A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Friday, April 15, 2011

It ain't finger-lickin' good...just yet!

Last weekend Liz and I rented a video: Food, Inc., which we watched (thankfully) after we ate. This is a documentary film about America's food industry and how the supply and choices of food are currently controlled by a relatively small handful of multi-national corporations such as Cargill, Perdue, Tyson, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Kellog, General Mills, Smithfield Foods, McDonald's, Monsanto Chemical, and others.

We discovered that the romantic family farm of yesteryear is gone, supplanted now by industrially-owned and operated food production facilities which resemble Ford assembly lines more than anything formerly  related to agriculture as the world once knew it. Today the focus of "farming" is on increasing output at the expense of virtually all other considerations, e.g., animal husbandry, soil preservation, the taste and nutritional excellence of food, environmental damage and the like. In short, the objective of food production (a/k/a/farming), reduced to its naked truth, is using animals and the land to generate profit--period. All other concerns--health, nutrition, environment, treatment of livestock, etc.-- become secondary to the main goal: maximum dollar return to the stockholders and secure positions for management.

As suggested in the title to this blog, there is a nexus of "Food, Inc." with what we discovered earlier as the driving forces behind our current "Great Recession," namely the overlap between those people who are in charge of an industry's operations and those who are hired by the government to make sure that its rules are followed and standards met. In the case of food production and regulations, we see once again that agriculture folks move back and forth from the production side to the regulatory side with ease and apparent lack of conscience. Once again, the proverbial fox is in charge of guarding the hen house. Once again, the "little" people, the unsuspecting and trusting  public, the consumers (literally eaters) of American farm products (genetically modified and chemically altered and appealingly packaged) are falling victim to the avarice of corporate agriculture as it exercises its self-interest without hesitation, second thought or apology.

Take heart, do not despair ultimately. The video does present a remedy of sorts which we, as consumers, can put into play. It begins here. Industry will not create products unless there is consumer demand. Consumer demand can change the way  agri-business acts--at least to some degree. For example, in the movie we hear that Walmart was pressured by its customers (consumers) to demand from its suppliers a larger selection of food which is organically produced in a healthy environment. As a result of this consumer pressure Walmart stores now has an extensive organic, farm-fresh section.

If we consumers continue to make our preferences known by the way we spend our money in the supermarkets, then the industry which owns the markets and their suppliers will, over time, bend to consumer demand. This strategy is particularly effective these days because grocery chains have computer records of what we (individually) purchase, and daily inventory records of what is selling and what is not. Our stores will not continue to purchase products from their suppliers that are slow or non-sellers. Suppliers will turn to the food producers, farmers if you will, and demand product which aligns more closely with the standards that consumers demand.

Therefore, it is possible to make the profit motive work in our favor for a change. Unfortunately, this will come with several costs. Since organic and natural foods cost more to produce and get to the consumer, the prices we pay will be somewhat higher than we would pay for mass produced or assembly line  products. But, it also means that many lower income folks will probably continue to rely on the less expensive and more convenient foods offered to them in their neighborhood stores without much regard for the quality of the food, namely considerations taking into account nutritional quality, health benefits, and ethical considerations such as degredation of land and environment, and the abusive treatment of livestock in the food chain.

It's hard for me, the consummate supermarket shopper, to buy both healthy and thrifty, but I'm going to try. Maybe my data in the Kroger computer will prove to be a tipping point which changes the whole system of what's available for me and others to buy and eat.

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