Greed is not Good: How Economic Gluttony Ruins Our Health

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  1. Avatar j r
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    says:

    I agree with a lot of this, but I find the narrative framing to be inaccurate. The whole markets vs governments framing is neat and easy to digest, but it lacks analytic content in the same way that processed foods often lack nutritional content. At the end of the day, “the market” is just a mechanism for reaching an equilibrium between consumers’ desires to get certain goods and services and suppliers desires to realize a profit.

    When you say that markets are what have caused much of our troubles, what exactly does that mean? If unhealthy foods are profitable, that must mean that there is a consumer demand for those unhealthy food products. If that is the case, then your beef with food markets would seem to be that they give people what they want. Often, I see advocates for the public interest make arguments in a way that downplays consumer demand or tries to paint consumer demand as somehow inauthentic or merely the result of corporate manipulation. I get why, but it’s wrong.

    If you really want to deal with what you see as negative outcomes (and I see many of them as negative as well), then you really need to deal with consumer demand head on.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to j r
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      says:

      If you really want to deal with what you see as negative outcomes (and I see many of them as negative as well), then you really need to deal with consumer demand head on.

      Heaven forbid someone blame consumer choice for the problem.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Blaming consumer choice is un-American.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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        says:

        blame consumer choice for the problem

        Wouldn’t it be easier to say something like “what you see is a problem is actually nunya, so it’s not your problem to solve”? Or, perhaps, “your solutions are going to be worse than the problem which, again, is nunya”?

        I mean, if you thought prohibition of alcohol was a bummer, and if you thought that the war on drugs was a fiasco, wait until you see the war on stuff that tastes good.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Why is it nunya?
        We live and swim in this culture; I am a part of it just as you are.
        Our choices are intrinsically shaped and guided by a culture we didn’t create, yet one which we add to, and participate in.

        Right here, in this very blog, on this very thread, in your very comment, you are attempting to guide and shape and persuade us of the rightness and wrongness of our choices and behavior.
        It isn’t a whole lot different than if you were to weigh in and tell us that a Big Mac is the ultimate best and we should run out and buy one, while a Hardees burger is awful and rotten.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @jaybird

        I mean, if you thought prohibition of alcohol was a bummer, and if you thought that the war on drugs was a fiasco, wait until you see the war on stuff that tastes good.

        I can think of a recent example from NYC.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Its good to recall the day Bloomers eliminated soda from american life. I do remember distantly when soda was available in stores…i think i was a child then…oh those distant memories.

        But really , bloomers was a chump but is there really a dirth of soda in the us. His ban went no where. I could buy a 64 oz soda for a buck and change in like 15 places within a five minute drive of my office.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Dave
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        says:

        “First they came for the Big Gulps, and I said nothing, because I was an ICEE man)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Right here, in this very blog, on this very thread, in your very comment, you are attempting to guide and shape and persuade us of the rightness and wrongness of our choices and behavior.

        And you should be free to tell me to go eff myself in the effing eff.

        But when I start *LIMITING* your choices, either by some paternalistic acting on your behalf or some forcing prior restraint on those who would have provided options you would have explored, then I’m doing something to you that is significantly different than putting my opinion out there in the marketplace of ideas.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Dave
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        says:

        You assert that you don’t want to limit my choices.
        But that’s my point- we are connected, you and I, and influence each other’s choices all the time.

        If 99% of people want Item A, while I want Item B, my choice becomes rare, expensive, and difficult; If everyone suddenly decides to follow my choice, it becomes cheap, easy and available.

        But on a different level our culture in which we live affects us; its why we choose to live where we do, after all. Culture A is more pleasant and fulfilling to live in than Culture B;
        Whether America is a land of obese sickly people is not nunya; it affects me, it affects my choices, it affects my life.

        Now I need to add, that this argument does get easily abused. It oes need to be balanced against freedom of action and taste.

        Which is why I bring it up- in discussions about food policy, the freedom argument tends to be wielded as a trump card, against which no objection can be raised.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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        says:

        So who gets to punish whom for not doing what they are told?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Which is the question underlying most political theories- how do we decide?
        How do we decide if property rights/ human rights/ fetal rights/ junk food rights exist? Opinions vary!

