Post 6 – Part 1 The fall of the Utopian food system…

Week six of class did not really effect my diet. It has actually reduced my concern about food production. I would love to see a perfect food system, but this weeks classes has lead me to realize that there will never be a perfectly local, organic, cheap, humane, etc, food system. This beautiful Utopia food system is too complicated, expensive, and would have a lot of ripple effects. Being a Locavore and only buying from local farms sounds like a great idea. This would help consumers to know exactly where their food came from and how it was raised or grown. Sadly, farmers would not be able to keep up with the needs of consumers. All of the characteristics of our Utopia would cause production to be slow, expensive, and limited during certain seasons. If everyone would buy locally it would take away from areas that rely on the revenue from their food productions. While everyone else in that area would still be buying from the companies it would not be enough to replace what they would be losing.
This not does not mean that I think we should be careless. Some changes could be made. Maybe you cannot purchase everything in season and locally, but purchase what is available locally before turning to your local super market. We can’t eat animals and not harm them, but we could feed them their proper diet and give them humane living conditions.
Changes cannot be made on large scales or overnight, but I believe that we should still try. We spend most of our lives thinking about, preparing, shopping for, and eating food so we should care about what exactly it is that we are consuming and it’s journey to our plate.

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Post 6 – Part 2 As much as I try to remain ignorant of this topic….

Portion sizes. It’s not a secret that in our country they are ridiculous. A large drink at Burger King is forty ounces.  Forty ounces and four hundred calories is a healthy amount of Dr. Pepper to drink with your seven hundred calorie Whopper and five hundred calorie large fry, right? An important and obvious thing that is pointed out by Marion Nestle on foodpolitics.com  is that with larger portion sizes comes more calories. Calories that are not always needed.

Fast food restaurants offer you various sizes of fat and grease, I mean food, but what about other restaurants? If you go to Olive Garden or Applebees during dinner you are only offered one size. You can choose to only eat half of it, but you will pay for all of it. Normally the price alone is an excuse to eat twice as much as you’d like. I know that I leave feeling better (maybe a bit stuffed) if I know that I got my ten or fifteen dollars out of the meal that I just had.

Do we really even notice all of this extra food? The big portions cause people to form an incorrect opinion about how much they should be eating. People often complain if they go to restaurants that do not “give them enough food.” So maybe smaller or normal portion sizes aren’t the best thing to have if you want to make everyone happy. It just depends on which audience you want to please. I presume that most of our society falls under the “I DIDN’T GET ENOUGH FOOD” category so the larger portions will continue.

Post 5 – Part 2 More about piggies.

I found a blog post by Mark Bittman referencing a New York Times article about McDonald’s announcing that they will no longer purchase pork from supplies that use sow crates. In the sows pigs do not have room to walk, turn over, and often end up getting sick. This move by McDonald’s is, in my opinion, a good one. However, the article does mention some issues with this idea.
The suppliers that McDonald’s uses may not uses sows directly, but they suppliers purchase piglets that were born to pigs in sows. So will McDonald’s accept that? I do not believe that just because the contact with sows is further down the supply chain that it is excusable. I imagine that if McDonald’s says that they will no longer work with any of these supplier if their standards are not met that there will be a change. That would require McDonald’s to have a sincere goal of getting away from sows.
The article mentioned that when the pigs are raised in open groups there is a competition for food. I don’t know much about how they will be raising them, but don’t they give them enough food to go around? I understand that the dominant pigs will take what they want, but just put the food a couple of feet away from the other food so that there is no need to crowd in one spot.
Thankfully McDonald’s is not the only organization attempting to look out for the welfare of their animals. Smithfield, Burger King, and chef Wolfgang Puck also have standards or are developing some for how they will allow animals that they purchase to be raised.
I know that this is a topic that I have talked about before, but I enjoy learning about other companies that are developing regulations for the care of animals.

