselves with the welfare of domesticated animals.
Director Robert Kenner also argues – unconvincingly – that feeding corn to cows has increased the risk of food-born illness. I’ve seen a lot of people eat a lot of beef, and I’ve never known anyone who has contracted e. coli.
Kenner blames corporations like Tyson and McDonalds for destroying family farms and replacing them with gigantic, homogenized murder factories, where animals and workers alike are treated like cheap commodities to be exploited.
I agree that the way we treat animals is ghastly, disgusting, and a mark of shame on our entire civilization.
However, I am not so quick to place the blame on multi-national corporations (i.e., The Bogeyman) like Kenner does. Giving the people what they want at a low price doesn’t seem all that evil to me. As long as Americans continue to demand mountains of chicken corpses, somebody will be there to provide them. Tyson just happens to be the company that does it most efficiently.
I certainly don’t agree with every argument that “Food, Inc.” makes. But it did make me think about a very important topic, and that is more than I can say for most movies.