Monday, January 04, 2010

Food Inc.

We watched Food Inc. over the weekend, and while I was fairly braced for most of what we saw, I was slightly surprised (Ok, not really -- but it was still enlightening) to see the money trail in the food industry.

Big Beef/Poultry/Pork in bed with the ginormous corn industry and mass produced fast food, and this threesome marriage bed jealously guarded by trade and patent regulations and generously pampered with federal subsidies.

Why is it that a cheeseburger is frequently cheaper than a head of lettuce? Because the government pays part of the bill for us. They pay farmers to plant and sell certain products at below market values, seed patents protect the source of pesticide resistant seeds, and beef/poultry/pork companies lobbying in DC for more protections and help.

At the same time, what the movie did not emphasize much is the fact that there is a free market element to all of this. The fast food industry was not forced on America. As the film notes, we do vote three times a day for what sort of food we'd like. And at least when the McDonalds brothers were first getting started, lots of people voted for that kind of food. And lots still do (like my kids for instance, who view Happy Meals are glorious gifts from God).

I know some of my readers are probably more attuned to this than others, but if the money trail is correct, for all these free market choices and blessings of inexpensive mass produced food (and there have been some), it seems like we have Uncle Sam helping the blessing along a fair bit. And depending on how much propping up is going on, at what point could we legitimately conclude that it hasn't been worth it? Would people continue to vote the same way without the Feds keeping it so cheap?

And I might add that I'm guessing there might be an interesting documentary done on the booming organice/free range/all natural/whatever industry as well. There's money in them hills too, and as the film showed, even Walmart knows this.

No comments: