Food, Inc. 114

If you haven’t seen Food, Inc. and still eat at fast food restaurants, you might want to ignore this blog or skip the trailer as neither will make that McBurger sit any easier.

The film was almost enough to make me swear off eating anything I don’t personally cook, but at a certain point I have to rely on thousands of years of evolution to protect me from most bad things given a minimum of caution.  Still, no more Big Macs.  I am actually kind of sad about that, but I can always grill bison burgers at the casa, using as many ingredients as possible from the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market if we are able to get there this week.

At a minimum, I can cook with ingredients that don’t contain processed soy and corn, that actually make sense for the product in question, and are something I can pick up at Whole Foods or the corner bodega.

I can hear the groans and clacking fingers even now.  “Whole Paycheck?!  No one can afford to shop there unless you’re rich!”  I already offered the whole story on Whole Foods a few months back, at least as far as I have been able to determine through personal (decidedly non-rich) shopping experience, so I won’t bother repeating myself on this blog.  Needless to say, preparing your own meals using real ingredients you can actually pronounce isn’t something only accomplished by shopping at Whole Foods.

Though it is a whole lot easier and reasonable than any other mainstream store I have frequented, which has included most of them over the last five or six years.

This blog isn’t about where you shop, though, it is about what you eat and why it is central to our entire healhcare debate.  We are sick because of what we eat and the environmental damage we live with every day, much of it caused by the industrial food system that supplies the poison to make what we eat, which makes us sicker…. and so forth.  Two-thirds of the country is on a direct path toward intensive care and an early grave, yet most Americans keep shouting at insurance companies or, worse yet, each other, while consuming huge quantities of empty calories on a daily basis.

I get it.  Insurance companies are vampires suckling at the throat of a nation that feels like shit and will buy anything that just makes the heartburn go away.  We can kill private insurance tomorrow by passing a sweeping Americare National Health Service on the model of the UK or Canada and our health care picture would be just as cracked and fading as it is today.  Our diets are making us the sickest nation on the planet and no amount of health care spending will ever keep up with that trend as long as we refuse to address the underlying cause of these horribly disfiguring symptoms.

Our farm subsidy policies are directly responsible for the shit food on our plates, yet no one outside of the farming states pays attention.

If they do care about the business of food, it is to maintain the status quo that is killing us.  This is another one of those blogs that are tough to end.  How can We The People really take on these enormous food conglomerates given our historic inattention to just about everything?  Commodity corn and soy, the raw ingredients of our subjugation, will never rise to the level of alarm they deserve in an era of exploding underwear and fast food.

If you have the stomach for it, watch Food Inc. and then try to stop caring where you eat in this country or where that food comes from.

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114 thoughts on “Food, Inc.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Our meat consumption has been banished to the 20% of total food intake it is supposed to be, all sourced from ethical/organic farmers.

      I am not the vegetarian type, but I have achieved a sort of balance in my diet that is mostly whole grains, fruits and veggies with a healthy helping of protein.

      Not to mention the homemade baked goodies my wife insists on providing. :O)

      • matyra

        lol, as an almost vegetarian (My wife is a veggie and I eat meat maybe 2x/month), I can say that a lot of the veggie meat substitutes are as manufactured as a twinkie. How do those meatless chicken buffalo wings taste real? Processing and chemicals, that’s how.

        I just finished Michael Pollan’s new book “Food Rules” and some of them are interesting. Like if you wouldn’t add chemicals like, say,calcium monodiglicerides in the kitchen, why would you buy a product containing it from a store and eat it?

        • Jason Everett Miller

          Exactly. The first I do when I buy anything from a store is flip it over and read the ingredients. The first word I don’t recognize means it goes back on the shelf.

          It really has limited my choices significantly but increased the taste exonentially. All in all, it’s been a pretty fair deal and I haven’t even had to sacrifice pizza or burgers when we feel like being naughty – we just make them ourselves from scratch.

          It wasn’t until we watched Food Inc. that eating “naughty” food no longer includes the occasional trip to Wendy’s for a Baconater.

      • stillidealistic

        But Jason, as one who has concerns about the environment, are you up on how much the “meat” industry hurts our environment, and how much precious water it consumes…?

        John Baskin (as in Baskin and Robbins) has an excellent book (Diet for a New America)that goes into how bad meat production is for the environment. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to go veg. I really, truly do not EVER miss eating meat.

        I do use some of the meat alternative products, because the male veg in my life “needs” it, otherwise I would be perfectly happy w/o…

        • Jason Everett Miller

          Not every meat producer is the same, so the solution can’t be everyone go vegetarian. There was a time in this country when we raised our livestock in an sustainable manner.

          The message can’t be “Quit eating meat!” for a bunch of omnivores who love burgers and tail-gating. It has to be, “Eat meat responsibly from ethical producers.”

