Has anyone ever told you to “eat shit”? Didn’t eat infuriate you? Didn’t it make you want to fly into a rage and smack the – well – shit outta them? Well, if you’re the average American, you’re either stuffing something into your face right now, or you’ve just got done stuffing it within the last hour. And, chances are, you just stuffed it with shit. In the food industry just handed you a steaming pile of it.
I just got done watching two films that have been making the rounds in the health circle for years, both of which launched me on a mission to change my misguided and misinformed ways. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Food, Inc. (both which are available on Hulu) confirmed what I had been suspecting for a long time now: American food, produced en masse, is a load of crap.
The genesis of my concern all began with a bottle of lotion. 2 years ago, I bought a bargain bottle Wal-Mart brand of lotion that was a shea /cocoa butter bled from Wal-Mart. After I pumped it out and slathered it on, I noticed that I felt sick. The smell, quite literally, made me sick. I have a hearty constitution, so I was alarmed that the scent of lotion would make me sick. Furthermore, the substance didn’t smell anything like natural shea or cocoa butter. I turned the bottle over to see what the ingredients were and was met with a bunch of non-information. I looked to see if was a product of the USA; all the mammoth bottle confessed to was being shipped from Arkansas. That was a huge red flag. Where was the substance in the bottle really from?
I chucked the unused bottle a few weeks later and went back to using my nku cream, which is natural shea butter from Ghana. It consists of a pounded shea nut, and nothing else.
And that’s exactly how I like my food. For example, I like my chicken to be chicken, and “nothing else”.
As the average American gets larger and larger, the nutritional value in our foods gets smaller and smaller. We consume more calories, but get less nutrition. We’re addiction to potato chips and French fries – anything fried golden brown really – and instinctively we know that anything that tastes this good must be just as bad. It’s just that most of us don’t care.
But what about when you’re really making an effort to “eat healthy”? In my family, we’ve eschewed fried foods for baked and grilled, and have begun eating more chicken (more out of necessity than preference). Beef and lamb are too expensive, the kids don’t like shell fish and my husband is allergic to fish – so that leaves chicken. There was a time, not too long ago, that a meal of spinach, grilled chicken and mashed potatoes was chock full of nutritional value, but no longer! That plate of yummy goodness could be a petri-dish of disease, depending on what its source is.
Like I said, I just saw Food Inc., and it has radically changed my perception on food. Reader, you will easily recall in the late part of 2011, a number of people died in this nation after eating listeria tainted cantaloupe. In that same month, there was a spinach recall. It was infected with salmonella. In December, 4000 pounds of chicken was recalled by a North Carolina poultry company because it too was tainted by listeria. The list goes on and on. The point I’m driving at is no longer do we as American consumers have to concern ourselves with how we prepare our food, but we need to be even be more concerned that that food itself isn’t toxic in its raw form.
So what’s the problem here? As the film makers of Food Inc. put it succinctly, consumers and manufacturers want “more food produced as cheaply as possible on the smallest amount of physical space required.” Cue the crowded feed lots and windowless chicken breeding houses. Such cramped quarters are a breeding ground for all manner of bacteria and disease, which mutate over time. These bacteria become more and more resistant to the antibiotics that are constantly being pumped into the cattle and poultry (that we then ingest). These antibiotics where are meant, and fail to, fend off the ever mutating bacteria, when simply getting the cow outside in some grass to graze would clear that up in a manner of weeks! But who has weeks? There’s a line at McDonald’s right now.
I grew up in Ghana, where it is not uncommon to see chickens scurrying down our busy streets with the rest of traffic. Depending on what side of town you live in, you may see a Fulani cattleman herding his cows to graze in the nearest pasture. This is (and has always been) my concept of where my meat comes from – free range, naturally fed, not cloned. The same goes for my fruits. At any given Ghanaian person’s home, there is a fruit tree of some sort. We had 2 mango trees, a guava tree and an almond tree. If you needed a quick snack, you’d grab a stick and poke your flavor out of either tree. Again, I lulled myself into believing that my local grocery store is stocked with wholesome, natural fruits. What I find instead is that my orange juice is tainted with a fungicide from Brazil, and that eating a hamburger may kill me; because the cow (or cows) in that one pack of ground beef were reared in an environment where they stand knee deep in their own feces all day, and because the USDA, who has chosen to shut down 260 offices as of this week, is conducting less inspections in order to save money. Less inspections < less oversight < more mistakes/less propensity to clean up on the manufacturing floor = We all are literally eating shit.
So let that sink in for a moment. Marinate on that. Mmmmm….good huh?
But even Ghana isn’t safe. With a growing dysfunctional national psyche that idolizes anything foreign, we happily import meat from China that has been harvested, packaged and frozen after the animal has died on the feeding floor, rather than being slaughtered. And we think we’re eating “good”. No wonder people in the villages live longer, healthier lives. There not gorging themselves on –say it with me – SHIT!
But this is nothing new, is it? We’ve known this for years, haven’t we?! The question is, what are we going to do about it? I personally have decided to change the way our family eats. I’ve decided we are going to shop at locations that are right, and not just convenient. In a test of my resolve, I forked over nearly $100 at my grocery store (about $20 more than I typically spend), filling my cart with local produce and all natural fare. It hurt…a lot. But as one of my cousins-in-law who has been living this way put it so eloquently: we’re going to pay now, or pay later. That fee is going to be in (childhood) diabetes, (childhood) obesity, skin disease, migraines – you name it. I’d much rather fork over the money today and avoid the train wreck. I think an extra $20 is worth it.