Thursday, April 15, 2010

Omnivore's Dilemma Ch. 4/5

Explain the concept of an “industrial eater.” 

Think about your own eating habits.  Are the food processing companies successful in their 
tactics for overcoming your ability to eat a fixed maximum of food each year?  How?/How not? 


  1. Our current food system has designed us to be "industrial eaters". To escape the whims of nature, processed foods have been the answer. By taking out the inefficiencies of nature, or at least reducing them, the food process becomes much more efficient and we have less waste. From the beginning of time, humans have tried to defy the odds of nature. Through salting processes and other preservation processes, our efforts have focused on keeping food for as long as we can. With this same type of mentality, the concept of the "industrial eater" and processed foods developed. Scientists have focused their efforts on trying to make as much as they possibly can from super-crops like corn and soybeans. Not only that, but their varied use has been abused in terms of processed foods. Corn and soybean proliferate processed foods, they are in everything. An "industrial eater" is someone who plays into this and buys into what the major processing corporations are sayings. They coat their boxes and packaging with advertisements on how their foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals making them healthy, even if they can last for years. They veil their processed foods with the promise of easiness and the promise that they aren't that bad really. An "industrial eater" buys into this without thinking twice. They buy the General Mills cereals and the corn fed beef from Iowa. They buy their TV dinners and the Big Macs, without thinking about what is in them and where they came from. The web of lies and mislead truths that is woven by corporations entrap them into buying more than they really need (leading to a major problem: obesity). It is the goal of these companies to make us buy more than we really need to increase their profits, even if we have a cap to what we can physically consume.

    I don't believe food processing companies are successful in their tactics in terms of my diet. The only thing that I couldn't live without and somehow am addicted to is cereal. Even so, living where I do and having a mother who was born in a different country with a different culture around food, I tend to put a lot of effort into what I eat. I think that books like The Omnivore's Dilemma make me thing twice about eating Cherrios, but the rest of my diet is focused on organic and for the most part healthy foods. Even if as a society we need to recreate the culture around food, a lot of that is personal. There has to also be a personal motivation to be a better eater, and not an "industrial eater". Only so much can be gained through policy change and through making processed foods more transparent and less of a mystery. There also has to be the personal motivation to reach for the apple and not the processed food.

  2. Being an industrial eater means that the costumer (the eater) is merely doing what the food industry wants them to, eat everything they are told to without a second thought as to where it came from, how it got to their dinner table, or what horrible things went into preserving the food for the long trip it inevitably had to make. This movement of being completely distracted by positive marketing spins, and well worded labels is one of the reasons that Americans have become so far removed from what they are eating, not to mention unhealthy and overweight. No longer can we think 'I am eating an orange from a local farmer', but instead I am eating processed food from who cares where. For the most part Americans don't even know what their food is anymore. The processed food which is so readily available to us isn't food you would find out in the world yet we pay no mind to this fact and instead completely trust whatever the marketing says, that our processed food is in fact natural or nutritious.

    On a personal level, I would agree with Altaire, I think we are at a major food advantage because we live where we do, and my family does pay close attention to the food why buy. Yet at the same time I don't read every label that I pick up, and I don't know where every aspect of my food comes from, or even everything that is in my food. So while I would say that my family and I are conscious of what we eat, I do see that I am still very far removed from my food. Just like Pollen mentioned, by having all of the food in our supermarkets made so easy and cheap, its hard to remember to be aware of what that food actually is.

  3. Living in the bay area, a region so dedicated to the concept of green eating, makes it seem as though the concept of industrial eating has been underplayed by the food industry. Let me clarify - most of the families I know are able to see around this concept of producing for the masses and have chosen to live as organically as the region will allow. I like to believe that my family is included in this group - my parents are pretty cautious shoppers and there are certain foods that we will not eat if we cannot find them in organic form.

    But looking beyond the Bay Area (and even within some parts), it is hard to say that this ability to avoid industrial eating is available to all. A lot of it has to do with education, something that we definitely take for granted. It also has quite a bit to do with availability - there are plenty of people who are aware of the situation but, for socioeconomic and/or geographical reasons, do not have adequate access to organic foods. Thus in this sense the food industry has certainly managed to make industrial eating unavoidable.

