Archive for the Freaky Food Category

Meat–A special of the Worldpresses

Posted in Environmental Concerns, Freaky Food, World Food on December 17, 2009 by alejandracuellar

Since the 1950’s global meat production has been on an increase. Production has risen from 44 million tons in 1950 to 253 million tons worldwide today. In 2003, the average person consumed 41 kilograms of meat, double the number of half a century ago.[1] The industrialization of meat production has permitted for a product that was once a considered a luxury for a majority of the population to become a daily commodity for many. In this essay the trends of the rise in meat consumption in developing Asian countries will be examined in light of recent concerns focused in that area. The rapid furthering of industrialization taking place in China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan has led to the urbanization that analysts argue leads to a rise in income and meat consumption.  The fear of growing meat consumption in industrializing countries is directed not just at growing consumption, but also and arguably more importantly, at the reproduction of Western and specifically American meat production methods.

The following posts will be an investigation of this phenomenon and my attempt to formulate solutions from a structuralist perspective.

[1] Lester R. Brown. Outgrowing the Earth: Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures. UK 2005 Bath Press Ltd, Bath


The Big Rise in Meat Consumption in East Asia and Why it Concerns Everyone

Posted in Environmental Concerns, Freaky Food, World Food on November 28, 2009 by alejandracuellar

This is a map that scales meat consumption globally. It shows that China consumes 25% of the world's meat while having 20% of the population

Amongst the growing list of environmental concerns, the rise of meat consumption in Asia is one that warrants attention. It is a phenomenon that could be easily explained by saying that as the Asian powers grow economically, so does their middle class, and so does the desire of the middle class to eat more meat. It is the inevitable trend of societies, a tragic but predictable outcome of wealth accumulation: people just want to eat more meat. This explanation is partly true, but partly and more importantly, it is overly simplistic and in being so, it ignores the golden glove of the global market.

Lester Brown, one of the founders of the Worldwatch institute put the complex relationship between growing wealth and growing desires well:

If industrialization is rapid, the loss of cropland quickly overrides the rise in land productivity, leading to a decline in grain production. The same industrialization that shrinks the cropland area also raises income, and with it the consumption of livestock products and the demand for grain. Ironically, the faster the industrialization proceeds, the more rapidly the gap widens between rising demand and falling production.

There is no better example than China to illustrate the reality of Brown’s words. Today China’s arable land is about 7% of its total land, and its population is 1.3 billion. Livestock, back when they still ate their natural diets would have required long stretches of land to feed off of. Since the industrial meat system cuts that part out of the equation and instead subjects animals to cage like spaces and uses grains and others to feed the animals, this is no longer a requirement. However, if China is to feed its growing population of animals, it will need to find this land elsewhere (i.e. look at the post on China’s land grabbing in Africa).

The point I want to stress about this issue is found between the tension of the consumer preference and the producer’s role. It is all too easy to remain oblivious to the role of the mega meat corporations in the global meat market and say that consumers are to blame for all of the market’s surges and plunges. People just want more meat again, is overly simplistic and it ignores the part that giant meat packaging companies have had on consumption. The aggressive tactics that have been utilized to open up Asian markets to American meat imports is appalling, in the past fifteen years, imports of not just meat, but the model for producing meat in the United States have been copious and unabashed.

In following posts, I will like to bring up several key points: the first will be the environmental impact of global meat consumption present and future, second I will trace the history of the big meat packing corporations (Tyson, Cargill, IBP, Smithfield), and third I will speak to the resistance in countries like South Korea against foreign meat imports.

Soy: 15 Myths and Facts to Blow your Mind

Posted in Environmental Concerns, Freaky Food, World Food on November 5, 2009 by alejandracuellar

Myth: Use of soy as a food dates back many thousands of years.

Truth: Soy was first used as a food during the late Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC), only after the Chinese learned to ferment soy beans to make foods liketempeh, natto and tamari.

Myth: Asians consume large amounts of soy foods.

Truth: Average consumption of soy foods in Japan and China is 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) per day. Asians consume soy foods in small amounts as a condiment, and not as a replacement for animal foods.

Myth: Modern soy foods confer the same health benefits as traditionally fermented soy foods.

Truth: Most modern soy foods are not fermented to neutralize toxins in soybeans, and are processed in a way that denatures proteins and increases levels of carcinogens.

Myth: Soy foods provide complete protein.

Truth: Like all legumes, soy beans are deficient in sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. In addition, modern processing denatures fragile lysine.

Myth: Fermented soy foods can provide vitamin B12 in vegetarian diets.

TruthThe compound that resembles vitamin B12 in soy cannot be used by the human body; in fact, soy foods cause the body to require more B12

Myth: Soy formula is safe for infants.

Truth: Soy foods contain trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors led to stunted growth and pancreatic disorders. Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D, needed for strong bones and normal growth. Phytic acid in soy foods results in reduced bioavailabilty of iron and zinc which are required for the health and development of the brain and nervous system. Soy also lacks cholesterol, likewise essential for the development of the brain and nervous system. Megadoses of phytoestrogens in soy formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys.

Myth: Soy foods can prevent osteoporosis.

Truth: Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, both needed for healthy bones. Calcium from bone broths and vitamin D from seafood, lard and organ meats prevent osteoporosis in Asian countries-not soy foods.

Myth: Modern soy foods protect against many types of cancer.

Truth: A British government report concluded that there is little evidence that soy foods protect against breast cancer or any other forms of cancer. In fact, soy foods may result in an increased risk of cancer.

Myth: Soy foods protect against heart disease.

Truth: In some people, consumption of soy foods will lower cholesterol, but there is no evidence that lowering cholesterol improves one’s risk of having heart disease.

Myth: Soy estrogens (isoflavones) are good for you.

Truth: Soy isoflavones are phyto-endocrine disrupters. At dietary levels, they can prevent ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Eating as little as 30 grams (about 4 tablespoons) of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms of lethargy, constipation, weight gain and fatigue.

Myth: Soy foods are safe and beneficial for women to use in their postmenopausal years.

Truth: Soy foods can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems. Low thyroid function is associated with difficulties in menopause.

Myth: Phytoestrogens in soy foods can enhance mental ability.

Truth: A recent study found that women with the highest levels of estrogen in their blood had the lowest levels of cognitive function; In Japanese Americans tofu consumption in mid-life is associated with the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease in later life.

Myth: Soy isoflavones and soy protein isolate have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.

Truth: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) recently withdrew its application to the FDA for GRAS status for soy isoflavones following an outpouring of protest from the scientific community. The FDA never approved GRAS status for soy protein isolate because of concern regarding the presence of toxins and carcinogens in processed soy.

Myth: Soy foods are good for your sex life.

Truth: Numerous animal studies show that soy foods cause infertility in animals. Soy consumption enhances hair growth in middle-aged men, indicating lowered testosterone levels. Japanese housewives feed tofu to their husbands frequently when they want to reduce his virility.

Myth: Soy beans are good for the environment.

Truth: Most soy beans grown in the US are genetically engineered to allow farmers to use large amounts of herbicides.

The World Food Climate: Rising Demand, Quitting Aid

Posted in Environmental Concerns, Freaky Food, World Food on October 13, 2009 by alejandracuellar

To put it simply, something big is going on in the world of food. There are a number of key factors playing a role in the food system:

Food prices rose at the beginning of the year sparking riots in Haiti, the Philippines, Egypt and other countries. Although prices have declined, there are still countries where prices remain high and are getting higher. Last month the UN said that the number of hungry people in the world had increased by more than 150 million in a single year to more than one billion.


Why did it happen?

There are a few reasons behind it: there are more people to feed, the rising middle class in China and India is eating more meat and dairy, global warming is causing desertification is many agricultural settings, and oil prices where higher at the beginning of the year making transportation more expensive.

Right now prices have become more affordable (but nor entirely and not everywhere by any means) because oil prices have fallen and harvests are expected to have better yields this year.

Now, to add on to the list, tens of millions of the world’s poor will have their food rations cut or cancelled in the next few weeks because wealthy nations have cut aid funding. After giving a record of 5 billion dollars las year to avert the food crisis, this year countries are offering 2.7 billion in the first 10 months of this year, making it the lowest food aid offered in 20 years.

“There is a silent tsunami [of hunger] gathering. You cannot see or hear it, but it’s in all these villages, killing people just as hard. This is the worst food crisis since the 1970s. We will lose a generation. Children will never recover,” said Sheeran, head of the United Nations’ World Food Program.

I will venture to say  food aid given to underdeveloped nationsby wealthy nations is a metaphor for drug gifting. If nations have become dependent on aid and have lost their capacity to be producers, it is only because of forced underdevelopment. When you remove the aid, a tremendous withdrawal follows as it is happening today, and avoiding the responsibility from this dynamic is blatant injustice.

Modern Horrors: The Dangers of the Industrial Food System

Posted in Freaky Food on October 12, 2009 by alejandracuellar

Ground Beef

Stephanie Smith was forcefully put into a coma after she reacted violently with convulsions to a hamburger she ate at her mother’s house. The culprit: the dubious origin of the ground beef. The hamburger meat came from food producer Cargill. An estimated 940 people were sickened with E. Coli from the same meat that caused Smith’s eventual paralysis. Although this case is a rare occurrence among people who get E. Coli from eating meat, it raises the question about the safety of eating meat in the modern industrial setting.

It might be a surprise for some to realize ground beef is not the simple patty it seems. It is usually made up of different parts of the cow and comes from different slaughterhouses, some at an international level. Stemming from this globalized method of producing food greatly reduces the possibility of enforcing sanitary and health measures. The New York Times tracked down the anatomy of Smith’s hamburger in a multimedia graphic.

In the United States of America? Toxic Water infiltrates the homes in West Virginia

Posted in Environmental Concerns, Freaky Food on September 30, 2009 by alejandracuellar

“Today, words like “progress” and “development” have become interchangeable with economic “reforms,” “deregulation,” and “privatization”. Freedom has come to mean choice. It has less to do with the human spirit than with different brands of deodorant.”

-Arundhati Roy

What happens when drinking a glass of water in your own home has a detrimental effect on your health?

What happens when you have the freedom to choose whatever deodorant, whatever bottled product you want, but lose the right to take a bath?

Drinking Polluted Water

In an interesting paradox, Mrs. Hall-Massey of West Virginia points out: “How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” In the front of page of the September 12th Sunday New York Times issue, the article on Toxic Water sheds light on a toxic reality. The families of West Virginia near Charleston, “apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system” (Duhigg, NY Times). To read the whole article, click here.

The fact that water pollution has gotten to this unbelievable extreme points to the larger question:

Who is allowing for this to happen?

From inside a bundle or corporate tape, the law enforcers of the Environmental Protection Agency live, too afraid to do their job because they will surely get fired if they speak up. They allow thousands violations to occur leaving the citizens to fend for themselves against coal companies’ irresponsible actions.

If the state is not protecting its citizens and instead is supporting violators at the expense of its citizens’ health, what kind of state is it?

If people’s protests against pollution in their homes is being drowned inside corporate power, what does this say about the kind of democracy that the United States supports?

To watch the video on the whole story, please click here.