A Lotus Grows in Brooklyn

Of cookie dough and cows
June 23, 2009, 12:40 pm
Filed under: Arts, Green Links, Vegan | Tags: , , , ,


Over the weekend Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed in the Times that provides a great boost for the movie “Food, Inc.” (Haven’t seen it yet? How many times do I have to bring it up before you go see it?)

539wIn it, he reminds me of one of my favorite parts of the film. They are talking about all the huge food contamination events we’ve had lately (cookie dough, anyone? peanut butter?) and Michael Pollan says if you just let a cow eat grass for five days, E. coli will be out of its system. Instead, the meat producers just add more chemicals, like ammonia, to hamburgers to kill the bacteria. Great solution. Gross. Seriously. What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.

 Anyway, read the column for a nice overview of the issues covered in “Food, Inc.” We really can change the world, people! The first step is education.


13 Comments so far
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That’s a cute cow.

Comment by fictionadvocate

It is. Don’t eat it.

Comment by Carrie M

Seems like the next step is regulation.

Also, cows are not cute. Somethings edible are, but cows?

Comment by Matt

Look at that cow’s nose! It’s like a big sloppy pillow! Adorable, I say.

Comment by fictionadvocate

I’ve seen a lot of cows. In fact, I’ve seen a cow give birth. (And I’ve watched some idiot then poke at the afterbirth with a stick, but whatever.) They’re ugly creatures. Whatever majesty can be found in nature, little is embodied by the cow.

Comment by Matt

That nose is like a Slanket.

Comment by fictionadvocate

Except your version of the slanket is a portmanteau of “blanket” and “slime,” instead of “sleeves.”

I read the Kristof column, and I liked it. I think he makes a lot of good points. Still, this bothered me: “In any case, ‘Food, Inc.’ notes that we as consumers do have power. ‘You can vote to change the system,’ it declares, ‘three times a day.’”

This strikes me as demonstrably untrue. There are a number of alternative eating movements right now, all aimed at changing the way food is produced, and from what I can tell, they’ve had almost no impact. If anything, they seem to take pressure off of policy makers to strengthen regulations and cut subsidies that don’t benefit the public.

Comment by Matt

Your vote in national elections is also pointless, Matt.

Comment by Carrie

Ok, but really, I am just flabbergasted and saddened by the attitude. Even just ONE PERSON changing their eating habits can make a difference. The average American consumes 250 lbs of meat per year. By me going vegan, that’s a 250-lb message to the meat industry. Here are some other big changes you can make by forgoing meat just ONE DAY A WEEK: http://wannaveg.com/

But to your comment that “alternative” eating movements (I would argue that the movement at large is not alternative but just getting back to basics: real food, not additives and chemicals; plants, not unrecognizable, hormone-injected, genetically modified meat products), I would say that various food movements have had tremendous impact. For example, “Food, Inc.” interviews execs at Wal-Mart who say they have increasingly introduced organic foods and soy products because that’s what the consumers clamored for. And when a gigantor store like Wal-Mart starts stocking organic products from smaller companies, that changes the economy of food production. But it has to start with the consumers.

Have you noticed more organic produce sections cropping up at every grocery store? And chains like Shaw’s introducing local and health-food sections? They don’t do that out of the goodness of their hearts. They’ve done because enough of the American public has said these are the products they want. They voted with their wallets, as they say. And it really does work.

Comment by Carrie

I’m not saying that there’s no benefit to going vegetarian. I think the studies show that it does lessen one’s carbon footprint, and that’s certainly a good thing.

What I am saying, however, is that whether you’re a vegetarian, a locavore, a raw foodist, or belong to any of a number of other eating movements, there is some political aspect to what you do, and I think it’s clear that, while those movements may be very successful at the level of the individual, neither politicians nor the CEOs of large agri-business companies care. A 250 lbs. message to the meat industry may sound like a big message, but that’s less than 3/4 of a pound a day, and they’ve decided that’s OK by them. They can still turn a profit and grow their business.

So while on an individual level these movements may be wonderfully beneficial, on a larger level all the emphasis on personal responsibility can be a distraction from the goal of changing how food is produced and delivered to consumers.

Comment by Matt

Ok. But what I’m saying is that if each person makes good decisions about what they buy (local, organic) then that ADDS UP! That’s the way economies work. Of course it sounds small when you’re talking about one person. That’s why I join causes where we’re trying to get MORE people to change their purchasing habits. That’s also why I’m blogging about it, getting the word out.

There are other avenues: lobbying Congress, trying to get laws changed, etc., and these are being done as well. But we’re up against such massively powerful lobbyists for the food producers that a bottom-up, consumer-based movement makes more sense right now.

They will care when we MAKE them care.

Comment by Carrie M

We agree on this. I’m just not sure that a consumer-based approach can work against an industry with such huge subsidies.

Comment by Matt

So funny -I *just* wrote about this on my blog. Food wise, we’re at a critical point and something def. needs to be done.


Comment by edbstratt

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