I was seventeen and taking an elective course in Earth and Environmental Science. We were learning about farming and the food system—genetic modification, land use, organic labeling—when our teacher assigned us an article about beef. The article explained the following process: the U.S. government subsidizes corn, so we feed it to our cows, because corn is cheap and fattens the cows up quickly. Cows are biologically designed to eat grass, so their livers are unable to process the corn. The cows' livers would actually explode if they were permitted to grow to full maturity, but we slaughter them first. This, combined with their living in close quarters and wading in their own feces, causes the cows to get ill often, so we feed them a con-stant stream of antibiotics, a practice that strengthens bacterial strains such as E. coli. Roughly 78 percent of cows raised for beef undergo this process. Similarly nauseating practices are used to raise chickens, turkeys, and pigs, 99 percent, 97 percent, and 95 percent of which, respectively, come from factory farms. Nowadays, these details are less than shocking. Movies such as Food, Inc. and Super Size Me, as well as books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation have raised consciousness, if not much action, on the topic of our food system. But, for me, it was a new story.


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pp. 39-41
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