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The Omnivore's Dilemma
Transcript of The Omnivore's Dilemma
Part 1: The Industrial Meal:
Food from Corn
design by Dóri Sirály for Prezi
A large part of the items we see at the grocery store are made of corn.
Most meat is a large part corn- it feeds the pigs, cows, chickens, etc. whose flesh is eaten by humans on a daily basis.
Sodas have been sweetened by corn since the 1980s.
More than a quarter of the 45,000 items in the average grocery store contain corn.
Because of corn’s amazing adaptability as a plant, it became the “king” of the American food chain.
Most corn is eaten indirectly, in contrast to the amount of corn directly eaten in Mexico
Corn originated in Central America as a wild grass called teosinte.
It evolved and beat out its main competitor, wheat.
Corn is controlled by vast agricultural businesses, or agribusinesses.
To discover how corn began to dominate the American food, we need to travel to where it is grown: the corn fields of Iowa.
From Farm to Factory and The Grain Elevator
Turning Bombs into Fertilizer
Provides farmers with new seeds, tools, and fertilizer to grow corn
Needs cheap corn from which it makes processed foods and hundreds of other products
Depends on government regulations and tax payers' money
Huge weapons plant in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, switched over to making a chemical formula
Human beings are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat. But there are also two other "eating groups" besides omnivore. Among them are carnivore meaning they only eat meat and herbivore meaning they only eat plants.
Most animals get all their nutrients from only one type of food such as the koala and the eucalyptus tree.
Humans cannot get all their needed nutrients from one food. For instance, we need vitamin C which comes from plants and vitamin B-12 which comes from animals.
CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are densely packed feedlots used to raise cattle in preparation for slaughter. They are also one of the main reasons meat is so cheap.
Throughout time, cows have evolved to eat grass. Only certain animals, such as cattle and bison, can consume grass.
In preparation for the feedlot life, cows are "bunk-broken," where they learn to eat from a trough and are trained to eat corn instead of grass.
When a cow first comes into the feedlot, it is given hay for a few days. This is because a cow can lose up to one-hundred pounds in transportation to a CAFO.
Corn usually makes cows sick, due to their second stomach, the rumen. The rumen contains bacteria that breaks down the wall of the grass, allowing the cow to get the protein and carbohydrates inside of grass. Instead of being fed grass, they are fed corn so they can grow faster. This makes the cows sick, since the rumens aren't made to digest corn.
Beef is one of the most expensive meats on the market because seven pounds of corn is needed to make one pound of beef.
Made from Corn
WHOLE CORN PRODUCTS
Whole Corn Products
-cob and kernel:
food and industrial uses
-cob or stover
-whole kernel products
food and feed uses
food and industrial uses
food and industrial uses
pharmaceutical/food and industrial uses
industrial feed uses
food and industrial uses
food, industrial, and pharmaceutical cosmetic uses
food/pharmaceutical and industrial uses
food/food and industrial/fuel uses
We visit the farm of George Naylor, a typical Iowa farmer
The average farmer grows food for 140 other people
Before the 1930s, farmers used their own seeds. In the 1930s, seed companies came up with their own seed- hybrid corn.
A hybrid is a plant or animal whose parents have different traits
Hybrid corn plants are disease resistant and produce lots of corn.
Hybrid corn quadrupled the yields of farmers from 20 bushels per acre to 80 bushels per acre (a bushel is 56 pounds of kernels)
All first generation hybrid plants will be identicaland produce the same yield, but most second generation crops will differ and produce different amounts of corn> Because of this, farmers have to buy new hybrid seeds every year.
Seed companies now have created GMOs, or genetically modified corn. They add DNA from different species to the corn, such as bacteria and other organisms, giving it even higher yields than hybrid seeds.
Different varieties of GMOs or types of corn can be patented by various companies. Companies can charge farmers for the right to grow "their" GMO.
The diversity, or number of different crops grown, has decreased on Iowa farms. This means that the farms' entire livlihood is dependent on corn.
It became cheaper for cattle, pigs, and chickens to become corn-fed, so corn became the main feed for livestock. Large pastures weren’t needed anymore because the animals did not eat grass. They were replaced with feedlots.
The population of many Iowa farming towns has decreased due to the minimal amount of people needed to grow its two main crops: soybeans and corn
Main ingredient, ammonium nitrate, is an excellent source of nitrogen
After World War II, there was a surplus of ammonium nitrate
Spray it on forests to help out the timber industry
Spread ammonium nitrate on farmlands as fertilizer
These ideas helped launch the chemical fertilizer industry and started the pesticide industry
The Modern Omnivore
In the past millenniums, many food cultures all around the world have been established.
We learned what was good and bad for you and what to cook and what not to cook.
You also had a culture to fall back on, you ate what your past generations had eaten.
This is one way to solve the omnivore's dilemma.
Now the modern omnivore has no culture to fall back on, we don't know what is good or bad and most of the time we have no idea what we are eating.
