Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 19, 2010

Why Big Ag is bad for us

OK. I’m supposed to be encouraging people to enjoy bucolic adventures here on my lovely farm. I’m not supposed to be political, but how can I help it when Big Ag (and their henchman, the USDA) are endangering our health more than contributing to it? Really. Food is meant to make our bodies sound and well. But Big Ag is making profits instead: profits at any cost, if you will. At the cost of our soundness of body and peace of mind.

Who eats raw beef anymore? Who would trust a soft boiled egg? Who is unaware that e-coli and salmonella like salad fixin’s like tomatoes and spinach as much as they do ‘undercooked’ proteins? What is up with the dominant social paradigm when it’s OK for peanuts to poison even those of us not allergic to them? And when did this become the norm?

When I visit my best friend in Europe, I love to go to the grocery store. I worked in food retail for a long, long time. So grocery stores are a matter of professional interest as well as a cultural curiosity. Eggs are sold as shelf-stable goods in her grocery store. And her grocery store is a multi-national chain–not the immigrant family run corner store. I asked her about the eggs. Of course, she didn’t know; in her experience that’s where eggs were always sold. I looked it up online. Due to voluntary self-inspection and lower average flock sizes, there just isn’t any incidence of salmonella contamination in the eggs sold in her country. Period.

Humane conditions for field workers (read this as toilet facilities accessible to the fields and time enough to use them) reduces the incidence of e-coli, salmonella and other fecally passed contamination to nothing. Could it be as simple as keeping the business small enough that you have to look someone whose name you know in the eye and tell them “no, you’re not due for a break for another three hours.” Because  that doesn’t happen much when everybody is real people to one another.

Eighty-five percent of all the beef and pork consumed in America goes through only a half a handful of big meat processing concerns. This is how those packages of bad ground beef end up being recalled from seventeen states and two territories about once a year. I’m getting my meats from an inspected meat locker which ‘does’ for the lower county. What a relief that is to me. I can eat steak off the grill as rare as you please (or as I please, more to the point). And. I. Won’t. Get. Sick. Ever.

Nowadays, my eggs come from out of my chickens’ butts (well, vents–but you get the idea). I leave them in a bowl out on the counter until I use them or give them away. Some of those eggs are as much as four days old. None of them carries a disease. None will.

I don’t take access to healthy food for granted. But I’ve had to move and change my way of life to ensure it. What on  earth can we do to make disease-free food the new dominant social paradigm? We can’t all run away and move to idyllic farms in the country.

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