Besides drawing women into the work force, falling wages made fast food both cheap to produce and a welcome, if not indispensible, option for pinched and harried families. The picture of the food economy [Fast Food Nation author Eric] Schlosser painted resembles an upside-down version of the social compact sometimes referred to as “Fordism”: instead of paying workers well enough to allow them to buy things like cars, as Henry Ford proposed to do, companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s pay their workers so poorly that they can afford only the cheap, low-quality food these companies sell, creating a kind of nonvirtuous circle driving down both wages and the quality of food. The advent of fast food (and cheap food in general) has, in effect, subsidized the decline of family incomes in America.
a food system overhaul is ever more important to the health of america, both physically and economically. this is undeniable, and those who continue to argue for the “right” to “cheap food” have blinders on. see the link above for full articulation, and also Tom Philpott’s grist.org response for a bit of focus.Filed in food, health & vegetarianism | Tagged with economics, pollan | Comment (0)
i love the way this writer writes so visually, and i think you will enjoy it too.
also, in other NYT related bits, tonight i went to see an advance screening of the upcoming HBO documentary on Nicholas Kristof, “Reporter“. i would recommend it when it comes out if you have HBO.Filed in food, health & vegetarianism, tv, books and movies | Tagged with pollan | Comment (1)
Filed in food, health & vegetarianism, tv, books and movies | Tagged with pollan | Comment (0)
Michael Pollan’s breakthrough book, “The Botany of Desire,” looks at the relationship between humans and four types of domesticated plants – apples, tulips, potatoes and marijuana – in terms of human desire and what the plants represent.
So, naturally, when Alex Harvey read Pollan’s book, he envisioned a musical….
jay and i watched the documentary “King Corn” last night. perhaps because both of us come from midwestern farming families, it was a little more personal, but while a documentary about corn farming in iowa might seem mind-numbing, if you have any interest at all in food production and economics, i think it was a well-done and interesting film. even jay stayed awake for almost all of it!
the farmers in the film all seemed to feel an impending sense of doom about their lifestyles, communities, and the food system as a whole. at this point it’s pretty much just the agri-business industry who are interested in maintaining the current food-production model in the U.S. because they are the only ones benefiting and making any money. everyone (and everything: the plants, the animals, the land, the rivers, the trees) else is losing. and somehow, despite there being record amounts of food production, have you noticed the cost of food going through the roof yet? i have.
i’m not going to go into all the how’s and why’s that this is happening, because it’s complicated. you should see King Corn (available on netflix), or The Real Dirt on Farmer John (on netflix, a REALLY GREAT and moving film that i thought i had written about here but i guess i didn’t), or Fast Food Nation (also on netflix), or read one of Michael Pollan’s books or his Oct08 letter to Barack Obama.
RIGHT NOW, you have a chance to do something to change the USDA. SIGN THIS PETITION from Food Democracy Now:
Filed in food, health & vegetarianism, politics and news, things you can do, tv, books and movies | Tagged with corn, pollan | Comment (0)
It’s time to get serious about sustainable change at the USDA. As a result, here at Food Democracy Now! we’ve come up with a list of twelve candidates for Under Secretary positions at the USDA. And we’re calling them the Sustainable Dozen.
These individual’s backgrounds represent the type of candidates that we expect to be appointed to these positions in the very near future.
As you may already know, while the Secretary of Agriculture is an important position, it is our understanding that Under Secretaries may actually have “more influence on the day to day workings of the agency than the Secretary.”
Time is of the essence. It is vital that you express your voice for Sustainable Change by signing on to support these candidates and those who have worked alongside this community for decades.
NOW is the time to become the Sustainable Voice for change that our nation so desperately needs.
We will deliver this petition with your comments to Secretary Vilsack once he is confirmed and President-Elect Obama to encourage them to take these issues to heart as they lead the USDA and 21st century U.S. agricultural policy into the future.
michael pollan discusses what no candidates have talked about yet: food.
