It is easy to demonize “that” industry. It is much more difficult to see clearly what happened. This was a culmination of U.S. policy (for example, subsidizing farmers to grow crops that result in corn syrup), scientific discoveries (for example, synthetic nitrate fertilizer), business opportunities (resulting from the mass production of cheap calories), and the vulnerability of the human condition. This is not about evil being evil or some mysterious force. This is about policy decisions that of course did not predict our current status. It is about people wanting to earn a buck and people just reacting to their natural urge to eat. Of course it is a difficult pickle for the country to get out of and one of the main problems is the cheap availability of the addictive synthetic foods.
I was watching a documentary on potato chip production. I realized many of the same industrial equipment inventions can be applied to producing healthier foods en masse. Apparently it takes four pounds of potatoes to make one pound of potato chips. The documentary didn’t specify if the weight of the oil and salt is included in said pound of potato chips. The rest of the potato goes largely to cattle feed. (An aside: It was interesting to me how they proudly noted this instead of saying, my god, can you believe that? That 3 pounds of “waste” potato (plus multiple other resources) will help put an ounce of dead cow on a heart attack’s plate, instead of feeding a family 3 pounds of mashed potatoes.)
One of the interesting processing inventions was using a sort of log ride for the potatoes to move from one process to another. This saves energy and baths the potatoes at the same time. Afterward another clever machine peels them in bulk (using centrifical force to push them to a blade). The potatoes also had starch removed from them and this went to the boxing industry. The starch is used as a part of the glue that holds boxes together. They also had a system where a camera detected which potato chip was brown and this set off a system of air jets to blow the chip off the belt. It is really interesting to watch these synthetic food manufacturing shows on Modern Marvels. However unbiased these shows may try to be, they lean towards promotional and still end up making the “food” seem repulsive to me.
The talk I am citing here was very interesting and the first speaker bases some of his information from the book Fast Food Nation.
Alan Meyers, pediatrician, Boston Medical Center
April 11, 2007
Pediatrician Dr. Alan Meyers and a panel of experts discuss the link between the nation’s eating habits and obesity. What impact will obesity-related diseases have on the quality of life of the next generation? What stresses will our fast food lifestyle place on our health care system and health care costs?