        I’m not presenting an airtight resolution- I’m just arguing that the “nunya” argument, aka” just let everyone do their own thing” aka “coercion is bad” is insufficient for resolving conflicting ideas.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Dave
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        says:

        “war on stuff that tastes good” is probably the way that presents the case in the most extreme version. It is more like nudging people towards healthier options. Even under Bloomberg’s sugary drinks regulations, you could still purchase two drinks if you absolutely had to have more than X ounces.

        I understand the case that public health based government intervention is fundamentally illegitimate, “none of your business” is a really important line of thought from a libertarian outlook. Alternatively, there is an important public health case to be made that government, acting proportionately, can and should foster a healthier citizenry – individuals being embedded in communities, and if I recall correctly, the health choices of individuals in communities having knock on impacts on others in communities.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Dave
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        says:

        “Whether America is a land of obese sickly people is not nunya; it affects me, it affects my choices, it affects my life.”

        Why?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Serious question for those in the assertive public health policy camp.

        If it became apparent that sugar taxes or bans on certain foods or sizes in foods had no impact on the obesity, but that shaming did have an impact, would you support a policy of publically shaming fat people?

        Again, this is a serious question and not a “gotcha!” We’ve seen public shaming-type efforts work with regards to things like litter and smoking.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Dave
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        says:

        I live in America because I like the people here. I like our culture, I like the ethos, I like the culture.
        There are aspects of the American culture that praise tolerance, industriousness, and scorn the 7 Deadly sins, including gluttony.

        A nation where gluttony and obesity are shrugged off would be a poorer place to live. A culture in which we were encouraged to pander to our most fleeting whim, in which there is no pause between the wanting of a thing and the getting of a thing, would be really, really unpleasant.

        I prefer to live in a culture that isn’t like that, and I assert that we can and should use all the tools at our disposal, including government action, social persuasion, and peer pressure to construct a beneficial culture instead.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @lwa

        That Pat Robertson impersonation is spot-on.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @j-r
        I know you meant that as snark, but I will own it.

        Religious conservatives are not entirely wrong in their world view.
        The idea that there is a moral dimension to our appetites and consumption is entirely supportable, in my view.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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        says:

        I’m just arguing that the “nunya” argument, aka” just let everyone do their own thing” aka “coercion is bad” is insufficient for resolving conflicting ideas.

        I call it the “you’re not my dad” argument. Its corollary is “I’m not your dad”.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @jaybird – you’re not my dad, so you can’t tell me who my dad is, and you can’t tell me I’m not yours.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Your mom is so fat that she got run over and they ran out of gas.

        I mean, I’m trying to figure out why I have authority over other people (hey, maybe I do! I’m white and male, after all) even though it doesn’t seem to me that I have authority over them.

        Because I don’t have authority over them, it makes me wonder when people say “I have authority over you!” to me about where this authority comes from and what its limits are, if any.

        Because, seriously, you wouldn’t believe what some of these complete strangers are saying that I shouldn’t be allowed to do.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Pretty awesome that you just get to choose to live here. Me? Well, there is a lot to like and a lot to dislike, but ultimately it doesn’t matter unless I am so utterly miserable that I am willing to do all the work to clear the barriers of entry to a country I might prefer.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r
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      says:

      When it comes to issues of public health, a certain amount of state paternalism might be justified. Several years ago there was a slew of articles wondering why the French have less of an obesity problem than Americans when so much of French cuisine would quickly lead towards obesity. Slate managed to actual have an answer, its from a lot of state paternalism that most Americans simply couldn’t deal with. Apparently, French eating habits contribute to the relative lack of obesity for a developed country and those eating practices can be traced to deliberate acts of the French government in the Third Republic that emphasize a more disciplined eating practice than Americans are accustomed to. Generations of French people have been basically taught how much to eat and when to eat by the government.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        “eating practices can be traced to deliberate acts of the French government in the Third Republic that emphasize a more disciplined eating practice than Americans are accustomed to”

        So the lesson is, if you eat right, the Nazis will take over. And fat-asses overseas will bail you out.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        @leeesq

        Absent the slate article, I have to ask, was the French government forcing people to eat a certain way, or educating people & encouraging a culture of that appreciates a certain style of consumption?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Knowing the French it was probably one of their innumerable enforcement of French-ness programs.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        It was actually a program to cut down on high-infant morality in the early twentieth century. It involved encouraging mothers to breast feed, including making employers set up nursing stations for working mothers, and regulating the eating of older children with fixed meal times, modest portions, no seconds, and no snacking. Its the latter part of the program that became the basis for modern French eating habits. Americans or most other people are going to tolerate such a level of state involvement in such an intimate part of life.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        If the market didn’t value healthy babies, who the hell is the government to say otherwise?Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to j r
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      says:

