Thursday, May 01, 2008
Our Amber Waves of Grain
I've been thinking about our global food crisis lately. If you aren't aware of this crisis, I encourage you to read up on it in this five part series from the Washington Post.
I read Diet for a Small Planet back in college, back in the days when I was, believe it or not, an experimental vegan. This was when I first learned that the grain it takes to feed just one cow could feed an entire village in Africa. I also became aware that we really did have enough food to feed the whole world, but certain countries had the power to buy when others did not have that kind of economic strength and that evil government dictators made it impossible and kept their people poor.
I've since at least glanced through a book called "Against the Grain" and had at least one gluten-intolerant roommate. A gal I saw get very thin and whose hair and nails grew like weeds after giving up wheat, oats and barley. I also learned in anthropology, as well as the DC Museum of Natural History, that grain is not actually the best nutritional source. That our hunter-gatherer ancestors, those who ate meat, roots and leaves, were a whole five inches taller than their farming descendents, those who started cultivating grain.
Grain, though not the best source of fuel for our bodies, is the fuel that will sustain the lives of most of the third world. We seem to be able to find all sorts of intolerances and create special diets to get around our daily bread, yet have the luxury of feeding on animals who've fed on our (historically cheap) grain rather than feeding this poor world.
I'm not sure what the solution is here or what sort of protest of diet or soul or what can be done to help this problem. Some refuse to buy grain-fed beef. But that's mostly because of health concerns. Grass-fed is supposed to be better for you. Others just don't eat meat altogether either because of health or animal cruelty or religious convictions. With the rise of grain prices and more corn being converted into ethanol instead of as a food source for us or the third world, going grainless might be another growing diet fad...but then what's left for the health and humanitarian conscience? lettuce?