Monday, January 31, 2011

How Much Did That McDonald's Hamburger REALLY cost?

I'd like to be able to post a link to the following instead of posting it in it's entirety here, but it was a comment someone left to an article on the CNN website about how the high cost of food, especially grain, contributing to the massive protests and riots in Egypt recently.  I have to admit, I have never really thought much about where and how my meat comes to my plate.  I am a meat-eater.  I like my meat.  Because of my gastric bypass, I have absorption problems concerning nutrients.  One of those problems concerns protein.   My blood level is always low on protein and especially iron.  I'm almost always somewhat anemic, and red meat is one of the ways I can get lots of iron and protein by only eating a small amount.  Oh, there's protein and iron in other foods too, but you have to consume a lot to get the amount a few ounces of meat can provide.  I eat a lot of chicken and fish and beans and legumes and spinach and other stuff that has protein and iron in it.  But for a quick protein fix, red meat does the trick. 

But after reading the below comment, I'm having second thoughts.  It never occurred to me that in order to put a single steak on my plate, cereal was taken from the mouths of hundreds of hungry children.  And not just in third-world countries, but in wealthier countries as well.   I always bought in to the party line that people were starving because there were too many people and not enough cultivatable land to feed them all.  Or famine and crop failure caused a shortage.  In other words, too many people and not enough food.  Boy, was I wrong. People are going hungry so that rich, greedy corporations can make big money providing meat to rich (comparatively) people like you and me.   Read the comment below and decide for yourself what the truth is.  But I warn you, if you like meat, you're not going to like this.  You won't want to believe it because if you do you'll never feel the same about that hamburger you get at McDonald's again.  I tend to believe it because he backs up his facts with  data you can check.  I looked up some of the statistics (I didn't like what I read either), and they were right there on the websites for me to see.  It's a long comment, but worth your time to read.  You owe it to yourself to know the truth, you owe it to the hungry people all over the world to at least eat that surloin with full knowledge of the true cost.  And maybe, once or twice a week,  have some salmon or tilapia or even better, a bean  burrito and spanish rice instead of that steak.  (I would love to read your comments about this issue, please leave some)

  • "
    ""  Global hunger could be directly attributed to meat-eating."---Chrissie Hynde

       "  Half the world's population does not receive an adequate amount of food to eat. Ten to twenty million die annually of hunger and its effects. The Institute for Food and Development Policy reports that, "Forty thousand children starve to death on this planet every day," or one child every two seconds.
    The livestock population of the United States today consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed over five times the entire human population of the country.
    We feed these animals over 80% of the corn we grow, and over 95% of the oats. Less than half the harvested agricultural acreage in the United States is used to grow food for people. Most of it is used to grow livestock feed.
    Ronald J. Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, in his 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, pointed out that 220 million Americans were eating enough food (largely because of the high consumption of grain-fed livestock) to feed over one billion people in the poorer countries.
    The world's cattle alone, not to mention pigs and chickens, consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people. It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef.
    According to Department of Agriculture statistics, one acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes. That same acre of land, if used to grow cattlefeed, can produce less than 165 pounds of beef.
    In his book, The Hungry Planet, Georg Bergstrom points out that protein-starved underdeveloped nations export more protein to wealthy nations than they receive. He calls this "the protein swindle."
    Ninety percent of the world's fish meal catch, for example, is exported to rich countries. One-third of Africa's peanut crop winds up in the stomachs of European livestock. Half the world's cereal crop is fed to livestock and the United States annually imports one million tons of vegetable protein from Third World nations--just to feed its farm animals.
    Bergstrom writes: "Sometimes one wonders how many Americans and Western Europeans have grasped the fact that quite a few of their beef steaks, quarts of milk, dozens of eggs, and hundreds of broilers are the result, not of their agriculture, but of the approximately two million metric tons of protein, mostly of high quality, which astute Western businessmen channel away from the needy and hungry."
    Jeremy Rifkin, author of a dozen influential books and President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, writes in his 1992 bestseller Beyond Beef:
    "Cattle and other livestock are devouring much of the grain produced on the planet. It need be emphasized that this is a new phenomenon, unlike anything ever experienced before.
    "Contrary to popular belief, the poor are getting poorer each year...Increased poverty has meant increased malnutrition. On the African continent, nearly one in every four human beings is malnourished. In Latin America, nearly one out of every seven people goes to bed hungry each night. In Asia and the Pacific, 28 percent of the people border on starvation, experiencing the gnawing pain of a perpetual hunger."
    "In the Near East, one in ten people is underfed. Chronic hunger now affects upwards of 1.3 billion people, according to the world Health Organization--a statistic all the more striking in a world where one third of all the grain produced is being fed to cattle and other livestock. Never before in human history has such a large percentage of our species--nearly 25 percent--been malnourished.
    "The transition of world agriculture from food grain to feed grains represents an...evil whose consequences may be far greater and longer lasting than any past examples of violence inflicted by men against their fellow human beings."
    In the 1970s, the United Nations Secretary General said that the food consumption of the rich countries is the key cause of hunger around the world. The United Nations has recommended that the wealthy nations cut down on their meat consumption.
    The Worldwatch Institute has released a remarkable report entitled Taking Stock: Animal Farming and the Environment, which lists nation after nation where food deprivation has followed the switch from a grain-based diet to a meat-based one.
    Most of the nations that now import grain from the United States were once self-sufficient in grain. The main reason they aren't is the rise in meat production and consumption.
    In Taiwan, for example, per capita consumption of meat and eggs increased 600 percent from 1950 to 1990. With this change, vastly increased amounts of grain have gone to livestock, raising the annual per capita grain use in the country from 375 pounds to 858 pounds. In 1950, Taiwan was a grain exporter; in 1990 the nation imported, mostly for feed, 74 percent of the grain it used.
    In mainland China, the situation is similar. Increased meat consumption has meant less grain available to feed people. Since 1978, meat consumption has more than doubled, to twenty-four kilograms. The share of Chinese grain fed to livestock rose from 7 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 1990.
    Over half Of Latin America's beef production is exported, and the rest is too expensive for any but the wealthy to purchase. From 1960 to 1980 beef exports from El Salvador increases over sixfold. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of small farmers lost their livelihood and were pushed off their land. Today, 72 percent of all Salvadoran infants are underfed.
    In Brazil, major portions of the Amazon tropical rain forests have been destroyed so that wealthy multinational corporations can produce beef for the wealthy.
    Corporations such as Volkswagen, Nestle, Mitsubishi, Liquigas, King Ranch, and Swift-Eckrich have bulldozed and burned literally hundreds of millions of acres, replacing the world's oldest and richest ecosystems, home to two million or more species of plant and animal life with a single crop--pasture grass for cattle.
    And here, the beef produced has not gone to feed hungry Brazilians; it has been primarily exported to Western Europe, the Middle East, and North America. In 1987, the United States imported three hundred million pounds of meat from countries in Central and South America.
    With the help of international lending institutions, Brazil has mounted an enormous effort to increase agricultural production, but this has been primarily meat-oriented production and for export.
    In the late '60s, soybeans were almost nonexistent or Brazil. Today, this crop is the nation's number one export--but almost all of it goes to feed Japanese and European livestock. Twenty five years ago, one third of the Brazilian population suffered from malnutrition. Today, the figure has risen to two thirds.
    Oxfam, the international charity, reports that in Brazil huge cattle ranches take up some of the most fertile soil in the whole country, yet 60 percent of Brazilians are malnourished.
    Oxfam estimates that in Mexico, 80 percent of the children in rural areas are undernourished, yet the livestock are fed more grain than the human population eats!
    The livestock are exported of course, to satisfy the developed nations' craving for cheap hamburgers.
    In Guatemala, 75 percent of the children under five years of age are undernourished. Yet, every year Guatemala exports 40 million pounds of meat to the United States. It borders on the criminal!
    In Costa Rica, beef production quadrupled between 1960 and 1980, but almost all this beef is exported to the United States, and what does stay in the country is eaten by a tiny minority.
    Though more and more Costa Rican land is being turned over to meat production, the population is not eating more meat for the change. The average family in Costa Rica eats less meat than the average American housecat.
    Throughout Latin America, land availability is a prominent social issue. Revolutionaries as well as reform-minded moderates have made land reform a major issue. Yet in many Latin American countries, forests are being leveled in order to create pastures for cattle grazing land.
    In a region where land availability is a central social issue, existing land is being gobbled up by livestock agriculture. The resulting social tensions have resulted in civil wars, repression and violence.
    Hunger is really a social disease caused by the unjust, inefficient and wasteful control of food. Our food security is not being threatened by the prolific, hungry masses, but by elites that profit by the concentration and internationalization of control of food resources.
    In country after country the pattern is repeated. Livestock industries are consuming feed to such an extent that now almost all Third World nations must import grain.
    Seventy-five percent of Third World imports of corn, barley, sorghum, and oats are fed to animals, not to people. In country after country, the demand for meat among the rich is squeezing out staple production for the poor.
    The same trend can be found in the Middle East and North Africa--increases in grain-fed livestock require more imported feed. In the early '70s, Egypt was self-sufficient in grain.
    Then, livestock ate only 10 percent of the nation's grain. Today, livestock consume 36 percent of Egypt's grain. As a result, Egypt must now import eight million tons of grain every year.
    In the late '60s , Syria was a barley exporter. But in the intervening years, livestock has consumed increasing amounts of the country's grain. Now, despite a phenomenal 1,000 percent increase in the land area devoted to producing barley, Syria must import the cereal.
    According to Buckminster Fuller, there are enough resources at present to feed, clothe, house and educate every human being on the planet at American middle class standards.
    The Institute for Food and Development Policy has shown that there is no country in the world in which the people cannot feed themselves from their own resources.
    Moreover, there is no correlation between land density and hunger. China has twice as many people per cultivated acre as India, yet less of a hunger problem. Bangladesh has just one-half the people per cultivated acre that Taiwan has, yet Taiwan has no starvation, while Bangladesh has one of the highest rates in the world.
    The most densely populated countries in the world today are not India and Bangladesh, but Holland and Japan.
    Many of us believe that hunger exists because there's not enough food to go around. But as Frances Moore Lappe' and her anti-hunger organization Food First! have shown, the real cause of hunger is a scarcity of justice, not a scarcity of food. "

  • Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Introducing..... ME!

         My name is Rebecca Randolph, but everyone calls me Becky.  I am 53 1/2 years old this month and it's been a wild ride.  I titled this blog "My Peculiar Life" because as I look back to my past, ponder my present, and  anticipatew my future, the one word that seems to describe all three phases is the word "peculiar".

    I have had many life experiences that are far from the norm.  I don't know anyone else who has had more than 8 step-dads, gone to over 15 different public schools, lived in a different place every year of my childhood (often several places!), had a nervous breakdown before age 16,  weighed over 450 pounds, was homeless, diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, had a gastric bypass, was married to a  paranoid schitzophrenic, had a loaded gun held to her head, lost 270 pounds, married a black man (I'm French/Cherokee), and lived to tell the story.  At least not all those things together.  But all those things are a part of who I am now.  Friends tell me I should write a book.  I don't know about that, each story in itself has been told by numerous and better writers than I.  But held together, I suppose my life does make for interesting reading, if for nothing else, for the weird factor.

    So this blog will include stories about my past to illustrate and explain how my life events now affect me and how I respond to them.  I feel I've gained a little wisdom through my varied experiences, and most certainly one's life experiences shape one's current view of the world.  This blog is about my reality, and if you find anything useful in my musings, then perhaps my efforts won't be a total waste of internet space.

