Agriculture and Big Business

The Untied States has a long history of farming, and for much of its existence, most Americans were farmers. In the last century especially, this has greatly changed. Today, the average American works in an office and is removed from their food, as factor farms produce most of what we eat. Is this so bad?

In his documentary, Food, Inc., Director Robert describes the average supermarket. It’s big, and it has different departments. The cashiers are friendly, and signs hang overhead, telling you where certain foods are. The aisles are stocked with possibilities—47,000 to be exact. The products on the shelves have images of happy animals standing in front of a big red barn and silo. What’s so bad about this? For one thing, it isn’t true. In reality, the countless options the supermarket offers are produced by only a handful of companies. In 1970, the top 5 producers of beef had 25% of the overall market share. At the time this documentary was made, the top 4 had 80% share.

This arrangement probably wouldn’t be so bad if these companies had our best interest at heart. However, they don’t. The industry has been converted to a business where efficiency and money rule. Chickens are now grown twice as big in half the time. “Downers,” or animals that cannot properly walk because of their physical condition, are tortured as they go to slaughter. Companies like Monsanto are patenting life and suing farmers for reusing their own seeds.

What does this mean for us consumers? Are we subject to the will of these companies, or can we do something about it? Many retailers, including Wal-Mart, have started selling healthy and organic products not because of a change of heart, but because of customer preference. If we really want to make a difference, all we need to do is demand a better product.

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One Response to Agriculture and Big Business

  1. I thought it was very telling that companies like Wal-Mart really do change their practices in response to consumer demands – which means we do indeed make a difference through our behavior. It’s important to remember, as you point out, that we aren’t completely powerless over the practices we find disturbing in society.


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