Food Inc., a new movie..
"In the meat aisle, there are no bones anymore ..."
I have to say that I am NOT scared of my supermarket aisles, nor am I particularly outraged about how food is made or sold in America.
As with so many other things, I vote with my feet and my wallet every time I go out or make a purchase. And guess what? That works!
YES, let us educate more about healthy food.
YES, let's get a better, smarter and more independent Food and Drug Administration.
But should I really be terrified about what is offered up at the supermarket or outraged that grocery stores and restaurants continue to sell us what so many of us seem to want to buy (including packaged meat devoid of bones)?
As for the notion that America is going to be saved by switching to organic farms and growing heirloom tomatoes and summer squash, I'm not buying it.
Don't get me wrong: I love organic farms, and I am strongly in favor of more fruits and veggies, and I applaud the growing market for grass-fed beef and free-range chickens.
I am all for treating farm animals better. I want the chickens and pigs to have more room.
I salute everyone who has a backyard vegetable garden and a couple of laying hens.
But let's get real: Most Americans live in cities and suburbs and they are not going to be able to grow all their vegetables and raise all of their meat.
Nor do we necessarily want them to.
Is a back yard farmer throwing Miracle Grow fertilizer and spraying potent insecticides, fungicides and herbicides down the storm sewer "good for the environment"? I doubt it.
And if all those backyard crops are lost to stem rot, blight, cut worm, drought, aphids, and squirrels, is that "good for the environment" too, even after you have figured in the cost of mulch, treated city water, and pressure-treated landscaping timbers? I doubt it.
And then there is the little question of physical labor.
If we get rid of all our corn and soy bean fields, and replace them with locally-grown truck gardens, who is going to pick the lettuce, cabbage, string beans, onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, and zucchini?
A "hobby garden" is a fine thing, but you cannot feed New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, and Las Vegas on hobby gardens or hobby farms. You need massive plots and you need a heck of a lot of them.
We no longer live in an era of schooners and candles, and with a population of 310 million people in the U.S., and over 6.5 billion around the globe, we cannot afford to farm like we do.
You say you want the world to go organic and embrace a "small is beautiful" agricultural ethos?
Fine, but if so then you better stop talking about food and start talking about family planning.
You see, adding one more human to the population of the world does more damage to the planet than any benefit ever conferred by eating local, eating organic, embracing a vegetarian diet, and reusing, recycling, and doing without.
In a world of 6.5 billion people sex may not be a sin, but adding more children is clearly a violence against nature. Bill McKibben suggests "Maybe One." I suggest maybe none ... not that you are asking, and not that anyone is going to listen. Yes, I do understand that population growth is an "inconvenient truth."
So let's go back to food -- a much safer and easier topic for most people to discuss.
If you have food crops that cannot be mechanized (and many crops cannot), then you need a massive labor force that will show up on call and without fail to work in the heat and bugs for 12 hour-days, and for as many days as it takes to bring in the crops.
And then, when the crops are in, you need those people to disappear until they are needed again at a moment's notice (i.e. during that magical three-day window when your fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest at maximum value).
How do you do that? Is there a solution to America's food problems?
I think there is.....
What if we all ate more fruits and vegetables, but instead of importing people to grow hand-picked fruits and vegetables, we imported fruits and vegetables grown in countries where there were lots of unemployed hands ready and eager to pick them?
Instead of sending foreign aide to Latin America, Africa, and Asia, how about if we imported more hand-picked food crops from those countries?
To balance out the trade, we might export machine-harvested crops (like corn and soy) and manufactured goods and foods (like dry wall and Coca cola).
But wait, you say: that's what we're doing right now!
You're right! And you know what? It's not such a bad thing.
So what if there is no longer "a season" in America's supermarkets? Why is it such a bad thing that folks can get lemons, oranges, melons and mangoes in winter?
And why don't we stop blaming America's farmers and supermarkets for the fact that so many of us are fat and stupid?
Each of us controls what we buy for food, and what we put in our own mouth.
It's time we stopped infantalizing ourselves and took responsibility for what we eat and how we look.
The problem with the American diet is not in our fields, it's between our ears; the same place it has always been.
You want to look better and live longer? Here's a little secret: eat less and exercise more.
Treat potato chips, pretzels, ice cream, cookies, candy, soft drinks and pastries like a member of Alcoholics Anonymous treats beer, wine and vodka -- complete abstinence.
Don't start and then try to control it. Don't start at all.
Throw away all of your big plates and deep bowls, and your portion size will inevitably shrink, and in all likelihood your waistline will too.
Never drive through a fast-food line again.
Drink more water and try to fast one day a week (tell yourself it's a spiritual thing).
And you know what will happen if you do that? You will lose weight and feel better.
And if enough people do that, the folks who run the grocery stores will put in smaller snack aisles, and smaller soft drink aisles, and bigger and more lavish fruit, vegetable, and whole meat displays.
In short, if we lead with our feet and wallets, America's grocery stores and restaurants will follow.
"Vote with your fork."
It really is that simple -- and it really is that hard.