          That being said, I see no problem with vegetarians or vegans, it’s just not something I am that eager to do absent a lack of choices for healthy, sustainable meat.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          PS: Give the male veg a nice grass-fed hamburger raised on ranches right there in Cali. Way healthier than the “meat” substitutes and moderation is key to happiness! :O)

      • evildoer

        I make a point of only consuming human flesh.

        It’s not as tasty as chicken, but I figured out it’s the only ethical way of getting protein in your diet.

  • Aunt Sam

    As one who stopped using processed foods long ago, I can truly attest that it is less expensive to eat foods you prepare yourself. I try to use organic and since more and more are now available (Heinz now has organic ketchup that is so much better!) it’s not such a hardship to find and purchase.

    In fact, I had a ‘contest’ with friend who had sadly fallen into trap of ‘easy, quick, processed foodland’ – To her dismay, not only were my meals much tastier – but also less expensive grocery cost. And making large batches, then freezing does ensure you too can have your own batch of just heat up and serve!

    (I started off by challenging her to buy her weekly grocery list without including any additives with corn syrup, msg, soy and low sodium counts. She was shocked when she started reading labels, etc.)

    I agree Jason, this is so important for us all!


    • Jason Everett Miller

      We just sort of stumbled into this way of eating, mostly due to economics.

      We loved the food we could get at restaurants, but couldn’t afford to go out as much as we would like once we bought the house and I entered the contractor job market. So, my wife started baking and I started chefing and the rest was a gravy.

      Thanks for the great story. It baffles me that no one knows we all cooked our own food just a generation ago and were much healthier as a result, no matter how far down the ladder you made your meal.

      • Aunt Sam

        Latest report I’ve seen nows says than one out three will be diabetic – and studies are underway which provide the basis that corn syrup and other like additives are a large part of the reason.

        And let us not discount the interaction of high sodium content. i.e. “Healthy Choice” products are horrific in sodium content and additives. Reality check – The exact opposite of their brand name!

        Geez, I could go on ad nauseum.

        So glad you keep posting on this topic!

      • clearthinker

        There was no stumbling about it.

        Food science is very sophisticated. Ever wonder why “real” food tastes blander? Because it is!

        As Fast Food Nation details, the food scientists are definitely tweaking our tastebuds.

        While I won’t go down a conspiracy road, Michael Pollan made the well known observation last night on the Daily Show that the same companies that brought you cigarettes are bringing you your food.

        Once people realized that food was a business, it was inevitable what would happen.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      No argument on your first point. Many will game the system. It is ineventible. We are as educated as we can be on the subject, but I am sure are far from 100 percent on all our food choices.

      I do think we can find a way to raise our animals ethically and and grow our food in a way that doesn’t pollute our bodies and our environment. We lived with such a diet for thousands of years before the factory farm and fake organics and fast food. I believe we must return to that place before we kill ourselves with gluttony.

      We are starting to export that shit now, so I wonder just how short our time really is. How many high-fructose Chinese or Indians or Europeans will it take before the system totally overloads? It can barely handle America’s tonnage as it is.

      At least there will be plenty of Soylent Green to go around when we eat our way into Armeggedon. God has a wicked sense of humor.

      • clearthinker

        While I agree with your point about the value of “going back”, the problem is that going back will mean a substantial drop of yield per acre of land.

        This gets back to my time honored subject of overshoot. We really have moved far out on the limb and have been madly sawing the branch for decades. Between “eating up” our farmland in many areas (by growing the suburbs) and our modern (but unhealthy) techniques to increase yield, we probably can’t support the present population based on the old techniques.

        This is evolution at its finest: become super-adapted to one niche and you will die the slightest move you make off of that niche.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          We get more yield per acre at no appreciable gain to any more of that larger population.

          The same amount of people are starving today, per capita, as they were before we started producing food in this fashion. Should we go back to more sustainable agriculture practices, the same amount will starve tomorrow.

          It is the illusion of choice that still kills poor people around the world, but the “rich” are fat, dumb and happy.

          • clearthinker

            I don’t understand sentence 1.

            I’d like to see a citation on sentence 2&3.

            The pressure to turn farmland over to housing tracts has been immense. Silicon Valley used to be mostly groves just 40 years ago.

            Here’s the issue:

            Less land.

            Increased population.

            And go back to previous (lower yield) methods.

            There’s a serious issue here.

          • GregorZap

            I have no site, but there was an author here in town talking about her book on healthy food, and she reported that the long term result of fertilizers were NOT sustainable. The accelerated yields were short lived as the micronutrients were depleted. An earth sensitive method was better then fertilizers after a few years, but the fertilizer farmers then had no choice but to continue once they had depleted their soil. earth sensitive types could take time off, if they wished. Bottom line, actively working to enrich the soil will give better yields over time.

          • clearthinker

            Yes, the down side of the green revolution is that it is a (as some extremists call it) “war on the ecosystem.” So the soil is exhausted via all the inputs we use on it.

