The Food Industry’s Got Issues // Justin Eng

Nearly six months ago, I began my time as a Santa Clara University student, a young mind eager to learn about what the world had to offer for me. One of the core curriculum classes, Critical Thinking & Writing, challenged me to examine factory farms, the food industry, and how humans interact with machines in general.

Our teacher, Professor Nicholas Leither, instructed the class on new ways to write and how to implement new ideas into our arguments. The essays and works that were produced over the past half year, cover a variety of topics that range from food variety at Santa Clara University’s cafeteria, to reasons why machines should replace humans in the general workforce. Although my focus did not cover one specific topic, the overarching theme of my essays is that the food industry has some issues that need to be addressed, especially concerning factory farming and ethicality. In order to close this course, I’d like to present the evidence for my claim that the food industry needs to confront its problems before more things get out of hand.

The food industry can be split into two sections for the purpose of this essay, local and national. On the local scale is the Santa Clara University catering company, Bon Appetit, the single entity that is in charge of all food that the campus consumes. There are issues with single companies that, although are not as severe as the problems that the national food industry faces, can possibly cause trouble in the future. Bon Appetit takes advantage of its contract with the school, requiring that any on-campus event that requires food service or catering must use Bon Appetit and are prohibited from using any other service. This essentially has created a monopoly for the company at Santa Clara University, which can definitely be a profitable situation. Now this is understandable, and is common in other institutions across the nation. The one issue I have with the company is the strictness of their rules— if an on-campus event needs to be served by Bon Appetit, and only them. The situation is a bit restrictive and can definitely cause problems with certain situations. The reason that the company has the restrictive provision is to protect their profits, and nothing else. The fact that money is the driving factor behind this is disturbing, especially because the company should be concerned with providing the best food for its clients, even if that means outsourcing to a more specialized food company. A profit driven company is one that will only go so far, especially if they ignore the ethics and common sense of the situation.

Nationally, there are a multitude of issues that require attention and reform, mainly concerning factory farms and their practices. The demand for meat in modern day culture is so high, that factories often sacrifice ethicality for productivity and efficiency. To meet demand, the factories will often ignore the fact that animals are sentient and can feel pain. Slaughterhouse workers will often disrespect animals and kill them unceremoniously, just so that they can keep the production line moving. Factories do not only have problems with just their products; many workers are unsatisfied with the way they are treated in the workplace. Some companies are underpaying their workers, which forces the employees to rely on government welfare. Fast food workers, for example, are not well paid, and over half of these employees require government benefits to live, which costs the US “nearly $7 billion a year” (White). The fact that companies do not care enough to pay their employees an adequate wage is troubling because that means the management cares more about getting profits instead of taking care of their own workers. Human rights should not be aside in order to gain more of a profit. Some people believe that machines should replace humans in the workforce, in order to improve productivity in factories. This would increase the amount of products that a factory can churn out in a given time, and would also lower costs paid to employees. However, the question of ethicality makes another appearance, since there is an issue regarding whether or not human workers should be laid off in order to implement machines. Whether or not the companies make an effort to change, it remains clear that the food industry has some problems that they need to address, especially concerning the balance between ethics and productivity.

It remains to be seen whether or not any of the problems associated with the food industry will be addressed in the near future. As many economists say, people always face tradeoffs and are required to sacrifice one thing in order to obtain another, in order to stay within the budget constraints. This Critical Thinking and Writing course has definitely helped me to learn the importance of the food industry and all the decisions that people in charge make. Ethicality and productiveness will always be factors that tradeoff with each other in the food industry. It remains to be seen whether or not the food industry makes any significant changes to favor one side of the spectrum or the other.

Works Cited

White, Martha C. “Business & Money.” Business Money FastFood Workers Are Costing the US 7 Billion a Year in Public Aid Comments. TIME, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 01 Feb. 2014.

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