    To begin, I'll start with the present.  I live in Idaho with my husband, my college-age son and our two miniature dachshunds, Valerie and Velvet.  I use to have two budgies, but they died last year.  Birds do that.  We moved here about 7 years ago from Redding, California after Randy (my SO) retired from his job at Pacific Gas & Electric.  I was a full-time homemaker up until then.  Now I work as a substitute teacher for the high schools here.  I love my job.

         Idaho is beautiful, but with long, cold winters.  I'm not a winter person.  Right about this time of year I start really missing California.  I use to think we had winters there because it actually did get cold and even snowed sometimes- once we even had snow on Christmas!  I was wrong.  I didn't know what Winter was until I moved here.  Now I know.  Winter means bone-chilling, teeth-aching cold winds that cut through you like knives.  It means snow not just falling down from the sky, but blowing sideways so thick you have to pull over because you can't see even one foot in front of you.  It means burst pipes flooding your garage and spending a good half hour digging your car out so you can drive.  Which is just about how long it takes for it to get warm enough to drive without arctic gear.  It means carrying your shoes in your bag to work because you need your snowboots to navigate the parking lot.  Now we have snow on Halloween.  My son would get all dressed up in a cool costume just to cover it up with his parka and snowboots.  In fact, since we've lived here, we've had snow in every month of the year.  Yes, even August.

    I've always had a little vegetable garden.  In California, you just threw the seeds at a clump of dirt and BOOM! 8 weeks later you had veggies.  Big, fat string beans, tall corn, huge squash, gigantic tomatoes, lettuce, spinich, the whole works.  Then you'd throw some more seeds at the dirt and 6 weeks after that you'd have a whole new crop of nice fresh veggies. Cukes the size of baseball bats.  canteloupes the size of vollyballs.  Strawberries the size of plums.  You get the picture.  Here, if you plant anything at all, it better be after Labor Day.  That's what our neighbors told us our first year.  Yeah, what do they know?  So we planted our seeds as soon as the weather warmed up as usual, and they did great- for 3 weeks.  The we had a freeze and everything died.  So we replanted, and it got cold again and froze everything again.  The whole garden wilted and dead.  Ugh.  We planted for the third time, and crossed our fingers.  No more freezes, thank God.  We weeded and watered and watched our garden grow, so proud we were!  I began mentally counting my canning jars of home-grown produce I was going to have proudly displayed in my pantry.  Did I say proudly?  By August, our garden was only half-grown, the fruit still green the lettuce and cabbages still tiny, the beans and squash still not even near ready to harvest.  And the corn?  A joke.  Never grew past 1 foot tall.  Then the weather started turning colder, and the newspaper put out a frost warning.  We ran out in the middle of the night to put old blankets on our tomatoes and leaf vegetables.  I even tore the spread off our bed.  No use, next morning everything has a frost beard. Thankfully, not all was lost.  We babied along the survivors until September.  Had to pick everything then before the freeze got them again.  Most of everything was still under ripe.  All that hard work planting, weeding and hoeing for a miserable 1 bushel total of harvest from our garden.  At least the apples and plums were good.  Lots of those.  Randy helped me process and can about 10 bushels of fruit between all 5 trees.  I made jam, juice, apple butter, applesauce.  We felt a little better after that.  The next year, we waited until Labor Day.  And bought these little plastic thingys that you put over the plants to protect them at night, sort of like tucking your little kiddies into bed.  Oh, yes, and we now plant some of it in little planters and start them indoors in April to give our garden a head start.  It's a whole different ball game trying to grow your garden in Idaho.  It was so easy to take things for granted in sunny California.  In fact, when I go to the pantry for some home-grown veggies, I think about how much work went into babying those things along and I hardly have the heart to eat them!  For fifty cents I can grab a can of any vegetable I want to eat without all the work.  So we've cut back to a much smaller, more select garden, and buy the rest at the farmer's market.  Besides, we want to spend more of the warm months traveling and having adventures.  But we do have a beautiful backyard, see?