Eating Tomorrow

In Eating Tomorrow by Timothy Wise, the author explains how countries such as Malawi, in Africa, have mastered the science of using environmentally sustainable practices for growing food for the rest of the world, even though big businesses are pushing them to use imported GMO seeds. However, these farmers would much rather stick with their own agriculture practices which have proven to be more effective and better for the environment and their consumers. The large corporations such as Monsanto are far more focused on their own profit and will not cooperate with the farmers in Malawi, despite the fact that these farmers have figured out how to grow drought-resistance, vitamin-rich crops by intercropping. Intercropping is growing two or more crops in close proximity to one another to improve the soil and have back up crops for if the maize fails. The launched of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa pressured farmers to adopt genetically modified seeds, synthetics fertilizers, and selling goods to the market. Expensive farm subsidy input programs further pushed famers to use these new methods by helping financially support farmers. What these programs did not include however, was irrigation, which is the most important factor for crops to grow successfully.

In Malawi, after the country suffered from flooding and droughts, the government chose to ignore the World Bank and other big agribusinesses and take the country’s hunger into its own hands by using broad farm input subsidy programs for their farmers. This ended up being a success and Malawi farmers experienced an enormous growth in food production, all by practicing seed-saving, intercropping, and using manure instead of unnatural fertilizers. Since GMO seeds are not allowed to be grown in Malawi, they use hybrid seeds, which are seeds that are cross pollenated to create better growing seeds. These seeds produce an impressive amount of crop for their first year, but significantly less after that, forcing farmers to purchase more.  However, some farmers have been using intercropping, which has proved to be just as effective without synthesized fertilizer.  One farmer introduces the author to orange corn, which contains vitamin A and better than the hybrid white corn. By attempting to sustain their land rather than their seeds, the farmers of Malawi have proven that it is possible.

In the section on maize in Mexico, the author discusses how farmers are fighting against the introduction of GM maize near their own maize because to the risks of the GM maize pollen coming into contact with their own genetically pure corn and creating a new variety of corn. It is unknown what effects this GM maize can have on people as well, especially children. Ninety percent of Mexico’s maize crop is worthy of protecting from these GMOs; however, the government will not accept this. These big agribusinesses, like Monsanto, insist that their GMO corn would double Mexico’s product and help remove people from poverty, and improve the overall quality of life for farmers. This is false however since there is little evidence that GMOs grow more crops than non-GMO crops and poverty in Mexico is caused mostly by unemployment thanks to mechanized production. Monsanto is a threat to Mexican maize because they can influence the Mexican government to regulate maize, thus controlling farmers production and ignoring the nutritional needs of the country’s people. Food sovereignty is at the forefront of maize farmer’s goals, and as of 2018, they were able to stop Monsanto from planting their GMO corn in Mexico, however the contamination of maize has still gotten into some of Mexico’s foods.

Eating Tomorrow

In Eating Tomorrow by Timothy A. Wise, published in 2019, he talks about the effects of food on different locations and the effects that the government has on the food. He talks about how research institutions monitor and support African government to invest in the agricultural development. The talks about the creation of seed banks. African farmers have developed intercropping which has led to drought-tolerant crops. He notes that farmers were being pressured to stop farming with their native seeds and turn to genetically modified varieties. Agribusinesses were moving to Africa to use their land. Because of that, native farmers have a lesser chance of seller their goods. Agribusinesses have been able to convince government s that they have the interest of farmers at heart. Agribusiness benefit from their power. He notes that “the myth that we feed the world is the ultimate first world conceit.”

People that move to Africa which promotes a “new colonialism.” Many programs were developed to promote more green energy and business. In 2006 the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development program launched but governments only spent 10% on agriculture.

People started to support more small-scale farmers to grow more food. Maize is very important to the Malawi community. They rely on it to feed families. Farmers decided to move away from hybrid maize and synthetic fertilizers. The Millennium Villages Project was established but greatly criticized for being very cost effective or easily replicable. Farmers learned two things. Yield rises quickly if synthetic fertilizer is applied, and hybrids can grow without fertilizer applications. The development of the world bank and IMF reduce the governments’ role in the economy. People in Malawi are looking for solutions to crops and local maize in their communities.

In Mexico, environmental groups would threaten the maize diversity in Mexico. The Mexican government backed the requests of biotech giants. Maize is very important to the culture. GM crops are controversial. They can’t be planted in any centers of origin and they have high input costs and monopolies. Many chefs are anti-GM. Mining and other projects are incompatible with the four zones. GM maize poses uncontrolled risks to the maize population in Mexico.

Eating Tomorrow

Eating Tomorrow looks at the issues of seed colonialism and how agri-business, despite their claims to be helping developing countries, is severely destroying the food supplies, traditions, and farming strategies of countries in the periphery. Farmers are excluded from the discussion of how ‘we’ can ‘feed the world’ when, most often, these farmers are the ones at the most risk of going hungry. It takes a look at the African country of Malawi and reveals how misguided governments can cost their citizens their lives with policies that bring in a multi-national business like Monsanto. These companies have no economic incentive to create seeds or plants that can be regrown, instead insert themselves into developing countries to force them under their economic imperialism. They also own national seed corporations so that they can hold a monopoly over the seed distribution. Many small farmers in these countries have realized that a crop’s yield is not the only important characteristic for a good plant: drought tolerance, storability, and poundability are also highly important. These companies also insert themselves into places with high crop diversity and attempt to insert their genetically modified crops into those economies. These companies are not looking to save the world, but instead are looking to increase their profit margins, dependence on their products, and make previous systems for preserving seeds and crops obsolete.

Chicken

I did not really know what to expect with this book by Steve Striffler, aside from that it would obviously deal with Chicken. This book focused on the industrialization and transformation of chicken and chicken products in the United States. I have always thought about the industrialization of food and fast food like McDonalds always comes to mind and I think of the thin, questionable (yet always satisfying and for some reason appealing) hamburger meat with the unnaturally shiny (again for whatever reason appealing) slice of bright yellow cheese. Reading this book I thought more about the industrialization of food and the chicken products of fast food restaurants which I am not sure why I do not associate more with the topic. I am not sure why this is not my immediate thought when thinking about the modification of food with fast foods but when mentioning how McDonalds “switched” to real white meat chicken leading to the question of what was in it before made me think back to the film SuperSize Me. We have discussed this film and how it was the first exposition of industrialized modified food for a lot of us, for me in 8th grade. I began to look further into this topic, when planning to help with class discussion and I found the sequel focused a bit more on chicken in fast food chains which led my to this clip, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoX1qMzccMI I found it to be interesting and extremely relevant and it was on my mind for the rest of the time I read the book. Although after reading I began to think more about the content broadly and how the modification of chicken is not at all exclusive to fast food restaurants. Looking at brands like Tysons and Perdue and the exposing of the ways in which they produce their chicken and chicken products. I began to think more about my opinion and perception of chicken. The book continues to reiterate this point throughout that the rise of chicken came because it was the healthier choice to red meat but since the industrialization of chicken this has become less objective. I think that we still often fall into this narrative, chicken is seen as the healthier choice across many restaurants and American homes. Often people state that cutting out red meat helps with your health but then point consumers to chicken instead which after reading this I begin to question how valid that is. There are clearly positives and negatives to all meat options but this book may force people to think twice before falling back on chicken as the healthy choice.

Chicken

Part 1 of the book goes into great detail on the startup of chicken boom in the United States. This was mostly due to post-war need and chicken went from the last thought to being an affordable source of good protein. Chicken only saw even more progress and production over the years that it’s turned farming into basically an assembly line of chicken production, and this is the problem we face today. With the boom in chicken production, there was also a boom in migration. With different industries needing workers to keep up with production, they offered work to many individuals. In part 2 the book talks about migrant workers and their migration and work stories, including the author. Many of these individuals trek from south and central America, and the most notable migration was in the 90’s which increased Hispanic population by pretty much 60%. Though this sounds good many of these migrants come over undocumented and their treatment is horrible in part to that. These individuals don’t have a voice for them and due to this you get slave like work condition where these workers can’t leave or else they’re out of work. Thankfully in recent time as a society there’s been a push to make chicken production more ethical and safe, but there’s plenty of work to do in regards to this.

Chicken

Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of Americas Favorite Food dives into and tries to deal with a number of different issues. Originally I thought the process was much more cut and dry going from the town butcher to the table and then from big industrial farms to the table. But I was wrong. There is so much more to it. The author dives into why we eat so much chicken and when we as a peoples started to really eat chicken in abundance. After WWII small farmers stopped having as much control over the chicken industry and the process moved more industrial where the immigrant workers were abused and over worked, the chickens were locked up in cages by the thousands. This had a lot to do with the expansion of company Tyson. The end of the book goes into solutions as to how to make this crisis better. How better to teat the employees and the chickens. The organization: Bay Friendly Chicken also wanted to have higher pay for its employees and higher safety standards for the workers. I think when he mentions that people would be willing to pay more for better quality chicken he’s right. Personally I would pay more for chicken if I know its coming from a good place.

