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Eat Your Heart Out: Why the Food Business is…
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Eat Your Heart Out: Why the Food Business is Bad for the Planet and Your…

by Felicity Lawrence

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Monkeys eating their own testicles. The merits of omega-3s. Foods to avoid. The ineffectual food system controlled by supermarkets and the demand for cheaper food. The exploitation of developing nations. Antiquated legisalation and subsidies. Felicity Lawrence covers them all in Eat Your Heart Out, expanding on her previous work [b:Not on the Label: What Really Goes Into the Food on Your Plate|420162|Not on the Label What Really Goes Into the Food on Your Plate|Felicity Lawrence|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1174587064s/420162.jpg|409296].

However, if you've read that then you'll find parts of Eat Your Heart Out repetitive by again describing our dependence on oil and fossil fuels, and noting the plight of farmers and processors at the hands of the supermarkets. But the author does eventually build on and update us on those issues, though perhaps Ms. Lawrence should've started her books off with 'Supermarkets are destroying food sustainability because... and are responsible for many other evils such as...' If you don't feel guilty about buying your groceries from them now, then you will once you've finished reading.


The System

Agricultural subsidies are benefiting large corporations (e.g. Tate & Lyle) and landowners and not the farmers who need them to survive, so we're seeing more and more farmers either selling up or going bankrupt, decreasing the number of competitors and sometimes creating monopolies leading supermarkets to search further afield for certain foods. For example, we'll soon have to import milk because dairymen are rapidly disappearing: 'The irony for Colin Rank was that his cows were drinking water from a Cotswold spring that he could bottle and sell for 80p a litre, several times the price he could get for his milk. "We're giving it to cows and devaluing it by turning it into milk. Like all dairy farmers we could pack up tomorrow and do something better with our capital but we do it because we have an emotional investment in the land and the animals. And we know there's a market for our products if only the market worked."'

Developed countries are buying up land (for intensive farming) or plundering the seas of developing countries and are depleting and/or destroying their natural resources without taking responsibility by making an effort to minimize or repair the damage. Sometimes this action is in response to growing domestic legislation and increasing local labour costs.

Domestic labour costs are expensive so food processors get rid of British workers in favour of migrant workers both legal and otherwise:

'...cheap, dispensable labour had become structural to the economics of food manufacturing and processing. Companies didn't want to employ people directly, because to be the lowest cost producer you have to be able to turn off your labour at no cost whenever you want. You don't want to be saddled with expensive benefits such as pensions. And subcontracting chains enable you to hide how little you are paying.'

Exploited migrant labour falls somewhere between servants and slaves as they're not paid a reliable or livable wage and are likely to suffer dangerous and deadly conditions.

Talking of slaves, Lawrence gives us a history lesson on the Atlantic slave trade as free labour for sugar production in the West Indies for British consumption by the rich. I suppose I'm a descendant of those slaves being that I'm half Bajan.


The Food

Are a majority of us omega-3 deficient?

Deprived monkeys self-harm. One tried to eat his own testicles. Experiments Lawrence describes are incredibly interesting, showing the substantial effects on physical and mental health. Diet changes in prison reflected a remarkable lowering of objectionable behaviour. Violence and depression decreased as levels of omega-3 increased. Today's diet is less varied and nutritious as it was fifty years ago and omega-3 is harder to come by other than in fish. Of course, other factors play a part but I think there's some merit to this theory.


FOODS TO AVOID:

Probiotics. They make you fat and aren't particularly healthy for you unless you have a digestive illness.

Acrylamide. A carcinogen present in starchy foods heated to high temps during processing, e.g. crisps, chips, and breakfast cereals.

Sugar in all its refined forms, including high fructose corn syrup, because it's addictive, fattening, causes diabetes, etc.

Baby formula, if possible. Eight months of exclusively bottle feeding results in 30,000 extra calories in the form of sugar, than consumed by breastfed babies. They're getting them hooked while they're young.

Commercial baby food. Sterilization caramelizes sugars in their fruit and veg.

'Low-fat' anything. Code for 'high in sugar'.

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that has been found to be carcinogenic.

Endangered fish. Try to eat wild fish from the MSC sustainable list. Farmed seafood is rife with disease and heavy metals. Lawrence says the fish industry is committing suicide by willfully depleting wild fish stocks. She notes the red tape tying the hands of local fishermen (selling locally) illegally over-fishing to make ends meet as the bulk of quotas are allocated to the 'big fish' so to speak, forcing the little guys to either break the law or go out of business.

