Anger from a Now-Informed American Omnivore
I hate corn. I hate feeding corn to animals that don’t naturally eat corn; But most of all, I hate the way corporate America decides to feed its people. Michael Pollan with his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” is making me angry, but not at him. The first section of the book painfully describes the process of corn seeping into our foods and the pocket books that are filled by it. As I sit here eating my “Fit & Active Popcorn,” that tastes nearly like nothing, I start to wonder if there’s any “real” corn in it at all.
One of the first things that upset me upon this reading is the illogical nature of the process which corn is raised, processed and eaten. While the planting of corn used to be alternated with beans to prevent a depletion of nitrogen, after WWII “the government had found itself with a tremendous surplus of ammonium nitrate, the principal ingredient in the making of explosives. Ammonium nitrate also happens to be an excellent source of nitrogen for plants” and so began the use of it on corn farms (Pollan 41). I mean really? Corporate America is so set on productivity that they’re willing to recycle explosives in order to make it happen?
This is not to mention the fact that America is actively changing the way the way humans eat but also other species in order to utilize the enormous excess of corn. It is also used to bulk up our beef as well. Pollan explains “What gets a steer from 80 to 1,100 pounds in fourteen months is tremendous quantities of corn, protein and fat supplements, and an arsenal of new drugs” (71) Not to mention that cows are not even designed to ingest large amounts of corn, but rather their rumens are designed to eat corn but to break down grass into proteins. And don’t even get me started about how the new CAFOs are creating more harmful and toxic wastes than the potentially self-serving, no waste, circuit of family farms ever did (67).
Is this healthy? Are these chemicals, drugs and preservatives harmful to my health and the health of our ecosystem? The people who are likely to answer these questions have a vested interest in reassuring me of its safety. People such as David Wallerstein and companies such as Tyson want to get the most money for the emptiest calories; Pollan exclaims that “while the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest” (108). This to me is mind-numbing. It seems to me like there is such a simple answer: stop making corn! But to food producers, or food constructors I should say, would hear that resolution as: stop making money! And so we know that this will never happen. And the farmers who have to overproduce to make ends meet, and the cows who have to eat this food and take drugs just to digest, and the people who eat this food, all of it makes me wonder—how on Earth could this ever change? And What on Earth is America eating?!