In the United States, 80% of the food you eat passes through the hands of just ten corporations.
Here's a dirty secret: None of these corporations actually make any food. All they produce is packaging.
They buy food from farmers and ranchers, then alter it and package it for sale.
Some of these practices are so questionable, they are banned in other countries. This is why for example, your favorite chicken nuggets contain less chicken than you think and cannot be sold in Europe. In general, here's what they do to your food:
They break it down. Then they add to it. They bleach out natural colors, a process that often removes nutrients. They artificially color it, add salt, sugar, and all kinds of preservatives. They add chemicals to give it odor. They often "cut" it, like drug pushers do to cocaine. They add fillers to increase the amount they can sell. They add to the volume, but virtually nothing they do adds to the nutritional value. Sometimes, they "enrich" it by adding chemical vitamins or minerals to it, but the truth is, you cannot make food more nutritious by altering it from nature. We aren't God, we cannot do better.
The entire purpose of this exercise is twofold, profit and control. The alteration of the food, is about profit. Good looking food sells better. Good smelling food does too. Food that lasts longer on the shelf means more time to sell it. Foods with chemical additives, like corn syrup and caffeine, are addictive. It all adds up to profit.
In the buying and selling, there is control. Less than 15% of the price you pay for food goes to those who grow it. Meanwhile, with gorgeous foods packaged and marketed by experts, people flock by the millions to avail themselves of the convenience of the neighborhood supermarket. Meanwhile, the local farmers' market, where people can buy real food, fresh from the farm, is closed by noon on Saturday.
The control comes in making people think these products are the only ones to buy. Commercials tell your children what cereal to demand in exchange for a toy. They tell you what you should be drinking, because nobody who's anybody just drinks water. They show you what vitamins to take because you are no longer getting vitamins from the food you eat. The common dominator is control.
Without these corporations altering your food and selling it in garish packaging, what would you eat? In just over a century we have gone from a nation of people with farms, yards, and gardens, where we grew, traded, shared, preserved, and ate what we ourselves produced, to total dependence on a massive food supply chain that is literally, a chain around our necks. It's wasteful, expensive, and unhealthy. We rent homes, we no longer plant gardens, and pickling and canning foods is a lost art.
The obesity epidemic in America, and likely a host of other ills, is almost certainly the product of how we alter and sell our food. The good news is, even if this never changes, as individuals we have the power to choose. We have the power to choose better, natural foods for ourselves.
The choice may be less convenient than the local supermarket, but it can pay off in better health. And it can be cheaper too, since you are not paying Wall Street dividends on top of the cost of growing it. Better for both farmer and consumer to buy direct. Why should Wall Street have a say in what you are allowed eat?
Consumers should look for farmers who sell fresh produce and meats in their local area and make a habit of placing a regular order with them. Not only will this be cheaper, it will be more nutritious. It may even be less stressful than battling the lines at the supermarket.
The internet is also an option, since many farms and ranches now offer fresh meats and produce online.
We may not be able to change the way Wall Street and the Food-Industrial Complex does business, but when can support local farmers and put better meals on our family table.