If you haven’t seen the documnetary "King Corn", I highly recommend it. The premise is two guys plant an acre of corn and try to follow it through the system to see where it ends up. The movie is educational and a highly disturbing look into our countries most heavily subsidized crop.
Most of us know about some of the by-products of corn consumption like ethanol, feed for farm animals and high fructose corn syrup (which grew out research when there was a huge corn surplus in the early 60′s). I addition, Nixon signed a Farm Bill in the early 70′s that encouraged all out corn production which led to further widespread use of high fructose corn syrup, the creation of feed lots as an industry, and in the early 80′s Pepsi and Coke replaced the sugar in their beverages with high fructose corn syrup because of how cheap it had become.
The bottom line is that corn is cheap. The intention is to have an abundant and cheap food supply – not necessarily a good one. I’m not going to go into the problems with high fructose corn syrup since most people who read this blog know about some of that but did you know the use of it has gone up 1000% in the last 3 decades? It’s cheap and it’s everywhere. In the film the go through the process of making this crap and it’s quite interesting. In 2007, 93 million acres were dedicated to growing corn. How much for growing vegetables? Only 2 million.
“If you’re standing in a field in Iowa, there’s an immense amount of food being grown, none of it edible. The commodity corn, nobody can eat. It must be processed before we can eat it. It’s a raw material—it’s a feedstock for all these other processes. And the irony is that an Iowa farmer can no longer feed himself.”
—Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma
The farm industrty doesn’t even make that much money on an acrea of corn. An acre of the cheap yellow corn that is most often produced may lose a farmer money but their income comes from government subsidies that come out of the Farm Bill and are determined by which crops the government wants to reward farmers for growing.
Disturbing facts arise in the film in relation to the use of corn as a farm feed. Cattle are often kept in very tight quarters and fed corn to fatten them up fast. The lack of movement allows them to put on weight faster. Corn isn’t even taken in well by cows who often get sick if they are on a corn diet for too long. All the more reason to eat grass fed beef if you are a meat eater! An intersting point by a cattle rancher in the film is that if people wanted grass feed beef they would provide more of it. A corn fed cow is bascially all fat. Their muscle tissue is more fat that anything else and the meat they provide is very fatty as well. Basically a corn-fed beef burger is fat disguised as meat. Nice huh? Not to mention that 70% of the antibiodics in this country are consumed by livestock to keep them healthy in very unhealthy environments. An average steak from a corn fed cow could have as much as 9 grams of fat vs. 1.3 grams from a grass fed cow.
In summary, I highly recommend this movie. It will change the way you look at what you eat in at least some small way. Or just research a little about corn in the USA and you might be enlightened.
The challenge… Can you go one week without eating corn?