Friday, May 29, 2009

And the McNugget goes?

Dogs bark, cats meow, ducks quack.
What's a McNugget sound like? (hint what's a cob of corn sound like)

Oh, was the McNugget alive once?

OK I really don't intend to pick on McDonalds (symbol MCD great stock and full disclosure I own some) or particular food industry. I'm not a vegan. We just need to think about food and learn more about the process.

Here's the main question -
Do we know our food?

I suspect most of my generation knows of livestock but I wonder about my grandkids generation. Oh don't tell my kids but I plan to inform their kids about some of the behind-the-scene food story.

Like it or not animals are slaughtered. The poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg starts with, "Hog Butcher for the World." (I hope kids still know what a butcher does.)

That picture is from Peru. I didn't try the cuy (guinea pig) but if it had been served in a sauce and sliced I might have. Customers can watch the live ones just across the courtyard from the grill. Not much different than picking out your lobster at restaurant.

Watch the documentary King Corn. It provides some clues to the many diet related health problems we have in modern society. The industrialization of our food doesn't always benefit us. One benefit is cheap food. But there is a health price to pay later.

A surprising fact for me was the huge change in the livestock industry. Those farms/ranches with the cattle grazing fields are now very few. Today it is feedlots (cattle factories really) with corn feed cattle. Since the cattle don't roam around much you need plenty of antibotics too. They don't eat much other than corn. Before the 70's they ate much more grass.

Another surprise is the volume of corn in the system and the result that we are all eating/drinking corn. Not directly but indirectly.
  • corn feed beef/poulty
  • corn oil
  • corn syrup
  • corn starch

“If you’re standing in a field in Iowa, there’s an immense amount of food being grown, none of it edible. The commodity corn, nobody can eat. It must be processed before we can eat it. It’s a raw material—it’s a feedstock for all these other processes. And the irony is that an Iowa farmer can no longer feed himself.”
—Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma

Hey I'm not giving up beer (mostly light beer anyway) or tootpaste because of corn based ingredients. Also, I love popcorn.

I didn't grow up or work on a farm (visited a number of them) but I did reconstructed a chicken skeleton for a science project once. At the time, Dad and I didn't drive that far to buy a LIVE chicken (I didn't want to reconstruct broken bones and wanted the head and all). BTW - this was not an easy project. Those bones are tiny and difficult to clean and glue back in place.

How many of you buy your food live? I'm not suggesting that we start but it's an interesting thought.

Over a year ago I found this cheeseburger-in-a-can and wondered what extreme seasoning would be required before eating. Ironic that out on the trail you might be eating food that is many process steps removed from the source and the nature you are trying enjoy.

Lastly I must credit blogger Lilly with planting the seed for this post (not corn). Her funny story about food knowledge is worth a read.

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Cooking Asshole said...

In Oregon most of our food comes from local farms. Well, only at certain stores but you do have the option. I know a fair amount of people that raise chickens too but only for their eggs. Luckily enough, in Portland it is legal to raise livestock within city limits.

Bill Lisleman said...

@ALN - thanks, it's good to know that about livestock. I think if the houses were not too close and the number of animals not too many, it would be good option.

When I lived at UofI (Urbana) I was down wind from the university farm. On a warm summer night it could get very ripe out there.

I was in Portland once - nice place.

Lilly said...

Thanks for the link. I enjoyed this post. Oh that hamburger in a can is positively scary isn't it? I think the economy will drive a lot more families to start their own vegetable gardens and perhaps keep chickens or something. As for the guinea pigs, oh I detest them alive or dead and as for eating them EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

Bill Lisleman said...

@lilly - well thank you because your post did give me the idea for this post. You know between the can hamburger and the fresh guinea pig as my only choices - I might go cuy.

Carolyn Cordon said...

Hmmm, it sure makes you think, doesn't it? In Australia, where I live, the cattle lots are not so intensive as yours - I still see lots of cows grazing in paddocks as I'm driving around.

But who knows how long that will last. I don't want to think about pigs or chickens though, too, too scary.

Bill Lisleman said...

@carolyn thanks for sharing your comment - Maybe some feedlot time would be OK but from what I heard/read they (companies) are pushing it much too long to lower their cost. Things like food can NOT always be handled like the production of other things.

Nothing Profound said...

I'm a vegetarian, so I'm not faced with most of these problems. I watched several documentaries relating the same information, and was totally repulsed. The animals are totally brutalized, and the resulting product is none too healthy.But it's just my feeling, and I wouldn't want to push it on anyone else.

Bill Lisleman said...

@nothing profound - I respect your choice to be vegetarian. I don't agree enough to become one but it seems like a reasonable and often healthy approach. Now I think anything can go too extreme such as some of the PETA issues.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Great post about an important topic!

Like you, lisleman, I love me some steak. But I've found I've lost my appetite for veal now that I know how they keep the calves penned in.

King Corn was a good eye-opener. We try to take our kids on farm tours here in SW Washington as well as factory tours here and there.

I'm really heartened by the Obama's Victory Garden, and totally disgusted by the pesticide industry's attempts to criticize it. It feels so stupid - no, sinister - sort of like the secret of Soylent Green.

Bill Lisleman said...

@FF - thanks for checking out more of my blog. I left a comment about your road trip. I've been to Seattle a number of times - great place but not to Vancouver WA ( the BC one once). Are you close to the coast then?

lisleman said...

@carolyn thanks for sharing your comment - Maybe some feedlot time would be OK but from what I heard/read they (companies) are pushing it much too long to lower their cost. Things like food can NOT always be handled like the production of other things.

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