            Having said that, there has never been any “sustainable” way to increase yield. This is the reason why the green revolution came about. Thus without these inputs, we lose yield. (For example, fields have to lie fallow, there is crop rotation, limited growing seasons, etc.)

            I suppose your point is that there is going to be mass starvation one way or another, so we might as well give up the massive inputs and get back to a more natural style of farming. I would tend to agree (especially with peak oil, we won’t have the inputs anyway!) but most people don’t want to accept the primary issue. As usual, people want to have their cake and eat it too!

          • Jason Everett Miller

            You finally got to it with Aunt Sam guiding the way.

            My first point up above was that we grow a shit-ton more corn and soy, but they don’t go to feed starving multitudes. They go to feed cows and chickens and pigs that end up in fast food restaurants.

            The bulk of the world’s population isn’t benefiting from our insane food production methods, else fewer people would be starving around the world and that clearly isn’t the case.

          • TJ

            Daniel Quinn (“Ishmael”) makes the point that no matter how much food we grow, we will never feed the starving masses. He contends that increased food production leads to increased populations. Add to that the issue of human bio-mass replacing the bio-mass of other species. It could well be that current worldwide populations are simply not sustainable no matter how “efficient” our food production.

          • Ickyma

            I am not sure that current population levels have reached that point… but I’d wager we’re getting close… and we WILL reach that point sooner than anyone imagines.

            Malthus was right, you know?

            Hungry times are coming. I suppose that means bigtime war will be coming, too…

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Though I think we will eat ourselves to death first, resource wars are coming and it won’t be about oil for much longer.

      Population growth is almost sure to push our available fresh water resources to the breaking point.

      Look at the Himalayas, India and China to see the affect a lack of alpine water reserves has on the lands stretched out below.

      • clearthinker

        Yes, both India and China are hosed. (Pun intended.)

        I have often wondered if a nuclear war would break out over water resources in that part of the world… only to end up contaminating everything.

        Kind of like the Treasure of Sierra Madre, eh?

    • *

      Haven’t you heard the latest techie fad? There’s a device going on the market that takes simple water, separates the hydrogen from the oxygen and uses the hydrogen to recharge batteries and cellphones. Since almost all the planets is water, there should be more than enough to spare for a few hundred years to power cellphones…right?

  • barefooted

    Well, shoot. I’ve loved Big Mac’s since I worked at McDonalds as a teenager. Now I’m bummed. Who knew they weren’t nutritious?

    I had this conversation not long ago, in regards to food stamps and what is and isn’t allowed for purchase. Especially since the majority of those on the program have young children who are eating what they buy. Taking it a step further, families who live on those subsidies each month rarely have enough to get by until the next month rolls around.

    There are points to be made for/against whether the dollar amount is enough. But when it comes to food what actually should be front and center is what types of “food” are purchased. Frozen pizzas and microwave dinners are not only lacking in any type of real nutrition but are far more expensive than cooking from so-called scratch. Aunt Sam has an excellent point regarding bulk, and freezing for future use.

    Too many people -on government programs or not- have no clue how to actually prepare a meal. Once upon a time “Home Economics” was required in school. Once upon a time kids watched their parents make dinner. Now? A microwave is considered an oven.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Great points. Homemade is so much easier and cheaper than store-bought, nevermind that it tastes so much better.

      My wife makes six pizza dough balls and freezes them on Sunday. All week long, I can thaw one out, add fresh ingredients and have a homemade pizza inside of a half hour.

      We lost some things on the way from there to here, but I think we will reclaim some of those skills for economic reasons if no other. I only hope the change is quick enough to make a difference.

  • Tom Wright

    Yes, but not why we die. That happens anyway.

    We live longer now, on average, than in colonial days. We live much longer, on average, than aboriginals eating traditional diets. Some of us do end up diabetic that would likely not have without a sugary diet. Some likely get heart disease sooner that without a ready supply of animal fat. But this is not really directly connected to the question of what medical procedures should be universally available, and how much they should cost the system.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      The data doesn’t support these conclusions with regards to the effect that corn and soy-based food “stuff” has on our health. The exponential rise in chronic illness by way of our diets is well documented.

      Food Inc. isn’t talking about the colonial days when drawing a comparison to our food policies or abroginals eating bush meat. They are talking the difference between the 1960s and today right here in America.

      We may live longer than our earlier contemporaries, though it takes an inordinant amount of medical effort and expense to achieve those longer live, but we certainly don’t live better lives with healthier foods and a clean environment.

      That ship has sailed and won’t be coming back unless we make different choices at the market.

  • JadeZ

    The economy will be forcing more people to grow their own food.

    In fact I see a rare opportunity that obama can seize.

    Federal programs that rip down the blight of abandoned decaying homes.
    Vacant lots turned over to the out of work people to grow into gardens!