      Hi j_r, I don’t see how the idea that consumer demand is often the result of corporate manipulation is “simply wrong”. It’s uncontested that food companies put a lot of money into shaping and creating demand for their products, not just with advertising (which is often aimed at children with the intent of shaping lifelong eating patterns) but with the composition of the product itself. Focusing on consumer demand as part of the problem, then, doesn’t necessarily provide food companies with total absolution.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        My point is that food companies don’t need absolution (at least not from this particular charge) for the simple reason that you have yet to prove anything.

        All you’ve done is make a few random assertions.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    “One of the largest players in the bread market, Subway, until recently put in its bread the same kind of polymer that make yoga mats so pliably puffy. ”

    If something does actually safely and effectively serve as both a floor wax and a desert topping, where’s the beef? If one’s objection to the existence of a foodstuff* is merely associative, and not scientific, it’s no better than other so-call ‘anti-science’ policy preferences.

    *which is different than a personal preference or anti-preference for a foodstuff, but both are still not rational.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      There is a long tradition of food makers adulterating their products because it made things more convenient for them even if these choices were bad for the consumers. I’m not really sure why we should allow food adulteration or at least un-marked food alteration even if the health effects of such are non-existent or negligeable.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        That’s 1) stealing a few bases 2) not scientific at all 3) not how things are done now anyway

        Any substance that is reasonably expected to become a component of food is a food additive that is subject to premarket approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate its safety under the conditions of its intended use, or meets one of the other exclusions from the food additive definition in section 201(s) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Any food additive that is intended to have a technical effect in the food is deemed unsafe unless it either conforms to the terms of a regulation prescribing its use or to an exemption for investigational use. Otherwise, in accordance with section 409 of the Act, the substance is deemed an unsafe food additive. Any food that contains an unsafe food additive is adulterated under section 402(a)(2)(C) of the FFDCA.

        Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        K,
        and yet, autism. And allergies. Seriously, tell me another tale.
        Corporations have not forgotten the LAST TIME they were wrong
        (asbestos). And they’re going to get burnt when we get to the bottom of
        autism too.

        Also, we apply carcinogens to plenty of cooked foods — additives, even.
        You’re really trying to tell me that Carcinogens are GRAS??? Cause that’s
        just unadulterated bullshit.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I’m trying to tell you that azodicarbonamide was and is approved by the FDA for human consumption in select food manufacturing processes (e.g. ‘baking’) at certain ppm concentrations. Like, actively approved via reviewing peer-reviewed research, not something that fell through the regulatory cracks.

        This sidebar is a bit topsy turvy anyway. This was there real life story of market forces in action – Subway used a product, the public got informed about the product, Subway decides to discontinue using the product based on negative public opinion. What did (and apparently does) nobody give a carbon atom about? The opinion of experts, in or out of the government regulatory bureaucracy.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        “azodicarbonamide” gets a lot less scary when you call it “bleach”, which is what it is.

        Note also that it’s there because of the customer. It bleaches the flour and makes nice pretty white bread, which is what consumers prefer over blotchy grey stuff that looks like wet cardboard (but is indistinguishable in taste and texture.)Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      Subway, until recently put in its bread the same kind of polymer that make yoga mats so pliably puffy.

      That must be why subway bread tastes like yoga mat.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      I watched the 7th game of the World Series at a waterfront bar in SF. After the Giants won, it served a round of free shots. This stuff, and since I’d never heard of it before (I’m not exactly in the demographic), I had no idea it was made with antifreeze. It was recalled in Sweden literally the next day, since apparently the Swedes have laws about such things.Report

  3. Avatar LWA
    Ignored
    says:

    While I agree with most of Robert’s comments, I also have to raise the issue of consumer choice.

    If we were designing a food production and distribution system, what would be the program specifications, the things we demand?
    1. The food must be loaded with fat, sugar and salt;
    2. It must be as cheap as possible, therefore mass produced in vast bulk quantities;
    3. It must be able to be stored on a shelf for weeks, or months;
    4. It must be packaged in individual servings;
    5. It must be ready-to-eat, or require minimal preparation.