The Omnivore's Brain
We as humans have evolved to fit our culture as omnivores. We can bite like carnivores and chew like herbivores.
We are a lot like rats because we can eat just about anything.
That is why the human brain is larger than the majority of the animals in the animal kingdom. This is due to the fact that we have to think about what to eat and how to eat it.
Also our tastebuds adapt, the four tastes: sweet, bitter, salty, and sour are what our tongue detects whenever we put food into our mouths.
But there is one more that has been discovered by new research, "umami" which means savory in Japanese.
Rats on the other hand solve the omnivore's dilemma by tasting small bits of food.
That is why it is so hard to kill a rat because the taste of rat poison that they take is not large enough to kill them
The U.S has never had stable food culture.
We follow the advice of food scientists that are "experts" in the field.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg is one example of those "experts" he ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan.
He had many crazy ideas that people payed good money for. One of which was an enema, which cleansed the bowels which eventually made you more healthy in the long run
. Also fletcherizing was another food fad which was the act of chewing on one piece of food over 100 times to prevent choking and to speed up the digestive track.
While the U.S just relies on experts for their food advice, the "no fad" French have been doing the same thing for a very long time.
They eat long meals and do not have snacks, they eat their meals with family and eat every last bite.
They also enjoy their food and have long meals with friends and or family.
In America most food is made to be eaten on the go and only 47% of American families eat together.
The Author takes his family to McDonald's with his wife and his 11 year old son Isaac.
Mrs. Pollan being a big health freak, freaked out when she saw what was available until Isaac reminds her that she could get a salad.
Marketers know that having healthy items will get the health conscious parents to take their kids to fast food restaurants without worry about what they will eat.
The family decided to eat their meal in the car where 19% of American meals are eaten.
The author and his son ordered chicken nuggets and a burger.
The chicken nugget was invented in 1983 by Tyson and since then has been one of the most popular meals in America.
Of the 38 ingredients used to make chicken nuggets 13 are from corn including chicken itself which is corn fed.
3 1/2 pounds of corn were in the families meal 2 pounds from the burger, 1/2 from the nuggets, and 1 pound from the high fructose corn syrup in the drinks.
Using a spectrometer which looks at the amount of carbon in food to tell how much corn is in it, Pollan also found that Soda is 100% corn, a milkshake is 78%, salad dressing consists of 65%, chicken nuggets 56%, a cheeseburger 52%, and French fries with 23%.
This springs up a question why don't we praise corn such as the Aztecs once did. If you think about it we already sacrifice greatly to it by filling up our farmland with nothing but corn and filling up our stomach with nothing but products with corn products or corn fed animals.
Corn is everywhere.
There Goes the Sun
Before farmers bought nitrogen
Farms' nitrogen had been recycled in a natural loop
Legumes used the sun's energy to fix nitrogen in the soil
Other plants used nitrogen to grow
Animals ate the plants
Farmers recycled the nitrogen by spreading the animals' manure on the soil
Farmers buy nitrogen
Nitrogen for the fields is made with fossil fuels
Farming became similar to a factory
Farmers bought raw materials (seeds and fertilizer) and turned it into a finished product (corn).
No need for legumes
Animals and pastures are eliminated
Became like a factory- producing 1-2 products
Powered by fossil fuels
Every bushel of corn from the industrial farm requires about 1/2 gallon of oil to grow
Farmers buy more nitrogen than they need
evaporates into air, which creates acid rain
seeps into the ground
carried, by spring water, into drainage ditches, then into bodies of water
turns into nitrous oxide, which increases global warming
Rich Fields, Poor Farmers
Agribusiness companies make billions in profit
American farmers do not get rich
Why are American farmers broke?