    Jobs for the people .

    Fruit and vegetables, plants and gardens that could transform dying neighborhoods into communities sharing and working together .

      • Jason Everett Miller

        Thanks for the link, Gregor. I saw a story on Growing Power a while back on CBS Sunday Morning. (Is that when you know you are old?) I couldn’t find that video, but the MacArthur foundation put this video out when Will Allen received a grant.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Wendy makes a good point about toxic soils, but despite that I think this would be a great way to use some of those Obama Bucks.

      We have seen an increase in community gardens here in DC and I know that NYC has similar programs through its parks department.

      I think we can make the transition, but it will require each us choosing to eat differently. Not an easy task.

      • wendy davis

        I would guess deep soil samples could be retrieved and tested, and discoveries made as to what had stood on sites before demolition or condemnation. Do you remember the giant LA school that was built on top of some heinous toxic site; I forget if it had to be abandoned eventually or not.

  • Doomer252

    Seriously though. Who makes a better burger— McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s or Jack in Your Box? Or do you just like to heat up a frozen meat thing at the 7- Eleven?

  • wendy davis

    I’ve always cooked real food, and I got to thinking about the question of Who Doesn’t? Most of my friends cook, and we garden and can and freeze what we grow. But I remembered our kids’ school friends: They didn’t always like my cooking. One of the mothers finally told me that to most kids, a burrito meant a little tube of stuff in a plastic wrapper, not my homemeade ones that began with dried pintos or negritos soaked overnight, and slow-cooked for hours with onions and spices, and rolled in fresh tortillas.
    I have bias toward which foods you cook, too, and the spices and whatnot. I addressed some of it my recipe blog, but thought I might put some more specifics together, plus alternative products to pharmacological products. We’ll see where the wind blows.

    • clearthinker


      The issue isn’t as simple a “real food”. As pointed out in FAST FOOD NATION and also in the documentary Jason cites here FOOD INC, when the fast food industry is the dominant client, the entire industry is geared to the dominant client. Therefore, when you purchase chicken, it’s the type of chickens that are ‘grown’ for MacDonald’s, e.g. washed in NH3, standing around in their own urine, genetically modified, etc.

      In other words, whether you eat fast food or not, the raw stuff you are getting in your grocery store is still “tainted” by the situation created by the food industry.

      A great example of that was E. Coli tied to spinach (this is also detailed in the film).

      • wendy davis

        Yes, yes, yes…you missed my point. I meant that for many food IS processed food.
        And no, the FDA has not been keeping food safe, and agri-business has written the rules for too long, and toxic/diseased water is often put onto crops, and pharmeceuticals aren’t being filtered out of city water supplies, so people are unwittingly being ‘dosed’ with them, and school children’s lunches are full of the subsidized commodity foods that do more harm than good, and the growth hormones in many meats and dairy products are likely producing long-term harmful effects, and the major US acquifers are poisoned by harmful ag chemicals, then the water is drunk, and many people cannot buy organic veg and fruit, or if it is available it is waaaay expensive and not fresh, and refrigerators now come with huge freezers for TV dinners, and the door shelves are often made only for giant bottles of soft drinks. And gen-modified foods has a host of problems associated it with it, especially profit-monopoly, whereas selected breeding was working very well. But that is another subject.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          Hmmm. That seems to be pretty much on subject as far as I can tell. Makes me glad to be in one of the primary organic growing areas of the country. We are lucky, but as you point out, so many people are not.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      My mom always cooked our meals, mostly from scratch, the entire time I grew up, so it wasn’t until I got out on my own that my diet began to deteriorate.

      Still, it isn’t even so much that processed foods that are bad, though they are, but the fact the raw ingredients that makes up those “foods” are nutritionally bankrupt.

      Further, the trend is pushing out into the overall food supply to the point that getting real, whole foods to cook with is becoming (has become?) next to impossible for most families.

      Sad thing is, as you point out, just a generation ago this wouldn’t even be a question. TV Dinners were for special occasions only.

      • Jason Everett Miller

        PS: I forget to mention I was raised by a single-mom with three kids, two of them delinquents of the highest order as well as a toddler, and a high-power job at a large law firm.

        Still, we had a home-cooked dinner every night, even if it was Grape Nuts or Oatmeal for breakfast and a school lunch back when they were semi-nutritious.

  • bluesplashy

    I moved back home to help my parents on the farm. They lease out the farm land now but still grow a big garden to farmers markets (well, this year past was small because of my dads decline but I have big plans and a strong back for this summer!). Any way, when I was growing up we had rivers of monarch butterflies going through and my brother and I talked about it to his young children. This summer one nephew, now 22, came running up to the house yelling about seeing the monarch butterflies in the back field. I had no idea he remembered those stories from years ago. We called my brother and he stopped by. Now, they weren’t a river or even a trickle but there were lots of them for the first time. I asked why and my brother said because of modified seed they don’t spray with pesticides so they are returning. When my dad and I went to an extension service meeting about pole beans they were really pushing not spraying and also had a guy there with money and info on turning farms organic.

