Thinking about food (Revision)

Morals cannot be disregarded for an increased food production


The increase of meat consumption shows how much a country relies on the industrial food production. As shown in NGO website the consumption of meat in South Korea  has increased by 83% compared to 1961. This is the biggest increase rate among other countries in the same period. This increase of meat consumption shows the rate of industrial farming has increased in South Korea. Industrial farming has started earlier in America as shown in NGO website. Second to China, the US consumes more meat than any other country. American food industry has tendency to disregard morals for an increased food production . Mark Bittman, an activist, weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk in his lecture. Kingsolver and Pollan’s idea can be understood based on Bittman’s idea.  Barbara Kingoslver, an American novelist, essayist and poet shows strong sense of place and community in her essay “Called Home,” She claims that dependence on industrial manufacturing and food consumption are resulting in the ignorance of agriculture and farming. Kingsolver first starts out her essay by briefly explaining her family’s move to Appalachians. She then explains her reasoning as to why they decided to rely on seasonal farming and food consumption rather than industrialized foods. Kingsolver’s purpose is to persuade people to realize where their everyday food originates from through exposing the reality of American food industry. Similar to Kingsolver, Pollan is against industrial food production. In the writing “The Animals: Practicing Complexity,” he writes about the places that can replace industrial food production. Pollan continues to write about Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. He states how complex the Salatin’s agriculture practice is, and contrasts it with simple systems of industrial farming. Pollan consistently emphasize how Polyface farm operates as a whole. After reading these sources I thought what kind of effort I have done to contribute solving industrial food production problems.

Critiques of industrial food production are such as the way animals are raised is not clean, it takes up a lot of oil to truck fertilizer, and it contaminates soil through the use of nitrogen. Most of the critiques are focused on environmental issues. In Pollan’s writing he points out industrial farming has numerous problems. It promotes monocultures, which can be easily exposed to diseases. Concentrated animal feeding models may seem efficient but they are also susceptible to disease, especially the organic operations than cannot use antibiotics. It is opposite to what Kingsolver pursues toward food culture. According to Kingsolver, “genuine food culture is an affinity between people and the land that feeds them” (20). It is a relationship between people and the soil that is needed to grow food. The place people live is as same as the place where the soil is available. The soil is filled with dirt and nutrient food is needed to grow. The ingredients of food take steps to be formed. As most of agricultural land shifted gradually into single crop corn or soybean farms, the farming converted from naturally based to a highly mechanized production system [Kingsolver,21]. This transformation to urban nation caused unexpected consequences. One of it is the absence of knowledge about how foods grow. Most schools encourage the strongest rural students to leave their farms, and this results in low scoring students to stay on the farms. As modern education system makes students move away from manual labor, and dirt which are the fundamental sources of farming, intuitive sense of agriculture is vanishing. This aggravates the relationship defined by Kingsolver above. This is the reason why people should be aware of how and when to look for their foods.  

Salatin came up with some solutions that would resolve the ethical issues of industrial farming. Polyface farm is where human, animal and plants are keeping interactive relationships

rather than staying under the control of industrial economics.

Polyface Farms and industrial food production system differs on moral and ethical sides. Farmers in polyface farms take extra care for each individual animals. They move the cattle every evening, drag the broiler pens, tow chicken coops (Pollan, 220).

Everything operates on more than one level. The grass is used to feed cattle, which fertilize the ground with their manure. Also chickens are used to peck at the insects within cattle manure, which prevents pests and disease from spreading on the farm. To keep animals warm in the winter the heat of the compost is used. The woodlot located on the north-facing slopes provides habitat for birds which consume pests. All these works require physical and mental challenge. The whole farm is treated as a biological system in contrast to the industrial food production farm. Nothing is taken for granted and most parts of the farm serve multiple purposes unlike monoculture farming. This shows Polyface farm has different type of efficiency than in Industrial farming. Industrial farming is directed toward maximizing the product from minimum input. Salatin’s Polyface farm makes the animals themselves are in charge of managing the farm in contrast to Industrial food production.

Pursuing efficiency in industrialized farming can cause problems related to moral issues. Herzog’s idea of “troubled middle” shows how our emotional relationships with animals can be connected to the ethics of industrialized farming. Troubled middle is a part where it’s possible to truly love animals and still accept their occasional role as resources for food. People in troubled middle care enough to want livestock to be raised humanely, but don’t want to abandon meat consumption. In Herzog’s article, he states “I believe, however, that the troubled middle makes perfect sense because moral quagmires are inevitable in a species with a huge brain and a big heart. They come with a territory” (7). Ethics of industrialized farming and emotional feelings are strongly related to each other. Other factor can be regarded as important as this moral issue. The methods of managing farms results in a difference in the amount of food production between industrialized farm and Polyface farm. Polyface farm does not require chemicals or fertilizers, thus produces less food than industrial farms where the farmers use a lot of chemicals. If Polyface farm takes over the food industry, the income of drug company will decrease and this will lead to the collapse of fertilizer market. Other fac tor affecting the amount of production is intensity of labor. Polyface farm is less labor intense than monoculture farm. It creates fewer jobs for Polyface farms than for monoculture farm thus not producing jobs for workers.

This leads to a question of “Do we disregard morals (treatment of animals) for an increased food production?” According to Bittman, “people are heavily exposed to the marketing of animal products and junk food. Their production has been supported by government agencies at the expense of a more health and Earth friendly diet” (3:22). It seems obvious that trend flows to what people want rather than what they need for health. In Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, psychologist Hal Herzog states how humans interact with other animals. I agree to his idea that moral absolutes are not readily available in modern society. I’m comfortable with eating meat but I completely disagree with a culture where a puppy can be a pet or an item on the menu. Dogs are regarded as a part of family for a long time throughout the world in contrast to the animals like sheeps, pigs and cows. Eating dogs go against the affinity. People’s attitudes, behaviour and relationships with animals are more complex than it seems.  To solve problems of industrial food production making proper ethical choices is necessary. Individuals, businesses, and governments can make ethical choices. People cannot avoid ethical choices whenever they are trying to shop for foods. Companies are faced with ethical choices when they decide what to buy and sell, how to source the products, and what price to charge. Governments are involved with ethical choices when they regulate the markets to deal with human health, environmental protection or trade justice. Different values such as animal welfare, human health, and fair trade are involved in making ethical choices. Among those values, I think animal welfare is the most important issue. I am free to make my own choices about what I eat, but it takes more than simply a matter of personal taste or preference when trying to make ethical choices. Industrialized produced meat eating includes unacceptable suffering for the animals which go against the affinity. To make an effort at individual level I tried to buy products from “Beyond Meat”, where meats are build directly from the plants. Menus like “beyond chicken”, “beyond beef” are made from pea proteins, canola oil, and various seasonings. Immoral processes involving slaughter of animals are unnecessary here. I think completely disregarding the moral is not right, but the amount of food production is as important as morals toward animals. The markets related to industrial food production will decline if twenty million people in the US stopped eating meat. To address the question above only certain parts of Polyface farm’s functions can be implemented. Those features can replace the parts of industrial farming that go against the morals. This will result in the protection of the markets related to farms while at the same time treating animals in right way.


Works Cited

Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. Print.  

Herzog, Hal. “Animals Like Us.” Corey Arnold / July-August 2011

Dalai, Lama. “Ethics And The New Genetics” The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. Broadway Books: Broadway Books. 193-209. Print.

Pollan, Michael. “The Animals, Practicing Complexity” The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History Of Four Meals. New York: The Penguin Press. 208-225. Print.

Bittman, Mark. “What’s Wrong With The Way We Eat” TED. Feb. 2007. Lecture.