Not everyone's at ease with the food supply
WASHINGTON -- American farmers often have complained that consumers take food for granted -- that they think their food comes from the supermarket, not farms. Unlike energy, another of life's necessities, the U.S. food supply rarely is subject to...
WASHINGTON -- American farmers often have complained that consumers take food for granted -- that they think their food comes from the supermarket, not farms. Unlike energy, another of life's necessities, the U.S. food supply rarely is subject to scarcities, price spikes or threats from abroad.
Best of all, we are self-sufficient in food, thanks to American agriculture. The consumer can rest assured of affordability, availability and ample choices. But not all consumers are at ease over the food supply. A minority of shoppers is almost obsessed by food and how it is produced, processed and sold.
If taking food for granted is at one end of the spectrum, then being obsessed with the food supply is at the other end. These consumers could go by a number of labels but "eco-shopper" seems to take in most of them.
Supporting this movement are certain environmental and vegetarian groups and authors such as Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") and John Robbins ("Diet for New America and The Food Revolution").
Eco-shoppers include locavores who think the food we consume should be locally grown. There's nothing wrong with a preference for locally grown farm products, but it can be taken to an extreme.
The notion that we should be deeply concerned about the miles our food has traveled to get to our plate in making food choices seems unreasonable and borders on the ridiculous.
The first person to be obsessed with food miles may have been former President Herbert Hoover. During World War I in 1917, Hoover was head of the U.S. Food Administration, and it was his job to get U.S. wheat past German U-boats to the Allies. At one point, England, France, Belgium and Italy were within a few weeks of running out of bread. Nearby sources in Russia, Bulgaria and Romania were cut off by the war.
Europeans never fretted during World War I that their food came from America, so far away. Today, it's different of course, and the local food concept and many eco-shopper ideas seem to have originated in Europe.
The (London) Sunday Times writer Lucas Hollweg had some fun with it, admitting that he is "food confused" in Britain because every decision he makes is fraught with ethical choices.
"Getting an organic New Zealand apple from the tree to your lunchbox releases 235 times as much carbon as it saves. How depressing is that?" Hollweg wrote.
Most critics of how food is produced in this country have their own agenda to promote. Pollan thinks the food issue is a great entree to environmentalism.
In an interview Pollan said, "It is where you reach people. Of all the topics I've written about in my career, it is the most powerful for reaching people because everybody's got to eat."
In other words, if you scare people enough about their food supply, they will pay attention to you.
And Robbins' motive is to promote vegetarianism. His Web site view of food sources in the year 2030 has us picking mushrooms and wild greens and joining hands around community gardens.
That's not the kind of food supply we want to depend on as a nation.
Editor's Note: Truelsen is a former member of the American Farm Bureau public relations staff..