Sunday, August 20, 2006

You can change the world

I fear that you’re going to start reading this and then figure out what it’s about and stop. I’m asking you to give this page a chance. I promise not to say anything that will make you want to give up on an entire food group. It's just that I need you to pay attention.

When you think about food, you think about what you put in your mouth and the consequences it will have on your body (or at least your waistline). The fact is we need to consider the impact our food choices have on others - and I mean beyond the obesity epidemic. The food industry has crossed ethical lines, and we are its accomplices.

Every time you eat you are making a choice – and that choice has tremendous power. You need to put this power to use. How many times a day do you put something in your mouth? Every time you do, your choice is the easiest, most consistent, most relentless way for you to be politically active.

Ask yourself: Is the food grown without pesticides or herbicides? Are farm workers paid a living wage? Do animals suffer needlessly?

Take chicken. Chicken is the cheapest meat available. Tyson is the self-proclaimed “largest provider of protein products on the planet”.

Out of respect for the fact you’ve read this far, I won’t get into how chickens are treated at Tyson. Here is what you need to know: Tyson Foods is listed as one of the Ten Least Wanted Animal Factory Operators, and has a long history of convictions for pollution. It has repeatedly discharged untreated wastewater into a tributary of the Lamine River: hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater a day.

Tyson has also been named one of the Ten Worst Corporations due to the number of workers who die in industrial accidents within its walls. Tyson been fined by the Department Of Labor for violating child provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Tyson was also fined by the Occupational Health And Safety Administration for violating health and safety laws in several states. We are talking about a company that makes billions of dollars in profit and has a record of seeking to lower wages and cut health benefits for its workers.

Do you know what intensive chicken production causes (due to crowding, among other factors)? Avian influenza. If this virus mutates…well, you know the rest. A pandemic would bring disastrous economic consequences. And I say “economic” (rather than the cost in human lives) because this is the true price you end up paying when you are buying the cheapest chicken meat in the market.

What can you do to change this?

Don’t buy Tyson products.

Is this enough?


- Consumers (me and you) are increasingly seeking out organic produced food. Today, organic foods can be found almost anywhere and are the fastest growing section of the food industry.

- Whole Foods and Wild Oats announced they would not sell eggs from cages hens, and Trader Joe’s said it would not use caged eggs for its own brand of eggs.

I’ll be writing future pages about other similar cases so you know who not to buy from. In the meantime, you can make a strong, positive contribution just by buying your food from someone other than Tyson.

You really can change the world.

Source: Peter Singer, Jim Mason. The Way We Eat – Why our Food Choices Matter. Rodale.

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