A grade school field trip to a large food processing plant should be enough to have given anyone the heebie jeebies about industrially processed foods. Vats of yellowish glop as big as railcars moving slowly by, led by grizzled old men in hair nets who flick their cigarette ashes on the floor, huge complicated machines that spin and knead and portion and bake the items that are later wrapped in cellophane by equally Rube Goldberg – like contraptions operated by scrawny, meth addicted toothless women of an indeterminate age who obliviously pick at their hair. It should be enough to put anyone out in the garden to grow their own fruits and veggies. Even a visit to the kitchen of a local restaurant, where the big bellied chef alternates between flipping the steaks and scratching his yarbels would have a person cooking at home. But wait, don’t be so quick to condemn, without mass produced, institutionally produced food we’d all starve.
Patrick Wainright is more than just a scientist and lobbyist for Con Agra, he’s a certified nut, (his own words) about spreading the word about how important the advances of modern farming and food production are. “Without industry’s involvement in foodstuffs, the worlds population would be less than one fifth of what it is today.” he said, swiveling his gray lab-stool around from the tray of pipettes he had been using for samples of a dye he’s testing that could replace the current, carcinogenic tincture used to give maraschino cherries their distinct, bright red hue. “Think back a hundred years ago. Only the rich were fat, the average person was thin, and hungry. Just look at the photos of groups of enlisted men from World War II. Out of thirty or forty men, most of them appear malnourished. And remember that the population of the earth was very much smaller then and there still wasn’t enough food to go around.” he added as he returned to his work.
The data backs him up. In 1920 the an average adult weighed 93 lbs. That’s the global average, taking into account all sexes, statures and races. In the US, which had only begun to track such statistics, the average male weighed in at 122 lbs and the average female at 103lbs. Today’s figures put the global average at 126 lbs for males, 114 lbs for women. and US men average about 188 lbs and women about 137 lbs, (Persons in the southern US skew the average by tipping the scales at 417 for men and 392 for women.).
And his remarks about the global population benefiting from advances in food science are borne out as well. The world’s population was less than 200 million in 1900 and is almost 800 million today and climbing fast, driven largely by increased food production and advances in technology. So feel free to putz around in your garden this spring and harvest a few lettuce leaves and scallions for a salad but remember when you flip a chicken breast on the grill and garnish it with rosemary that it was all made possible because the chicken is less than six weeks old, raised in a cage that never saw daylight and was fed ground up everything nothing else would eat, including the remnants of it’s own brethren along with loads of growth hormones even Lyle Alzado would have condemned.