    Among others. We can see from the market that regardless of what people say, this is what consumers are demanding with their dollars.
    So far, this is a standard market statement- consumers demand its, so that it, full stop.

    But is it? We also know that demand is malleable, able to be “nudged” by incentives, and susceptible to persuasion and peer pressure. And we know that a fair amount of intervention in the marketplace is designed specifically to promote and provide the above listed conditions; government infrastructure, banking laws, commerce laws- many of these things were designed with the intent of making vast interstate commerce easy and cheap.Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    As usual, Robert, you’re coming from a well-meaning place, but you have substantial analytical problems.

    First, you throw in a framing of “free markets,” but you ignore how much of our agricultural industry is not free market at all. Or, rather, you hint at it, but it doesn’t actually influence your analysis in the slightest. But the subsidies for sugar and grains, but not for nuts and fruits–and in fact required cartelization that drives up the cost of many fruits and nuts–surely play a role in consumer choice. So your “it’s a free market problem” approach is simplistic and misleading.

    Second, the concept of free markets is not that it leads to what is objectively good for people, but what is subjectively good for them. If people love sugary substances and the market provides that, it’s not a market failure. Markets aren’t supposed to create a particular set of values in consumers, but are supposed to satisfy the values consumers exogenously have. (Maybe firms/entrepreneuers also create new values–like heated steering wheels, or raspberry flavored beer–but these predominantly are specific adaptations of broader values people already hold, like wanting to be comfortable and liking fruity-tasting things.)

    Rather, the “failure”–which is primarily a failure from your ideological perspective, not one that is empirically provable, because it’s wholly values-based–is in getting people to care about eating healthy. This may be in part a lack of information, which could be a market failure, but I think at this point in time it’s clear that providing information is not sufficient to get everyone to care about making healthy choices.

    So the actual “failure” is a “failure” of the market to cause people to share your values. And that’s not a market failure at all.

    Third, to the extent unhealthy eating is a public policy problem, you’ve not provided any policy solution at all. You’ve pinned the blame on the market inappropriately, but in a more general sense you’ve correctly noted that the market isn’t the solution to this problem. So what do you propose? There are a variety of ways this could be addressed, which are quite dissimilar.
    1. We could actually move to a free market in ag goods be eliminating subsidies for grain and ending the fruit and nut cartels. That in itself might restructure prices enough to have some beneficial effects on American diets.
    2. We could restructure our subsidies, etc. to discriminate against grains and meats and make nuts, fruits and vegetables much cheaper.
    3. We could try to overcome the resistance of the meat producers and try to instill a more effective healthy eating program in K-12 schools.
    4. We could ban meat products in a phased-out program that successively reduces the amount available.
    5. We could punish parents who feed their kids meat.

    Any of those are arguments that could be made, and likely there are others. But just critiquing the market for not doing what it’s not actually expected or intended by anyone to do? I don’t see any point here; neither meaningful critique nor proposed solution.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      Hi James, I’ve written a companion piece, which I’m told is planned to be posted on Tuesday, that goes through some proposed solutions. This piece was intended to counter the assumption that “the market will take care of everything if we just get the government out of the way.”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Robert,

        Then I unreservedly withdraw my criticism about not proposing solutions. My criticism of your misuse of “free markets” here remains.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @james-hanley I don’t see how I was misusing “free markets”. I’m well-aware that markets deal with subjective preferences; that’s one of my critiques of relying on markets as a panacea. And when food companies routinely prey on people’s desires to be healthy by marketing processed gunk as “good for you” because, e.g., they’ve substituted “cane sugar” for added fat, there’s definitely a systematic asymmetry of information there.

        That aside, I would like to hear more about the required cartelization of fruit and nut companies — I love this area of inquiry but I haven’t heard about this problem yet.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Robert,
        You’re complaint about free markets in part encompasses markets that aren’t really free markets, but govt rigged markets.

        And if your complaint is about subjective preferences, let’s not mislead ourselves into thinking govt satisfies anything but subjective preferences, too. And has been pointed out by at least two of us here, there’s plenty of information out there. You don’t have a secret source of info, right? So what if others have your info and just don’t care because they like that good anyway? What do you propose then?