Post 5 – Part 1 You guessed it, fifth week of classes

This weeks class did not have much of an impact on my diet on my way of thinking about my meal choices. I did enjoy learning more about the organic industry and hope to learn more. I recognize how much I rely on labels. If a label says organic, I assume it to be organic. Is it too much to ask for to be able to read a label and not have to question it’s reliability?
While I am not an expert on organic food labeling, just the basic knowledge of the process has lead me to think about other claims that can be found on food. The expatriation date on foods is taken pretty seriously. If it’s past the date you normally throw it away. Grocery stores normally throw away expired product and will take food back if they sold it past the expiration date. If someone who had to monitor their sugar intake thought that they were drinking diet soda, but it turned out to be regular that would cause them serious health problems. So why do companies exaggerate the use of “organic”? Mostly so that more people will buy their product. Organic products are always the more expensive option. I do not believe that companies are questioned on their products enough. The standards on what is considered organic seem hazy and unregulated.
What would it take for companies to work harder at being organic? I think that if companies had to prove their organic label worthiness they would work harder at producing truly organic foods.

Post 4 – Part 2 Finally! A reason not to drink soda..

According to foodpolitics.com Pepsi is planning on cutting 8,700 employees. This may not sound shocking because of the constant talk of so many Americans being unemployed. However, Pepsi is not firing these employees due to a lack of sales. The company has been meeting their revenue goals. They actually had increases. So, what’s going on? The article explains that Pepsi has decided to do this thanks to the Wall Steer bullies. Pepsi has been working on healthier projects. Even though Pepsi made five billion more dollars and increased four cents in their stock share, Wall Street doesn’t think that they are keeping up.
I’m not any kind of economics expert (even though I did get a B+ in that course) , but that sounds great. I’m sure Pepsi would have loved to make more money, but at least they didn’t make less.
So I guess I was wrong when I said that the company isn’t doing this because of a lack of sales. What happens if next year they don’t improve enough to impress Wall Street and decide to cut more jobs? Imagine how much money the company won’t be making if the CEO is also a factory worker, truck driver, and marketing agent.
I’m sure that this isn’t the last time this topic will hit the news. I can see it now: angry ex-employees, angry consumers, protests, current employees worrying about losing their jobs, don’t buy Pepsi campaigns. Good news for Coca-Cola. They won’t even need to spend money on advertising.
Maybe Wall Street is just trying to get people to occupy someone else. I’m not kidding.

Post 4 – Part 1 Fourth week

Something that I found interesting about this weeks class was the information about The World Trading Organization. I was pleased to learn that countries are taking steps to let consumers know what they are eating and where it is from. The labeling, in my opinion, is a simple way around the complicated WTO regulations. Even if there wasn’t complicated regulations I think that the labels should be in place. It is much easier for the product to be labeled by a company or FDA than it is for every single person to track every item that they purchase. Most people don’t assume that their food is full of GMOs or know what tests their food has been through. People are consuming unhealthy chemicals and little buggies because they trust companies to not sell products that could harm them. Is that really a terrible thing to expect from a producers?
I would really like to know what these companies feed their families. “Here honey, have some pesticides with your brutally slaughtered corn fed cow.” I don’t have a hard time believing that these people sleep soundly while customers consume the toxin waste that they put, but those consumers include their families. Unless they truly believe that all of the genetic modifications, pesticides, pathegens, and aren’t a big deal.
I was really excited to post a picture of the healthy snack that I ate earlier, but I ended up having Taco Bell for dinner so I’m not as proud anymore. Oh well. Can’t win them all.

Post 3 – Part 2 State sugar stores?

I read an article suggesting that sugar should be treated like tobacco and alcohol: taxed, age limits, bans from school, distribution control and other regulations. The reasoning for this being that sugar causes high blood pressure, liver damage, diabetes, obesity, and other problems. Which sounds like many problems caused by alcohol. The article also mentioned that most people in the U.S. eat about 500 calories in sugar alone per day.
I tried to take a minute to form an opinion, but I didn’t need one. I kind of like this suggestion. I don’t know the limitations or exact ways it would be done, but it could be helpful. I recalled being in middle school and high school and going to the school store to purchase junk food. Would this regulation remove candy bars and sugary snacks from schools? I would hope so. It would take away the temptation and access of a sugary snack for school children. How can you convince a young kid that using his or her lunch money on (hopefully) healthier meals served by the school is better than waiting and having candy bars and soda?
I wonder what an argument against this would sound like? There is so much evidence showing the problems that sugars causes and people’s lack of self-control.
With all of the health problems that sugar causes I believe that it should be regulated. Maybe we don’t need to have state regulated sugar stores or not sell sugar on Sundays, but something to help control our societies sugar addiction.

