I’d been meaning to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma for years, but never got around to reading it until this week. I knew it was an important subject and very well researched, but, well, it’s kind of depressing. And it makes you not want to eat anything anymore.
I’m glad I did though, and I wanted to share some less-depressing facts with you:
Talk your ear off:
-In the 1919, 1 in every 4 Americans lived on a farm. Today, America’s Farm Belt is a lower population and only about 2 million total Americans still farm. (That’s smaller than the population of Houston) Back then, farms could sustainably feed themselves (the farmers family, the animals and the crops) and the surplus was sold off. Now, many farms just make one thing (just corn, just wheat, etc.) and many farm families don’t even eat that one food!
-The natural rate of growth for the food industry should be about 1%, with the increase of the population. This creates a problem, because there are food businesses that want to make more money. They either have to: 1. Get people to buy the same amount of food for more money or 2. Eat more. Breakfast cereal is one of the most profitable foods: for 4 cents of corn, you can make a cereal that sells for $4.
-Most of us associate “supersize” with McDonalds or 7-11, but it was actually movie theaters that started this idea. They realized that they only way they could get people to pay more was to get them to buy more food at the concession stand, but they couldn’t get people to buy two popcorns, even though they wanted more in popcorn. They didn’t want to seem “piggish”. Selling more cheaply made food for a slightly higher price got people to buy more.
-Where a fruit or vegetable is grown determines its vitamin and mineral structure. Carrots grown in rich Michigan soil have more vitamins than Florida carrots grown in thin, sandy soil. Needless to say, Florida farmers didn’t like this information to be released, so the USDA stopped conducting this research.
-If the 16 million acres currently being used to grow corn to feed cows was used as well managed pasture instead, 14 billion pounds of carbon dioxide would be removed from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off of the road.
-In the early 1900’s, cattle were slaughtered at 4-5 years old. In the 50’s they started to slaughter at 2-3 years old. Now, cattle are usually slaughtered between 14-16 months. The longer cattle age, the better they taste. Cows are now weaned from their mothers earlier too, because they gain weight faster from their feed than their mother’s milk.
-Cannibal tribes have found that when you eat the meat of your own species, exposes you to new infections. This is where Mad Cow Disease came from, cows were being fed pieces of other cows. The FDA banned most of this, but still allow cows to eat cow blood and cow fat.
-Manure from most cow farms is unusable for farmers, because the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, metals and hormones are so high that it would kill the crops. Their manure is considered a toxic waste.
-Whole Foods believe that their customers want to “engage with authentic experiences” of the days spent on farms, which is why each item has a story of where the chicken came from, what it ate, where it spent its days. (“Rosie was raised in a sunny field on a farm in Marin County”) The reality is that Whole Foods works with mostly industrialized organic farms and that Rosie lived an antibiotic-free life in a overcrowded room with a tiny door to the outdoors, that the chickens never learned to use.
-Horizon farms is the “Microsoft of the organic dairy business”, producing more than half of the organic dairy products in the US, but they raise their cattle in dry, empty lots in the desert. The cows are fed from imported grains and milked three times a day. In comparison, Stonyfield Farms sources most of it’s organic milk from smaller farms across the US and the cows are treated more humanely.
-Grass-fed meat and eggs have less total and saturated fats, and they have more CLA, a fatty acid that is linked to weight loss and preventing cancer. They also have more omega-3’s, which are an anti-inflammatory linked to more neurons in the brain and higher IQs.
-Koala’s have such a small brain that it doesn’t even fill up its skull. A lot of research proves that animals that just eat one thing (in this case eucalyptus leaves) have smaller brains and animals that have to search, hunt or grow their own food have larger brains. Humans and rats can adapt to any situation or food, which makes them more likely to survive.
-Disgust is an important factor in eating food. Humans feel disgust to protect themselves from harm. It prevents us from eating feces, corpses and body fluids.
-A mushroom is just the fruiting body of a subterranean network of microscopic hyphae, long rootlike cells that thread themselves through the soil like neurons. A single fungus found in Michigan ran underground for 40 acres! Some mushrooms can push through asphalt, others glow in the dark, some dissolve into black ink.