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Babble Book Club: TODAY Food Inc. discussion 3:00pm EST

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Kaitlin McNabb
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Slumberjack wrote:

Sometimes it's better just to sweep things up when they're broken, and toss them in the garbage.

haha. You can do that with people too right?


Slumberjack
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You mentioned philosophy specifically, and something, as opposed to someone, or some people.  To contemplate doing that with people, historically a transition or sorts was set in motion that sought to replace one philosophy that had proven itself capable of performing such acts, seemingly with its polar opposite philosophy, when in fact it all wound up being quite similar for most practical purposes.


Kaitlin McNabb
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Slumberjack wrote:

You mentioned philosophy specifically, and something, as opposed to someone, or some people.  To contemplate doing that with people, historically a transition or sorts was set in motion that sought to replace one philosophy that had proven itself capable of performing such acts, seemingly with its polar opposite philosophy, when in fact it all wound up being quite similar for most practical purposes.

I'm not sure I quite understand your stated point about philosophy.

My above point about a philosophy was related to the idea of lethargy and fear mostly: when a system is so broke, what is the point in fixing it since it never will, therefore, we should just be complicit and get over it.

I hear this rhetoric A LOT in my daily life, and was more so excited by the idea that communities and people continued to fight, innovate and improve food systems as opposed to feeling crippled by them. It is empowering.

With regards to throwing away people, I was just making a wise crack (and in my mind at Harper, I would like to see him with no power) and didn't intend it to be beyond that. I appreciate your points and your separation of the two though!

I think philosophies are always proposed by someone though and not something? So existensial. Wink


Slumberjack
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Kaitlin McNabb wrote:
My above point about a philosophy was related to the idea of lethargy and fear mostly: when a system is so broke, what is the point in fixing it since it never will, therefore, we should just be complicit and get over it.

I hear this rhetoric A LOT in my daily life, and was more so excited by the idea that communities and people continued to fight, innovate and improve food systems as opposed to feeling crippled by them. It is empowering.

It sounds like we could put to use a discussion entitled 'the onotology of the act of protest or dissent,' or something like that perhaps, but for another thread entirely of course, because I might argue for my part that the description of 'rhetoric' in this instance is somewhat misdirected.  We could attempt to be more precise about what it actually means to be empowered, and what justifies the status of empowerment as both a sensation and a physical condition within the society;  what justifies it's proposed basis, in fact.


Kaitlin McNabb
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@slumberjack: that sounds like an interesting conversation, but I would definitely tap-out the first round -- my philosophy knowledge is limited to the waking hours I spent in PHIL 101 and PHIL 201. 

I have to disagree and say that I think I have used the word rheotric correctly (though it could be spelled wrong Wink) here to emphasize both people's nature to be complacent because of a belief people won't change and industries neither. I seem to chalk it up to apathy and fear in daily life -- fear to make change, to perhaps make things harder, but ultimately better -- and I feel the same logic can be applied to the way we view the industrial food system: it is already in such power, taking over and working to a degree, why bother? It has been inspiring to read about people who strive to change things, instead of just lie back and take it.

I feel the rhetoric is the notion that (1) "it's not that bad, just get over it" or (2) "[person] will never change, we just have to adjust and move on" (I hear the latter one all the time to excuse sexism/racism, oh and the former too!). I think that though I have not written the phrases with prose or too much exaggeration, they can be considered rhetoric because of the effective use of them and their emotional impact to guilt or dissuade someone from taking action. I think if I were to expand my thought process and examples the rhetorical arguments would come forth (they make me made though!).

 


Kaitlin McNabb
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we're getting close to our discussion this Sunday April 29 12:00pm PST/3:00pm EST!

Between failing the vegan challnege (pretty miserably) and feeling sweet death inside my body, I found reading about food, farming and cooking really inspring, especially the idea of creating food.  Also, I went on a quick vacation and enjoyed all that food has to offer, as well as indulged in some FoodTV and Anthony Bourdain.

Looking forward to discussing Food Inc with all of you and various other food books and issues too.

Can everyone make it?


alex
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Hope you're feeling better...yes, I'm ready for Sunday :)


Kaitlin McNabb
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Making sure I'm ready for tomorrow! Also netflix has Food Inc, so I think I will give it a watch today as well! Been chatting about food politics with lots of different people and excited to hear everyone's perspectives on the book and the food industry tomorrow! Smile


Kaitlin McNabb
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Food Inc conversation will start in 10mins! yay!


Kaitlin McNabb
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Thanks everyone for coming to the babble book club's Earth Week discussion of Food Inc. This selection was a bit of a departure from our usual  (which is always nice) both in form and content. Food Inc was suggested by book clubber infrancinphile and selected in hopes of offering readers an accessible medium to the issues regarding food -- ethics, consumption, industrial complex. We are also encouraging discussion outside of the book towards food politics in general and other books as well.

So with all that, I am wondering is this selection provoked thought about food and food policy while you were reading it?


alex
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I was lamenting the American focus of the book...wondering if our food system is much different? I assume not but I am really interested in finding books that examine food production in Canada...anyone have any recommendations?


Kaitlin McNabb
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@Alex, I agree. I was chatting with a friend-of-a-friend who is well-versed in Canadian agricultural practices and she said while the system is fairly similar the stats are a bit different. Learning some facts from her about farming  in consideration with vegan/vegetarian diet was pretty interesting.


jrose
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Hi, everyone! I read a lot of books about food and food security and sustainability, and I like that Food Inc. took a different approach. Instead of just presenting a lot of facts and figures, it also presented a lot of digestable information I can actually apply to my daily life. I especially liked the "Questions for a Farmer" section. I don't eat meat, but the questions for an egg farmer were all questions I wouldn't think to ask on my weekly trip to the farmer's market.


jrose
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Most of the books I've read have an American focus, too. Just did a quick search, and this one looks interesting from Fernwood: http://www.fernwoodpublishing.ca/Food-Sovereignty-in-Canada/


Kaitlin McNabb
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@jrose agreed. I liked how the book was separated into three sections as well, with the last being more proactive and attempting change, rather then what you said about bogging down too much with facts and figures and no pragmatic info.

 


Kaitlin McNabb
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*cough* my books post about urban agriculture *cough* Smile

but I agree, I have been chatting with my mom a bit about farming and how much it has changed since her farms days to now. I wonder if there are books like Food Inc with a Canadian focus, a lot of Canadian published books focus on gardening and  urban agriculture -- New Society Publishers publish books within this focus though, I wonder if they would have more?


jrose
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One of my favourite things about reading my copy of this book, which was from the library, was the annotations the previous reader left behind, underlining really surprising facts and adding many, many exclamation points! He or she was especially shocked by the link between Girl Scout cookies and Climate Change on page 108. :)


jrose
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I know Ryerson offers a certificate in Food Security. I'm not sure how much of it is focused on Canadian food systems, but I wonder what the program's reading list looks like. It might have some gems that focus on Canadian systems.


alex
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Joined: May 8 2008

Hi @jrose! Nice that you could join us! :)

Thanks for the recommendation on "Food Sovereignty in Canada"...

(As an aside, check out jrose's two-part review of vegan books in the book lounge -- invaluable for those of who took on the Vegan Challenge:

http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2011/04/vegan-challenge-earth-week-books

http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2011/04/veganize-it

)

Food, Inc. definitely helped me understand some of the many reasons to go vegan...or, at least, stop eating processed meats...


Kaitlin McNabb
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to reference my friend again, we were chatting about the idea of eating vegan and how indirectly it can be harmful towards animals through things like (1) displacement of animals and habitats for farmland (2) death to overlooked species like small birds, fish, frogs, reptiles and insects and (3) animals being killed by mechanical threshers during harvest, which can cause food borne disease outbreaks in things like lettuce.


infracaninophile
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I actually started with the last section because I was most interested in what  I/We can do, in practical terms, as individuals and also collectively. So I read that section first, and found it reinforcing (I'm already doing some things right, hurray!), inspiring, and replete with useful "next steps."  

However, the "facts and figures" parts, though they did have an American emphasis, I found sobering and informative as well. I really was not at all familiar with many details of our current food system and its negative effects on the climate, migrant workers, and public health, to name only a few significant areas.  Of course I had heard about "factory farms" and "industrial production" but the details, and grave extent of the problem, were new to me.

 

I imagine the general picture is not that different in Canada (especially given our federal "leaders") but would like to read a Canadian perspective to supplement this one.

 

I also re-visited the documentary, which was also profoundly moving and informative.

 


infracaninophile
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@jrose, I too was astounded at the Girl Scout Cookies section. I lived in the U.S. for awhile as a kid and my sister sold them. We all thought we were doing a good deed by buying and eating them.

 

Who knew.

 

But, while some people can do well on a vegan diet, it is not optimal for everyone. Humans were evolved as omnivores, and meat and fish proteins are not bad. What is bad is our system of producing them.  I'm going to investigate my neighbours' (they are organic farmers) offerings of organic meat from Ignatius Farms in Guelph. I don't eat a lot of meat, but find some is optimal (for me at least -- and the "metabolic diet" hypothesis bears this out). I also buy raw meat for my dogs and cats from a natural meat farm in the Orangeville area. 


Kaitlin McNabb
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@ infrancinophile thanks for joining and again for the great selection!

I remember having seen the documentary before, but it was nice to follow up with the book!

I liked that Food Inc (book and movie) expose working conditions for both factory workers and migrant labourers. I think that is something that is commonly lost when discussing diets because most things pertain to organic, ethical treatment etc., but something as simple as what is this worker paid, what are their living conidition is just as important (also, does the server at this restuarant have a safe workplace?)

As someone in the food services industry and working at a mostly vegan/organic restaurant it is rare is ever that the question "is this hormone free ethically treat meat" followed up with "and are you paid well and free of sexual harassment?"


alex
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Hi @infracaninophile - I was just online trying to find out if the authors and/or filmmakers had any actions for fans of the books/films...it's so true that after reading a book like this (and, I've also read Omnivore's Dilemma) that we want more concrete ways to take action...yeah I can go to the grocery store and try to make more informed choices, shop at the local farmers' markets but how to make my voice heard to the policymakers is the harder question.

My sister is farming land outside Kelowna, BC and it's been a real tough slog for her and her partner. How to market organic foods that cost more than your conventional vegetables at safeways, loblaws, etc.?

When I'm visiting her at her farm on my hands and knees helping her weed out purslane (an invasive weed that chokes out veggie patches in the area -- and can only be removed organically by getting in there in the dirt) it all makes sense when I see where the food is coming from but then I do find myself irked when I've spent $50 on a handful of veggies at the farmer's market....in short, how to reverse a system that has made industrial foods so affordable and healthy foods not?


Kaitlin McNabb
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@jrose and infranciniphile. haha, we all know that vegan diet did not work well for me. detox can be a terrible thing :)

I always appreciate the idea of eating vegan, but can't get past the idea of privilege that does accompany some of it, regarding time and money. A few people have said eating vegan is cheap, which could be true if you are a one person household, but is eating vegan a sustainable option for a family house hold, single parent household or say, a person living with a 200lb man household?


infracaninophile
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Another problem with vegan diets is that they tend to emphasize grains, and the GMO grains are in many cases worse for you than the meat. A recent book I read entitled Wheat Belly was particularly horrific. The author, a Wisconsin cardiologist, was on CBC Radio recently and that prompted me to get the book from the library. All kinds of modern diseases and degenerative conditions are strongly associated with corn and wheat intake, so I try to avoid those products entirely.  Rice, in moderation, is OK. I found I have much more energy, sleep better, catch no colds or flu, etc. etc., as long as I avoid all grains. So meat, fish and legumes play a relatively larger role, but I'll definitely look into organic meats now, even if they do cost somewhat more. 


Kaitlin McNabb
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Do you think this type of activism -- food-related critiques and expose-style films -- creates more than just awareness? The film makers said their goal was to only create awareness, but is that enough?

Do you think the films/books provide a critical analysis and consciousness that will extend to daily life, or is this just another type of "slackivism"?


alex
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In response to @kaitlinmcnabb re: awareness vs. action, the concluding paragraph of a review of the book/film puts it succinctly:

Fighting against the industrial food machine is a heavy burden, and can often be discouraging, as evidenced by the fatalism of some of the chosen authors. But "Food, Inc.," the book, is a true Participant Guide. Students, professionals, stay-at-home-moms and retirees — everyone can find a way to transform our food system and reassert our control over the food we eat and, ultimately, our lives. If "Food, Inc.," the movie, is the rich compost added to the well-tended garden of international debate over the food system, then "Food, Inc." the book is the hand-selected heirloom seeds that, if planted and cared for, will produce a bounty of rich ideas, thoughtful actions, and hearty rewards for all involved.

I think having a guide to look to is important when taking next steps...being informed helps make better personal decisions if nothing else. An engaged audience will no doubt want to tell their friends about what they learned and hopefully this will keep the debate going...


Kaitlin McNabb
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@ infranciniphile yes, and animals are a source of long chain mega -3s, which are better utlized by the body than short chain; therefore, meat is more completely digested than plant material, producing less ... 'sewage'

Also the idea of supplements to make up for loss in meat products costs $$.

I don't want to come off vehemently anti-vegan, I just think there are a lot of factors that are overlooked at the idea that not killing animals gets you off an ethical hook (so to speak).


infracaninophile
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Awareness is necessary, but not sufficient, as the saying goes. So it is an essential first step (and it needs to be knowledge-based awareness, which the authors and film-makers can justifiably claim to be advancing). Beyond that, political action and advocacy is necessary.  Organized political advocacy as well as individual consumer decisions.

 

Thinking back, the move towards more holistic pet food (grain-free foods, eschewing 4-D meat -- dead, diseased, disabled and decomposed)  has accelerated over the last 10-15 years, due to market demand, and it is foreseeable that significan consumer demand could change some agricultural practice -- but this needs to be backed up by legislation and regulation, IMO.

Easier said than done when powerful interests and $$$ are at stake (steak, ha ha ha).


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