Monday, February 06, 2006

On eating food

Okay. I’ve been making myself rather miserable for the past two days from thinking deeply about the state of the world’s food in the 21st century. After the tea on Wednesday, I was chatting with S., L., and K. about vegetarianism, veganism and issues concerning food supply. K. said that the “tax break” for food producers actually goes to the corporations and not the farmers, which surprised L. I was thinking a lot about why people become vegetarians; there seems to be so many more reasons now, when it used to be a matter of religion that you did not eat meat. L said that she doesn’t eat meat because she doesn’t like it, and also because she feels strongly about the meat industry. Although S. didn’t say, I think she’s vegan for similar ethical reasons, but I’m not sure. Anyway, I started to despair, as if eating meat were a selfish and barbaric thing to do.

We were talking about how farming is so tough and profit is now the driving force behind food production. I learned a lot about the industry that I never knew before, and my, does it sadden me. S. told me that one big, big corporation that manufactures products for both ends of the food cycle more or less forces farmers to buy terminal seeds rather than normal seeds (which can be collected at the end of the season to be planted the next year), so that they must continue to buy from the corp. Argh! This and other practices that ensure food monopolies by the corporations make me feel so angry and so helpless. Did you know, L. asked, that “they” are going to raze some of the rainforests in Borneo to grow oil palms? I had no idea, but guessed that oil palms are a ready cash crop and make the rainforest a justified sacrifice.

Meat, too is problematic: in the interests of making meat cheap and accessible, hormones and other drugs are fed to animals, which are crammed into cages/pens and expected to do nothing but engorge themselves and become massive. I think particularly of pork, which in North America has become leaner and consequently more flavourless over the decades, and especially chicken. Have you ever eaten chicken in another part of the world? I’ve noticed that compared to chicken I’ve eaten in Asia (for example), North American chicken tastes like. . . nothing. Actually, no—it tastes rank, like the smell of the butcher’s shop or the meat aisle at the supermarket. I really don’t like it and hate how “juicy,” that is, watery, chicken is. I said to L. the next day that I think the reason why it’s easy to become veggie in North America is because meat here is either tasteless or has a flavour reminiscent of stale raw meat (you know how meat that’s been packaged for a few days before it gets cooked smells? That’s the flavour I’m talking about). While I enjoy meat when I eat it, thinking about where it comes from and how it was processed makes me feel ill sometimes.

I suppose its my pessimism that makes me believe I can’t make a significant difference, but what alternatives are there to growing mutant but profitable foods, filling the purses of the executives and eating up the environment so that the whole world can feast on cheap, picture-perfect food? I’m aware there are alternatives, but what? How can consumers really be effective? I’m sceptical of consumer power and find it hard to believe that each person’s purchases will aggregate into a message to the consumers that food that has its nutrients stripped in the name of profitability and quantity is not desirable. Let me tell, I have been depressed about this.


Blogger Tasha said...

I am not a vegetarian but I don't eat beef or pork (except bacon which is irrestible) or lamb or any of that, but not for moral reasons, just cause I don't like it (hence the bacon). What you say about chicken is pretty interesting. I have often complained that I don't like "juicy" poultry but I never thought that I don't like it not because it's juicy but because it's watery.

This is a little off topic, but you should read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlessinger. Since much of the meat that is consumed in the US (and in Canada?) is in the form of fast-food burgers, it's pretty interesting to find out where the meat comes from and how it is processed.

12:06 p.m.  

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