Monday Musings #3

Five years have passed and my views on this haven't changed. 

A repost from  Friday, June 11, 2010
Food for Thought
I'm currently reading "In Defence of Food" by Michael Pollan.
This is the page I'm up to:-

"With the rise of industrial agriculture, vast monocultures of a tiny group of plants, most of them cereal grains, have replaced the diversified farms that used to feed us.

A century ago, the typical Iowa farm raised more than a dozen different plant and animal species: cattle, chickens, corn, hogs, apples, hay, oats, potatoes, cherries, wheat, plums, grapes and pears. Now it raises only two: corn and soybeans.

This simplification of the agricultural landscape leads directly to simplification of the diet, which is now to a remarkable extent dominated by--big surprise-- corn and soybeans.

You may not think you eat a lot of corn and soybeans, but you do: 75% of the vegetable oils in your diet come from soy (representing 20% of your daily calories) and more than half of the sweeteners you consume come from corn (representing around 10% of daily calories)."
"Why corn and soy? Because these two plants are among nature's most efficient transformers of sunlight and chemical fertiliser into carbohydrate energy (in the case of corn) and fat and protein (in the case of soy)- if you want to extract the maximum amount of macronutrients from the American farm belt, corn and soy are the crops to plant. (It helps that the government pays farmers to grow corn and soy, subsidising every bushel they produce).

Most of the corn and soy crop winds up in the feed of our food animals (simplifying their diets in unhealthy ways, as we'll see), but much of the rest goes into processed foods.
The business model of the food industry is organised around "adding value" to cheap raw materials; its genius has been to figure out how to break these two big seeds down into their chemical building blocks and then reassemble them in myriad packaged food products.
With the result that today corn contributes 554 calories a day to America's per capita food supply and soy another 257. Add wheat (768 calories), and rice (91) and you can see there isn't a whole lot of room left in the American stomach for any other foods. "

I've been concerned for some time about the number of additives and preservatives in the foods available to us, and I've been reading labels much more carefully and more often than not, choosing to make my own soup or baked goods over the pre-packaged kind

This book is a bit of an eye-opener, the extent of the government input into what should be left to the farmers for the sake of diversity and natural foods is a little upsetting. This book is aimed at exposing the faults in the American diet today, but we all know that governments everywhere value dollars over health.

I can see how this came about; more food was needed more quickly to feed more people who were living longer, but the problems with processed foods have been apparent for years, (according to this book, since the 1950s). I think it's high time governments realised that the health of their peoples is more important than the huge profits they gain, and started reversing this problem. 

It's no coincidence (in my opinion) that we are now seeing so many more cases of allergies and intolerances, adding vitamins and nutrients back into processed foods is not the same as eating whole, unprocessed (or little processed) naturally grown foods. Unfortunately for a lot of us, the processed option is the cheaper option, whole foods are time consuming to cook, organic produce is too expensive for many on low incomes.


  1. I saw a tee shirt yesterday: "I am a second hand vegetarian", underlined by cartoonized pictures of animals--cow, chicken, pig. Another modern problem, the inefficient processing of grain on its way to human nourishment.

  2. Sigh. No arguments from here.
    I check labels too. Increasingly I reject processed food. I want food, not numbers and letters.

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  4. I agree with you River. re preservatives and processed foods. I, too, believe the the heavy-handed use of preservatives added to food along with the increased amount the processed foods people eat these days contribute to allergies etc.

    It doesn't take an Einstein to realise that fresh foods prepared simply by one's own hands has to be the best way to go, but with so much colourful, constant advertising being pushed down our throats (no pun intended) some allow themselves to become too easily hoodwinked.

    We don't have to act like "MasterChefs" in our own kitchens; however one should take note that the cooking shows do promote fresh produce over and above the other.

    A lot of it is to do with laziness, I think...the over-use of processed foods that are over-loaded with preservatives. And if the sums are done correctly it really is cheaper to eat fresh.

  5. Processed food and sugar...bad.

  6. Joanne; most grains are vastly over-processed, to the point there is little nutrition or fibre left in the end product, so artificial vitamins must be added along with fibre. Then you get labels that read, "enriched with (whatever has been added back in)"

    Elephant's Child; this is one reason why I cook large amounts of foods and freeze them. I know there will be days when I don't want to bother cooking; having a freezer filled with meal sized portions of spaghetti sauce etc means all I have to do is cook a little pasta. or cook and mash one potato if I get out a frozen serve of beef casserole which contains many other vegetables. Having sliced, frozen beef pot roast in sandwich sized packets means a beef sandwich with dill pickles on the side is also a nutritious dinner when I don't want to cook.
    Which doesn't mean I DON'T occasionally have a frozen Macaroni Cheese (*~*).

    Lee; laziness contributes, for sure, but another reason is the high cost of living which means mothers going to work and being too tired to cook, so out come the fast food options with a further result of whole generations not learning how to cook by watching and/or helping mum do it. Too many believe that the soggy tomato and mushy lettuce on a Mac burger constitutes salad and passes for their vegetable requirement.
    I'd venture to say that in the five years since I first posted this, there has been a bit of a turn around, just not enough yet.

    joeh; not bad over-all, but bad in the amounts we are presented with and eat. I know I consume too much sugar, but I'm making an effort to cut down. I probably can't cut it out altogether, I like my coffee sweet, but I can cut back to the one coffee a day I used to have instead of the three I now have.

  7. I sometimes do really wonder with all the preservatives & chemicals added to our food, what are well putting in our mouths. Eventually it will rear its ugly head & maybe it has already done that for many..

  8. .. hi River.... Things haven't changed much in the market place in the last 5 years... everything you are saying is still relevant.
    I do what you do... I cook extra and freeze in meal portions. I make homemade soup and do the same with it. There is usually a variety of home cooked meals in my freezer....
    Hugs... Barbxxx

  9. whiteangel; I believe it already has reared its ugly head, just look at how many more people have severe allergies, plus all those on the Autism Spectrum. When I was a kid in the 50s, food allergies were rarely seen. I can't say about the autism though. Probably kids with autism back then were treated differently and named slow learners or mildly retarded, because not enough was known about it.

    Barbara; my freezer does well too, at the moment it only has spaghetti sauce, (and ginger cake), I'll be making soup tomorrow and beef casserole on the weekend.


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