Post 3 – Part 1 Third Week of Classes

This week has taught me a lot about the laborers on farms. I was aware of the minimal pay and poor living conditions of the workers, but I was not aware of the abuse. I imagine slavery as a big issue of our past,but not the present. So learning about this was pretty mind-blowing. How could people treat others this way? Are people really that afraid that they won’t contact the authorities? I do not know much about our legal system, but I cannot imagine that if migrant workers went to the police to tell them that their employer was beating them, starving them, forcing them to live in a room with ten others, and so on that the police would ignore all of their claims and only focus on the fact that they are illegal immigrants. I’m sure that eventually that would be dealt with, but the other claims are far more severe.
I have never been able to pick a side on the topic of immigration and learning all of this new information has just secured my seat on the fence even more. I usually sympathize with Americans and feel bad that their jobs are being taken away by people that aren’t legally living in our country. Although, most Americans do not even want these jobs, so why not give them to people that do? The agricultural labor is important for our country so we really do not gain anything by saying “I do not want illegal immigrants working in our country, but we as Americans are not going to pick up the jobs that the immigrants are leaving behind.”
The most recent reading for class made me aware of the killing and terrible jobs that are in a slaughterhouse. One particular story mentioned National Beef which paid a fine of 480 dollars each for the death of three men. It is nice to know that the cost of ahuman life is so low. My step father works at National Beef so I may question him about his working conditions.

Post 2 – Part 2 – Traffic Lights

I recently read an article about a study done to help people make healthier eating choices. The experiment was simple: red means unhealthy, yellow means semi-healthy, and green means healthy. In a hospital cafeteria items that were unhealthy were given read labels and healthy choices were given green. At first just the colored labels were used. A second factor was introduced when the experimenters made the healthier options easier to find in the cafeteria. They found that just putting the colored labels on influenced people to choose healthier things. When the unhealthier things were not as easy to see the sales decreased even more.
I really like this idea because I hate when I think that I am buying something that is decently healthy and it is not even close. This practice would allow people to find healthy food with very little effort. The blog nor the link to the experiment mentions if the people were completely aware of the labeling scale or not. I would believe that people would assume what the colors stood for because they relate to traffic signs. I would also enjoy the unhealthy options being hard to find. If yummy cookies were hidden then I wouldn’t be able to make impulse buys as I am paying for my food. I’m sure that companies would not enjoy having these labels on their foods. Well, at least for the foods that would fall into the red category. I hope that some where int he near future I am asked at work (Burger King) to go around and place red stickers on all of our menu options.

Post 2 – Post 1 – Second week of classes

This weeks classes has taught me a lot about the production that goes into meat products. I never thought that the meat that I was consuming came from a cow that lived a long, healthy life and volunteered its life so that I and the rest of the world could have a good meal; but I never realized how much of the mistreatment is due to laziness and greed. The normal diet has been replaced with corn, fat, and just about everything except grass. This newly constructed diet assures that the cow and other animals grow quickly and uses over produced corn. The faster the cow grows, the sooner it can be slaughtered and replaced. My standard for what food I put into my body is still underconstruction so I can’t really say how that has been affected. What bothers me the most is how these animals are treated. I’m not suggesting that we stop eating meat all together, just treat them better. I don’t like to complain about something unless I have a suggestion, so that is one of my goals for this class.
It is easy to say that we should makeover our current methods to a heathy, more animal friendly process.(As friendly as it gets since we are killing them in the end.) However that would cost the producers and farmers more money. This increase will cause food prices to be higher for consumers. For example, I glanced at the egg selection at Weis today. A dozen of eggs from a caged chicken was $1.79 while cage free eggs were $3.39. For someone like me who doesn’t buy eggs often that isn’t too bad, but some families can use more than a dozen in a week. So making that small change will cost you a $1.60. I did not stop by the meat department so I can’t offer a price comparrison there, but I can imagine that switch to grass fed, friendly treated animal meat will be a similar price spike. I think I will continue comparing prices.