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“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food,” said Paul Prudhomme. Good food leads to a good mood. It can also lead to a healthier lifestyle considering you know what is meant by good food and how to make the right choices. Good food shouldn’t come at a high price making people turn their heads after seeing its price tag. It should be convenient for everybody in a way that everyone has a choice to get them without worrying about what it takes for them to actually get it. Whether they choose to get healthy foods or not, should be the only barrier as to why people’s health is what it is. Throughout Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he outlines different problems the people are currently facing in the American food system, some of which can also be seen in other countries. Necessary and healthy everyday foods should be the ones taking over the food industry. Prioritizing the actual value and importance of good food to the people’s health will lead to a better diet and health condition. In his journey, he realized that most of these problems are the results of our ever changing appetites which are being taken for granted by the industrial food system. They supply the people’s wants and at the same time molding it to their advantage based on what will give them higher profit. These major problems outlined in Pollan’s book can also be reflected in Holly Bauer’s book, Food Matters. Expensive sustainable foods, fast food chains, and the government’s support for the industrial food chain are some of the major problems outlined in both books aforementioned.
The alternative food chain, no matter how popular it’s getting, have always remained more expensive. The subsidies the government has given to industrialized farmers made their products cheaper. Government standardization imposed on the organic movement also gave birth to the industrial organic food whose products cost a little less than pastoral farm products. According to Pollan, in his observation at the farm, “If you buy one at the farm, a Polyface chicken costs $2.05 a pound, compared to $1.29 at the local supermarket . . . having to take beeves and hogs to the packing plant in Harrisonburg adds a dollar to every pound of beef or pork Polyface sells, and two dollars to every pound of ham or bacon” (Pollan 235-236). People who doesn’t have a steady income or is in a budget would clearly opt for low-priced goods. They tend to go for lower priced foods in order to get as much food calories as they can and use the extra money on something else. Sustainable food will continue to be more expensive unless the price of industrial food reflects on its real cost.
Producers who take pride in what they produce argue that the cost of their product is actually cheaper because of the benefits and advantages it gives to its recipient. In the eyes of the consumer it is the opposite because they don’t know about the subsidies given to big industrial food chains and the health risks that comes with their product. This is why food influencers and the government should step up and take charge because their opinions greatly impact the people’s decisions. As concluded by Antoñanzas and Rodríguez-Ibeas, “fiscal policies that increase the price of the unhealthy food and discourage its consumption, educational campaigns . . . affect the emotional/health costs that consumers experience when they consume the unhealthy product” (Antoñanzas). Using their publicity and influence will greatly impact how people will choose their food. Having higher prices for unhealthy foods instead of the other way around will promote the consumption of healthier and more sustainable foods. Furthermore, knowing that their choices are supported by those with higher knowledge and with scientific evidences, people will choose wisely and opt for healthy foods.
Limited access to money needed to be able to afford a whole different variety of healthy foods costs people living in low-income areas to depend on what they can afford. This barrier puts them on a particularly higher risk for being obese. Obesity, diabetes and other by-products of unhealthy eating also leads to a higher risk of stroke, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and other diseases. In Bauer’s book, Khullar mentioned “You can buy 2,000 calories for under $10 at your neighborhood McDonald’s, but have trouble getting your hands on an apple” (Bauer 137). A lot of people always end up asking why would they go through the trouble of spending so much money on organic food when they can just get more food for the same amount of money through different kinds of industrial foods available to them. It is true that the price of food has a lot of impact on whether a person will buy sustainable food or not. This choice will determine what they’re going to put in their body and what’s going to become of it.
Not only is the cost of organic produce more expensive, but like Pollan stated, finding it is another feat on its own. Finding a place to buy sustainable foods is another story, not only are you wasting gas or money for transportation, you are also consuming time. These reasons adds up to the total money spent on getting healthy foods. People would usually go for farmers markets if they’re looking for organic foods. These types of markets doesn’t offer a wide variety of food choices a supermarket does. Vileisis pointed out that, “Shopping at a farmers’ market is certainly less convenient than shopping at a supermarket. You have to go at the appointed time and won’t find everything you’ve become accustomed to picking up year-round” (Vileisis 240). The availability of the products you are looking for are also limited. The products offered are based on it’s seasonality. This availability makes the product more expensive than its industrial counterparts sold at the stores. Cravings for these seasonal products is a huge advantage for the industrial food system. Not only do people choose supermarkets for their lower prices, but also for their convenience and availability which Bauer pointed out.
Fast food chains has been a huge success business wise. Health wise, not so much. All around are industrial meals after industrial meals, making up most of the American food system. They are readily available 24/7 and doesn’t take up much time to be prepared. It’s where most people eat most of the time. Like Pollan stated in his book, “If where you stand is on one of the lower rungs of America’s economic ladder, our cornified food chain offers real advantages: not cheap food exactly . . . , but cheap calories . . . however, the eater pays a high price for these cheap calories: obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease” (Pollan 117). When people buy fast food for their meal, they buy a lot of different things. Each one of these food is a lot of calories on their own. Adding up the total amount of fast food calories the average person buys for their meal, usually results in the consumption of more than half as much as they need in a day. For some people, eating fast food is an everyday thing. This results in malnutrition and higher potential risk of them being obese. Fast food isn’t healthy. Some healthy ingredients doesn’t result in a healthy food outcome.
Fast food restaurants has long depended on their soda sales for profits. This cheap beverage is not only cheap in price, but also cheap calories like Pollan argued. It may only cost someone a few dollars to buy soda from a restaurant, but it only costs them less than a quarter for each one sold. This type of sweetened drink is the largest source of added sugar in our diets. It’s high added sugar content results in higher calories. According to Gustafson, “The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 added teaspoons of sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons . . . and a large soda typical of a fast food restaurant has about twice that amount, roughly 17 to 20 teaspoons of sugar” (Gustafson). This being one of the moneymakers of fast food restaurants and a regular everyday drink for some people results in a lot of health risks. The consumption of soda has increased the epidemic of obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems all over the world. Fast food chains aren’t concerned with the people’s health as long as their profits keep on growing.
