Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Feelin' Good 'Bout Food!

It seems the debate and discussion over proper and good food production takes a new level or approach every month, or even every week. This is a wonderful discussion to have since consumers should all be aware of where and how their food is produced and producers should be held accountable for their production and management practices. But there seems to be an idea swelling within society that veers towards one acceptable and respectable method only - small and local.

Courtesty of www.imdb.com
While I haven't seen the full movie yet, I will be watching Farmegeddon in the near future in an attempt to better understand this way of thinking and how some people perceive ethical food production. However, I have seen the trailer for the movie and one quote in particular caught my attention. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, who became popular in the movie Food, Inc., is discussing his style of operation with free range chickens, organic hogs, and grass-finished beef. Salatin makes this remark, "Look at this, it's beautiful! Good food production should be aesthetically......sensually romantic." I believe Salatin hits the nail on the head when it comes to the ideology of people who advocate and pursue the small, organic, local trend.

I will reemphasize that I support all types of agriculture production as long as those participating do so with the right intentions and no one industry sells itself as being superior. However, as my last blog addressed, the idea of small and local farms has begun taking hold as being healthier, morally superior, and more environmentally conscious than modern production practices. Instead of being pleased that the current US food system has become highly efficient in management, production practices, and genetic improvement while keeping costs at minimum and environmental impact positive, many consumers feel this system has removed the emotion and personal connection associated with healthy food production. They feel large farms and ranchers compromise the health and safety of not only the animals but the consumers and only strive to make profits.

There is nothing more beautiful than a pasture full of fat, slick haired cattle!!!
Courtesy www.minmixmineral.com
People want to feel good about what they eat, not only from a health conscious standpoint, but also from a moral and ethical perspective. This is when Salatin's remark becomes the truth to these people. 100 years ago, almost everyone was connected to a family farm in some regard. Everyone produced enough beef, pork, chicken, eggs, produce, milk, etc, etc to provide for their family and maybe even sell some. 50 years later, commerce had captured great popularity and farmers began to build their operations to gain more business and help feed the world's growing population. And now, in the beginning of the 21st century, people are led to believe that the standards and practices of 100 years ago are what should be the norm.

I am in the process of reading The Locavore's Dilemma by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu. The book analyzes the "local food" movement trend vs modern food production and argues in favor of "The 10,000 mile diet". In the book's introduction, Desrochers and Shimizu make this statement, "If widely adopted, either voluntarily or through political mandates, locavorism can only result in higher costs and increased poverty, greater food insecurity, less food safety, and much more significant environmental damage than is presently the case.....Consumers who bought into locavorism because they sincerely cared about making our food supply ever more secure, safe, affordable, and sustainable while supporting their local community should reexamine whether the supposed means actually leads to the desired ends."

Now there is something to be said about raising your own garden, and providing your own eggs and meat, or supporting someone who does. It's always a great sense of accomplishment when you're able to raise and grow your own food. Therefore, if you are able to do this, I applaude your determination, desire, and devotion to caring for your family and working the land.

But like it or not, the modern and "good food production" as Salatin puts it, does not and will never again lie in the backyards of rural America. It won't be seen as hundreds of Rhode Island Red hens scurry over a wide open pasture, subject to predation, or as Chester White sows and their piglets lay in the lean to, risking aggressive swine behavior to one another and crushed babies, nor as 20 dairy cows being hand milked in an ol' stanchion barn providing raw milk. No, the good food production will consist of farmers dragging 24 row planters across a wide open field in North Missouri, harvesting wheat with five combines across the Oklahoma prairie, examining all 1,500 dairy cows as they walk through the milking parlor, calculating the input cost on 250 steers going to the feedlot in West Kansas, and spending everyday devoting their life to feeding this growing nation and world. No matter how big the operation, how many people are required to run the business, or how far the product has to travel before it reaches consumers, seeing a farmer work the land, care for their livestock, and feed the world is the most beautiful, aesthetic and sensually romantic picture ever!!!
These combines cover thousands of acres of wheat in Kansas and Oklahoma
during the summer harvest in June and July.
Courtesy www.okwheatcommission.wordpress.com

What do you think about Salatin's statement? Do you believe modern food production can be viewed this way as well? Do you think this is a good depiction of how people feel about the way their food is produced?

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post, Austin! I have really enjoyed reading your blog.