Chicken: the dangerous transformation

Honestly, from the title of this book, I was expecting to read about the transition from chicken from a butcher or something (I’m sorry, I actually didn’t really think about how people used to eat chicken before) to processed foods. I was not expecting all that this book encompassed. Chapter one talks about why we eat so much chicken and where that comes from. I thought it was interesting that chicken consumption ramped up during and mostly after World War II and that it was seen as a civic duty so that the Troops would get more choice cuts of protein. However, the chicken remained popular because it became more affordable and was thought to be a healthier animal protein. I found the industrialization of chicken really interesting, at first, it seemed like a viable way for people to make money, whereas before it was just something some people did on the side. Especially for those in more rural areas. I was not expecting at all that there would be so much drama in chicken. I thought it was nice to see that the “vertical expansions” of companies like Holly Farms resulted in job security for their community and a reliable source of poultry. Yet, just as fast, the industrialized chicken was soured. While I was reading, I felt bad for Holly Farms when Tyson basically usurped their chicken-making power. But I felt even worse for those who were completely disregarded during the merger. Families that had been working for years were let go with no notice. Maybe being let go wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t been explicitly lied to and given a false sense of security, on top of being required to take out loans to improve their equipment. Industrialized chicken production pretty much gets worse from there. I mean, honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting. Immigrants are exploited, maimed, overworked, threatened and the government doesn’t do anything about it because these companies spend a lot lobbying. Poultry plants have terrible conditions for workers, a disgusting complete disregard for how the chickens are actually processed (i.e. spreading of bacteria and microbes through vats that are supposed to clean but basically ensure contamination), disregard for environmental impacts because the fines are nothing to them. I am glad that the end of the book mentioned a possible solution with the Friendly Chickens but it makes you really think like this all could’ve never happened and maybe we’d be better off. It seems like we’re just trying to go back to before companies like Tyson became a big name in chicken. However, I feel guilty because even though that’s fine for people like me (middle-class), it probably wouldn’t be a viable solution for those who depend on cheap processed foods to survive.

El Pollo

Chicken delves into the modern meat industry, namely poultry, and the issues surrounding it. The main focus of the writing is the abuse that the birds and the workers endure, both of which have their respective sections. The first section first talks about how rationing of other meats like beef led to an explosion in the popularity of chicken after the war. Years later, the introduction of the McNugget led to another explosion in the industry, this time popularizing processed chicken in addition to non processed chicken. With cost of raising and transporting the birds on the rise the industry looked for cheaper and easier ways of feeding, housing, and transporting them, which led to a sharp decline in ethical treatment of the chickens. This helped the industry keep up with demand at a reasonable cost, but decimated farmers, who found themselves in massive debt to large name brands like Tyson and others. Aside from the burden the farmers faced, the birds themselves suffered inhumane treatment and barely livable conditions in order to keep up with the rising demand.

Section two delves into the treatment of workers. With the rise in popularity of chicken came unfair and unethical treatment of workers. Many of the workers were illegal immigrants who came to the US south looking to better their own life and the lives of their families. Because of the fact that they weren’t citizens they were taken advantage of by being denied bathroom breaks and being paid next to nothing. Lack of job rotation left some workers with physical injuries from performing the same task over and over again without cease. On top of this factories were not properly maintained and were filthy, leading to more injuries and product being tainted.

Chicken

This book seemed to cover almost every conceivable aspect of the modern chicken. Striffle provides the reader with an introduction narrative to establish which historical developments occurred that led to the development of America’s chicken as we know it today. WWII and its subsequent hardships provided American businessmen with the perfect avenue to sweep in and market the chicken as a saving grace, making it more affordable and accessible. Unfortunately, with this capitalization, American farmers were quickly out-bought by the likes of Perdue and Tyson, as Striffler goes on to discuss. This particular part of the chicken narrative struck me as familiar because I noted a bit of a similarity between this concept and the Taste of a Place concept that saw local farms in Vermont start to struggle and go out of business due to the branding of food and consumers lack of awareness and care as to where their food comes from. This is evident in Striffler’s book in the sense that in its beginning, in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, American consumers seemed to value quality over quantity. But as chicken became more marketable and in different forms, quick and easy access became the priority and consumers placed little value on the maintenance of the chicken and more on its availability. This could be said about many different types of food in America as we saw last week with the struggle of local farms.