    When I was little this was a truck farm – different vegetables. For the last 35 years it has been soy beans – meeting market demand. I’ll never be able to turn it into a truck farm again but I’ll enjoy working and making some money off about 10 acres of garden this summer. I’m thinking figs, blackberries, pole lima beans (for my dad), eggplants, different colors bell peppers, mini patty pan squash, and wax beans. What do you all think?

    • bluesplashy

      Oh, and Jason, this is a great post. Thank you. I think the big thing is going to be getting people to cook at home. I was in Walmart yesterday and 80% of the women’s section is 18 to XXXL sizes. I was shocked when I realized what was going on. It is a real epidemic isn’t it?

      • Jason Everett Miller

        It is an epidemic and one that wasn’t really hidden from view. How could it be? Maybe we should have woken up when we had start making everything so much bigger!

    • clearthinker

      Cool story… although it’s interesting that there is a clear trade off in your story:

      GMO vs Pesticide

      There are people against GMOs because of seed saving issues, etc. as well as unknown health effects.

      It’s a real conundrum and your story illustrates it well.

      • wendy davis

        There is also the real fear that if the gen-modified seeds become as ubiquitous as the Big Ag businesses desire, some strand of virus or predator could eradicate all the seed. Many of the smaller selective-breeding companies have been taken over by Big Ag, hostile or otherwise. There are plenty of horro stories from farmers in other nations who are forced to buy, say ADM seeds, and cannot save seeds for the following years, obviously.
        Also a component (my poor memory forgets exactly) of either fertilizers or sprays that have to be used on those crops.

        • clearthinker

          While this is a problem, this isn’t a new one associated with GMO. There has been a concern that the number of species of wheat has been decreasing for decades, well in advance of the precision GM we can do these days. (This is the reason for the seed back in the arctic.)

          The biggest issue of GMO seeds (unique to them) is that the courts have ruled that GMO seeds represent intellectual property and therefore can’t be stored a la traditional farming practices. In other words, Monsato expects farmers to pony up for seeds every year. Just another example of an economic chokehold.

          This is detailed in FOOD INC but also in a great documentary called THE CORPORATION.

    • miguelitoh2o

      Awesome bluesplashy! Friends of mine have an organic farm, (mostly garlic and basil), here in NM and have made a fair go of it now for over 40 years, with supplemental income from writing. Good luck, and take care of that back, (you’re gonna need it).

    • *

      I remember something about specific type of crops that have parasite colonies of critters that makes nests in the crops but are benign – they don’t feast on their home. Interesting, those critters feast on other critters lounging in others crops. The trick is to grown them side-by-side that way the critters feast upon each other and leave the crops alone. I’m sure yields are substantially low with this type of farming, but I would venture to say that’s exactly how farms fought off crop pests before the introduction of pesticides.

    • tao

      Do it bluesplashy. When I was a kid we would go out and judge the wheat crop at our farm by Utica, Kansas for ripeness, yield per acre and so on. During harvest the hoppers in the combines would fill with wheat grains and more than a few chunked up grasshoppers. The wheat was trucked to the co-op elevator and was dried and stored for later sale. Kids in town would sweep spilled grain from the streets and bring Radio Flyer wagon loads of their gleanings to the elvator and end up with cute stories for the local paper. Some of those grasshoppers may have ended up in food produced from the wheat. Dad said the grasshoppers looked pretty healthy so not to worry. Time went by. In the year 2002 I rode my bicycle across Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, touched into Washington and came down the Columbia River Gorge through Oregon. I saw some crop dusters fly and spray in the early morning calm, but through all those grain fields in the Great Plains states, no grasshoppers. That is why it makes sense to spend an extra two bucks on a bag of organic flour. At least to me.
      The more attention you give the garden, the more productive it will be. See ya at the farmers’ market.

    • stillidealistic

      Your story had me tearing up just a bit, Blue…from returning home to help your parents, to the return of the butterflies.

      It has only been in the past few years we have started to eat organic as much as possible. One of the problems we have discovered is that we Americans don’t eat as “seasonally” as we should. We have our favorite recipes, and we have a tendency to eat them all year ’round, which necessitates compromising on our “organic” goal, since few of the crops grown in other countries are organic.

      One of my current projects is to begin cooking with foods that are in season only, or switching to frozen organic when the season ends, rather than using non-organic fresh food.

      Also, we grew broccoli and chard this fall (a first for us since we lived in the mountains for so long, where you didn’t have time for a fall crop) and loved it. I’ll tell you, there is just nothing like going out to the back yard and picking your dinner…

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Great story. We live in the middle of the city, yet are starting to see little gardens pop up here and there.

