BIG Food causes BIG problems. The race to create bigger and faster and more food in today’s world is a big problem. This blog is not going to fix the issue in one fell swoop of the keyboard, but it is hopefully going to shed some light on the zombie apocalypse that is large scale food production.
We have a very unique vantage point into this world and industry as organic farmers who make biodynamic compost on our farms. We are part of the lawn & garden, landscaping and farming sector of farming, that is a sidebar to Big AG and the conventional farming machine that rules the world.
Let's look at the overall market of BIG Food. BIG Food starts with BIG Money. The leading supermarket chain is Kroeger. Last year they did over 105 BILLION Dollars in sales last year. Albertson's was second at 54 BILLION.
To put this in perspective, the entire global organic food market hasn’t even reach 100 BILLION Dollars yet, and the U.S. has captured the lion’s share of those sales that are estimated somewhere around 50 Billion Dollars. What this translates down to is that conventional AG, or BIG AG, and it’s cousin BIG Food are still dominating the Anno Domini era of the 21st Century.
I listed BIG Ag first, because more than 3/4 of the products that we buy at the supermarket have some form of animal or plant base to them before they are processed, packaged and shipped out to your local Super-DUPER-Market. In 2018, the super-duper-market sales reached over $201 BILLION Dollars. That looks like this $201,000,000,000! Now that’s a motivator if you are a business… a BIG Business.
Let’s look at some of the sales by category in 2017: Milk $163 Billion, Pizza $6 Billion, Meat $122 Billion, Produce $98 Billion, Ice Cream $5 Billion, Prepared Foods $14 Billion, Medications - $13 Billion, Alcohol $54 Billion. That is some serious motivation for the manufactures and providers of the just over 30,000 products that the average super market carries. The Super-Duper-Markets carry even more.
So, what is all of this saying?
What it’s saying is that there is a never-ending hunger for food and more food and more food. People aren’t growing food at home in big numbers and the small, local, organic farmer is really a drop in the bucket of modern agriculture. It means that we are relying on a global system of food production that used 200 MILLION tons of fertilizer last year. In 2014, the EPA reported that 23 MILLION tons of fertilizer had been used in U.S. farming, and to go along with that massive amount of fertilizer was a massive amount of pesticide.
In the United States we use over 1 BILLION Pounds of pesticide per year, and globally, that number is 5.6 BILLION Pounds. I feel like I’m gong into toxic shock just writing that number. So, lets finish off this BIG Ag cocktail with last but not least, herbicide. The broad spectrum herbicide that is the favorite of BIG Ag is glyphosate. Since it’s spawning in 1974, we have seen 1.8 MILLION tons of glyphosate used on U.S. farms and 9.4 MILLION tons of the herbicide applied on farms globally.
The glyphosate conundrum is an interesting one depending on who you believe regarding the research on the half-life of Round-Up. Some university researchers say that is from 1 to 174 days while other studies have shown up to 22 years. I guess you decide who you believe. Paid research at universities is a topic for another blog.
The BIG Picture for us, is the use of BIG Ag byproducts in the lawn & garden, landscape and small farming and grow operations today. In the lawn and garden market, it is estimated that they will have sales of 3.2 BILLION DOLLARS worth of packaged fertilizers by 2022. That is a whole lot of money for selling AG waste, commercial composting from trash pick-up and synthetically and chemically designed fertilizers.
The byproducts that come from the animals that are being raised for slaughter is what concerns us most: The bone meal, blood meal and feather meal that is processed at rendering plants and then turned into fertilizer.
The following is from the EPA regarding meat rendering plants:
Meat rendering plants process animal by-product materials for the production of tallow, grease,and high-protein meat and bone meal. Plants that operate in conjunction with animal slaughterhouses or poultry processing plants are called integrated rendering plants. Plants that collect their raw materials from a variety of offsite sources are called independent rendering plants. Independent plants obtain animal by-product materials, including grease, blood, feathers, offal, and entire animal carcasses, from the following sources: butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches, feedlots, and animal shelters.
Notice the language that is used surrounding animals that are raised for slaughter. It’s appalling! It distances us from our humanness. It is cold and hard and heartless. These animals have been raised in terrible conditions, with improper diets, with very little loving care, if any at all and with very limited life spans. For example:
Pigs can live 10-15 years, for slaughter they live an average of 6 months.
Chickens can live up to 8 years. Laying hens (egg producers) live an average of a year, and broilers (I hate that term) live all of 5-7 weeks.
Cows, can live 15-20 years in pasture. Cattle, a word derived from the French word chattel, a term used for slavery, that are raised for beef, live approximately 18 months
Dairy Cows from the conventional dairy model typically break down after 4 years, then are sold as beef to the fast food sector of the modern food chain, which is I guess, the stepchild of BIG Food.
So, what happens when we have a $201,000,000,000 market that is a dominating force of commerce and of lifestyle in the United States? We have BIG Problems as I stated in the outset of this snapshot. We have more and more pesticide use, coupled with more and more glyphosate use, with animals who are slaves in a system that feeds them GMO crops, which is why we have all of the glyphosate usage today in the first place, exacerbated by the environmental problem of how do we get rid of all of the waste, the garbage, the packaging, the trash that we need to keep the BIG Food ship sailing. It’s a very complex problem to solve. I am giving a macro view of this world as we see it from our corner of organic and biodynamic farming.
You might ask yourself what can I do?
You might have a family to feed, or a job that takes at least 40 hours a week, or no land to grow on. This is precisely what BIG Food is relying on and in some cases preying upon - the fact that people in the modern world, at least the urbanized modern world, cannot feed themselves. What happens is a society that cannot feed itself, relies upon those who will dictate what they will eat, how they will eat and when they will eat? BIG Food is watching your buying habits, your shopping habits and every choice that you think that you are making at the Super-Duper-Market. They know that you are not making choices, but accepting the reality that they have dished up along with their family BIG Ag, BIG Chem, BIG Pharm and BIG Info.
Grow your own organic food. Move to somewhere or someplace that you can actually grow food. Grow healthy soil. Don’t buy things that come from the conventional Ag waste-stream with animal byproducts in them for your pets or to use in your garden to grow your food. Compost your clean food waste with bokashi like they do in Japan or set up a worm bin. Join a Co-Op. Support local organic farmers at the farmers market. Do anything you can that is outside of the box… the BIG Box, that is BIG Food and the control that the Super-Duper-Market has over your gut health, your health, your mental health, your spiritual health, your environmental health and your overall health and well-being.
© Randy Ritchie 2019