Archive for the ‘Financials’ Category

The food utopia that doesn’t exist

Hatched: Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

It should come as no surprise that there is yet another beat down on the social, economical and environmental impact of America’s so-called “factory farms” hitting bookshelves in time for your bird-less Thanksgiving and ham-free holidays. This time it comes from Jonathan Safran Foer, a strict vegetarian who discusses these issues at length in his new book “Eating Animals” and in this recent interview

It’s relevant to know that Foer is first and foremost a novelist — and a polarizing one at that. This is his first foray into what is being marketed as nonfiction.

Here is one outtake from the interview.

“We [consumers] pay very little at the cash register, but we pay and our kids are going to pay for the environmental toll, obviously the animals are paying, rural communities are paying. And for what? So that corporations can prosper. The huge agribusiness — companies make hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars, not in the name of feeding the world, but in the name of making something that’s so cheap that people become literally addicted to it.”

Fortunately, we as consumers have options and can choose our food preferences including how our food is produced (e.g., caged system eggs vs. free-range, organic vs. non-organic). Affordable is not synonymous with inferior just as expensive doesn’t hold exclusive rights to quality. And surely “good choices” are often what we, as individuals, deem to be good.

But what about the oxymoron that Foer doesn’t call out – like the organic corporation? What about the farmer who, for what it’s worth, is producing organic food but hasn’t ponied up for its marketing benefit? Before we champion some practices and relegate others as the scourge to all that is perceived as good, it would be wise to rethink our relationship to food in practical terms. 

Just image, for the sake of illustration and activist jubilation, that all eggs were free-range and organic – as well as four bucks a dozen. Imagine the public outcry and backlash, despite the “humane” practices or “perceived” health benefits. Imagine the 39.8 million Americans who, living in poverty, can barely afford the 99-cent variety and would otherwise go without this affordable source of protein. Then imagine stumbling on a recent study that says organic food is not healthier for you. What Biggie do we blame then? Big Organics? Big Media? Big Government? Big Activist? Or maybe, just maybe, the Big Dope in the mirror that’s perhaps the recipient of the Big Dupe?

Finding ways to feed the world – reaching the millions who are starving and malnourished with real farm-raised food – should trump any grandiose vision of an elitist food utopia pushed by those who have no idea what it means to go hungry or, for that matter, farm.

Mr. Foer has an opinion – and certainly he’s entitled to it. But as an acclaimed fiction writer, you can sense his difficulty discerning between his worldview (fact?) and his craft (fiction)…you know, the form that brought him to this dance in the first place.