Along about the time that big corporate agriculture started taking over the family farm, something nobody thinks much about started to happen. The corporate idea, you see, is to maximize production and profit and to control as much of the market as possible. Because it’s only when you have a 20% market share that the major efficiencies kick in and let you ease on down the road to the real money.
Trust me, they teach this stuff in marketing classes.
Maximizing production and profit is corporate speak for getting the most out of the least at the lowest cost. Which in the AgriBusiness world, translates to product that is cheaper to produce, less prone to blight and disease, has a longer shelf-life and delivers more salable ounces of acceptable quality to the checkout.
That’s “acceptable” quality, not necessarily “goodness” or “nutrition”. You want your animals growing bigger prime cuts and your fruits and veggies big and bruise- and bug-resistant and with more mouth appeal, which usually means sweeter and fattier. Faster growing, too– time to market counts. (You might want to Google CAFO)
Of course, science is our friend and can help us do all these things. So today, we don’t just have fatter cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys, we have bigger, sweeter fruits, refrigerator friendly eggs and cheeses, longer-lasting milk, and – well, you name it.
To get there, today’s agribusinesses use fertilizers, feeds, growth hormones, antibiotics, other pharmaceuticals, pesticides, vermicides and what not. Genetic modification too. And cloning. They’re working on cloning animals from dead cows right now, because you can’t taste em till they’re dead (well you can, but that’s just sick) and we want the best tasting meat, right? And we’ve got to have the biggest, tastiest potatoes too, because man cannot live by steak alone.
Which just might be why we have bigger people. Taller, fatter, broader. Look around.
So, we’ve poured decades of research into fooling around with Mother Nature. We don’t even really know how our own brains and bodies work, but we’ve been putting the results of these ongoing experiments into our gullets one bite at a time for decades.
Aren’t we forgetting something? Like –omigod– Science? By the way, it’s not our “friend,” it’s a field of “study.” Science could care less about us. Scientists might care, but –hold the phone– they’re just people like you and me, albeit with different wiring. They still make discoveries, like what used to be good for you is now bad for you, and vice versa. But they don’t even know everything they don’t know. Obviously.
And there’s this thing called “the food chain,” right? Plus a whole big pile of evidence that stuff is interconnected and there’s even something called –I love this one– “unintended consequences.” (I think that’s public relations speak for something we used to call “Not Thinking It Through”. Kind of civilian talk for “collateral damage”, or “friendly fire,” if you get my drift).
Have you noticed how often a miracle drug turns out to be a disaster? I think Mad Cow was an unintended consequence, if I recall. And mercury showing up in fish. And on and on. And Lord I miss oysters–– do you remember them? (Are you ready for seafood flavored with sweet light crude or benzene?).
Maybe –just maybe– the organic nutters have it right. Finally they can make a living because the “organic” moniker commands a premium price in the marketplace nowadays. Of course, they’re relying on Science, too. And you wonder if they check residual levels of all those additives where they grow their tofu and whatnot. And vapors from the corporate farm next door.
Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on this because I like to eat and I don’t own a farm or a hatchery. But if you wonder why Americans are obese or why Johnnie has so many allergies or why Janie started puberty when she was seven, well, maybe it’s not really a hard question. Just a really hard answer.
After all, Eating is Fundamental. But so are breathing and drinking water, and we don’t seem too worried about them either.
We could, however, pay attention to the fact that when you’re always focussed on the dollars, things don’t necessarily work out for the best. Just ask AIG or Enron. Or BP.
Say, are you gonna eat that?