Have you seen the documentary King Corn? I heard about it yesterday, so downloaded it from iTunes for $2.99 for the day’s rental.
“Corn-fed beef” sounds wholesome, doesn’t it? Are you aware the corn they are fed is inedible? If it’s industrial corn, as raised in Iowa, it’s a product not designed or grown for human food. It is grown for yield, because the U.S. government pays farmers per bushel. Farmers don’t grow the corn for the money they make selling it. They grow it for the subsidies. When this program came to be in 1973, uses had to be found for the excess corn–mountains and mountains of it you’ll see in the film.
About a third of it goes to ethanol production. The rest goes into the American diet, into thousands of processes and food additives. I cannot speak for all corn, because I’ve seen only one film on it. This is about the corn grown in the town they farmed in.
The documentary was made because two recent college grads learned they were among the first generation in history who would not live as long as their parents. They sought to find out why. Hair analysis showed they were 25% corn, so they threw themselves into learning about corn. They became farmers. They talked to executives and professors and Earl Butz, the Secretary of Agriculture during the Nixon administration. It was Butz who masterminded subsidies for production rather than for not planting more than could be used.
The subsidies created such excess, people had to find uses for the corn or be buried under it! A huge percentage of corn production goes to livestock feed: beef, pork, chicken. Did you know cows cannot live past six months old on the corn diet they are fed? They have to be given low-dose antibiotics to keep them well till they are slaughtered. Ranchers count days cattle are on a corn diet…and in pens because they gain weight faster when they can’t move. Duh! Eating these animals is one way we ourselves become corn-fed.
The other is high fructose corn syrup (HFSC), an additive for most sodas and fruit juices. It’s sweeter than sugar, so less can be used, plus it’s cheaper to produce. Why shouldn’t it be? It was never a food! See how hard you have to look to find a salad dressing, catsup, mayonnaise, candy or cookie, or any low-fat manufactured food, that doesn’t have HFCS or some other derivative of industrial corn.
The Accidental Hedonist is building a comprehensive list of foods containing HFCS. I’m horrified to see pediatric cough syrup on the list. I’ll write a fuller indictment of HFCS and why it should not be in our diets – at all – in the future.
Meanwhile, just from the meat perespective, if the animals fed corn cannot survive on it, what makes you think you and your children can?
Write your legislative representatives. Also write to eating better champion Michelle Obama. Address her like this: Dear First Lady. Mail it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington DC 20500.
I heard a line in the film that I intend to use in my letters: “We subsidize Happy Meals but not healthy meals.” (OK, that should be healthful, but it’s not quite as catchy.) Ask your representative, and the president as well, to make changes to the Farm Bill so that nutritionally dense foods, not corn that’s causing epidemic diabetes, get subsidies, or no subsidies at all.
Farmers say they’ll grow what we want to eat. Eat naturally, eat locally, and if you eat meat, buy grass fed. You’ll pay more for the steak, but less for your healthcare!