Corn price is kept down by governmental policies
Keeps demand for corn high
In the US, the price of corn is less than the cost of producing the corn
Naylor's cost is $2.50 to grow corn and the price to buy is $1.45
Subsidies pay American farmers, like Naylor, the difference
Subsidies keep the corn and soybean prices low
Subsidies are only given to corn
Price of corn decreases
Farmers grow more corn
Farmers boost their yield per acre
Farmers start to use hybrids, GMO seeds, rent farmland, or fertilizers
Bigger farms begin to form
More fertilizer pollution
More corn is produced
The High Price of Cheap Corn
Before farmers bought their own nitrogen and only grew one or two crops, the government policies were much different (1970s)
Prices were low
Government gave loans to farmers
Farmers could store crops
Kept product off the market
Prices were high
Government sold crops from storehouses
This put extra grain on the market
Kept the prices low
Agribusiness, Government, and Corn
Since the end of the past process (1970), the prices have been decreasing
The farm policies are now written by agribusiness
The policies are not designed to help farmers
Low corn prices drive farms to become large industrial farms
The policies help corn to take over land, food, industry, and our bodies
Food on the Ground
Grain elevators are tall, hollow tubes like silos
Usually have corn piles on the ground beside them
"Number 2 field corn" are the raw materials used to make beef, chicken, high fructose corn syrup, or maltodextrin
Corn the Commodity
Before railroads, people where able to identify were their food was from
Since the grain elevator makes it easier to break corn into kernels and pump it into the railroad cars, it is nearly impossible to identify where your food is from
Chicago Board of Trade created a category called number 2 field corn
All number 2 field corn is equal
The River of Corn
American farmers produce 13 billion bushels of corn a year
Supply is typically greater than the demand
Corn is used
For new processed foods
To feed animals that have never eaten corn
ADM and Cargill guide corn's path
They sell pesticides and fertilizers to farmers
They operate most of America's grain elevator
They ship most of the corn exported to other countries
They mill the corn into its different parts to be used in processed foods
They slaughter the corn-fattened cows
They write many of the rules that govern this whole "game"
They are almost invisible due to the fact they don't advertise or cooperate with journalists
Ninety Thousand Kernels
One bushel holds about 90,000 kernels
Bushels can be from many different farms that grew the corn differently
Factories take corn and turn it into meat
Cows are forced to eat corn
6% other processed foods
47% animal feed
Chapters 6 & 7:
Processed Food & Fat from Corn
1/10 of US corn crop is turned into processed food
Making processed food takes corn through the "wet-mill"- factory that turns corn mainly into liquids and syrups
called the industrial digestive system
Reduces corn to simple molecules (mostly sugars)
yellow skin and pericap
make up bran
soaked in slightly acidic bath for 36 hours before used
squeezed for oil
biggest part that has carbohydrates
Corn to Sugar:
Corn Industry with Farmers:
Cornstarch is used for practically all uses, from cooking to laundry
In 1866, cornstarch is turned to glucose
not as sweet as table sugar, but much cheaper
In 1960, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is created as a blend of 55% fructose and 45% glucose with the same sweetness as table sugar
Today, HFCS is the biggest food output of wet-mills
Food companies who use any processed corn product makes more money off the corn in their food than the farmer
Selling whole food corn products are better for the farmer because they make more money
An average human can only eat about fifteen hundred pounds of food each year
The demand for food rises as population rises (1% each year)
Food companies try to get people to spend more money on the same food or try to get us to eat more
The more a food is processed, the more a company can charge for it
Consumers will only pay so much for an ear of corn
By changing the shape, sweetening, and coloring the corn, companies "add value"
Companies also falsely advertise their products to be healthier, natural, or better than another brand
Inventors have created a form of corn you can't digest: resistant starch
It cannot be digested, so it slips straight through the digestive track
Resistant starch may seem like a bad thing, but it has overcome the natural limit of what humans can eat
This food is corn's final victory: it has succeeded at being of no use at all to humans
Putting on Pounds
The Sweet Tooth
Every 3 of 5 Americans are overweight
About 17% of all children (6-19) are overweight
Because of obesity problems, kids lifespan are calculated to be shorter than their parents
Fast-food advertising encourages us to eat supersized meals- cheaper to eat high calorie, fatty, processed, corn filled foods than whole foods
When food is abundant and cheap, people will eat more of it
Since 1977, the daily calorie intake for the average American has increase 10%
And we aren't exercising, so those extra calories are stored in our bodies as fat cells
Most of this fat is coming from HFCS
As HFCS is put in more products, it increases in our diet
Humans have a natural sweet tooth because before food was readily available to us, humans at sweet foods because they contained the carbs needed to burn through exercise
Since HFCS is so cheap,companies can add more of it to their products and create larger portions for the same price to manufacture them, then sell them for a higher price
The original supersizing was created so people can eat more of what they love without going back for seconds and feeling like pigs
Once McDonalds approved supersizing, people starting eating up to 30% more food in larger portions
The "sweet tooth concept" applies to eating larger portions
Fast-food restaurants started taking advantage of our human instincts to eat more food and pushed our evolution buttons
Eating cheap fat food hit the poor people the hardest
Since the foods with more fat were cheaper, they were more affordable to people with less money
Since these sweeter foods are desired by instinct, humans are buying cheap calories and King Corn wins again.
Once again, the brain struggles over eating what is right and what is wanted, normally letting the better sounding option win and the omnivore's dilemma grow bigger everyday
Corn was first domesticated in the early Middle Ages by Native Americans, such as the Mayans and Native Americans from modern-day Canada.
When the Europeans arrived in America, they embraced corn. Since it provided many more kernels than wheat provided grains, the Europeans adopted it. Those Colonists who didn't grow corn often did not have enough to eat and died.
By way of the European colonization and expedition, corn spread to the rest of the world.
The Evolution of Corn
Unusual things made with corn:
How corn helped the colonists
ground into flour
fermented into whiskey
husks could be rugs and twine
shelled cobs could be used as toilet paper!
It could be used as: