When I first signed up for my Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) class I was expecting a class along the lines of an English 101 class with a lot of reading, vocabulary, and a couple short essays here and there; what I really signed up for was vastly different. CTW is a two-part class taken over the course of two quarters and each CTW class has an overarching theme. For my CTW 1 class we researched “Human, Animal, Machine” while in my CTW 2 class we researched “Food, Self, and Culture.” In both of my CTW classes shame was an overarching theme. Through my last quarter as a freshman I got to learn a lot about the food industry and how corrupt it really is.
Coming to California from New York meant that I had to be ready for some big changes. New York is full of old ideas and values; while on the other hand California is a state where new ideas are welcome and everyone has his or her own values. What I found, and continue to find, very interesting was the way these two states think of food.
In New York there is a heavy Italian influence on the food with a Delicatesse on every block and a Pizzeria named after some Italian man, usually Sal or Anthony; Compared to the heavy Mexican and Asian influence in California. In New York the serving sizes are all but made up and the food is greasy with dozens of herbs and spices on it; if you do not believe me Garden Catering, a popular eatery most known for their “World Famous Specials” (http://www.gardencatering.net) which consist of their “secret seasoning” and half of a pound of fried chicken nuggets with potato cones, all of that for only $7.50.
Garden Catering’s “Specials” menus
In Northern California it seems, to me, that there is a large deal of importance placed on healthier foods, such as Kale and fish, and 100% organically grown food. Take our cafeteria’s food service, Café Bon Appétit, where constant changes are being made to make the food healthier like cutting back on the salt put into our food, only buying from local organic farms, and (by next year, 2015) only serving pork raised gestation crate-free. This took me for a spin because I have never heard of using less salt in food, in fact I was told at every meal that if the food tastes bad it just needs a little more salt in it.
My Problem and Shame With the Food Industry
In my CTW 2 class we wrote a conjoined essay called “TASTES LIKE CHICKEN: FARMS WITH GLASS WALLS,” that has been published on the blog TensePresent. While researching for this essay we all learned about the horrible system that is Factory Farming, which is cramming upwards of 20 chickens per square metre who have been bred to grow unnaturally fast, along with being given artificial sunlight (up to 23 hours) to aid in the chicken’s growing process. Then these birds are killed when they are 4-6 weeks old, which is long before they have been given time to mature. Factory farms are not only for chickens, in fact almost all the meat bought from Safeway, CVS, or Stop&Shop are raised in factory farms and even the organic foods are bred to grow unnaturally fast (but raised organically, without growth hormones). Within our essay we bring to the front the shame that we, as consumers, should feel from what we eat and how we do nothing about it.
John Foer’s book, Eating Animals, is what really got me interested in the food industry because he brought to light the what the food companies did not want us to know and what exactly we are putting into our bodies. I found myself really agreeing with Foer when he said,
It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals. (Eating Animals, John Foer)
Although this is merely putting the blame on something bigger than the average consumer, I am of the belief that factory farms are not only bad for the animals, but also for the consumers and because one consumer alone cannot change the way these farms work, we should give the responsibility to change the meat industry to those who can, which is in this case the government. I feel shameful for putting all of the responsibility on one group of people but before this class I had never heard of factory farms, and when the general public does not know where their food is coming from and what is inside of the meats they eat, somebody somewhere is doing it wrong.
My problem with the food companies today is not that they are inhumanely treating animals, it is that they are trying their best to hide it. They have to hide the fact that they are treating animals like shit because they know for a fact that it is wrong; however, as long as the farms make them, food companies like Tyson and Purdue to name a few, a lot more money than they are putting into the farms. These companies are not thinking of their customers at all, instead they are only thinking of ways to make more money. If the word of how these companies are strangling their farmers with debt and forcing them to treat their animals this way, then we as a people and as a country would act in order to abolish this way of farming. We would, in turn, become a healthier country and we would be able to live without the shame of knowing how poorly our food is being treated.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating animals. Penguin UK, 2010.
Leither, Nicholas. “Tastes Like Chicken: Farms with Glass Walls.” Tense Present. SCU CTW2 Class 11:45, 30 May 2014. Web. 13 June 2014.