As I’m thinking of how to unify all these links, fascinating stuff that was covered in the world of food news this week, and musing on the possibility of connecting them to Independence Day, I notice how many of these can be drawn back to all that our government is not doing to protect us, to ensure our health and well-being, to feed us and our land well.
Here’s some history, to begin. The National Archives currently has an exhibit chronicling the history of the American government and the American diet, from farms and factory regulation, to dietary guides and eating habits. If I were in the D.C. area, I’d definitely be checking this out.
The latest development in that realm stems from the recent E. coli outbreaks, the USDA’s latest ad campaign for food safety. Their slogan is Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. Here’s the tv ad that will be running soon for “cook:”
I’m really not sure what to say about that. I should cook whole hogs in a steamer? The ads might be a bit too bizarre to really get the message across.
Now on to more dire stuff. The latest video expose of a factory farm (Iowa Select Farms, just about an hour north of where I live — so proud) has some truly horrifying stuff on pig abuse.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO SHOWS GRAPHIC VIOLENCE
As the commentary suggests, part of what’s deeply troubling here is that so much of what’s portrayed is actually completely legal under current animal abuse laws. Piglets can be skull-smashed to death, up to three weeks of age. And gestation crates are the industry norm. Even if they are illegal in some states, being legal in Iowa (the nation’s leading pork producing state) means most animals are raised that way.
And if you haven’t read it yet, the whole of Ted Genoways outstanding investigation into the Hormel Spam factory is well worth the read. He does a fantastic job chronicling the development of the meat industry, including labor rights battles, kill floor regulations and food safety, demonstrating clear that the meat industry is an industry, one driven by profit, that will cut costs in any way possible.
Finally, I haven’t spent much time discussing the new USDA nutritional guidelines graphic, MyPlate, but here is one nutritionist/food writer Kristin Wartman’s really thorough, easy-to-follow Real Food guide to MyPlate, which helps to explain it, while pointing out the flaws it has by nature of the fact that the USDA wants to promote food that directs money to the industrial agriculture lobby.
I think it’s quite lovely, and really illuminating.
There you have it. Some compelling expose journalism, some outright critique of the government, a challenge here and there to email your congressional representatives. Sounds like the perfect way to celebrate Independence Day to me.
Maybe I’ll get dinged for not being patriotic enough. I assure you all that I do, genuinely, love the United States of America, possibly the most radical idea in human history. This is how I show my love. Poking the government with a stick. And if they really believe in the document that guides us, they should see my ranting as the best and biggest expression of patriotism there is.