A friend sent me a link to the “Safe Foods” site after seeing my post on the movie FoodInc. She wanted to know what I thought about the attempt to debunk the “myths” in the movie, and their supposed facts about how safe the current system really is.
The site leads off with this paragraph about the reality of producing sustainable foods:
Subscribing to the film’s makers’ vision for North American food production would mean many things, including:
* Food prices—especially meat and poultry prices—would rise dramatically because of the increased costs of their inefficient production approaches.
* Vast amounts of land would need to be used to raise livestock and poultry in free range systems.
* The environment would suffer from open systems lacking environmental controls.
* Many fresh fruits and vegetables, which are seasonal in nature, would become unavailable in many areas of the country for much of the year.
* Imported foods like salamis from Italy, Danish hams and many other items would become “politically incorrect” because of the distances the products travel.
Ok, so those are their main arguments, and here’s what I think about them.
At first glance, yes, most of these statements are at least partially true. However, they couldn’t be further from missing the point if they tried, and I do believe they are trying.
For instance, would we need vast amounts of land to produce the meat to meet our current levels of consumption if we raised cattle the Salatin way? Well, yes, but there are a few problems with that argument.
First, the ‘you’re-missing-the-point’ argument: Didn’t steaks used to be a treat? Now, they’re apparently considered an entitlement, and served in obscene portions of 10, 12, 16 ounces… Is that availability really doing our health any good? Diabetes, Obesity, heart disease, antibiotic resistance, e-coli outbreaks… those are just a few of the “benefits” of a diet high in industrialized foods. Is this really an entitlement we want?
Of those choices, which would you rather live next to? Toxic fumes and contaminated drinking water? or the sort of place you’d be happy to take your kids to visit?? Even if the industrial agriculture isn’t in YOUR backyard, don’t think you’re safe from it’s toxic effects. The meat from the grocery store might not be as safe as you think, and the overflow can even contaminate your vegetables. Beyond that, the overuse of medications that such overcrowding necessitates is having a seriously detrimental effect on doctors’ ability to treat simple infections.
So let’s go back to their main arguments:
1. Yes, prices would rise. However, the current “cheap-on-the-surface” meat and poultry is anything but cheap in reality. We pay now, or we pay later with our health, our children’s health, and the health of the land around us.
2. We might need more available land, but the land wouldn’t be a wasteland, and the effects of farming it would do more GOOD than harm. Can you even imagine that?
3. It’s true that we might not have cheap fresh strawberries year-round. But again, as oil prices increase, shipping foods across the world is going to naturally become a luxury… just like it used to be. This silly distraction is irrelevant to the current discussion.
4. Again, imported salamis and the like will go back to being what they used to be… a luxury, something to be savored and appreciated instead of taken for granted. Is that really so awful?
We waste an insane amount of food in our culture, partly because we do not truly appreciate it’s value. The scare tactics used by the meat industry are hell-bent on keeping the truth from the public by provoking unfounded fears as distractions. The truth is that the industrial food culture spends billions to bring you shiny, happy, shrink-wrapped packages of things that barely resemble food, with low nutritional value, high calorie counts, and are full of subsidies, toxins and disease. All of this is brought to you in the name of efficiency, but the only efficient things about it are how quickly the pockets of the executives are filled, and how much faster we’re making ourselves and our land sick.