Monday, January 31, 2011

Food Inc.

A question: What’s the second best thing in the world?

Well we all agree on the best thing in the world, cause if you don’t, then either you are a 6 year old or you have devoted yourself to the service of god. But dilemma soaks in when we have to ponder on the second best thing in the world. Well choices may differ but I am dam sure that at least 1 % of the people will agree with me.
The second best thing in the world is none other than the KFC’s Zinger Burger. The soft, crunchy, all meat no bone, delicious chicken piece sandwiched between the buns dressed with lettuce and mayonnaise. It’s the only other thing that can get an orgasmic sound out of my mouth.
I can’t imagine ‘a life’ without it. I can’t imagine moving to a city where they don’t serve Kentucky fried chicken. This could be a reason why I never watch those horrendous videos that surface on our facebook page and spam our mail boxes. “Watch the video an you will never eat chicken again”. These videos are nothing but footage of assembling lines of food processing companies from where our chicken comes.

What changed over the years?

In USA Mc Donald is the largest consumer of beef, potato, lettuce and apples (god knows what they do with it). Over the years there has been a huge shift in the food processing market in US. Earlier 25% of the food processing business was controlled by five major giants but now 80% of the business is controlled by four companies. It’s like these four companies control the whole food supply chain. The tremendous growth is the result of the ever increasing demand of products in the market. A simple supply demand system.
To full fill the demand mc Donald brothers revolutionised the way food was prepared and served. No one man was doing all the job, instead he was to do just one job all the time, they adopted the assembly line formulae in their kitchen, this way it was fast, efficient and the labour was cheap as no special skills were required and every single person was replaceable. But that wasn’t the only thing that changed. People wanted more meat on their chicken breast and hence changed the anatomy of chicken as we know it. They were made fat, so that they can’t bear their own weight. Along with the biological changes came new and improved chicken houses. A place with windows and light was replaced with dark pipe ventilated chicken houses, where the chicken never saw the light of the day.     It’s amazing how man can play God, changing not just changing the bone mass ratio but drastically reducing the lifespan of a chicken. And hence mankind with its overgrowing hunger changed the good old picture perfect farm with chickens running all around into dingy, dark chicken houses where they spend their ephemeral life squalidly.
At a place where thousands of chicken are raised, do we look for the rotten apples- the infected ones before slaughtering them. I guess not. The result being, the sick and infected one gets mixed with the healthy lot and down the line into our burgers. So the next time when you are having a chicken burger keep in mind that it might not be the healthiest cock after all. But what are the odds, let us be reasonable here as Nobody has the time or patience to hand pick and check every chicken before it is processed. After all what are the chances of getting sick with a cock in your mouth.
If you look at a food processing plant, well the chances are one in a million as no one would let you go near it, let alone inside, you will find it is no different than an auto manufacturing or consumer goods manufacturing plant, a lot more sordid.

Why you should be worried now?

We have been consuming meat since ever, then why worry now? It’s because of the corn. The corn they have been feeding our cattle. Gone are the days of the famous cliché when cows eat grass. So don’t be surprised when they change the kindergarten books depicting cow eating corn. US is the largest producer of corn, and a large amount of it goes to CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). There is a fine network of railroad to transport all the corn to these feeding grounds. So what’s the big deal, grass/corn they are one and the same thing. Not, if the corn produces the deadly e coli.
This came to light when e coli poisoning started showing its effect. A six year old child died of e coli poisoning after having a hamburger. Cattles fed on corn instead of grass develop e coli which is passed down the food chain.
Human mind have a solution for every problem and we started using ammonia to kill e coli. Imagine, Ammonia. The next time you eat a hamburger don’t worry about e coli, because it has been gotten rid of by Ammonia.
Today corn is the most produced crop in the world. Corn is everywhere. 90% of the products in the market corn in some form, be it soaps, shampoos, chips, ketchup, cheese, batteries, peanut butter, coke, jelly, syrup, juice, charcoal, diapers, mortin, fastfood, they are used to feed the chicken, cows and even fish. We are teaching fish to eat corn.

Why eat burgers?

Why would anyone eat a hamburger on a daily basis? Because it’s cheap, cheaper than the vegetables. In 1$ you can get a hamburger that could be your brunch, lunch or dinner. We live in a world where a healthy lifestyle is a thing for the rich and famous.

The bigger question.

