We rarely think about how food makes its way to us. If we did, we might look at things a whole different way. Free on Tuesday, The Food Conspiracy: Eat Sh-t and Die is a must-read for those looking to have a better understanding of food and how it relates to health. Below is a sample:
The Global Flesh Trade
To address the world’s massive appetite for animal products, untraditional measures are being taken.
China is becoming a large player in the global food scene, experiencing exponential growth within the slaughter business (as reported by prnewswire.com in August, 2015):
In recent years, the number of cattle ready for slaughter has increased from 13.039 million in 1991 to 47.75 million in 2011 due to the fast development of cattle- processing industry, beef production rising from 1.256 million tons in 1990 to 6.89 million tons in 2014 and CAGR reaching 7.35%. Presently, China has become the third largest beef producer after the US and Brazil with beef production accounting for over 10% of the overall production.
According to this analysis, China's legal import of beef in 2014 was 297,954 tons, a slight increase compared with 2013 with an import value of USD 1.289 billion. If smuggled beef from such countries as India were counted too, the actual import shall be much larger than the legal import… Large amounts of smuggled beef from India, Brazil and the US were discovered in the Chinese market.
China is clearly taking a larger role in the global food business, though the implications have yet to be fully realized.
China’s safety and sanitation record is poor, and arguably criminal (as reported by Huffingtonpost.com in January, 2014):
In 2015, a major food bust involving meat that was over forty years old made the news (as reported by USAtoday.com):
More than 100,000 tons of frozen chicken, beef and pork smuggled into China — some of it four decades old and posing a dangerous health risk — were seized in a recent crackdown on food spirited into the country, Chinese media outlets reported Wednesday.
Fourteen gangs were involved in smuggling the frozen food valued at nearly half a billion dollars, the Chinese General Administration of Customs told China Daily.
Nothing appears to be off limits in the hyper-competitive Chinese food industry.
In May, 2016, Chinese companies have been accused of shipping marinated human flesh to third-world countries, labeled as corned beef and intended for human consumption.
Chinese officials strongly deny the claim, however the country’s track record makes it difficult to dismiss.
Even the China Food and Drug Administration make no qualms about the country’s need for massive food reforms (as reported by the New York Times in 2015):
The China Food and Drug Administration has struggled to control a string of high-profile scandals over the years, including donkey meat products tainted with fox, heavy metals in baby food and allegations of expired meat sold to fast-food chains.
“We must soberly recognize the current foundations of China’s food and drug safety are still weak, with new and old risks together creating a grim situation,” the regulator said in a news release on its website after a meeting in Beijing this week.
Though China appears to be a less-than-ideal food trading partner, the United States, with purportedly the highest food standards, has been importing Chinese meat since 2013 (as reported by the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service):
The Department of Agriculture on Friday approved four Chinese poultry processors to begin shipping a limited amount of meat to the United States, a move that is likely to add to the debate over food imports.
Initially, the companies will be allowed to export only cooked poultry products from birds raised in the United States and Canada. But critics predicted that the government would eventually expand the rules, so that chickens and turkeys bred in China could end up in the American market.
“This is the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the U.S.,” said Tony Corbo, the senior lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group that works to promote food safety.
With the global meat and dairy systems becoming increasingly unsustainable, ways to cheapen food costs are sought.
In 2012, the widespread practice of adding ‘pink slime’ to ground beef was exposed (as reported by ABCnews.com):
As seen in the movie Food Inc., the low-grade trimmings come from the most contaminated parts of the cow and were once only used in dog food and cooking oil. But because of BPI's treatment of the trimmings - simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs - the United States Department of Agriculture says it's safe to eat.
The company calls the final product "Finely Textured Lean Beef." It is flash frozen and boxed. Foshee says it is more like gelatin and not nutritious as ground beef because the protein comes mostly from connective tissue, not muscle meat.
"[It will] fill you up, but won't do any good," Foshee said.
An April, 2016 article for New Scientist, “Animals may be fed manure-bred maggots to make meat sustainable,” demonstrates how nothing is off limits when it comes to satisfying our insatiable appetite for animal products:
“The insect sector cannot contribute to a more sustainable food-chain as long as key markets remain closed to insect proteins,” says Antoine Hubert, president of trade association the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed.
Beyond growing animals as big as possible using growth hormones and selective breeding, cloning is a ubiquitous yet little known practice used throughout the industry.
While the ethical and health-related factors of animal cloning are controversial, the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) assures consumers that there is nothing to worry about:
What Cloning Means to Consumers
“We’re not there yet,” acknowledges Uma Valeti, a co-founder and the chief executive officer of Memphis Meats, “but in just a few years, we expect to be selling protein-packed pork, beef and chicken that tastes identical to conventionally raised meat but that is cleaner, safer and all-around better than meat from animals grown on farms.”
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