During the 1990’s, our family grew up with the beloved show, I Love Lucy. Ricky Ricardo always makes a grand entrance, home from work, with: “Honey, I’m home. What’s for dinner?” Ricky enters the living room, pecks a kiss on Lucy’s cheek. Lucy would fluster to the kitchen and whip something up, attempting to cover up her mischievous adventures.
This question poses a deep-rooted phenomenon in our culture today. Indeed, we are what we eat, and what we eat recreate the world that we live in. It is a pilgrim’s journey to understand the moral ramification of that in which what we eat represents our profound engagement with the natural and earthly world.
Michael Pollan wrote a book in 2006 entitled: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.” I highly recommend this book. Pollan profoundly and beautifully narrates the picaresque journey through America’s 3 food systems: the industrial, the organic, and the hunter-gatherer.
The Conquer of Zea Mays. Zea Mays is the giant tropical grass in which we know as corn. Descendents of the Maya living in Mexico still says: “I am maize” or “corn walking.” It is simply a fact, that our body is a manifestation of this plant.
Wet Milling. The industrial food system is primarily dependent on corn, whether it is eaten directly, fed to livestock, or processed into chemicals, glucose and ethanol. Through the wet milling process, food is broken down to several steps via physical pressure, acids, and enzymes. The excess biomass of farming corn allowed the surplus to be utilized in other commodities. Corn oil, margarine, cornstarch, high-fructose corn syrup, and sweeteners. The food industry consumes nearly one fifth of all of the petroleum in the United States. Of the 38 ingredients that McNuggets require to be made, 13 are derived from corn. We, as a society, have turned into industrial eaters.
The Feedlot. Pollan journeys through a feedlot, describing the steer being fed a corn-based diet, the distinct animal designed to consume grass. The unnatural diet not only negates the nutritional value of the meat, but also the quality of life for the animal. The excessive use of antibiotics used in these feedlots has led to mad-cow disease and drug resistant microbes.
Beyond Pastoral Organic. Certified Organic. Humanely raised. Free range. Supermarket pastoral uses the most emotionally seductive literary. It only addresses eating safe and organic food, but also, connecting to the earth to the domesticated creatures that we have become. By walking through these “organic” supermarkets, the company hopes to bring authentic experiences.
The Organic Empire. The organic industry has turned into an $11 billion industry. Most organic milks come from factory farms where they are fed grain, and spend their days trapped to a fence, tethered on milking machines three times a day. Free-range animals are confined in a shed, with a little door leading out to a narrow grass yard. The door remains shut until the birds are six weeks old, where they are then allowed outside, but slaughtered two weeks later.
Pollan visits a small farm and praises the local produce for working on a small-scale. The farmer is able to pay attention to the tiny details, with few chemicals used and waste product are recycled back.
Gathering in The Forest. By the end of the book, Pollan hunts, gathers, and grows his own food. Now, this is not practical to the modern person. However, Pollan concludes the morale behind education, and the knowledge of where our food came from, the journey it traveled to get in our mouths, and the cost, we would see that we “eat by grace of nature, not industry.”