      Of course, we have access to one of the biggest farmers markets on the east coast and the mid-atlantic is one of the centers for the organic farming revolution (revival?).

      It still amazes me how many people are oblivious to the changes taking place all around us in the natural world. We have all these canaries dying in the coal mine and we are totally tuned out.

    • wwstaebler

      I think your idea is grand, BlueSplashy, and I hope you do it. Wonderful that you are planning to include berries and especially figs – imo, one of nature’s perfections. Any room in your garden for various lettuces? Dare I say it, arugula? You’ve left SC, I think — which makes me sad — so what cutting flowers or grapes are either indigenous or happy to be where you are that could be included in borders? (Wish you were still here — I’d help.)

  • *

    It all starts with using a little common sense. You don’t have to have a big budget to get back to a healthy diet.

    First, buy a veggie steamer. You can steam either fresh or canned veggies, rices, beans, fish and chicken. When I steam rice, I put in 1/4 cup per individual to be server, a small teaspoon of olive oil(good stuff from Greece) a little pepper seasoning for taste and a quarter of a bay leaf. Once it’s done, I dice up two deli thin slices of edel salamai and mix with the rice.

    Second, buy a convection oven. Not a toaster oven! Big difference! A convection oven has heating elements both above and below the cooking area and it has a fan that circulates the air around whatever you are cooking. I place a lean 4 oz piece of tenderloin on a simple sheet of parchment paper in the oven after it’s warmed up. The heat from the fans quickly seals the juices on the outer layer, thus encapsulating the steak in a cocoon of its’ own juices. Be careful on the time inside the oven … it will make jerky of it if you aren’t too careful.

    Finally, when all else fails, a microwave for boiling when necessary.

    As for food, I use to go to Kathy’s before Wild Oats bought them out. Wild Oats had a good deli counter were I use to get moroccan carrots and beets at a reasonable cost. Good source of rice, beans, teas, spices and other food staples. Only went to Whole Foods when they had something Wild Oats didn’t have.

    Now here in Europe, I’ve slowly moved from US military commissaries to the local food markets simply because they have better selections of fresh produce, meats and fish. Once you get past a kilo is twice of that of a pound, the exchange rate differential makes the cost relatively equal.

    But Europe has the same issues. I think a majority of produce and cattle comes out a single region in Spain. Mega farm industry packing animals and crops into tight spaces and exhausting the soil of nutrients and creating tons of waste to be removed. However, there are local butchers and bakers that have fresh products all the time through local resources. You have to ask.

    The interesting thing about spices here are they do exactly that … add that specific flavor we believe is German, Bavarian, French or Italian. You can turn an ordinary meal into something interesting with the right spices. And it doesn’t require much more than a dash of the stuff to make the transition.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      All great advice. Eating right isn’t rocket science. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the entire country ate this way.

      We go to Whole Foods mostly for convenience and an easier time finding products we don’t feel overly-dirty buying, though mergers and acquisitions by larger congolmerates are making the latter a moving target. We still try to hit the farmer’s market each week for fresh, in-season fruits and veggies, but we are far from perfect on that score, especially in the winter.

      I would love to see the suburbs turned back into farms and cities that move up instead of out, but that future seems less likely to me with each passing year.

  • destor23

    Loved this movie. Obviously Obama’s not going to battle the corn lobby on the subsidies that make all this happen but he should take care of the marginalia – labeling organics, labeling GM foods, giving the FDA its tooth back and loudly and actively encouraging the consumption of fresh, organic local foods which is something he and Michelle believe in anyway as a matter of personal choice.

    Amazng how many of our problems stem from feeing corn to cows (and now they want to feed the stuff to farmed fish)! Awful.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I don’t expect anyone in government to change this one. It will be a purely consumer-driven evolution based on the food we decide to eat.

      Now that the genie is out of the bottle, I suspect we will fix this in our lifetime given the trends currently in play.

      Nothing like learning that you’re being poisoned to change your behavior. Can’t unlearn information like that.

      • stillidealistic

        I think you are right about this one, Jason, and if WE can change this, it may embolden more people to try and change other things as well. Government cannot be all things to all people, but consumers have a LOT of power.

        People don’t WANT to eat crappy, dangerous food. They eat it because it is everywhere, and many times they can’t escape it. It is up to those of who really WANT the good stuff to make it readily available.

  • Moonwood

    We have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)on our farm, its a membership vegetable garden. You pay $575 for 25 weeks where you get a 1/2 bushel of fresh organic veggies. We started 3 years ago with 15 members, last year 45 members and this past year 92 members. Next year we are planning on 150 members at least. We also have a solar recharged cultivating tractor. We converted a 1948 gasoline tractor to an electric motor and charge it on our photo-voltaic system.

    CSAs are taking off. The oldest in our area has 3200 members and a three year waiting list.

    There is no comparision to the taste of locally grown fresh food. It ends up being cheaper.