In terms of cooking with chicken, it is quite marketable because of its versatility. The ability for chicken to be cooked in a multitude of different ways and flavors offer more variety and choice than other meats. The health benefits of white meat also appealed to consumers in the 20th century and can arguably be one of the main reasons it is still so popular. Red meat has, as Striffler said, been accredited with basically every negative health effect, so chickens were able to be market to health-conscious consumers on a large scale. Of course, as Striffler makes a point of mentioning throughout the book, this is only really if cooked correctly. Unfortunately more so than ever, processed and inauthentic chicken is the highest percentage of consumption in many Americans diets, no doubt due to the development of the infamous McNugget and other “Fast Chicken” fads discussed in the book. Whereas in the early 20th century chicken was cultivated for sustenance on a domestic level, it evolved with the industrialization of farming and preserving of foods to become a “cash crop” of sorts to major restaurant chains and grocery stores. The American economy saw fit to sacrifice health for money with the commercial production of processed chicken.

One last central theme of the book that stood out to me was the racial component of chicken “production” (raising, butchering, marketing). I was completely unaware of the plant’s reliance on often times undocumented Mexican immigrants to successfully run their businesses without being able to ask questions. This no doubt aides in meat packaging plants and chicken farms (the industrial ones, not local, ethic farmers of course) being able to keep their horrid practices in business and profiting from the mistreatment of animals and employees. This ideology should have been clear from Perdue’s racially motivated campaign towards Latinos with his self-proclamation of being the “Chiquita of chicken.” While there is so much more that this book uncovers, I felt these to be the over arching themes of the book and much like the film Supersize Me, I feel like this is an eye-opening and gut-wrenching, but much needed, piece of narrative that would be instrumental in educating the public.

Chicken, The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food

In Chicken, author Steve Striffler takes a hard look at how the poultry industry has changed over the last century and the impact industrialization has had on small chicken farmers and factory workers in chicken processing plants. He begins with a history of chicken, focusing on the founders of some of the biggest chicken companies in the country and how they evolved their business practices over time to make it America’s favorite food. While the McNugget and other processed forms of chicken helped skyrocket the bird’s popularity in the 1980s, the industry had been moving in that direction for decades. From improved transportation methods to the distribution of growers across the South and the Midwest, this streamlining and industrialization was achieved largely through the integration of every step, from growing and raising to processing, into large corporations that each controlled significant portions of the market. A significant landmark in this march towards integration was the merger of Holly Farms and Tyson, which had massive impacts on workers. Stiffler first focuses on the impact integration had on chicken farmers, who take on massive debts to start in the business and for whom the loss of income from chicken can be catastrophic. Due to transportation and feed costs, Tyson cut off many of these small farmers after the merger, and the author offers accounts from several of these farmers. Tyson took a similar approach towards the truckers who had hauled chickens for Holly Farms, making them work more for less pay. Importantly, Stiffler also discusses how these workers tried to combat Tyson’s business practices through labor organization, and how Tyson fought bitterly to prevent and punish any unionization in their company. This would become a recurring theme through the rest of the book, as every large chicken company is opposed to unionization in their workforce.

In the second part of the book, the author relays his experiences working in a poultry processing plant for two summers. He works alongside mostly immigrants from Central and South America, as well as some Asian countries, although in one striking scene one of his coworkers declares them all to be Mexican in the eyes of their management. This opens the door to a discussion of the relationship between the big chicken corps and their large immigrant workforces. For many of these immigrants, jobs in chicken factories provide some upward mobility. However, these jobs are dangerous and consistently lead to long-term health problems, and accidents are frequent. The monotony and long hours also make it difficult for the workers to maintain normal lives outside of their workplace. The big businesses often engage in illegal practices to hire and keep their immigrant employees. While legal cases have been brought against many of these companies for both these issues and their pollution outputs, the penalties are always less costly than changing their practices. Regulatory agencies do not have the power to enforce anything more meaningful.

In the last few pages of the book, Stiffler proposes a solution to these problems: Bay Friendly Chicken. This cooperation not only vows to treat their chickens better but also their workers, with high standards of labor and safety at the forefront of their vision. They also say they will include environmentalists on their board of directors and keep control of the company must stay local. He also argues for the economic viability of this Friendly Chicken, saying that consumers are already willing to pay more for higher quality chicken and this new option would be comparable in price. When growers and workers have a vested interest in the success of the product, the quality of chicken will improve and both consumers and producers benefit.