The meat comes from a local independent packing company that doesn't buy beef that has been injected with growth hormones; the buns are from a bakery in Pueblo, Colorado; and two hundred pounds of potatoes are "peeled every morning in the kitchen and then sliced with an old crank-operated contraption." The cooks make $10 an hour, and all other employees earn $8.00 an hour. When asked why the Conway family provides health insurance for all full time employees, Rich Conway said, "We want to have healthy employees."
The author also calls for changes in the way the U.S. Congress oversees advertising, asserting on page 262 that Congress "should immediately ban all advertisements aimed at children that promote foods high in fat and sugar." The justification for that ban would be that 30 years ago, congress banned cigarette ads from TV and radio, because of course cigarettes were seen as a public health hazard. Today, a ban on advertising unhealthy foods to children "would discourage eating habits that are not only hard to break, but potentially life-threatening," Schlosser insists.
Congress should create a single food safety agency that has sufficient authority to protect public health," the author continues. He offers that because at the moment, the 200,000 or so fast food restaurants "are not subject to any oversight by federal health authorities." Far more American citizens are "severely harmed every year by food poisoning than by illegal drug use," and yet the war on drugs gets far more money and attention than any war on foodborne pathogens. Schlosser calls for a single food safety agency because a dozen federal agencies in the U.S. currently share responsibility for food safety, and "twenty-eight congressional committees oversee them." There is confusion, gaps in enforcement, and numerous food safety absurdities," he write on page 263. For example, the USDA has authority to conduct "microbial tests on cattle that have already been slaughtered, but cannot test live cattle" in order to prevent those infected animals from even getting into the slaughterhouse.
And frozen pizza safety is regulated by the FDA, but if the pizza has meat on it (pepperoni, in most cases), and then the USDA comes into the regulatory picture. Eggs are regulated by the FDA, he writes on page 264, but eggs come from chickens and chickens are regulated by the USDA; meanwhile, a "lack of cooperation between the two agencies has hampered efforts to reduce the levels of Salmonella in American eggs." That is a serious problem, because each year in the U.S. more than a half million people get Salmonella-related sicknesses - and 300 of those actually die from Salmonella. As an example of how public health issues should be approached, Schlosser mentions that Salmonella has been "almost entirely eliminated from Swedish and Dutch eggs."
When it comes to worker safety in meatpacking plants, Schlosser has plenty to say about that. When "one-third of meatpacking workers are injured every year, when the causes of those injuries are well-known, when the means to prevent those injuries are readily available and yet not applied, there is nothing accidental about the lacerations, amputations, cumulative traumas, and deaths in the meatpacking industry," he asserts. A death in a meatpacking plant results in a $70,000 fine to the corporation running the plant; "That amount does not strike fear in the hearts of agribusiness executives," Schlosser insists, when those companies earn "tens of billions of dollars" each year.
All that said, the author adds that the executives who run the fast food industry "are not bad men," they are "businessmen" (269). If citizens demand "free-range, organic, grass-fed hamburgers," they will offer it - "whatever sells at a profit." McDonald's has shown in the past "a willingness to act quickly when confronted with consumer protests," he writes on page 268. That is proved out by McDonald's decision to stop selling genetically engineered potatoes in 2000; and by changing from polystyrene containers (wasteful environmentally) to paper containers in 1990. Change can happen, he reminds readers; the heads of Burger King, KFC, and McDonald's are only three people; "they're outnumbered... [there are] almost three hundred million of you." A good "boycott, a refusal to buy, can speak much louder than words," he concludes.
Question for the author: How do you propose an effective boycott can be organized?
John Robbins has plenty to say about the fast foot behemoth with the golden arches. For starters, Robbins writes about the beef and chicken producers that McDonald's buys massive amounts from. McDonald's was nominated for a Business Ethics Award in 1999, which was denied by the Business Ethics Magazine (BEM) for good reasons. In a letter made public by BEM, and quoted by Robbins (177), BEM said that "Federal standards [require] that 100% of cows must be fully stunned before they are skinned, but...McDonald's training videos [allow that] it's acceptable if 5 cows in every 100 are conscious while skinned and dismembered...." And, BEM added, the "real error rate may be far more than 5%."
On page 178 of his book, Robbins points to the inhumane practices put into play by the companies that provide chicken to McDonald's franchises. "The USDA...requires at least 2 square feet of space 'per chicken,'" according to the letter made public by BEM. And yet, McDonald's suppliers "allow only.55 square feet [per chicken] - not enough space for a chicken to spread one wing."
Earlier, on page 171, Robbins' book shows a photo of a building literally crammed wall-to-wall tight with 30,000 chickens, and on page 172, he discusses the inhumane way in which pigs are fattened for butchering. Pigs are "highly social" animals, and when in free range environments, will travel up to 30 miles in a single day, "grazing, rooting and interacting with their environment." But in today's pig factories, "pregnant sows are isolated and locked into individual narrow metal crates...barely larger than the pigs' bodies." The pigs in those tiny crates are "unable to take a single step or turn around"; they are basically restrained in an "un-bedded, cement floor crate for months at a time."
The industry calls this "full confinement," and it forces an animal that is used to grazing and walking about into a straight-jacket-like kind of confinement while it is stuffed with food for a fatter animal in the slaughterhouse. And McDonald's buys pigs from companies that treat the animals in such a way that anyone vaguely well-informed would see the inhumane treatment as an outrage. "Hundreds of millions of animals are forced to live in cages...barely bigger than they are," writes Robbins on page 175.
But in Robbins' book he doesn't just blast away at the horrific conditions that animals are put through on their way to being slaughtered, frozen, and then shipped out to the 30,000+ McDonald's franchises world-wide. He also provides solid advice for those who would like to eat in such as way as to avoid cancer. But there is a connection, since eating fast foods is not a healthy way to live - especially greasy fries, burgers, and chicken products - and in fact fast food causes weight gain which can lead to cancer.
On page 46, Robbins mentions that lung cancer "is the most common cancer worldwide," and in fact 150,000 Americans die of lung cancer annually. But, for those who "frequently eat green, orange, and yellow vegetables," their chances of getting lung cancer are reduced by a ratio of from 20% to 60%. And by the way, the vegetable that provides "the strongest protective effect" against lung cancer is the carrot. Meanwhile, the impact on people who not only eat the above-mentioned vegetables, but also eat lots of apples, bananas, and grapes, is that their chances of getting lung cancer are reduced by up to 40%.
He talks about breast cancer on page 44; the rate of breast cancer for women in Italy who eat "a lot of animal products" is three times greater than for Italian women "who don't eat animal products." And for women in Uruguay who eat meat "often," their chance of getting breast cancer is "4.2 times greater than women who don't eat meat." Japanese women of affluence who eat meat "daily," are 8.5 times more likely to get breast cancer, Robbins writes, than poorer Japanese women "who rarely eat meat" simply because they can't afford it.
So, if that doesn't make the connection between fatty animal products and vegetables and fruits, nothing will.
Closing his section on breast cancer, he points out that for American women who are 45 pounds or more overweight, their chance of contracting breast cancer is "double" that of the women who maintain a fairly normal weight.
Genetically engineered food, and its downside, is a topic that Robbins digs deeply into. For example, he criticizes the genetically engineered hormone rBGH, which is injected today into over a quarter of all cows at U.S. dairies; rBGH is called Posilac,…
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