    • neoboho

      That’s really fascinating, Moonwood. I encourage you to write a blog about this in more detail. I think many here at TPMcafe would be very interested.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I have heard about this trend but haven’t taken the time to do much research myself. Living in the mid-atlantic, though, I suspect we would have access to more than a few.

      I have one question, though, which CT touches on elsewhere in the blog: How can we feed a nation of 320 million when a CSA with 3,200 members has a wait list of three years?

      Has your organization put any thought into how we could scale up to meet the demand currently being met by the industrial food system?

  • Indie Pro

    good blog. good ingredients (often more expensive, but local or regional) are more savory, and go further, because you don’t eat as much. That’s my experience.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      That has been our experience as well. We can hardly finish a meal by ourselves when we go out to eat because our portions are so much smaller at home.

      So, yes, Whole Foods is more expensive in the micro picture, but in the macro we actually spend about the same amount because we eat less and it lasts longer.

  • dickday

    I saw the guy who wrote the book on Stewart’s show. He made the message sound so simple. Like your post.

    I eat out once in a blue moon. I may cook everything I eat, but I have to reexamine my ingredients.

    Great post again.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Hey, Dead Eye, glad you liked the blog. For anyone who already cooks all their meals, picking the right ingredients becomes a quick change that yields huge dividends, though I understand that such changes are never simple.

      I would say the biggest discovery for us of late was learning how to make our own pizzas by freezing a half-dozen crusts at a time and simply adding fresh ingredients with homemade sauce whenever the mood would strike.

      Lentils are also a cheap bulk item that have a million and one uses if you like spices and experimenting.

      • dickday

        I am going to do that, seriously Jason. I am making a list right now. My food allowance comes on Sunday.

        I wish to simply work on things like flavoring, herbs, spices…

        A lemon peel is a magical thing. Fresh lemon juice can change the entire taste of an entree.

        I know these things having dropped huge amounts of weight at certain times in my life.

        What you discuss here is the opportunity to change one’s life. Really freedom to do as you like without interference.

        Again, great post. Donal has discussed this issue at length. What fertilizers are being used on huge farms, what is corn syrup, what are processed foods, what choices do we really have?

        Government cannot take care of all our ills, I know that. ha

  • thepeoplechoose

    Just goes to show the human body is a marvel of creation. We do our best to screw it up and we just live longer and longer.

    Imagine if we really tried to do it right. We’d all live to be 100 years old.

    Come to think of it that isn’t such an attractive idea. In my case that’d mean 40 more years of this nonsense. I’ll pass. Bring on the garbage. Wendy’s here I come. A double and a great biggie fry. MMmm Good.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      We live longer and longer at greater and greater expense. At a certain point, I would prefer to live the same amount of time with less intervention by medical practicioners.

      As to living basically forever, I think nanotechnology will deliver that at some point if we can survive long enough to perfect it. Though the downside there is lives in the hundreds of years and the attendent social changes.

      I told my wife she may want a fifty-year anniversery now, but I am pretty sure she would be sick of me after a hundred or more.

      • thepeoplechoose

        We could make some guesses at what the future might hold but knowing we are continuously surprised at the unexpected turn of events it might not be time well spent.

        I think the challenge of making each day count and trying not to screw up too badly is where we need to focus our efforts. In all honesty not a day goes by where I don’t do at least one foolish thing, mostly meaningless, that tells us something. I remember a saying that went something like the big stuff will take care of themselves, it’s the details that’ll get you. As it happens nothing is for sure and the possibilities for making a mistake are endless. It’s starting too look like when and where we might make that one wrong choice is the whole ball of wax. I’m thinking we need to slow down some and talk a whole lot more so we can better understand our choices.

  • wendy davis

    I suppose I am left wondering that you think it is new information that many foods in grocery stores are sub-standard. This is not new information, just perhaps new to you. The Rodale Press, for instance, has been printing books on organic gardening and farming for decades; I would guess some of our books date back to 1971 or so. We have used rock dust fertilizers on our little farm-ette, and nitrogen-fixing fall cover- crop legumes we tilled in; and companion planting to keep insects at bay…composting manure and sawdust for fertilizers. This is not new.
    I do wonder if sludge from sewage plants might not be composted in controlled environments to use as fertilizers; I know that some are harvesting it for methane gas.
    Of course most things in the grocery store from say, the central valley are not as rich in nutrients as they might be; nor have they been for decades. But many people have been working on sustainability for a long time; it is a pleasure that is even becoming part of soil conservation and other Dept. of Ag programs at long last.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I don’t think this is new, but it is certainly new to me as to the extent of the damage and just how far the rot extends.

      A movie like Food Inc. is only successful insofar as it can convert the people not already firmly ensconsed in the choir.

      We were already in the pews and it made us swear off fast food forever, despite having shopped sustainably for the last three years or so.