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  5. The industrial eater is inseparable from the American consumer. Consumerism has invaded all facets of life to the very foods we eat. Food is no longer considered something of a necessity and something that we pop in our mouth. It has become nothing more than a product, an object of desire. Labels, shiny packaging, and price tags are more important than the food now. Foods, now that they are processed through artificial means by large mechanical machines in factories, have become something new to our bodies. Food has been exploited to become saltier and sweeter than ever before, and we put more of the junk in our bodies. The majority of foods in the ordinary supermarket should have come through the industrial agricultural process. Nowadays, we try to eat what we crave, not eat what our body wants. When food companies may look like they have not, they most likely have overcame my ability to eat a fixed maximum of food every year. My family tries to buy mostly organic nowadays from Farmer Joe's, but many of the foods look like they're organic and have conspicuous green packaging, but are still processed and filled with suspicious preservatives and chemicals. Even if we try, we cannot escape the grasps of industrial agriculture. Even in the Bay Area It is very hard to eat a full healthy, sustainably produced meal for a long time without coming across a product with some sort of preservative, or flavor enhancer. When I go to restaurants, I do not know what ingredients they serve. Often I drink sodas to wake me up or eat candies if I really feel like it. Often, I have cravings for processed foods that I grew to love when I was little, being constantly bombarded with aggressive advertisements on TV. Even if I am trying to eat as much more sustainable and healthier choices as I can, I cannot completely refrain from eating industrial foods, as do most people, many who cannot afford the luxury to have better alternative choices, which shows the dominance of industrial eater of our food culture.

  6. The reason why the industrial eater has become so prevalent in our society is that it is the cheapest, easiest, and most mentally comforting way to eat. People simply like to believe that the cheap cereal that they feed themselves and their children has been proven to prevent heart attacks. It has been driven by mass advertising and growing population. Like many other people, while I would like to think that I'm unswayed by this kind of thing, I just dont know. I eat so many things simply out of convenience and routine. Its influence on me may be entirely subconscious. While I'd like to think that some staples of my diet, such as rice and pasta, are free of this kind of influence, they may not be.

  7. In many ways the world of food production is becoming increasingly efficient, but in another respect it has become woefully inefficient (quite intentionally, and by its own design.) What I mean by this is that while a single pound of corn might make up a dinner, when it is sliced and diced into its component parts or feed to other animals, we are in reality eating up to 20 pounds of corn in a single sitting. As it said in the chapter 4, 2 pounds of meet takes around 32 pounds of corn to produce. The same is true when corn is broken down into its numerous potential “fractions” and then reassembled. This is quite wonderful for the companies behind this, because they can take the relatively cheap corn, and use more and more of it to sell their product for even more. The purpose of these companies is no longer to feed us, but instead to simply stuff as much corn and other similar foodstuffs down our throats as possible. I think the epitome of this comes at the end of the chapter with the mention of resistant starch. They aren’t even trying to feed us, it is simply a blatant effort to get rid of more surplus corn.
    I think everyone is quite right in pointing out the difference between or Bay Area-liberal-hippy diets and the diets of most Americans. At home I hardly eat any processed food, and most of our meat is locally grown and grass fed. So I can quite proudly say that I am not a major receptacle for our corn surplus, and that the majority (maybe not majority, but closer to it) of corn I consume is actually still attached to a cob.

  8. I think that our country has shaped us into industrial eaters based on the increase of processed foods. I think that this is extremely unfortunate because we are focusing now on what is the easiest and fast way to get food. While doing this we are over looking the most sustainable and healthiest ways to produce food. Most people don't look into what they are buying and have a meat is meat outlook. I think that the current industrial eating is going to stay the same until people make a conscious effort to watch what they eat and learn about where their food comes from.

    I think that my personal diet can definitely be improve. I live at two different household and I have for about 10 years now. The problem is that my mom is a great cook and focuses on what she is making and what my brother and I to have healthy meals. My dad can't cook at all. So when we go to his house often times we eat out at some fast food restaurant. When I was younger I was more than happy to eat out, but now I have tried to cut out those trips. If we are going to change are diet as a country I think it starts with educating people about food, so we can get away from are current mindset about food.