Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dumb Journalism

I have a big problem with the main story I awoke to find featured on CNN's homepage today. Read it first: The high price of going 'organic'

Obviously, given the food rant I posted just yesterday, you can tell that I am a proponent of organic food, natural ingredients, and sustainable food systems. So maybe I should preface this by saying that I might be biased. But I believe that I have a good reason for that bias.

The subtitle to the article is The push for 'green' products may have peaked - due in part to the fact that they're so much more expensive than mass-market alternatives. I read the news and my eyes are open, so I am well-aware of the economic state most of our country is in right now. Foreclosure rates are at an all-time high, people are losing their jobs, and our dear President Bush came up with the very clever Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 which will be worth about $600 to everyone who receives it. So how does this relate to food, you might ask?

The article states that many people are "getting turned off by the organic hype for three reasons: price, skepticism, and confusion."

The benefits of organic food, and I do mean truly organic food that is produced sustainably, are many. But maybe I should start from the beginning.

What does sustainable agriculture mean?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Our Suspicious Lives

Most of us probably consider ourselves to be fine, upstanding citizens. Maybe we are. We live our lives out in the open, just trying to make an honest living and go about our day-to-day business. But more and more I am aware of a seedy side to the honest, industrious American dream. The products we come into contact with on a day to day basis, everything from our breakfast cereal to our facewash to our lunch to that after-dinner snack, goes through its life cycle as covertly as possible, hoping not to get noticed by alert or informed consumers. We spend our modern lives surrounded by junk.

Take an unassuming package of cookies I was recently given after donating blood. "Grandma's Homestyle Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies," to be exact. Frito-Lay bought Grandma's Cookies in 1980 and boasts that "today, Grandma's Cookies is the most popular cookie brand sold in convenience stores and vending machines in the US." What a selling point!

As I was perusing the Frito-Lay website, I noticed a section under "For Your Health" entitled "Ingredient Concerns." Under that subheading I noticed a "Products Not Containing MSG" list. As you might know, MSG or monosodium glutamate is a chemical best-known for its use in cheap Chinese food. It's marketed as a "flavor enhancer" and is now included in many of the processed foods we encounter every day. Basically, it tricks your brain into thinking something tastes good when it doesn't. It also causes reactions in some small amount of people, but is classified as safe by the FDA [which is not exactly the shining standard for regulation, but that's another post]. "Why do Frito-Lay snacks contain MSG? Monosodium glutamate (MSG), found naturally in many foods, is merely a flavor enhancer. Only very small amounts of MSG are necessary to enhance the spices and seasonings used in flavored Frito-Lay snacks. Extensive consumer testing indicates that consumers prefer the taste of chips with MSG." Duh, because it's tricking their brains into preferring it! I wonder if those people were told what MSG is and what it does before they took those surveys.

So, that aside, here I am on Frito-Lay's website looking at a list of products that don't contain any MSG and wondering which ones do. By the way, Frito-Lay refers to itself as a "leader in the convenient food industry," as if apples were somehow not convenient.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Animal Accidents

Once again, I haven't posted in a long time.

It's not that I don't have things to say, it's that I have too many.

I come up with ideas for posts and usually start composing them in my head, when I'm on my way to class or before I fall asleep or things like that. But then I forget about them, lose the start, and the idea is lost somewhere in my brain. Even when I carry a little pocket notebook with me, I forget to write it down. I guess that's just how things go.

Yesterday I saw one of the most disturbing and unsettling sights of my life.