    • neoboho

      Wendy, are you up on the very interesting “terra preta” (black earth) finds in the Amazon? Here’s a link to the Wiki article on it for a good intro. It amazes me – human-made self-fertilizing soil banks a few thousand years old. The key seems to be the presence of charcoal, brought about by the cooler fire in slash & char agriculture, leaving a lot of wood charcoal instead of ash.

      Oops…the link:

  • neoboho

    Great stuff, Jason. Seems like many here find it to be a burning topic.

    Our agricultural practices don’t seem to be sustainable if you look at it in terms of calories of work energy expended for calories of food energy gained. Rodale published some findings years ago: traditional rice growing in China – 1 calorie of work yielded 50 calories of food. The traditional Milpas in Southern Mexico – 1 calorie of work gained 20 calories of food energy. Our mechanized agriculture requires 50 calories of work to gain 1 calorie of food. That suggests to me that we’re racing directly to food armageddon.

    But let’s not forget that the largest irrigated crop in the US is lawns. Perhaps we need to resurrect the old “Victory Garden” practice. Besides, gardening is much more efficient than agriculture, all things considered.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Great points about calories expended versus calories gained. It really makes me wonder if we didn’t eat ourselves straight into full-blown stupid.

      For the supposed capitalism masters, we do just about everything ass-backward when it comes to business strategy and expenditure of resources toward specific ends.

      I mentioned the Armegeddon of over-consumption above and concluded that God must have a wicked sense of humor. We always thought it would be nuclear bomb or jihad or some strange Orwellian dystopia to killed us all.

      Who knew the End Times would come by way of the drive-thru window?

      • neoboho

        If I were inclined to point a finger at the cause of our current food problems, it would be the long standing trend to commodify food products. ClearThinker mentions the “Green Revolution” above, but the net effect of this agricultural “foreign aid” program included totally commodifying food products and making them too expensive for the local economies in the target countries of this program. When the Rockefeller Foundation developed the program, Mexico was chosen as the model recipient of the Green Revolution. Large scale agriculture using engineered seed requires significant capital investment. The program essentially located a population of large land-owners and provided them credit lines from Wall Streets so that they could utilize the technological “advancements” and seed and chemicals necessary to farm this way. So it was much more than growing better wheat and maiz, it was the creation of a second economy operating within the Mexican economy, producing food that Mexicans could not afford to purchase. Ultimately, it represented the political/economic dominance of the client state by the US.

        A good example is found in Allende’s Chile, also a recipient of the “Green Revolution.” The wealthy land owners boycotted the new left-wing government by shutting down agricultural operations, creating food shortages among Chile’s urban middle-class – which translated into growing unpopularity and criticism of the Allende government. Allende responded by mobilizing the Chilean Armed Forces to run the farms, but this failed because Wall Street froze the farm credit lines to the country. This exacerbated the shortages which in turn radicalized the middle-class against Allende further, paving the way for the Pinochet coup.

  • PseudoCyAnts

    Jason, your assumption that vegetarian diets, and consumption of soy is not conducive to healthy living is contradicted in longevity studies which found that Seventh Day Adventists live longer and healthier than average Americans. Their diets are not pure vegetarian, as they eat dairy products and eggs, but they do consume a large quantity of soy in their diets. They also consume nuts frequently, and exercise regularly.

    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans?
    WebMD – Eating for Longevity

    • clearthinker

      The problem with many of these longevity studies is that they (for reasons of cost) can’t cover the entire lifestyle. This includes:



      environment (e.g. near factories? water quality, not just on intake but what you bath in?)


      For example, time and again, there are eastern Europeans who live forever on an incredibly fatty diet. The studies never seem to converge except in the most superficial of ways.

      One thing that is becoming more clear, however, is that eating less is more healthy — not just for reasons of weight, but also for how your metabolism works.

      • wendy davis

        Actually eating more times during the day, i.e. ‘grazing,’ seems to be the way to keep a metabolism ramped up. And it isn’t how much you eat, but what you eat, and when you eat.
        And (she said hoping she would not get jumped on again) it may be what yuou eat for your blood type, which may be why Europeans can live longer with more fats in their food. If there is one area of ‘science’ that is most contentious, it sure is nutrition and diet. On this front we appear to be woefully ignorant.

        • clearthinker

          You are conflating how much you eat with the number of times you eat. The two are separate topics, though I agree with your statement.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I never said vegetarian diets are unhealthy, just that many soy-based products certainly are, most in the chemically-processed variety like “meat subsitutes” and soy juice vice something more naturally produced like tofu or soy sauce.

      Now, having a diet that is lower in red meat and contains more whole grains, fruits and veggies is certainly a healthy diet and one I try to follow myself. Our personal food paradigm doesn’t rely on labels as much as common sense.

      I don’t automatically trust any food product because it is marketed as being “vegetarian friendly” in some way.