Eating Tomorrow Blog Post

This reading was a great one that touched on a lot of things we have talked about before. The introduction went over a lot of information however, it reminded me how complicated the food industry is and how convoluted everything can be. For example, how all of these large agribusinesses are all intertwined to forward the same goals of making more money for them. The first chapter highlights what a lot of the big investors missed when trying to give African farmers what American farmers had received in the first “green revolution”. However, these investors left out major components that would have made these American interferences with African agriculture not a failure. Things such as irrigation in a climate where the rain is unpredictable would have made a difference. But chapter two shows that these green revolutions were not always major failures. The country of Malawi at first saw success with the use of subsidies but after a period of a few years that success declined and many of their citizens were left hungry. When looking deeper into the issue most of the farmers ran out of grain before the next season and then were left with little to no money as well. The more that the government of Malawi became tied with companies such as Monsanto, the more their production failed. When looking at the different seed types that are provided to the country, the OPVs are the safest option for the farmers because if the hybrid do not receive the right amount of fertilizer(which farmers do not even receive enough of), they fail. The part of the chapter when the author finds out that Monsanto bought the national seed company made complete sense. Because then they could control everything and make more profits for themselves. Later, other solutions were found such as local farmer co-ops and small scale irrigation. Along with a few other solutions, crop diversification had a major impact on the amount of people going hungry in Malawi. Theres is a lot to learn from Malawi, such as the farmers are not as “backward” as these major corporations had thought. And more importantly that this cultural mono-culture was not sustainable in a changing climate.

A very similar issue happened in Mexico under different circumstances. Again these corporate agribusinesses were trying to become a part of another country’s agriculture. With lowering corn prices for Mexican farmers due to NAFTA these corporations were attempting to introduce genetically modified corn into Mexico’s corn production. People knew this would change the quality of corn produced in the country. And this was a very real fear because of the fact that corn is an open-pollinated crop and so cross-breeding is common among crops. Along with this, the people would want to keep eating the corn that they had been since it is a large portion of their diet and did not want to find out if GM corn had any health effects. With GM crops the farmers have higher risks, that aren’t truly necessary to even take, with little rewards because they earn more from non GM crops. Just as the author stated, complex problems need complex solutions, which is probably why this section of this chapter seemed complicated to me. But the one thing that stood out is how Monsanto was promoting “food sovereignty” while most experts regarded them as a threat to that very idea. While many are still fighting these “Goliaths” they have been slowed down and lost multiple growing seasons due to legal action. despite this, GM crop genes have spread to most of the native plants and there is no reversing that damage to the native crops.

Week 12: Eating Tomorrow

This reading was really eye-opening to how complex and often malicious the food industry can be. In historic preservation, we talk about how the most eco-friendly building is the one that is already built, and it was interesting to read how this extends to farming and “climate-stupid agriculture.” To the chagrin of agribusinesses as the author described, the best way to farm is the traditional way: smart techniques, working slowly over time, with minimal reliance on western tools like chemicals and fertilizer. Of course, this makes big businesses less money, so we have conflict with devastating results. The high-input, low-output model big businesses push hurts both farmers and the people they are trying to feed in developing countries. I hadn’t thought of the huge network that surrounds farmers, and was disheartened to read about how they are pinched between agribusiness and retailers, ultimately taking the most losses. 

It was also grim to read about how the “white savior” mentality is alive and well in the food industry. The author addresses the myth that “we,” meaning privileged Americans, can save “the rest” of the world from hunger and poverty. Throwing money at the problem never solves it, and the author writes about the Gates Foundation using economic power over desperate African governments without providing real solutions to structural problems: just leading to reliance on synthetics, fertilizers, and GM seeds. The author also addressed how the opposite scenario has its flaws. The bottom-up subsidies tried in Malawi seemed to work for a time, but ultimately led to more hunger and poverty. When governments subsidized Monsanto seeds and fertilizers, local farmers suffered lower yields over time, less nutrition, and poorer stability. It also gave Monsanto the power to shelve effective seeds like MH18 so that farmers would have to buy more and more less effective alternatives. A return to traditional farming and a cooperative model helped diversify crops, improve nutrition, and improve soil health, but these are often unprofitable at market. For example, orange maize sounded like a great solution to not just these issues in addition to drought tolerance, but white maize still had to be grown and sold so farmers could make money. 

The author went deeper into this self-cyclical, incredibly damaging system of monetization in his chapter on Monsanto in Mexico. Maize is crucial to the Mexican diet, especially to vulnerable populations like pregnant women and children. The author writes that Mexico has the greatest variety of Maize in the world. When Adelita San Vicente, lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit against Monsanto’s efforts to privatize transgenic maize, said that this great diversity is “a gift from Mesoamerica, which they are trying to privatize with patented GM seeds” I thought of Dr. Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine. The greatest gifts to human life ought to be free, but this simply doesn’t work under a capitalist system. Monsanto wanted to privatize its maize and sue for any cross contaminated maize in the country. Their argument, when the author visited, was essentially that it was too late and they might as well move forward since they had polluted the system already. Their argument that this would be a good thing, that they were ensuring “food sovereignty” for the Mexican people was eloquently dispelled later. “Monsanto is the threat to food sovereignty,” using economic and political power to limit how the Mexican people feed themselves.

Eating Tomorrow Blog Post March 4, 2022

It’s fascinating to learn about how deeply commercialized the efforts to promote sustained agriculture are in many regions of Africa. I found the essentially forced adoption of the North American, and other lab engineered seeds, fertilizers, and methodologies within Africa to be a clear cut example of how the greed of major organizations, and the adoption of misleading narratives can give rise to massively exploitative programs that operate under the guise of support. Learning that many of Africa’s major government managed agricultural organizations, or methods were being funded through many private, American groups, such as the one started by Bill Gates, shows how quickly these African Governments were to disregard the voices of their own farmers, in favour of those spouted by these large scale corporations. I found the information regarding how these man-made crops, fertilizers, and pesticides essentially kills the land that these crops are grown in by the depletion of minerals and nutrients in the soil, while also creating “super weeds” that become highly resistant to these pesticides over prolonged use quite alarming since this only creates long term problems where they are lauded for their short term benefits. The “Malawai Miracle” and its rise and fall as discussed in the first excerpt was quite informative in many ways, especially in regards to how it gave rise to new markets that had previously been non-existent in region previously which was the seed & fertilizer providers. The many problems that were created during this supposed “Miracle” were quite damning, such as how the cost of the new seeds and synthetic fertilizers created a deficit in the profits of these farmers over the long term implementation of these new seeds and fertilizers. The most crippling aspect of these new crops which stood out to me was how dependent these seeds were on their synthetic fertilizers and how over prolonged usage these seeds would require substantially more of this fertilizer than previous harvests, coupled with the low supply and high cost of said fertilizer made it very difficult for any farmer using these seeds to accrue optimal yield of said seeds. This issue coupled with the purchase of the region’s own seed company by Mosanto which once I read this quickly understood why the dependence on these seeds was so dire, as well as why new varieties of crops weren’t being used was due to corporate greed. (End of First Excerpt) The second excerpt’s discussion of Mexico and its own maize diversity being a key aspect as to why the government of Mexico was vehemently denying the introduction of GMO maize varieties was quite the yin to the yang of the previous article since both discussed Mosanto in the bulk of their texts. It clear that the risks of contamination to the native raised varieties of maize throughout Latin America is something that should be taken very seriously, and I was pleased to see just how quick, efficient, and detailed the initial investigations headed by Jose Sarukhan was in the early years of this investigation. The information regarding the pollination of maize as well as the culture of “experimentation” by Mexican Farmers was quite understandable due to both how ease-ably transmission was for the pollen especially in regards to how far it can travel, as well has quickly these seeds can travel either by man made or even natural means such as native life can pose serious problems to the bio-diversity of Mexico. The grip these multinational firms have in the agriculture industry is both clear and also corrupt, in that these corporations are able to swing their profits around in order to get support from the United States government in order to dissuade or even outright deny the objections and evidence provided by Mexican farmers and the experts supporting them. The use of patenting a seed variety was something I found to be in equal parts stupid and corrupt as even the author discusses how Mosanto brought legal actions against unsuspecting or ill-informed farmers whose crops were subjected to the cross-pollination without their consent. Its clear that many of these Multi-national firms simply wish to gain a foothold in the maize economy in Mexico and are willing to do whatever they want to insure that it happens, such as the falsely created statistics heralded by Oyervide.