Why is USA protecting the meat processing companies? Why don’t we have the right to know what inside our food?
In USA meat producing companies are exempted to show the origin of the product on their bags. So when picking up a meat from a supermarket, you have no right to know if it’s from local farm or Mexico.
The fast food companies are exempted to show calories on their products, so you have no right to know how many calories are there in you burger or french-fries.
Can we turn vegetarians overnight? Can the horrendous food processing footage make us go all veggie? Man is an omnivorous being. I would never give up chicken. All I want is my chicken to be killed with dignity and processed in a fine manner. Am I asking for too much?


abhishek tayal said...

i can notice lots of improvements in the writing style. But somehow i am getting a feeling that you might as well have found a very similar article somewhere because the sort of reason you give in WHY EAT BURGERS cant come to someone who doesnt live in the states. m i guessing it right ?? :)

Nice effort though, looks like some work has been put in and looks a lot more structured than your previous writings .....

akshay said...

I had the same impression tayal!!
I think it would be better to consider writing about something else, like you know what happened in gurgaon today...i saw an elephant on the road today...who was piercing through still traffic like it was a scooter!! damn cool !! :P

But bhanuj I know has a really good vocabulary and his writing style is very expressive. I'd like you to write topics which are more real, grandpa !! :))

Francisco d'Anconia said...

@tayal: yes, you guessed it right. I was inspired by the oscar nominated documentary Food Inc.

@kohli: What Elephant?? When and where did this happen....Gosh...I Missed it :(

rahul said...

BabaBOnd...nicely written...!!!

Shreshth said...

Before putting my views, I would like to say that I have nothing against non-vegetarians. It is their personal choice, and they have the right to exercise it, just in the way I exercise my personal choice.

Reading your article, I could not help but notice the rampant selfishness. Chicken living in filthy environment are a cause of concern only when they might affect your health. Otherwise, inchicken conditions make no difference.

Even eating healthy chicken can be of grave concern, because as scientific reports are suggesting, the traits and feelings of your food might be transferred to you. I hate to admit it, but Vidit and his GROUP had a valid point and I believe this is what they meant when they were talking about "negative energy" and the "spiritual dimension".

Regarding the cost of burgers, I agree they come cheap. But so do 1 bowl of dal/sabzi and 3 rotis. The people sitting with you might not be as attractive and the "feel" of food might not be as good due to the same reason, but that is a different argument altogether.

In the end, why were you asking those questions? Is it going to make a difference whether calorie content or origin, is disclosed? As it is, you are never going to give up chicken. I am sure you did not stop eating chicken when you got to know about these facts. A better argument would have been : "I am addicted to chicken, I relish it beyond anything (except you know..). I cannot give it up. I am hearing of the not so healthy processing method. Please take care of it. I do not want to fall ill or die. Fellow non-vegetarians, please join in my request."

Shreshth said...

@writer: I understand how difficult it is to write an article and would like to congratulate you for your brave effort. You have always been a phenomenal writer. However, this particular piece came across as trying to put across a point in a very round about way. I feel it could have been shorter and more direct. Hope you take this in the right spirit. Looking forward for more.

Francisco d'Anconia said...

@shreshth: It makes a titanic difference if country of origin or location is specified on the box, why??
because a product from a local farm would always be fresh and healthy as compared to one from processing plant miles away on other corner of the country or may be another nation all together. that is the reason why people prefer to buy groceries(vegetables, eggs, chicken, pork) from farm market. but it again depends from country to country. In india the population consuming meat is not as much as that in U.S., where people prefer products(pork, chicken, beef) from local farms.and in supermarkets the big four giants play the marketing ploy, depicting cliche, beautiful farms and confident farmmen, where in reality the meat came from some dingy factory. buyers have the right to know the content of there food, they have a right to know if the meat they are consuming is from a local farm, Brazil, Mexico or another third world country. and i never understood why mcdonalds, kfc, pizza hut and other junk food giants don't show the calorie content. what's the harm in knowing my daily calorie intake. I may never stop eating chicken but i may curtail the frequency of my visits to these places. and the worst part is what if a person is allergic to something, we have all heard of the story of a poor girl who died of peanut allergy, when she kissed her boyfriend who just had a peanut sandwich. what if someone is allergic to corn, for him these burgers would be "The kiss of death". that is just one ingredient we are sure of, what about many those that are written on the packs with an invisible ink.