Several weeks have passed since I watched Fast Food Nation, and I still can’t get it out of my head. The movie weaves fact—from the nonfiction book of the same name—into a fabricated plot. It’s an odd format, but the message is the same: fast food drives the demand for massive amounts of cheap meat, resulting in a business model that necessitates inhumane “growing” and slaughter of animals, dangerous work conditions, exploitation of illegal immigrant employees, handling methods that contaminate meat (“there’s shit in the meat!“), and homogeneity. And all those issues are intertwined with even more problems. Right now I can think of obesity, antibacterial resistance, polluted air and water, so. much. trash., and communities dependent on a sole, disloyal employer—the cattle/hog/chicken processing plant. What would happen if the prices actually reflected these external costs? This seems to be a problem with our food and our fuel, huh?
The demand is there. McDonald’s serves more than 47 million people around the world every day. I can’t say I’ll never again eat fast food. I swore it off after reading the book and…well, it didn’t stick. It’s generally a problem of convenience and craving that requires a certain disassociation from my meal.
In last week’s food issue of the New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan addressed these issues and more in an open letter to our next president (our farmer-in-chief). Pollan’s sun-food agenda is informative and inspirational. Where can I sign up for the School Lunch Corps?
- decentralize our food supply as a matter of national security
- enhance the prestige of farming
- more farms, more farmers; sun-food will require many more hands
- cultivate (pardon the pun) young farmers schooled in sustainable agriculture programs at land-grant colleges
- food regions and food culture
- can sustainable ag feed the world?
- “edible education”
Edited to add: Pollan on Fresh Air