It should be no surprise to most people that our global industrial food system is not a sustainable one. Factory farms and corporations producing fast, frozen, cheap food are utilizing an enormous amount of our natural resources. It’s documented, it’s proven. What’s still being questioned is if there is an alternative way to “feed the world.”
But maybe the focus shouldn’t be on whether we can feed the world without doing what we’re currently doing. Maybe we should focus on exactly what we are feeding the world.
Recently, IKEA – the Swedish furniture superstore – announced a giant recall of frozen meatballs from their stores abroad because they were found to contain horse meat. Now, in many countries, that’s really not that big of a deal. Many cultures have eaten horse meat for centuries just as we eat cows, chickens and pigs. What the recall was over was disclosure. Customers were unaware they were buying horse meat. Then, two weeks later, IKEA had to issue another recall for frozen chocolate-almond cake. Why? It contained, gulp, fecal matter. Yeah, that’s really not an issue of disclosure … that’s just gross.
And that’s the result of our industrial food chain. There are so many hands and equipment, ingredients and packaging involved with these quick and easy meals, contaimination is bound to happen along the way. But isn’t the real issue whether or not this stuff even qualifies as food?
Cindy Hoedel of the Kansas City Star recently wrote an article titled, “There’s No Mystery to My Meatballs.” It’s a quick read, but the best point she makes is this:
“I’d sooner eat 100-percent horse meat than a Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco with the company’s proprietary ‘taco meat filling,’ which contains 33 ingredients including cellulose (wood pulp or other plant fibers), according to the company’s own label.
My taco meat filling is 100-percent ground chuck with chipotle powder, ground cumin and salt.”
And, that truly is the point. How can we hope to sustain the human race when we are feeding ourselves with ingredients that aren’t intended to be food? How can we justify the cheap price of meat in general when it comes at the expense of our planet? What happened to the days of the Sunday night dinner that included a special whole chicken roasted for the family, rather than frozen chicken nuggets every night? The more accessible this junky “food” is, the more our planet is going to suffer for it. And that’s not sustainable for our planet or our health.