Margarine and its hydrogenated trans fat high cholesterol crap. Ironically, you're better off with butter than its substitutes which are less healthy.

Soya milk. Soya's oestrogens disrupt hormone balances (e.g. menstrual cycles) and damage the thyroid. Babies exclusively fed soya milk equates to them taking 5 birth control pills a day - which is unsafe. Not even children should be drinking it as they'll reach sexual maturity faster. For boys, oestrogen can negatively affect their fertility. It's possible it could be good for menopausal women and older men as it may help protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast and prostate cancers.

Cereal. Most are high in sugar. Weetabix and porridge are best.

Standard milk. Organic grass-fed is healthier and more nutritious (68% more omega-3s) and the cows are treated better than this: '[Cows] have been so overbred for high yields that their mammary glands' capacity to produce milk exceeds their ability to digest enough nutrients to keep up ... they are operating at the limits of their physiology ... half intensively kept cows go lame in any one year, and 20 per cent in a herd are likely to go lame at any one time. ' Why? Standing on concrete for long periods, too heavy udders prone to mastitis requiring antibiotics and possibly causing infertility, and not enough space to lie down in.

Consuming lots of low quality meat. Meat is an inefficient source of protein requiring a large amount of resources for small output, which due to intensive farming practices has been further devalued since the once lower fat white meat, like chicken, is now as fatty as red when the animals aren't free to exercise. Neither are they free to eat their natural diet and are instead fed grain, lowering the nutritional value of their meat, eggs and dairy. Also, cheap 'fresh' meat sometimes contains added sugar and water. I knew about the water, not the sugar.


BE AWARE:

Male dairy calves are viewed as useless waste because they don't produce milk, there's little demand for veal and EU legislation and DEFRA policy allows them little recourse but to shoot them at birth. Why can't they be raised for beef? They're bred for high-producing dairy and give very little beef for the cost of resources to raise them - it doesn't make economic sense.

✺ Soya and its derivatives are in high demand for its uses in animal feed, ready meals, junk and fast food, but the price is the illegal clearing of the Amazon to grow it.

Fruit's been engineered to be sweeter (e.g. red grapes 4% sweeter than in 1940s) sacrificing flavour and vitamins and minerals in the process. It may also be months old by the time it hits supermarket shelves - they've found a way to halt the ripening process.

✺ 75% of sugar is bought by industry rather than shoppers so it should be no surprise British teenage boys consume the equivalent of 1,000 colas or 11,800 sugar cubes per year.


The Future

Future prospects for the food industry are going to be shaped by the rising oil prices, climate change, China and India's rapid growth and changing diets, obesity and related illness, the 'short-termism' of governments, and the raised awareness among consumers changing the way we shop, resulting in more protests and campaigns for change. Yep, change is inevitable.

Lawrence really hammers home the dangers of the current system one day leaving us all starving to death if we don't change what and how we grow, rear and sell our food. Whatever happens, know we'll most likely have to pay more for it, and so we should. Remember, you get what you pay for. Hopefully, that will mean nutritious food free from chemicals produced by people paid a decent wage to treat animals with care. ( )
  Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
An interesting look at the food industry and how it's shaping what we eat. She divides it into several chapters, Cereals; Meat & Vegetables; Milk; Pigs; Sugar'; Fish and Tomatoes; Fats; Soya; Food for Tomorrow and looks at how big business have taken them over and how the smaller guy has been squeezed out of the system. Even the grants meant to help the farmer continue have been subverted and abused, along with the methods that have been used to ensure that the global corporations pay the least amount of tax as possible.

Sometimes she does engage in hyperbole but I'm pretty sure she's trying to get the reader to question and check her assertions and possibly to do something about it. It reads more like a series of articles and the final chapter binding them together rather than a book, but the author is a journalist for the Guardian so it's to be expected.

I found it a thought-provoking read and I would recommend it to many people. ( )
  wyvernfriend | May 4, 2010 |
Essential reading for anyone with a social conscience or just if you want to be healthy. As with her previous book, "Not on the label", Felicity Lawrence manages to explain clearly the complex issues around how we produce the food we eat and the effects this has, not only on our bodies, but on people from Senegal to the Amazon, as well as on the planet. I don't think I had really understood what the term globalisation really meant until I read this book. Why isn't everybody talking about it?! ( )
  awomanonabike | Oct 15, 2009 |
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Globalization has affected what we eat in ways we are only beginning to understand. In this book Felicity Lawrence provides shocking new revelations about global food production methods today.

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