        As to cartelization, just study the Cali nuts and oranges industry. Particularly look up oranges being destroyed to keep them off the market. That’s your government, scourge of the wicked free market, at work.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @james-hanley I’m not sure why you are always to keen to characterize me as a big-government-lover, when I’ve always identified as an anarchist and prefer bottom-up solutions.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Robert,

        Where did I say “big government lover”? Admittedly I’m assuming that your post with proposals is going to make some suggestions that involve government intervention. If so, then my critique will stand; if not, I’ll certainly be intrigued. But either way, I’m curious as to what you think should predominate over subjective preferences.

        And if you’re not going to propose any government interventions, I’ll be curious to see how you propose to make changes without making use of the markets.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        I’ve always identified as an anarchist

        I’m always bemused by anarchists who don’t grok the market as an anarchic structure.

        Would you allow employers to discriminate against women, or would you support enforceable rules against that? One of those positions is anarchic and the other is not.

        Would you allow retailers to discriminate against customers on the basis of race, whether by banning them from the store or by charging them higher prices, or would you support enforceable rules against that? One of those positions is anarchic and the other is not.

        Would you support an anarchy that doesn’t produce the social outcomes you want, or do you only support an anarchy that produces what you’d define as the right outcomes?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        I’m always bemused by anarchists who don’t grok the market as an anarchic structure.

        Property, however, is not anarchic. Can you have markets without property?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Chris,

        That’s not true. Property as we’ve set it up in the U.S. is not anarchic, but property as it evolved in any number of societies prior to formal government was very anarchic, based on social norms and a quid pro quo of “I’ll respect yours if you respect mine.”

        And markets have regularly existed in the absence of legally enforceable property rights. There were Native American trade routes spanning North America before the Europeans arrived and instituted formal/legal property. Those were markets.

        Whether capitalism is possible without legally enforced property rights is a tougher question. I’d say it at least theoretically is, because property can be defended through anarchic violence as well as through anarchic cooperation. Whether we’d like that kind of world probably depends on how much violence is actually used, or whether most people come to agreement that it’s best to just allow others their property peacefully rather than making the violence necessary.

        But to suggest that either property or markets didn’t exist prior to legal sanction is inaccurate. If you can find Alfred Kroeber’s work on Native Americans, there’s a lot of insight into their forms of property rights that refutes the concept that there was no property or that everything was held in common.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        That’s not true. Property as we’ve set it up in the U.S. is not anarchic, but property as it evolved in any number of societies prior to formal government was very anarchic, based on social norms and a quid pro quo of “I’ll respect yours if you respect mine.”

        Property loosely defined as access, sure. If you want any market-supporting definition of property, you’ll need insitutions to arbitrate and enforce claims.

        And if markets are simply trade, then they are certainly anarchic and don’t require property in any sense.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        James,
        “Would you allow employers to discriminate against women?”
        must we phrase it like that? Women are highly prized workers in 3rd world countries…
        Fewer labor troubles, you see…Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Property loosely defined as access, sure. If you want any market-supporting definition of property, you’ll need insitutions to arbitrate and enforce claims.

        No, property defined as socially recognized individuals rights to use resources in certain ways that exclude others (which does not necessarily mean total exclusion of others–what we would call easements are common). And there were social institutions to arbitrate and enforce those claims. What there was not was formal government to enforce them. This is still anarchic in our sense, but is much more than simple “loosely defined as access.”

        And if markets are simply trade, then they are certainly anarchic and don’t require property in any sense.

        Not true. Granted, people can trade stolen goods. But why trade with you instead of just steal from you? Underlying that is a recognition that respecting your trade goods as your property is beneficial–we’re back to the socially recognized rights.

        And “if markets are simply trade”? Chris, if you can set aside your ideology for a moment, you can see that markets are, at root, trade. Everything else is superstructure–strip it away, and markets are about the exchange of value for value; trade.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Private property, which is what I’m referring to, is not the same thing as possession/personal property. Trading beads and trading land or the products of access to land are different things, requiring different conventions (and, depending on the conventions, different institutions). Market-supporting notions of private property require some sort of institution, which need not be governmental (obviously it wouldn’t be in market-based anarchies), but does have to have recourse to violence (or can legitimize violence, say by the owner in defense of property), that enforces requirements, claims, etc. That, or vae victis.

