This time last week Americans were busy planning menus, researching recipes, polishing the good silver, and picking up all of the canned cranberry sauce they could get their hands on. Chefs young and old were also focus on Thanksgiving’s center piece – the Turkey. Though the focus of Thanksgiving, many do not think about the business of getting their food on the table and where that Turkey came from.
The truth is that Thanksgiving is big business. And that that business is somewhat disturbing.
Big business has taken over the agricultural industry as factory farming has become the standard of the modern age. Raised in half the time to be double the size, animals are pumped full of growth hormones to the point that the modern chicken can neither walk nor fly. Because Americans prefer to eat white meat the fowl’s breast have been engineered to be unnaturally large. It is too breast heavy and is only able to walk a few steps before falling forward. This results in bed sores all over their bodies from having to lie in one place.
Not that their inability to walk matters much. Chickens and turkeys who are raised on industrial farms are so tightly packed together that each bird has a space the size of a standard piece of paper to live on. This is not enough room to even spread their wings. At the same time, a bird raised for slaughter will never see the light of day as the new coop styles have no windows.
The ability for the agricultural industries to have created such a level of disconnect between consumers and the food industry is due in large part to the control and corruption of information. Just as the railroad industry was able to control information a century earlier, the food industry has pursued the same tactics to increase their power.
There is a form of insider trading when it comes to the food industry. The governmental bodies which are meant to protect the interests of the American people are really just the stomping grounds of the former agricultural execs. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations saw the appointment of former and current board members for high powered agricultural businesses, such as Monsanto, to offices of the FDA and EPA – the organizations meant to regulate those very industries. For example, Margaret Miller, former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, was appointed Deputy Director of the FDA for the Clinton administration. The regulatory power of these governmental organizations is increasingly toothless.
At the same time as the food lobby cozies up to politicians, laws are being created which help business and not consumers. In 13 states it is against the law to publically call the sanitation and practices of the agricultural industry into question. With first amendment rights taken away through these ‘veggie libel’ laws in the most agriculturally dominate states – including Colorado, North Dakota, Texas, and Oklahoma – it is increasingly difficult to prosecute any wrong doing. These veggie libel laws are perhaps best known for the court case in which the cattle industry sued Oprah Winfrey for her on air statement that she would not be eating beef any more after learning factory farm cows were being fed ground beef. In this way the food industry is controlling what the public is able to learn about the system by limiting the possibility for exposes and law suits.
This system of self regulation, connection to the political system, and the system being increasingly dominated by a small group of corporations seems like something right out of the Gilded Age. A closed system with the public increasingly out of the loop combined with a tainted political process and lack of regulation is deplorable and something must be done for the inhumane and unhealthy products which we are buying off of our local grocers’ shelves. When left to their own devices we have seen that businesses will not act in the best interest of the consumer. Better business practices will not be obtained if they control the information.