Eating Tomorow

I personally found this reading to be a little hard to understand because of all of the new terms and ideas in it and what I did understand was very frustrating. It is not a new idea that big businesses gain power and only care about making a profit. However, I thought that the depiction of agribusinesses, particularly in the chapter on Malawi, was terrible because of the ways that these businesses acted to keep people in poverty and hunger. It leads me to wonder about what the role of large businesses and the free market should play in food production, and whether or not more government oversight would be a good thing in some situations. I was also shocked at how the actions of these businesses where often marketed as being in the best intrest of the country and helping to feed people, when in fact they where doing the opposite. Overall it was a very interesting reading.

Chicken

Anna and I are leading the discussion on this book this week, so I really tried to get into this book. But it was kind of tough– mostly because some of the descriptions of the labor are really gruesome. From the inhumane treatment of the birds from start to finish and into the descriptions of the horror of working the lines, this book gave a really deep look into just how bad the chicken industry has become.

Having worked in the restaurant industry, I was somewhat aware of the abuses that chicken farming entails. You can’t process a 50 lb case of chicken breasts in an afternoon without thinking about how many birds it took to fill that plastic-lined box, or notice how large the individual breasts are for a small bird, or have the dangers of salmonella and listeria drilled into you from every angle. But reading first-hand accounts of the body-breaking labor, purposeful mismanagement, human trafficking, environmental violations, and union-busting really hit home how terrible the industry has become in the last few decades.

I was particularly struck by the evolution of the chicken farm from a very meager means to supplement income into a massive monocrop-style industry. It’s inconceivable to me that there was a time when chicken wasn’t synonymous with “health” food as a low-fat, high-protein option, while simultaneously being overrepresented in fast food markets. “Added-value” products are everywhere, and it just doesn’t seem sustainable for the market to be so saturated with new products– but that’s the nature of the industry. If they want to keep ahead and keep making profits, they need to innovate and put something new in front of consumers.

The sections on horizontal vs vertical integrations were also fascinating to me. It seems like each major company, once they got a foothold in a growing market, just proceeded to gobble up every other competitor. I had no idea that the organic or Kosher chicken brands my parents buy at Wegmans was owned by the very same “value” brand I buy at Walmart. It was kind of embarrassing and shameful– like there’s no real concept of “choice” or free market, if there’s basically a monopoly on chicken now. Americans put a lot of stock in the idea of “voting with your dollars” when it comes to ethics and moral consumer choices, but it hardly makes a difference in today’s market.

I’m looking forward to talking about the book this week. I hope we can have some interesting discussions!

Blog Post – “Chicken”

This book was probably the most interesting reading all semester. It gave me a lot of insight into the chicken industry and how it’s changed and evolved through time. In the first chapter, the author talked about the popularity of chicken and how it blew up after World War. Companies like Tyson started the wave of processed chicken to feed the masses. This chapter focused on chicken around World War II times. It talks about how during the technological revolution, processed foods like chicken and others blew up due to mass media. The thing about chicken is that it satisfied what the average American wanted, which was to be both efficient with their time and money. Companies like Tyson took advantage of this and started to give the public what they wanted. It was interesting to hear that the Delmarva peninsula was the start of the chicken revolution and started the processed chicken wave. It was crazy to hear that companies like Tyson not only treat their livestock poorly but also treat their employees horribly with low wages and poor working conditions. And much like other franchises, big brand chicken companies forced farmers to constantly upgrade infrastructures causing farmers to go into a drowning sea of debt. Basically, these brands treated their farmers like crap, but due to the contracts and financial pressure, the farmers couldn’t leave and go independent. There was even talk of companies like Tyson employing an illegal workforce including underage employees. From the treatment of animals to people, it makes me really frustrated with these big chicken brands. 

After hearing the horror stories presented by the author about the chicken companies, I was interested in hearing about healthier and better alternatives instead of supporting these brands. The author brought up supporting local and organic farms, but this calls into question the cost and efficiency. The big turn-on to chicken in the first place was affordability. A lot of Americans wouldn’t be able to afford this healthier option.  

Overall, this book was a lot to cover, but it opened me up to what these horrible chicken companies are doing. I enjoyed reading this book and can say with confidence that I will not be eating Tyson chicken nuggets any time soon.

Chicken Blog Post

I really enjoyed this book, as I do most of the readings but that could be because I do love to read about the food industry. When looking at the rise of chicken as a large scale agricultural product, it seems different that other ones. Like farmers in the Delmarva peninsula and Tyson just happened to find a market and profit within chicken and then ran with it. By the 80’s chicken became a wide spread product that was seen in many fast food chains and throughout grocery stores. This wide spread usage was made possible because the industry was able to modify these chickens in order to get them to boiler weight in less time with less feed than in the 1940’s. Its rise in popularity also makes sense in the time frame of WWII since it was the only meat that wasn’t rationed like beef of pork. The government even encourages the public to consume more chicken and eggs to leave the more “desirable” meats for the troops. But as larger companies began to have more control over the industry than the growers, the people who take care of the chickens began to lose earnings because they have more invested into the chickens and the companies but the company has very little invested into these farmers. This integration of the poultry industry and feed companies has become detrimental to both the farmer and the consumer. There has never been “good times” for these farmers, they either have complete chaos within the industry or restricting contracts through these corporations. The first major merger in the poultry industry, Holly Farms, combined all the separate parts that were needed for the industry and combine them into one, so that one company could control everything to lower costs. When Tyson eventually took over Holly, this became the largest agribusiness merger to ever happen. But this merger meant a change in management, which even when the company promised that no jobs would be lost, that is exactly what happens in the company. Then with the rise of unions within the company, employees treatment becomes even worse. Even worse off than the people who work directly for the company such as truckers, are the growers. They put large sums of money into their properties and land and get the rug pulley’s out from under them and no cost to the company, but a life long cost to the grower. Another issue the book brings up is illegal immigrants. Most of these companies rely on immigrant labor for cheap, reliable labor but the government cracks down hard on illegal immigrants and will readily deport these workers. This means that these companies can easily control the futures of these people. This work is also not easy and is most of the time dangerous, but sometimes it is all that a worker may know. Many of the workers in the factory that the author worked in are immigrants. Along with this many workers become injured which also threatens their jobs, because if they are injured then they can’t work. One major group against these type of industrial farms is the Sierra Club, which usually fights against environmental injustice, but lately has been fighting the poultry industry. These companies spend most of their time in court because they are creating issues everyday at their plants. These include environmental violations, breaking child labor laws, and violations of basic human rights when it comes to their employees. There are better chickens becoming available but they’re expensive. However, eventually that chicken could become less expensive along with supporting companies that breed chickens that are healthier and don’t require all of the harmful things that traditional industrial bred chickens do.

Chicken

As a person who eats chicken frequently, I was dreading the reading of this book and it surely did not disappoint. In chapter 1, Striffler talks about how chicken was not as popular in the United States before World War II as it was after. The processing of chicken created a more accessible meat product for the public to consume. Mass marketing and mass production implemented a sort of efficiency surrounding chicken that makes sense for America, since we are so obsessed with spending less time and less money. Americans became infatuated with the new “branded chickens,” which were mass produced and catered to people who wanted cooking to be easier, and for those who do not want to cook, you can get chicken in minutes at places like KFC. Later in the book, Striffler talks about the chicken industry and why it gained so much traction. Chicken is marketed as healthy meat and it is versatile in many ways, so the idea of chicken being available for cheap was appealing to many people. Chicken was molded to fit an industrial model with large processing plants and chickens being raised in poor conditions in large numbers. This was the best way to make it available to the public at lower prices. After WWII, the creation of easily accessible chicken products became a market that many people could become involved in. The people who raise the chickens were connected with those who made chicken feed, the chickens were passed to the processing plant, etc. One company facilitates all of this movement, like Tyson. Much like any other large company that is producing a product for people to buy, poultry companies took over the long chains of people and organizations needed to process chicken in this modern way. Striffler also talks about work in this book, which was interesting to me because he was a worker for a poultry processing plant at one point. I was not shocked to learn that Tyson and other companies mistreated their employees and hired them in under-the-table ways. It is not a foreign concept in America to hire workers who are in the United States illegally in large numbers and pay them less than they deserve. This offers cheap labor to Tyson and other large companies, which makes the whole process cheaper and more beneficial for the people in charge. The working environments are toxic and inhumane, and chicken has become an industry where only the wealthy company owners profit, much like many others. The well being of workers is not a large focus in the movement to make food cleaner, but it needs to be. We have come full circle as a society, because it is clear that today, people are willing to spend more money on a higher quality chicken. They want to know that the chicken was treated well in its life and was processed with the least amount of chemicals and the most amount of care. The industrialization of chicken after WWII has finally worn out for some, and quality has become more important to consumers than price or speed. However, I feel that Americans will never be able to let go of processed chicken, even though some of them can afford to search for the higher quality meat. For some, it is a matter of poverty and processed food is simpler and more accessible. For some, it is the ease with which fast food chicken products are available. This movement towards better chicken is a targeted one, because not everyone can afford to purchase organic free-range chicken every time they buy groceries. So, the industry will continue flourishing as fast food restaurants need suppliers for their chicken paste.

Chicken “The Dangerous Transformation” Blog Post 3/19/2022

This week’s reading was one of the more interesting to me, since most of what was covered throughout the book, I had never learned about before, or had ever heard about in a documented work. The rise in popularity in chicken and the consumption of it across America was something I believed had always been in place, however in Chapter 2 not only is the actually rise of mainstream consumption a more recent event, I also didn’t know that the cause was WWII. The fact that not only was there a technological revolution going on due to the nation’s war effort, the fact that chicken was not a food source widely rationed in America was quite surprising to read about. The influence of the “Food for Freedom” program can’t be understated in that by not only making the consumption of chicken a patriotic duty, and promoting it with great effort, the increased desire for it would be a economic boon for many farmers across America. The foundational changes that occurred as a result of a number of events in regards to the Wilkes County Poultry farm, is what is discussed as the beginnings of this streamlined process of chicken production here in America. The partnering of “Holly Farms” with farmers who produced the grains/feed, partnering with the local freezer producer, to the further “horizontal integrations” that would take place over time is what caused them to become one of the biggest leaders in the poultry market. This trend towards “Horizontal integration” is a process mirrored in many large scale companies that require a number of steps, materials, or processes to sell their desired product. By choosing to incorporate and manage all of these steps in house Holly Farms was able to mitigate fluctuations in different steps in the process as well as saving money. The influx of Latin American immigrant workers is something I heard about as a child as well as continuing to this day since many of these immigrants would serve as prime cheap workers to be hired within these massive chicken production facilities. The issues with this labor force is that many if not most of these workers are being exploited by their companies and are not being treated with the standards of safety, training, or even pay compared to their white counterparts in similar industries. The concern of “Do Americans even produce their own food?” mentioned at the end of page 95 is something I have also thought about once upon a time, since growing up in the South I have heard discussions concerning what type of foods a “real American” should be eating or in some cases hearing complaints about these “sweatshops” being mostly immigrant and probably illegals at that is something I heard a lot growing up. These beliefs were probably enforced by cases such as the one discussed in chapter 5, about how Tyson would pay these “recruiters” large sums of money to procure illegal workers for them. The story of Michael and Roberto and their conflicting viewpoints on the operation of the rebreader can be distilled down to the belief of time is money, and that the preferred method of production by the higher ups is to cut corners in order to save money which in most cases produces problems that compromises the quality of the chicken, as well as making the internal work culture toxic. The clear lack of understanding that Michael as in regards to how the machinery works and what is causing the problems as well as his stubbornness is a type of personality that is quite prevalent in a number of industries in that since his method of working the production line has always worked he would always talk down any opinions that criticized his process. Lastly the closing chapter’s remarks about “Friendly Chicken” and the company Bay Friendly Chicken is an interesting, and contrasting viewpoint to myself. The points leading the author’s discussion lie in that Americans are willing to pay more for a better, healthier, and more traceable chicken, in most cases. This I agree with and in today’s current food landscape their is a strong push for more healthier, organic, options in regards to food, however it is the cost of these foods that has me concerned. The pay of most workers is not adequate enough to even cover the bare necessities of their lives let alone going out of their way to find, and purchase more expensive version of foods such as chicken. This movement towards better food quality, and traceability must also go hand in hand with the rights of workers both within the industries that produces them but also those that are the consumers themselves.

Chicken

I had gone into this reading with a vague idea of the unethical sides of big chicken companies such as Tyson which this book only confirmed. I think that it is at least semi-common knowledge now a days that these companies don’t treat their animals well and that the food they create is very unhealthy, but this was the first time I had heard about their treatment of immigrant workers. The book lays out the main points of both of its sections well with the quote “Americans are destroying their bodies by consuming unhealthy foods, and immigrants are destroying theirs by producing those foods”(5). I liked how the book was pretty evenly divided between talking about the corporations that process chicken and the people who actually do the processing. It was eye opening to read about the exploitive practices of these companies and I think speaks to the point mentioned in the book about how Americans are very distanced from how their food is made.