Dear Mr. President-Elect,
It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention…
…In addition to the problems of climate change and America’s oil addiction, you have spoken at length on the campaign trail of the health care crisis. Spending on health care has risen from 5 percent of national income in 1960 to 16 percent today, putting a significant drag on the economy. The goal of ensuring the health of all Americans depends on getting those costs under control. There are several reasons health care has gotten so expensive, but one of the biggest, and perhaps most tractable, is the cost to the system of preventable chronic diseases. Four of the top 10 killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
…The impact of the American food system on the rest of the world will have implications for your foreign and trade policies as well. In the past several months more than 30 nations have experienced food riots, and so far one government has fallen. Should high grain prices persist and shortages develop, you can expect to see the pendulum shift decisively away from free trade, at least in food…
it’s a 9 page article, but very important to read since most of our politicians and the media have been completely ignoring the food issues at hand. i’ve said repeatedly that the food shortages and still-constant increases in prices (have you noticed yet?) have been scaring me way more than this whole wall street thing. the real shit hits the fan when the world’s food supply fails. it’s amazing to me that no one talks about something this important except for every few years when the farm bill comes around.Filed in food, health & vegetarianism, politics and news | Tagged with corn, pollan | Comment (0)
there is a series of free films and lectures happening @ Stanford early this year related to food, politics, the environment, ethics and social responsibility. i don’t know if i’ll be able to get over there to see any of them (Stanford’s sort of a commute nightmare from Berkeley), but i thought i’d post them here for all you other bay area foodies nonetheless. see list below and mark your calendars. (some of the films are also available on netflix for those not in the bay area/can’t make it. see notes.)Filed in food, health & vegetarianism, tv, books and movies | Tagged with corn, pollan | Comment (0)
ListeningtoWords.com is a collection of lectures and speeches available for listening online, ranging from authors to presidents to anthropologists to physicists to economists, including this one:
Cannabis, the Importance of Forgetting, and the Botany of Desire— Michael Pollan, UC Berkeley professor and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma
the lecture is about 90 minutes and is definitely worth a watch/listen (it has video as well as audio) for those interested in the subjects of the historical use of medicinal plants and human-plant relationships in terms of evolution – a lot of really interesting pieces of information in terms of biochemistry and the connections between botanical science and the human-plant co-evolutionary experience. read more of pollan’s work here.Filed in culture and random linkage | Tagged with pollan | Comment (0)
like michelle simon’s book, michael pollan’s recent article “Unhappy Meals” discusses the Western-diet shift from whole-food to ingredient-based nutrition in the past 50 years or so. the short answer: the processed food industry is dependent upon people choosing foods based on ingredients, not on their holistic value. i mean, what’s in an apple – sugar and water and fiber? that’s no fun. that’s why Grāpples® exist.
Of course it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.
so basically, whenever some nutrient or another is deemed either good or bad, processed foods are reformulated in response and marketed as “healthier” . the produce section, however, contains virtually ZERO “unhealthy” nutrients to begin with. they need no reformulation. so where’s the money in that?
the pollan article looks at the sordid political history of the processed food industry and discusses how this reductionist way of looking at nutrition has (purposefully) caused mass confusion among consumers about what is good to eat and why they’re still fat/have high cholesterol/aren’t healthy when they’ve been eating frozen Weight Watchers meals and drinking Diet Coke for weeks, and how and why the Western Diet fails to increase American health and in fact has probably done more to harm it (obesity epidemic, etc) despite all the science behind the food on our shelves. the article is informative and well-written, but 14 pages long.
for the humorous viewpoint, see: Frito-Lay Angrily Introduces Line of Healthy Snacks and Heavily Processed Food Makes Pathetic Nutritional ClaimsFiled in food, health & vegetarianism | Tagged with pollan | Comment (0)
if you are interested in food-labelling, please visit the link below. while this specifically pertains to what the words “grass fed” mean on animal products, food-labelling and nomenclature is a very important issue in this GMO-world and consumer voices need to be heard.
for any of you who read Michael Pollan’s last book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (or read about it here), or his New York Times Magazine essay “This Steer’s Life” – this is particularly relevant to that issue.
“USDA is proposing to revise requirements for “Grass Fed” labeling claims. While USDA has proposed tightening the grass fed definition to require 99% or more of a grass fed animals diet come from grass or forage, the current definition does not require these animals have access to pasture, or that the use of genetically engineered grass varieties be prohibited, nor does the definition include dairy products.
