In general, I'm a healthy eater and always have been. I love junk food as much as most people, but more often than not you'll find me munching on veggies and hummus or apple slices and cheese. I purchase most of my food on the outside aisles of the grocery store, frequent my local farmers market, buy organic when I can afford it, and stay away from high fructose corn syrup and anything that's partially hydrogenated.
But I eat meat, most of which is not organic. I try to buy hormone free dairy and eggs, but not always. Buying locally at this latitude is extremely limiting for 8-9 months out of the year. And every once in awhile, I love me some Top Ramen, Kraft Mac & Cheese and Oreo cookies.
So what was it about this movie that affected me so much? Here are a few key points:
- First and foremost, the inhumane treatment of animals. It's so easy to separate ourselves from what goes on at those slaughter farms, and I'm not just talking about the slaughter itself. It's the way they're raised, standing in their own shit their entire life and being fed CORN. I don't care how cheap it is or how fast it fattens them up, cows cannot digest corn. All the E. coli outbreaks in the last 15 years? A direct result of feeding corn to cows. And apparently farmed fish eat corn now, too. 'Cause that's logical. All that corn that grows in the OCEAN. Luckily I don't eat farmed fish since it's basically the most toxic substance you can put in your body, second to botulism. Anyway...
- The inhumane treatment and exploitation of farm and factory workers. It's like we're back in the days of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle". Conditions are horrible, hours are long and pay is meager, at best.
- The soybean industry. This was one of the most heartbreaking parts of the movie. The movie discusses the Monsanto company, which has a patent on Genetically Modified seeds. They also happen to produce around 95% of the soybean crop in the U.S. Oh, and they're pure evil. Farmers who grow soybeans have been put out of business because they refuse to grow the GMOs. And those who want to keep their farms are basically a slave to Monsanto. Now, I don't eat a lot of soy because I don't care for tofu, I don't like soy milk and I don't like the idea of putting all those phyto-estrogens in my body. I have enough regular estrogen coursing through my body, thankyouverymuch. But I like soy sauce, I LOVE edamame, and most packaged foods have some sort of soy in them, even if it's one of the last ingredients.
- Chemicals and pesticides. Most of the non-organic ground meat in the U.S. contains a filler that is treated with ammonia. AMMONIA! I don't even like to clean my bathroom with ammonia, let alone EAT IT. The pesticides used on many of our crops are linked to all kinds of health problems, including ADHD in children and certain types of cancers. They also throw off the natural symbiotic relationships that occur in nature, eventually increasing the amount of bugs on the crops, which increases the amount of pesticides that are needed to rid the crops of the bugs, and it's all one big, vicious cycle.
- Environment. All of these factories that grow and produce our food are typically hundreds of miles away from where most of us live. The factories themselves produce horrendous amounts of waste, not to mention the emissions that are created from the transport of our food to where we live. This is why it is so key to support local growers. It keeps greenhouse gasses down and supports/boosts your local economy!
The movie delves much deeper into the above issues, as well as several others that are just as important. Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan *, and all those involved with making this film have made their life's work out of spreading these messages. We need to help them.
What changes have I made since seeing this film?
- The Scientist and I have decided to cut waaaaaay back on our meat intake. We're sticking to the Weekday Veg (more like Weekday Pescatarian, since we do eat a lot of fish) lifestyle. And when we do eat meat, we'll stick to organic, grass-fed, free range, and all that good stuff. This is a huge step for me, the gal who loves her beef. The gal who would eat a steak every damn day if she could. The gal who *used to* shout from the hilltops "I WILL NEVER BE A VEGETARIAN!" Never say never, people. While I have not committed fully to being 100% vegetarian, I have only eaten meat once since we saw the film and I'm not missing it all that much.
- We are making a concerted effort to buy locally whenever possible. We've hit up our local farmers market (it's still a bit early for all the really good stuff), buy fresh honey and eggs from people down the street and we're considering having a CSA (community supported agriculture) box delivered twice a month. I used to get one from Full Circle Farm when I lived alone, but found I couldn't go through the whole small box on my own before some of it went bad. But with two of us, it's totally doable. When we can't get food grown in our own state, we're trying to find it close as possible (buying produce from California instead of all the way from South America, for example).
- Buying organic. This doesn't just include food. I'm talking cleaning products, items for the home such as linens, clothing, etc. It's not always easy or affordable, but making little changes here and there can make a big difference.
- Buying FRESH. I always try to stay away from processed and packaged foods as much as possible, but I like the convenience of opening a can of soup when I want something quick to eat, and I love all the delightful packaged meals that Trader Joe's has to offer. But I want to get in the habit of eating more real, fresh, whole foods. It's better for my body and better for the earth.
- And last, but certainly not least, we have put our kitties on a different diet. One of our cats is a barfer. He barfs on a daily, sometimes twice daily basis. He's been to the vet. He's had blood work done. IBS and other issues have been ruled out. He's been on a sensitive stomach diet. He's been on a strictly wet food diet. Nothing works and he is skinny as a rail (still feisty as ever, though). I've always fed my cats "healthy, natural" food from the natural pet food store and have felt pretty good about it. But even in these so-called healthy foods, the second or third damn ingredient in all of them is CORN. When was the last time you saw a cat wandering through a corn field, snackin' on the kernels? Yeah, same here. Since this film, our cats have been on a corn, wheat and soy free diet (the food we found also happens to be cheaper than what I was feeding them. WIN.) and guess what? No barf in 2 weeks. Go figure.
Have you seen this movie? How did it affect you? What kinds of changes have you made as a result? If you haven't seen the movie, I urge you to watch it immediately and I challenge you to make one small change in how you view your food!
If you're interested in talking more about this, I'd love to hear your thoughts! I always enjoy discussion about food, nutrition, sustainable living, etc.
*My aunt is good friends and colleagues with Michael Pollan. Greatest dinner party guest ever? I'm thinking yes.