Getting Real About the Price of Cheap Food

September 3, 2009

This article was written by Bryan Walsh and was the cover story of Time Magazine. It is a great sum up of all the consquences of our food system: from terrible animal treatment, the environmental and social costs of buying cheap, obesity and food-born illness, to the hope we have in small farms.

Walsh says we have no choice but to change our food system.  It uses too much oil, damages the soil beyond cultivatable levels, contaminates the environment,  and takes valuable jobs away from Americans.  Industial agriculture has taken the people off the land and put them on assembly lines in meat processing plants.  These unrewarding jobs are fed by unappetizing animal treatment and obesity correlated diets high in protein and low in vegetables.

It isn’t all bad though.  Writers like Michal Pollan and movies like Food, Inc. are helping to change the conciousness about food, and move toward a more transparent food system.  Michelle Obama and others are working to get children involved in gardening. Young farmers are taking root across the country, and with the absolute need to reduce emissons (19% of US fossil fuels are used by agriculture), the demand for organic and local foods on the rise, and the definite need for jobs in the country, what better for us to do than go back to the fields?

Being a farmer is rewarding and doesn’t involve terrible conditions like in a CAFO.  Unfortunately it is also really hard.  If CAFO employees had the money and governmental support to buy land, I am certain they would be more interested in rasing cattle humanely than in slaughtering the ones raised out of sight of Americans.

We can do a lot by choosing what to buy based on sustainability, but there are people who simply can’t afford it.  A lot of farmers can’t.  Government subsidies should be geared toward making farming a viable job again.  They should not encourage the production of unhealthy processed foods nor the conglomeration of small, polycultured farms.

For those of use who can afford it, spend more money on food!  It is worth it for the health of the land, farmers, and yourselves.  Everyone should tell congress to get serious about the effects of the “Green Revolution” and demand new initiatives to try to reverse them.

I’m starting to wonder how the necesary change in our farming could work logistically.  The corn belt is expansive and many of the farmers have left.  The soil has been degraded, maybe beyon repair, and  huge corporations like Tyson and Coca Cola have their financial fists clutching the region. I guess all we can hope for is for the greenhorns to buy up all the land they can and the corporate farmers to turn back to sustainable methods one by one.  It would sure help if they had the insentive to do so.

Getting Real about the Price of Cheap Food


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