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Food Log: Ignorant…bliss?

During my food class today, we talked about slaughter houses. My professor showed several disturbing videos of animal cruelty, only one of which I was able to bring myself to watch. However, I could not avoid the videos’ sound. Hearing the screams of the animals in the crates and cages pulled at my heart strings in a way that I wasn’t expecting.

In all honesty, I was expecting to come to class, learn about slaughter houses, and then go to lunch and eat a cheeseburger or chicken or whatever meat the cafeteria was serving today.  However, that didn’t happen. I actually ordered a chicken sandwich and couldn’t eat it. I had a banana instead. I really had no idea how incredibly grotesque those slaughter facilities actually are.

Pigs are my favorite animal. (They are quite possibly the cutest animals ever.) And when I saw the cages they are kept in for their entire lives—unable to move more than an inch in any direction—it made me so sad for them. For an animal that’s destined to die from the moment it is born, I think there should be some at least some sort of happiness for it.

It’s not that I didn’t have the opportunity to learn about slaughter houses before now, I have simply chosen not to. I guess that in the back of my mind I know that this happens, but I have chosen to believe that every farmer is humane to their animals and treats them with some element of respect. Today, I guess I have to face the fact that most of our meat is not produced on “happy animal farms.” This is the same as with any injustice. Unless it is shoved into people’s faces, many times we avoid acknowledging any part of life that is less than ideal.

I’m not saying that I won’t eat meat ever again. And I’m definitely not saying that eating meat is wrong. In fact, I think that hunting as a source of food is absolutely morally acceptable, even good. I also think that raising farm animals like pigs, cows, chickens, etc.  for the purpose of meat is also ok. However, I AM CERTAINLY SAYING THAT HARMING ANIMALS for no reason, allowing them to sit in their own feces, caging them in a metal box that prevents them from extending their limbs, allowing open sores to go untreated and the many other horrifying things that happen in industrialized meat factories IS.

Eating meat is NOT the problem. The PEOPLE that allow inhumanity to happen ARE THE PROBLEM.

Final thought: We are what we eat. When we allow animals to contract diseases, ingest parts of other processed animals, and lay in their own excrement, that doesn’t all disappear once it gets to us. WE ACTUALLY INGEST ALL OF THAT OURSELVES!

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Reflection: Butter Brings Us Together

As a Pennsylvania Farm Show attendee and former 4H member, I was really excited when I found the reference to this year’s butter sculpture in a blog post*! I don’t think I realized how big of a deal this part of the farm show is. But I also never really thought about what they do with it after Farm Show week is over. I always just figured they threw it away, even though there was so much time and money (and butter) put into it.

This year’s sculpture was almost 1,000 pounds of butter from a Land O’Lakes farm, which is where many of the farms in my area give their milk. So that started me thinking about the connections between this year’s farm show butter sculpture. Let’s follow it:

  1. It would have started as milk inside  a cow on the Land O’Lakes farm in Carlisle
  2. Then, after many steps, the milk would have been processed into butter
  3. It would then have been carved by Jim Victor from Conshohocken, PA and brought to the farm show in Harrisburg
  4. During the farm show week, thousands of people walked past it and read the displays about dairy farming in Pennsylvania
  5. Finally, it made its final journey to Juniata County, where it was melted down into fuel to make another farm run for 3 days

Although this sculpture is a fun attraction for farm show visitors, it really made me think about how many people became connected because of 1,000 pounds of sculpted butter. I suppose this same idea carries over to all of the other foods I consume on a daily basis. Though I haven’t been impacted directly by it, it just makes me think about how much food connects us to people that we might not otherwise interact with.

…Just somefood for thought…

Butter Fun Facts:

  • the United States produced 1.56 billion pounds of butter in 2010.
  • Pennsylvania ranks sixth in butter production. The state’s top five milk producing counties are Lancaster, Franklin, Lebanon, Berks and Chester.
  • Americans consume more than four pounds of butter per person each year
  • The Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program says that it takes 21 pounds of fresh cow’s milk to make one pound of butter.

*There wasn’t very much information about butter or farming in this blog post, but it led me to sever other sites: Inhabitat, PA Farm Show

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Response: Perspective of a Self-Proclaimed Chocoholic

It is amazing what will pop up when you search the word “chocolate.” After searching the food blogosphere for interesting articles, I decided to cease my random clicking and take the most direct route to articles about one of my favorite foods. Almost immediately, I discovered this entry, “On Denmark’s ‘Fat Tax’”.

This post explains Denmark’s ‘fat tax’ which adds a tax to foods that are potentially harmful to individual’s health. Studies in health and nutrition have made connections between sugary foods and chronic diseases, such as heart failure, obesity, and diabetes. Denmark is trying to employ a tax that will discourage consumers from buying foods and products with high levels of sugars and saturated fats, such as “tobacco, ice cream, chocolate, candy, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.” In a country that already provides low cost childcare, education and healthcare through taxes, the implementation of this fat tax might seem like overkill. Additionally, the obesity rate in Denmark is 13.4%. (The U.S. has an average of 15%.) However, while the idea of this tax is outrageous to many Americans, Denmark has already been taxing candy for almost a century. On the other hand, several other European countries have followed Denmark’s lead and adapted tax laws for their own citizens.

Although proposals for an American “fat tax” have been smashed every time they have been suggested, the sensitivity over food regulation proves to me just how much of an issue government interaction is. There is a clear message embedded in the opposition of this tax. While I think everyone values government protection, freedom of choice is even more important. It is imperative that we are given options, even unhealthy ones, and then choose for ourselves what food we consume.

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Food Log: The American Farmer

The American farmer has just about the only occupation I can think of that can be so adversely affected by circumstances completely out of his control. Each one puts in more hours and provides essential commodities for more people—an average of 155 people per farmer—than any other job. Why then, are America’s farmers not more protected?

In Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he describes the gradual plight of the American Farmer. Parts of the New Deal were enacted after the Great Depression to aid farmers in evening out the surplus of food, the excess of which the average American could not afford to purchase. Although farming conditions did not necessarily improve after this, the U.S. government certainly helped to even out costs for the farmers that remained. However, around the time of the Nixon administration, the government had started to do more for the crops rather than the farmers themselves. I’m talking specifically about corn.

As of 2009, Iowa was the single greatest corn producing state—yielding 182 bushels per acre. Through Pollan’s book, I have begun to realize how deep corn farmers are sinking into a no-win situation. Corn cultivation has become an intricate dance between economics, regulation, supply, demand, science and technology. Technology has slowly made farming more efficient, but, just as in any market, improved technology diffuses quickly. A new type of tractor or a new brand of seed is only beneficial for a season before everyone around catches on. The Omnivore’s Dilemma explains that at the end of the day, American corn farmers are still stuck between a rock and a hard place, or on the technological treadmill as it is known: Government provided deficiency payments encourage farmers to produce as much corn as possible, then to sell it, regardless of market demand. However, this drives prices down. The only way to make up for the difference is by producing more corn.

Nevermind health concerns raised by the consistent use of genetically modified corn. Nevermind the strain on the land and the imbalance of types of crops produced in our country. Clearly, something needs to be done to help American farmers, preferably through legislation. We are all connected by the simple fact that food is essential for life. Therefore, the welfare of those farmers in Iowa who grow hundreds of acres of corn should be a concern for all of us. If farms continue to disappear, food as we know it will change entirely.

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