food politics

Food Politics

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Michael Pollan chimes in on the healthcare debate. Bringing attention to the elephant in the room, he says there’s a disconnect between two very related industries: food and healthcare. When three-quarters of heathcare spending goes to “preventable chronic disease” linked to diet, according to the Center for Disease Control, you’d think someone would connect the dots.

Right now there’s a lot contributing to the political hairball that is the food industry, but he says it may not always be that way, especially if the rules change on insurance companies. Without the option of dropping clients based on a “pre-existing condition,” there’s new incentive to prevent costly diseases and keep clients healthier. And as Pollan says, “Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.” It’s that shift that will get the ball rolling on food industry reform. And from there we can really start talking about solving our health care crisis.

Read the full NYT article.

For more from Pollan, check out his 2008 open letter to Obama about proposing a new post: Farmer in Chief.

media, news

TIME Magazine: Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Americans now spend less on food than ever before. According to the USDA, less than 10 percent of our income is spent at the grocery store. We’ve come to expect cheap meals. But, we’re paying the difference in other places, like with health-care bills and damage to the environment. This week’s cover story in Time Magazine sums it up….

“Once you factor in crop subsidies, ecological damage and what we pay in health-care bills after our fatty, sugary diet makes us sick, conventionally produced food looks a lot pricier.”

You can get a burger, fries and a Coke for right under $5. I paid about that much last night for a head of broccoli. Bad-for-you calories cost less than good-for-you calories. We know this. And it’s no wonder America has a weight problem. But it’s not just our personal food choices that are to blame. When you look at what goes into making that $5 meal, it’s even worse.

Corn is the staple of everything on that value menu, from the corn syrup in the Coke, to the oil the fries are cooked in, to the feed the cow eats. That’s because corn is super cheap to grow thanks to government subsidies. Annually farmers produce 12 billion bushels of corn – four times what they did in the 70s – to feed our food supply. Corn itself is not bad, but with the chemicals necessary to produce such a mass crop, the rate at which Americans are consuming it, and what we’re now not eating instead, it’s simply unnatural.

Cheap corn has kept meat prices low while demand has sky rocketed. It’s the diet of farmed animals (even fish), never mind that cows and chickens are meant to eat grass. Details. The animals live in wall-to-wall packed CAFOs (concentrated-animal feeding operations) and they’re pumped full of antibiotics to keep the waste and bacteria from killing them. All of that gets packaged up with the meat. And it’s sold at $2 a pound on a shelf near you.

Angry? Then you should probably read the article.


Is organic really better?

Researchers in London report that organic foods have no nutritional or health benefits over conventional foods. (See the journalist in me telling both sides of the story?)

I can see this … I mean, an apple, is an apple, is an apple.

If you’re only comparing the amount of fiber, calories and vitamin C in the fruit, then yes, I guess an organic and conventional apple may have the same nutrition facts. But what this study isn’t looking at is:  What else is on that apple?

That’s the important question when it comes to choosing organic versus conventional. And all the other stuff (pesticides, chemicals, growth hormones, etc.) that’s on that apple – how do those things affect our overall health?


Speaking of E. coli…

In the news yesterday, the U.S. House defeats sweeping reform of food safety.

Not saying they should have passed that bill, but maybe they’ll get it right one of these days….


An N.F.L. Shaman?

Ricky Williams has turned over a new leaf. After traveling the world, getting lost at an ashram, and “feeling the healing powers of touch” following a football injury, Williams is interested in pursuing a profession in healing.

He’s studying shiatsu massage and plans to get a degree in premed and then go on to do graduate work in osteopathy. According to the NYT:  “He envisions becoming something like an N.F.L. shaman, responsible to a team or players for a holistic approach — body, mind, soul — to healing.”

A long way from his days as a self-proclaimed “poster child for marijuana.”

Here’s what he has to say about N.F.L. teams and chainging their appraoch to healing….

“I mean, it needs to happen. It needs to happen. Because when you get hurt as a football player, there’s such a huge emotional component to it. Because it’s your livelihood. It’s your job. And I’ve seen so many guys who aren’t able to get over the emotional part of it, and they weren’t able to get better, and they ended up losing their jobs.”