You should be worried about the potential of a takeover of Smithfield Foods by a Chinese company. Then again, if that is your only worry, you should be paying more attention.
The primary worry last week was the impact that potentially lower standards would have on the U.S. food supply. But consumers should be even more concerned about how few U.S. companies control the vast majority of the meat supply.
Smithfield and the other companies that dominate the meat industry are, to coin a tired phrase, “too big to fail.” The cost of failure is even larger when our food supply is concerned.
The Chinese offer may be more about feeding those in China. Still, this offer gives us a chance to see if the United States “anything goes” policy includes a foreign takeover.
The United States food policy is no food policy. There is no long-term thinking or strategy for food production, health, and integrity. As much as some would like to bury their heads in the sand about how our food is grown, companies are in charge of growing most of our food. And those companies can be bought or sold with foreign or domestic buyers.
Even if the Chinese bid is not approved, we shouldn't breathe sighs of relief yet. But this should start the conversation about a national food policy.
Internal pressure to come up with a sane food policy hasn't been terribly effective. However, outside pressure may be the answer to securing positive change. The U.S. may not care what its citizens eat, but the government cares about selling its food to other countries.
Japan halted a bid on 27,500 tons of Pacific Northwest wheat after a rogue genetically engineered strain was found on an Oregon farm. Other countries/organizations expressing concern include South Korea, the European Union, and Taiwan.
Other countries outside NAFTA want to make sure the food they are getting is GMO-free. Canada and Mexico would likely want their food to be GMO-free, but as we've seen with NAFTA, the dominant country sets the tone. And if those countries aren't sure about what they're getting, the U.S. can't ship as much food overseas as it wants.
Too bad California, Illinois, and Massachusetts can't set the same standards as Japan and South Korea.
McDonald's came out and admitted what we suspected. No, not that. Not that. And definitely not that. No, the fast food chain admitted that their salads comprised a small percentage of sales.
We like to feel better about fast food places when they offer “healthier” choices. Then again, McD's tried really hard to cram unnecessary calories and fat (e.g., candied walnuts) into its salads, making them less desirable.
We don't ask Panera to make us a greasy burger and cold soggy fries. Sometimes, restaurants are just better off trying to be good (relatively speaking) at what they do, and not try at something where they are destined to fail.
If I had a time machine and a functioning Flip camera, I would want to be Zachary Maxwell.
Maxwell made a film about how horrible his school lunches were. Maxwell also wanted to convince his parents that the school was not delivering on promised meals.
Maxwell almost lost a day's worth of footage after he got caught and was told he needed to delete the footage. Being a typical 4th grader, he convinced the teacher that he erased the footage, but he really didn't.
Maxwell is showing his film at the Manhattan Film Festival. I would have settled for a private screening for my parents to show them how horrible my school lunches really were. Bad school lunches that were reheated since the elementary school had no kitchen. At 10 years old, I would have loved the lunches Maxwell was rejecting. Sans proof, I couldn't convince my parents as to what I was getting. Maxwell doesn't have that problem.