Sunday, May 23, 2010

Modern Agriculture versus Food Inc

Some late link love from The Conscious Shopper

A few weeks ago, Katie at Kitchen Stewardship posted "a balanced perspective" on modern agriculture versus Food Inc. After briefly summarizing Food Inc., Katie lists a number of links from the opposing side, refuting the criticisms set forth in the film.

A few of the articles Katie's post points to:
And though she didn't link to it, there's also The Omnivore's Delusion, a response to Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma.

When I first read the post, my knee jerk reaction was, "No, no, no!" and I was disappointed that a "real food blog" would defend modern agriculture in any way . Then a couple weeks ago, I visited a local strawberry farm/nursery on a field trip with my kindergartner's school. The farm is not organic and doesn't even purport to avoid pesticides or fertilizer, and yet I was still impressed.

As we walked around the farm, the tour guide asked at each stopping point, "Why do you think the farmers would have this on their farm? Everyone and everything does a job around here - what is this animal's job? Why do the farmers have this?" And the answers were things like goats to eat the weeds, a donkey to protect the goats, bird houses to attract birds to eat the bugs, ponds for irrigation, bees to pollinate the plants, etc. By the end of the tour, I was thoroughly impressed with how thoughtfully these farmers were taking care of their animals and their land.

My trip to this farm got me thinking about balanced farming and led me back to Katie's post to read the articles she had linked to, rather than dismissing them offhand like I had originally. In case you're worried, I'm not about to write a post titled "Why I started eating CAFO meats again after six months as a flexitarian." Those articles didn't change my mind about how I believe food should be grown and raised and why, but I do feel a little more knowledgeable about both perspectives.

I encourage you to give those articles a glance and then come back here and tell me what you think. I'm not going to give my whole opinion on the subject, but I will say this: A recurring theme that I saw in the articles was the assertion that they have to raise animals the way they do to "meet Americans' demand" and because Americans prefer the taste of corn-fed beef and over-fattened animals. They're right, but that doesn't make their methods right. I find their implication insulting - that the solution to balancing meat consumption and meat production is to abuse animals rather than encourage people to eat less meat, and the assumption that people can't and won't curb their appetites in exchange for healthier foods and a sustainable future.

I'll also point you to the comment by Rachel Ritter on Katie's post (scroll down about halfway through the comments) because it summarizes much of what I think on the subject.

What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship said...

How interesting to see the evolution of your acceptance. :) I found myself surprised when I first saw some of the sources, too, and I really appreciate you pointing out that it is consumer demand causing the problem, and consumer demand that will be the way to fix it. Thanks for your honest perspective!
:) Katie (the boat shaker)

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