The Sickness in Our Food Supply – Rigged Game

https://riggedgame.blog/2020/05/16/the-sickness-in-our-food-supply/

By Michael Pollan and cross-posted from New York Review of Books.

“Only when the tide goes out,” Warren Buffett observed, “do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” For our society, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an ebb tide of historic proportions, one that is laying bare vulnerabilities and inequities that in normal times have gone undiscovered. Nowhere is this more evident than in the American food system. A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to “pile it high and sell it cheap”—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and distribute food. They also show up on our plates, since the diet on offer at the end of the industrial food chain is linked to precisely the types of chronic disease that render us more vulnerable to Covid-19…

The juxtaposition of images in the news of farmers destroying crops and
dumping milk with empty supermarket shelves or hungry Americans lining
up for hours at food banks tells a story of economic efficiency gone mad…

Slaughterhouses have become hot zones for contagion, with thousands of workers now out sick and dozens of them dying.4This should come as no surprise: social distancing is virtually impossible in a modern meat plant, making it an ideal environment for a virus to spread. In recent years, meatpackers have successfully lobbied regulators to increase line speeds, with the result that workers must stand shoulder to shoulder cutting and deboning animals so quickly that they can’t pause long enough to cover a cough, much less go to the bathroom, without carcasses passing them by. Some chicken plant workers, given no regular bathroom breaks, now wear diapers.5 A worker can ask for a break, but the plants are so loud he or she can’t be heard without speaking directly into the ear of a supervisor...

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