It is no secret that food is one of my biggest passions in life. I love to eat and to talk about everything that is food related. But after doing some readings and researches about the American Food System, I became even more intrigued by the way it has been shaped in the last centuries and by the path is going towards.
Not so long ago, the U.S. was a very farm based country. Most of its population used to live in rural areas and to depend on agriculture to survive. The industrialization of both agriculture and urban centers led to a gigantic economic increment in terms of farm efficiency and to decrease of farm and rural population. Specialization, standardization, and consolidation of control. Very few companies controlling the vast majority of all the food that is produced across the country. A few commodities (corn, soy, rice etc.) being subsided by the government to attend fast food companies demands. Lobbying. Lack of healthy and nutritious food in people’s tables. All of that happened in less that a century.
The system is very complex and everything is connected. It is almost as if we had been educated to like McDonalds. It’s cheap, fast and full of good tasting carbs. And guess what? Most of McDonalds products have corn as a base ingredient. It is also no coincidence that corn is the most subsided crop in the country.
It’s hard for a small farmer to say he is going to grow carrots when he is competing against mega companies + the government. Fortunately, people also have an important voice in this scenario. After years of detachment between farmers and consumers added to the constant scandals about the poor quality of what we are putting on our table, the demand for a fundamental change in the way food is produced, processed and distributed has the potential of transforming little by little the system. Organics and local products are gaining more and more space in the supermarket shelfs. Farmer’s Markets numbers are growing all across the country and even the big fast food chains are having to adapt themselves in the best way they can to attend costumers demands.
The Food System topic is broad. And it’s deep enough to keep a discussion for the entire semester. The documentary Food Inc. is a great source for those who are interested in the topic, as well as the reading Corporatization of the American Food System, by John Ikerd.