Sunday, March 23, 2008

Food Politics

Every weekday for the past 5 years I have awakened and traveled to the vicinity of Compton to sell fish. Aside from the oddity of spending 8 years (ahem!) to get a degree in screenwriting only to turn around and take the first office job I got offered with the idea in the back of my mind that I could at least pay off my student loans (wrong) and go home and write every night (double wrong) while continuing to try and further a career as a writer (intermittently wrong in that I haven't searched much, and terribly wrong in that I haven't made even the slightest bit of headway), I have some moral qualms that build in me about the industry of selling seafood. The future is sustainability but is that enough or even tenable? The past is rape and pillage and the present is just a lot of confusion. I try to eat locally as much as I can, whole foods almost always (admittedly bowing to the desire I feel for coffee and sugar on an almost daily basis), and would love to cut down meat to approximately 5% of my dietary intake. Why 5% meat? Don't know, it just seems like a good goal because then I'm actively seeking more vegetables and fruits, and my own failure rate would probably end up closer to 15-20%. I'm scared of prions but I also feel like disease is inevitable.

Should I stop eating meat entirely? Where would seafood fit into this all? What would replace meat? In a properly working and balanced food chain it would actually be a bad idea to stop eating meat. We eat animals that eat the plants and animals that eat the plants and/or animals and blah blah, etc. We are the top of the food chain and are, believe me, adapted to eating meat. To say that humans can not process meat properly is missing the forest for the trees. Our biology obviates that humans have evolved to eat meat. Consider your mouth, your teeth, your mixture of stomach acids, even the shape and size of your muscles and muscle groupings. We are predatory omnivores. So, in a balanced and mostly "natural" food chain, humans SHOULD be eating meat. If you are unaware or have never considered it beyond grabbing and chewing, we don't live within a balanced food chain. We eat a lot of corn products (bad when hyper-processed) and soy products (almost always bad, so far as I can discern soy is really only beneficial when it is fermented) because they are heavily subsidized and, therefore, cheap to manufacturers who put them in everything. We eat shellac, just like you would put on your walls, a lot. Candy coatings are usually made of shellac. We eat tons of sugar (very dubious health benefits there) and flour (great for you if it's unbleached and whole grain, given that you are not allergic to gluten). As a society we eat a lot of bad- to non-foods.

I am getting unfocused here. Lots of people are vegetarians and they are, on the whole, healthier than the rest of America. Is it because of the lack of meat? Yes and no. Meat should be good for you. But cows should eat grass, not corn. And they should live more actively. So should chickens live more actively. And pigs. And there should be a lot of different animals around. In a vacuum of "progress", Americans should be eating tons of buffalo that runs wild. But we trade dangers as society evolves. Buffalo are not friendly creatures and they make use of lots of land. They are mostly gone. Turkeys are loud and like dense vegetation in parts of the country that are dense with humans. So they are all farmed and bred for docility. And wild pigs are an angry and dangerous bunch. We have built fences that keep animals locked in so that they don't get killed and/or kill us. But disease is more normal in the animals themselves. And in domesticated people, too.

I'm getting tired and don't feel like writing a book that has already been written. I'm not writing an essay here and I don't want to form a conclusion. I want to say that fish conflicts me because I don't see aquaculture as a great thing and I don't think we can pull enough wild seafood from the oceans to satisfy everyone equally around the world. I would suggest eating meat only from Niman Ranch farms or some other principled farmers. There is a Farm Bill working it's way out right now and I would love to have a say in that. But we don't vote on it. Farm lobbyists (Cargill! Monsanto! Archer Daniels Midland!) have a say in it but voters do not. So I am writing an open post here. How the fuck does someone actually get to the point where they can have a say in these things? How do you get into the system of food politics and change said system? I am dying to know.