Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I just finished reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. It has certainly created a dilemma in my mind about the food I eat. Not that I am about to become a vegetarian but I am uncomfortable about the fact that my meat comes from a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). I'm investigating better options. We already have a lamb farmer's number on speed dial but I need to look into beef, chicken and pork options. Unfortunately living where we do is restrictive but I'm hoping to find some better options.

Here are two quotes from the book that will (hopefully) cause you never to eat fast food again:

Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, I counted 13 that can be derived from corn.

According to the handout, McNuggets also contain several completely synthetic ingredients, quasi-edible substance that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but from a petroleum refinery or chemical plant. These chemicals are what make modern processed foods possible, by keeping the organic materials in them from going bad or looking strange after months in the freezer or on the road. Listed first are the "leavening agents": sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are antioxidants added to keep the various animal and vegetable fats involved in a nugget from turning rancid. then there are "anti-foaming agnets" like dimethylpolysiloxene, added to the cooking oil to keep the starches from binding to air molecules, so as to produce foam during the fry. The problem is evidently grave enough to warrant adding a toxic chemical to the food: According to the Handbook of Food Additives, dimethylpolysiloxene is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigen and reproductive effector; it's also flammable. But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed on the nugget or inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (ie lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02% of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium. a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.

The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan page 113

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