Week 1 – American Food System

After reading the articles for this week; The 20th Century Transformation of US AgricultureAmerica’s Dysfunctional Relationship with Food and Corporatization of the American Food System it is clearer to me that the entire food system of  America is a business. America’s food system does no exist to provide nutritious food to its nationals (and international markets).

We take a gamble with our lives every time we take a bite of food grown in the US. As city dwellers, we do not know **exactly** where our food is coming from. We were trained to read labels and trust that the manufacturer has our best interest at heart –  ignorant of the fact that we are being duped. No longer does our food come from farmers or butchers — it comes from manufactures.

definition:

farming: the activity or business of growing crops and raising livestock.

farm: to make one’s living by growing crops or keeping livestock.

animal husbandry: the science of breeding and caring for farm animals.

butcher: a person whose trade is cutting up and selling meat in a shop.

Manufacturing: make (something) on a large scale using machinery.

The personal relationship to food is gone! Do most New Yorkers even know where the water in our taps come from?! When did we become so complacent? When did we decide to place our lives in the hands of economists, businessmen and advertisers?

As someone who has studied economics, both macro and micro, I do not understand how a country (and this is not just applicable to the USA) could devise a food system plan that essentially cripples its citizens. The only part of this economic policy that ‘works’ is economies of scale – make it large, produce a lot and watch the profits increase as the cost to produce units decrease. The approach to agriculture in this instance is one sided. Big agri as devised by the government benefits only the producer. When formulating policies, governments should ensure balance. They should ensure that the farmers are capable and successful, the product is stellar and that the consumer gets nutritious quality foods. The health of the nation is the government’s responsibility. The US government has allowed for ignorance in farming, overproduction, undernourishment and bamboozling of a population. No, the US government is not working for you – or me.

It is becoming more apparent to me that this is a culture that generally does not respect the knowledge of ancestors nor the past: how to grow food, when to grow it, respecting the earth, respecting the environment and caring about future generations. These are concepts that many have turned away from. If you know better, you should do better, right? This is what has worked for generations. The conglomerates don’t care that there is fallout as a result of the manufacturing, that the products they tell us we need are not good for us – they are profit driven.

I am sickened by the fact that a famous chef or a popular trend dictates what we can access in our supermarkets. I am ashamed by the fact that I do not know where my food originates from. I am annoyed by the fact that I can’t grow my own food. The more I think of it, the more the life of a nomad living in the hills with my own garden, isolated from the matrix sounds like heaven.

4 thoughts on “Week 1 – American Food System”

  1. “It is becoming more apparent to me that this is a culture that generally does not respect the knowledge of ancestors nor the past”

    Yeah! maybe it’s partly because we’re a country of people who came from somewhere else, leaving behind an old way of life that we didn’t want?

  2. “Sickened by the fact that a famous chef or popular trend dictates what we can access in our supermarkets”. I never thought of it like that, just that it was a fact-but that is a troubling fact! It takes vigilance but you can get more of a glimpse into there your food comes from by eating and buying from the types of places that make it their “business” to provide that information. It is really amazing the difference it could make if the government were to operate from the principle that “good food” is an inalienable right. There are other countries that operate form that principle (I believe Denmark is one) and they tend to be small, but it makes a big difference in their food supply. Thanks for the honest post!

  3. This is a great post Nikita – thoughtful and honest and a very interesting perspective from an economic viewpoint – but also from someone from another country.

    I love that you included definitions – i cannot stress how important this process is in understanding the scale and scope of these problems. By doing this you help to ground the unwieldy into something concrete – and from there it becomes a place to analyze and digest this information. Excellent work.

    You should check out the research and writings of Carolyn Dimitri in the Food Studies program – she has just finished a book on the Economics of the Food System. She’s awesome.

    http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty/Carolyn_Dimitri

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