Friday, August 26, 2011
As Far As the Eye Can See
I've finished Part I: Industrial: Corn, of The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.
[Corn credits: endless corn, via Celsius.com, Doug Snodgrass;
Corn up close, via Wikipedia, Christian Fischer, ZeaMays]
I told you there would be more corn before this weekend's Sweet Corn Blue Festival! And this is indeed sweet corn we'll be eating in the street while listening to sweet blues. Pollan's opening section was on "industrial" corn, the agribusiness of corn, feed corn, field corn.
I was sad when the calf Pollan was tracking had to leave his mother. Remember Dumbo?! Yes, even some feedlot-destined cattle get to spend the first year eating grass with their mothers. But then off they go to eat corn and antibiotics instead of grass. Antibiotics because they stand close together and on manure, which has a lot of bacteria in it.
"Hell," said Dr. Mel, the vet, "if you gave them lots of grass and space, I'd be out of a job."
"Growing corn and nothing but corn has also exacted a toll on the farmer's soil, the quality of the local water and the overall health of his community, the biodiversity of his landscape, and the health of all the creatures living on or downstream from it." That phrase, "living downstream," made me look in the back of the book--index, notes, and sources--for Sandra Steingraber. Though I did not find her book Living Downstream there, Steingraber and Pollan must be fully aware of each other's work, as both are interested in health, ecology, and the environment, and in the we-are-what-we-eat (drink, and breathe) dilemma.
I did find Ruth L. Ozeki's book My Year of Meats, which Pollan calls a "[v]ery funny, well-researched novel about the U.S. meat industry." I agree.
And I'm old enough to remember the "Where's the beef?" commercial.
Where's the beef? In the feedlot, eating corn.