Can you really trust the USDA? I thought for the longest time if food is being sold in American stores and have the USDA stamp it has to be good for me. As I delved deeper into this, I realized that special interest and other forces are at work to make sure that their bottom line is the driving force behind any regulation the USDA may place on them, and not consumer protection. These groups have the influence and the money to put their bottom line before your health. I have been disappointed so many times and I am so thankful that I now source most of my food and make pretty much most everything from scratch; that when I hear about recalls for eggs, beef, chicken, spinach, etc.. I can’t help but have a huge grin on my face knowing that I don’t have to rush to my fridge to look at a label to make sure that what I am eating is not tainted. So a few weeks ago there is a listeria outbreak due to tainted caramel apples where some people died and the message from the government is, don’t worry, there is no reason that would stop you from buying caramel apples. What!?!? and oh, there is no recall and mums the word. So what a few people died!!! Are you kidding me??? Of course, my source could also have troubles and there is always a chance, but have you looked at why these big corporate farms are having issues?
The food lobby has done everything in their power to render any regulation of their practices ineffective or very difficult to enforce. They have farm hands that work for these large corporations; These farm hands don’t have a stake in these farms. People have to get very ill or even die, before there is a public outrage. And even then, the outrage is for a brief period of time before we go on to the next scintillating news item. These farms are not like my local farm, where the farmer works the field himself and feeds his family from the same source he sells to me. When I go up the street to get my eggs, pick up my veggies or pick up my chicken, I see the animals roaming freely on the farm. They are not confined in cages with thousands of other animals in deplorable conditions. When I recently asked my local farmer if he is going to have anymore chickens to spare, his response was I will have to wait because he has to set aside his share for the winter before he is able to sell anymore. My local farmer feeds his children the same food he sells me. I will take my chances with him than a factory farm any day.
Do you remember the huge egg recall where half a billion eggs were recalled because of a salmonella outbreak? The sources of the outbreak were two factory farms where disgusting unsafe conditions were the cause of this contamination. Now an investigation was launched and it prompted government to say all farms must be inspected. What is amazing to me is that if you have safety regulation, why aren’t farms inspected in the first place to ensure compliance? What is the point of a regulation if there are no inspections to ensure compliance? Why do we have to wait for a national catastrophe to start doing something? Read this USA Today article about the conditions they found on the farms, and like I said before, I will take my chances with my local farmer any day.
If you are saying, that’s ok, I buy cage free and range free eggs and poultry. Have you ever researched what constitutes free range according to the USDA? The USDA says a farmer can label poultry as “free range” if the poultry is allowed access to the outside. This means that as long as the birds have access to the outdoors (there is no standard for what that outdoor access is), it can still live in a warehouse style shed with 20,000 other birds and still be labeled “free range.”. This means also that most of these animals never see the light of day throughout their lives and it does not prevent the factory farm from de-beaking and living in unsanitary and deplorable condition. What is amusing is that you will pay considerably more for that label. As a factory farmer, all I need to do is open the door to my shed where I house tens of thousands of birds and the outdoors area can be 1 foot by 1 foot fenced asphalt and I meet the criteria of “free range”. And not only that, I can charge a whole lot more for them. So the image of chickens running free on the range has no basis in reality when something is labeled as “free range” or “cage free”. That whole thing is a big huge farce!
So when I read such stories like congress passed a bill that would make it possible to say that 2 table spoons of tomato paste on a pizza is considered a serving of vegetable, it is easy to lose faith that our regulatory agencies are there to actually look out for us. They are there to draft unenforceable regulations as our elected officials are influenced by the frozen pizza and fries conglomerates who don’t want to stop selling their products to our already obese children as part of the “healthy school lunch” programs at school. The more I hear about the state of our food industry and the deteriorating quality of our food, the more I am motivated to continue to live unprocessed.