Our diet is quite similar that of feedlot pigs, which is surprising, because the pigs do not get to choose what they eat, and we do. Somehow, though, we end up eating different concoctions of the same stuff: industrially produced grains, especially corn.
The industrial revolution in agriculture has made grains cheap. The current price of corn is $3.50 a bushel, or 6 cents a pound. Wheat is trading at 7 cents/lb. Sugar, from industrially grown and processed corn, beets, or cane, is about 17 cents/lb.
The refined sugar and starch is fed to humans. We love it. The pigs get what we humans reject— what is left of the corn, for example, after the glucose is extracted.
Ironically, the pigs’ diet is healthier than ours. This is explained in part by the fact that those who have a stake in the food industry have more reason to be concerned about the health of the pigs than the health of us humans. The pigs belong to them, we do not—at least not yet.
There are other differences. We pay for our food, the pigs do not. We eat the pigs, the pigs don’t eat us. Altogether, pigs and humans have very different roles in the economic equation.
So the answer is that we are not feedlot pigs—not exactly. The food industry stakeholders have no practical reason to fatten us up, and that is not their goal. Our growing obesity is rather a “side-effect” of a different program: their profits.
Take a look at the price per pound of a brand-name candy bar, breakfast cereal, soft drink, etc. Compare these prices with the commodity prices: the difference is typically 10 to 50 times. How do they get us to buy such overpriced and unhealthy stuff?
First. they cater to our native cravings for sugar and starch. Then the refined carbs give us an immediate high, like a puff on a cigarette or a shot of narcotic. Soon we come down, and need to eat more to feel ok. Great! “It’s addictive!” is a common marketing slogan.
But we are not only addicted to the carbs, we are addicted to the hype. We could save money by buying sugar and flour and making our own carb delivery systems, but we have been convinced that what we might make for ourselves would be no good.
“Coke is life.” No homemade sugar water could be so magical.
There is hope, though. Many of us are getting wise to the scam. Total US sales of soft drinks have been going down (slightly) for over a decade. In response, the food pushers are increasing their efforts in poorer countries where people are easier to exploit. Now obesity rates in poor countries are skyrocketing. Here at home too, the victims are the most vulnerable. Children of high-school dropouts are three times as likely to become obese as children of college grads.
It is all about education. We have a choice, but we are being cleverly manipulated. To exercise intelligent, informed choice we must act more like humans and less like pigs.
Meanwhile, the junk food pushers are doing their best to entice us to put our snouts to the trough in the feedlot pen. What they will do with us then is unclear, but we would be wise to seek other accommodations.
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