I can assure you that the cats are grassfed. Every day they run outside to nosh in the leggy, overgrown corners of our yard. Then they come inside and throw up.

This, apparently, is not the case with cows. Feed a cow government-subsidized corn and it develops health problems. Put it out to pasture and it thrives. Which cow would you rather eat?

The new film Food, Inc. makes this point among others, showing in glorious technicolor detail how far removed we've become from our food. Like other indictments of Big Ag (if you haven't read The Omnivore's Dilemma or Fast Food Nation, you can get the gist from the film), Food, Inc. shows how economies of scale, technology, lobbyists and a rather prissy American palette have conspired to turn the U.S. heartland into a toxic, chemical salad.

I'm as guilty as anybody. When served a beautiful pasta with shrimp in Rome, the crustacean's head, tail and feet beautifully intact, I reacted to the thing like I would a found cockroach. We aren't used to seeing the pieces-parts of our meats. We aren't used to thinking, "this steak used to be a sweet brown cow." Or "this pomegranate-glazed lamb used to be a cuddly, soft lamby."

Distance from our food does several things: It eases our guilt over the death of our food animals. It allows us to eat in ignorance as to how they live and die. And it perpectuates agronomy practices that may be contributing to our healthcare crisis (is our food making us sick?).

My heart goes out to the American farmer, especially the family enterprises. My college roommate grew up on an Iowa farm, a farm her dad lost in the 1980s farm crisis. That loss was like a death in that family, a heart-wrenching rending of people from their land. That her father ended up living an easier, more financially secure life is no surprise. Small-scale farming is a gritty, daily business that pits the farmer against giant corporations, market forces and our none-too-savory financial institutions.

That farmers and ranchers choose to incorporate efficient, high-yield chemicals into their operations is tough to fault. Transitioning to organic--USDA organic--is a long, expensive and bureaucratic process, one that might not yield financial benefits given our current economy.

But what if, instead of looking to the general practitioner as the source of all wellness, President Obama looked to the farmer? Instead of subsidizing King Corn, he worked to subsize healthy pastures, organic dairies, pesticide-free cotton and organic grains and veggies? Admittedly this is tough duty for the former senator from Illinois, a major corn producer. But couldn't King Corn just as easily become Clean Corn? Or better yet, diverse, good-for-the-soil crops?

Might not we see reductions in our healthcare spending if the cost of healthy fresh food matched the price of Big Macs or candy korn?

Anyway, go see the movie. And maybe this once, skip the popcorn.

Comments (3) -

June 26. 2009 09:42


Dogs also eat grass to throw up. I discourage it. Icky cleanup. And have you read the book by the former head of the FDA (I think- some health bigwig anyway) - no, he was Surgeon General - about how food companies help us to become addicted to fat and sugar, mixed together into an addictive (and delicious!) cocktail that kills????
Welcome back. I want to hear all about the food in Rome.

Susan |

June 26. 2009 19:43


wonderfully said!  the movie is great and a real eye-opener.

John |

June 27. 2009 09:58

Louis Kravitz

Dear Leslie,

I read the book but I didn't see the movie yet, I wonder if it will come to Westcliffe?

Most of our farm policy dates back to The Great Depression and a lot has changed during the last 70 years. Our government has a policy of keeping food cheap and the evolution of that policy has been mass production and creating a market for inexpensive and unhealthy food. Subsidies do go to large agricultural conglomerates, but also to average farmers and ranchers through subsidized loans and set aside acreage.

The issue of farm subsidies has killed the DOHA trade negotiations and an agreement would have been a huge boost for agriculture in poor nations. In short, healthier food will cost more unless government provides even more subsidies. Attachments to the Farm Bill include school lunch programs and a variety of other items that actually dwarf the agricultural aspect.

On top of bad food, proper labeling is only beginning to come to the forefront. Ingrediants like sugar and corn syrup are described a natural - ignoring the fact about the chemcials used in the refining process.

As the current Congress is focused on Cap and Trade which will serve to increase farming expenses, rest assured more not less subsidies will soon follow and garbage food will proliferate.


Louis Kravitz |

Comments are closed