Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food Inc.

During college, my fiance (now my wife) announced to me that she was a soon-to-be vegetarian. This came as quite a shock to me as she had never mentioned anything of the sort up to this point. I was a bit stunned and wasn't sure what to think. I was a little bit angry with her for coming to this decision without mentioning it to me at all.

In my mind, if she was going to be a vegetarian, then I was going to be one as well. There was no doubt about it. We did everything together. I wasn't going to let her go it alone, even if I had no idea how exactly to extract meat from our diet.

There had been some clues leading up to the announcement. She had always been an animal lover. She had been a financial contributor to PETA, though acknowledging that their philosophy went "too far." She couldn't really eat red meat anyways, because of a disease that makes it hard for her digestive system to process it.

So basically, she was going to cut out chicken. (More importantly - chicken fingers - as almost every young girl between the ages of 12 and 22 lives off of chicken fingers. Just ask any waiter in a restaurant).

The eating of fish was and never really has been an issue for either of us.

There was an article in Newsweek by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in April of 1999 that really hit home with both of us. We still have the article:

I Don't Like Green Eggs And Ham!
Industrial Farming Isn't Just Bad For Hogs, Chickens And The Environment. It Produces Tasteless Food.

Long story, short - we figured out how to remove meat from our diet, added some new "vegetarian" items into it, and life went on enjoyably.

Our vegetarianism lasted a few years. What killed it was our love for occasionally eating out at restaurants - it was just too hard to be a vegetarian at most restaurants. When we finally did introduce meat back into the diet, we took it slowly and carefully.

We definitely buy into the theory that over-consumption has prompted over-production in the food industry. We still eat very little red meat. We might eat out once a week and its almost never for fast food - fast food is practically a bad word in our house. We love to cook at home. Many of our "vegetarian" recipes from the college days have survived to this day!

We wouldn't think of putting meat into chili or spaghetti or shepard's pie. We also still regularly visit the "vegetarian" alternative section of the supermarket - boca patties, veggie burgers, etc. We eat eggs again, but we go out of our way to buy the packages that make statements such as "free range", "hormone free", "vegetarian fed", etc.

That is our very brief history of poorly attempted sustainable living.

I really didn't think I'd learn anything from watching Food Inc., as we've been well versed in much of the food industry's antics.

I was wrong.

I learned quite a bit more from Food Inc. Things I wish that I could unlearn.

I don't want to give an exhaustive explanation of the movie because I think that it is 90 minutes well spent by anyone. Just as Supersize Me was a few years back. (You can watch the film for free on Hulu - the guy eats McDonald's every day, every meal for 30 days and it almost kills him. McDonald's got rid of their Supersize menu after that.)

Food Inc. really just kicked me further into the rabbit hole of just how corrupt our food system has become. How I can't really trust any of the labels on my food - because they're just another marketing scam to take advantage of my sensibilities.

That said, I'm on to read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. He was one of the main contributors to the the film. (FYI, the film also referenced another pertinent predecessor, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, which I read a while back as well. It didn't hit home so much because we don't really eat fast food to begin with.)


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