Every couple of miles, you will find a fast food chain to satisfy your hunger. They are high in fat and high in calorie, but very low on nutrients. Junk food advertising doesn’t help, but only encourage viewers to eat more of it. It paints this big picture of a very hearty and satisfying meal for cheap. You will see more of bigger portions and less of healthy and quality foods. According to Khullar, “The food industry spends nearly $2 billion marketing its products to children, and evidence suggests that children exposed to junk food advertising express greater preference for these types of foods” (Bauer 137). The food industry spends so much time and money on engaging children to eat these types of food because they know how much influence they have on their parents. Another option they added is the salad menu and it has been a big hit ever since. Like Pollan said, it’s a way of “denying the denier,” a technique used by children to coax or bribe their parents even more. This only adds up to why fast food is consumed a lot, especially by children, even though it’s not very nutritional and only makes the health of a person bad, if not worse.
Fast food restaurants are literally everywhere. They’re being promoted nonstop. It’s convenience isn’t the only reason why it’s popular, it’s also advertised as this mouth-watering food someone can’t afford to miss out on. It’s marketed through radios, televisions, and billboards that targets adults and children, who are more vulnerable to their deceit. Based on Bernhardt’s research, “In 2006, U.S. QSR chains reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that they spent $161 million marketing to 2–11 year olds. Of the money QSR chains spent, $74.4 million went to cross-promotions . . . An additional estimated $360 million was spent on the toy premiums themselves” (Bernhardt 265). This much money spent on advertising fast food chains is bound to alter the food choice or preference of a huge population. This promotes big industrial food enterprises in hopes of getting more and more customers. They promote a lot of unhealthy foods for cheap that only results in higher number of people facing malnutrition and other health risks.
The government has a lot of say in every person’s health if you think about it. Government regulations makes it harder for small organic or artisanal farmers to produce and sell their products. The processing of their products is also made impossible to do by themselves because they won’t allow it and sometimes they say it’s a waste of time since they don’t yield as much result as their industrial counterpart. Like Pollan elaborated from Salatin’s explanation, “Such regulations favor the biggest industrial meatpackers, who can spread the costs of compliance over the millions of animals they process every year” (Pollan 229). The standardization the government imposed on food gives the industrial food chain the upper hand. These advantages helps them put artisanal enterprises below the food chain because they are designed to regulate huge enterprises and was fitted to rule smaller businesses at the same time. According to Pollan, “USDA regulations spell out precisely what sort of facility and system is permissible, but they don’t set thresholds for food-borne pathogens” (Pollan 229), which only makes the price of small artisanal producers products higher since they have to transport their products to a federally inspected facility. Unhealthy foods are being prioritized more by the government than healthy foods which will lower the nation’s health care and environmental cleanup expenses.
Just like Salatin stated, economic efficiency in the food production is a big priority for the American food system. It doesn’t matter to them if the product is healthy or not, as long as its yield satisfies their standard. They favor those who can produce and sell more over those whose product quality gives better results. Government regulations should change and instead support local sustainable foods. A study suggests a solution which is, “the implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) in meat, poultry, seafood, and juice establishments . . . It requires establishments to identify the food safety hazards that are most likely to occur, and then implement effective measures to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the hazards from occurring” (Keller 2). This will force industrial food companies to take on greater responsibility of their products. This responsibility, which is one of the reasons why some farmers prefer artisanal farming, will show the consumers who only wants their money and who actually cares about their product. They’ll take the safety of their product into consideration more precisely, making sure that it doesn’t result in any danger to the consumer. This solution will also help the buyers to make the right and more informed decision.
The government’s mindset and structure towards the standardization of food should change. A chicken is not just a chicken and an egg is not just an egg. Subsidies given by the government should be given towards organic foods. Foods that will help people be healthy and stay healthy. As Khullar suggested in his piece, “By subsidizing fresh fruits and vegetables and supporting restaurants and vendors that offer healthy alternatives, we might create an economic environment more conducive to healthy eating” (Bauer 136-137). This will help organic farmers stay on track with their ideals. This will also prevent them from straying away from it because of all the implications that comes with being a successful organic farmer. The actions the government takes about the food industry will greatly affect the people’s decisions and their health outcome.
Just like Khullar suggested in the paragraph above, the government’s involvement in the food industry will greatly impact the economic environment of the country and the people living in it. By giving subsidies where it rightfully belongs and implementing appropriate regulations, the government can help create a more sustainable society. One of the multi-faceted solution a research has introduced is, “the requirement for establishments to implement written Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs). Again, the focus is on preventing conditions that could lead to contamination, rather than on detecting and correcting problems after they occur” (Keller 2). Taking the initiative to prevent future disasters by focusing on the process of making the product rather than its effect after will help eliminate the risks later on. This is more effective since the consumers will know the exact steps taken during its production. These solutions will direct us towards a better food industry with the government’s aid.
Expensive healthy food options, wide varieties of fast food restaurants, and the government’s favor for big industrial food corporations are some of the major problems outlined in the books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Matters. This is why being smart and involved with what you eat is important. These struggles being faced by Americans can always be turned around for the better starting with one step. Influence by the government, those big media food influencers and marketing advertisements will hugely impact every person’s decision towards healthy eating and having a more sustainable environment for our foods. Having healthier choices will lead to better health conditions which will cause less problems, less stress and a happier life. The wise consumption choices we make will greatly avert the omnivore’s dilemma.
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