USDA is accepting public comments through TODAY Thursday, August 10th. Take action today to ensure we get what we expect when we buy products labeled as grass fed!”
Please take action (fill out form and click!) here:
if you want to read the long and not-well-formatted USDA public document on the subject, it’s here: http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/stand/ls0509.txt
a couple of other links:
wikipedia grass-fed link, which notes:
“The Union of Concerned Scientists claims that the labeling proposal, which contains the clause “consumption of … grain in the immature stage is acceptable”, allows for “feed harvesting or stockpiling methods that might include significant amounts of grain.”
this is exactly why we need to comment to enforce that “grass fed” should mean GRASS.
moo.Filed in food, health & vegetarianism | Tagged with pollan | Comment (0)
on wednesday night, jay and i went to hear michael pollan, author of the much celebrated book “The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World” (which has been recommended to me by EVERYONE but i haven’t actually read), speak on his most recent book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals“, in which he investigates the seed-to-table path of 4 different types of meals: (1) a McDonald’s lunch, (2) a dinner with organic and free-range items from Whole Foods, (3) a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm, and finally (4) a meal from things he foraged and hunted himself.
the book tackles the major subject areas of American disassociation with food sources, our seeming inability (or, i think, unwillingness) to connect the dots between diet, health, environment, and economy, and the biologically illogical but lucrative farming methods of agri-business. i was expecting some revelations on these subjects – some new insights – but was sorely disappointed.
the lecture was good and my disappointment was not the fault of Pollan – he was articulate, although a little smug. i’m overeducated on the subject i guess, as i’ve been deeply interested in this subject since i first read “Diet for a New America” almost 7 years ago and became a vegetarian. i read about it all the time, keep up with all the news the Organic Consumers Association puts out about the food industry, and keep tabs on agency policy. also, beforehand, my coworker had briefed me on Pollan’s essay This Steer’s Life, published in 2002 (*HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING*), which documents the life of one beef cow from birth to table, and chronicles the incredibly strange ways that modern beef producers have changed the life and biochemistry of cows, why antibiotics are absolutely necessary (it has almost nothing to do with cleanliness), and the overall effect of these changes on an entire food chain, including a lengthy discussion on what he jokingly called “soft core cornography” – the U.S. government subsidization of corn and how it’s responsible for the current obesity epidemic as well as most of our agricultural problems.
so, having this wealth of information already in head, i didn’t learn anything new at the lecture – it was more like a refresher course – but the audience (mostly older white people) laughed, gasped, and murmured throughout the talk. there were times when just i shook my head at the audience reaction, amazed at their amazement. i was sort of surprised that he kept referring to his discoveries/theories as “revolutionary” and “new”, when most people i know who are into the organic movement have been discussing those things for years. during the part in which he discussed his investigation of the Whole Foods meal, and how the corporatization of organic food is not only changing what the words “organic” and “free range” can mean on a package, there were a few moments of insight that definitely bolstered the arguments of those anti-Whole Foods activists i keep running into who hate what the chain is doing for organic food prices and practices (think Wal-Mart style pricing and imports).
the most interesting part was his description of the “anarchist christian libertarian environmentalist” farmer in virginia and his off-the-grid and totally creative and biologically-sound farming practices – although not certified organic because he won’t let the inspectors on his property. i was inspired to visit that farm the next time i’m ever on the east coast, and to go back to the farmer’s markets to get my produce (even though my current organic produce box delivery method is pretty damned convenient.)
he didn’t discuss his kill+forage meal, leaving some “mystery” for the audience who had yet to read his book, but i can’t imagine it contained much information that i’m willing to fork over the cash for (although i might go to read some of it @ Cody’s on my next lunch break.), although i acknowledge that the book would obviously contain much more detail than what was in the the 60 minute talk, so maybe. all in all, the lecture was not worth my $$, but hopefully people in the audience learned something, as many of them seemed to be fairly impressed by him and his research, and the more people interested and educated in this subject, the better off we all are. except maybe those who work at Whole Foods.Filed in tv, books and movies | Tagged with corn, pollan | Comment (1)