        And it’s weird to say “get over your ideology” while saying “Yes, at base the market is what you say it is at base.”Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        “Trading beads and trading land or the products of access to land are different things”

        Really? Why? What makes this bead “my” bead?

        Oh, because I’m holding it right now? Well, what happens when I’m not holding it anymore–is it still my bead?

        If so, then there is no difference, for this conversation, between the bead and “access to land”. Both are things that are “owned” as a result of social convention and not any inherent characteristic.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Yes, if you say, “There’s no difference,” that makes it so.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Chris,

        I had a long comment get eaten somehow. Damn.

        1. Your comment has an incoherency. You contrast beads with products from access to land, but what could beads be other than a product of access to land?

        2. You distinguish trading beads and land, but it’s no more than an assertion; you make no argument.

        3. Consider what is a fundamental fact of all property, no matter how the details differ–it involves rights to use particular resources, whether land, water, beads, etc., and those rights are socially recognized and violations are sanctioned (via whatever sanction that society uses). That’s the root–all property shares that root and is a variation on that theme. That’s not ideological, but descriptive. It doesn’t tell us what types of property (if any) we ought to have. It isn’t based in any ideological perspective (certainly its socially constructive nature isn’t very libertarian), nor does it presuppose any outcome, any normative understanding of property’s meaning, or what types of property our society should recognize.

        Now, you want to distinguish “private property” from merely “personal property.” What does “private” mean then? It is a descriptive word, but what does it describe that excludes personal property? Can you explain that without a justification that is based in a particular ideological conception or that presupposes a particular normative perspective. Of course we can make empirical distinctions between types of property and types of property systems. But is your distinction of that type?

        Bear in mind that absent formal governments, laws, and either law enforcement or judges as formal offices, some Native Americans did in fact exchange not just the product of access to land, but land itself–that is, specific private (individual) rights to use land, which is all we actually have today, property being, as the lawyers correctly say, a “bundle of rights.” Some even had intellectual property rights in songs, which could be transferred, via inheritance, gift, or exchange for value.

        4. Markets are similar. The most rudimentary exchange is an exchange of value for value, and is found even in some non-human animals. The most complex and abstract market today still involves exchange of (subjectively perceived) value for (subjectively perceived) value. Again, we can distinguish types of markets. We can even pinpoint fairly precise moments in time when certain types of markets came into being (just as we can pinpoint points in history when certain types of property came into being). And that commonality does not require an ideology to perceive it, only a recognition that each party to the transaction expects to be better off after the fact, as they personally perceive the values. (Even if we believe values are truly objective, even if we believe people are fundamentally irrational, even if we think the pursuit of material gain is equal, we can recognize this as what they are doing.)

        So we can empirically recognize different types of exchange structures. Closed markets, open markets, black markets, cartelized markets, etc., etc. How do we distinguish between a market and an exchange of value for value that is not a market, without predefining market in ideological terms or presupposing a particular normative conclusion.

        5. This is a topic which I studied deeply years ago, before being stymied in my grad work by a prof who had an ideological predisposition against property (she wasn’t amused by my suggestion that I could come share the house she just bought), and who said, “I don’t care how much evidence you show me, I know property is just a western conception unknown to other cultures.” (That is the direct quote as nearly as I can remember it.). I moved on to other things. But I wasn’t a libertarian when I did that work. I looked at property from divergent philosophical, legal, economic and anthropological perspectives and saw a commonality that transcended them. All cultures had forms of private socially authorized resource use rights, rights that in our culture we call property. In all those cultures the details of those rights vary, not only in their specific details, but in how extensive individual rights are–they’re never absent, but sometimes they are, from our cultural perspective, minimal. Property rights have every evidence of being a universal social construct, but no specific bundle of resource use rights is universal.

        Maybe you can perceive an ideological perspective in that. I honestly can’t. I didn’t set out to study property with any particular ideology (and I was a Green Party voter when I began), but just was puzzled by this abstraction that at the time didn’t really make sense to me.

        Now, you’ve made assertions, but not yet an argument. There’s my rock bottom position, available for you to dissect.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        Hi James, I’m lot more skeptical of civil rights legislation than you might think. I’ve gotten in hot water for saying that I don’t think having a centralized authority come in and force equal social relations was ever a really workable solution. Of course, I’m in favor of civil equality, I just don’t think people can effectively be mandated into it — racists just have too many evasive tools at their disposal to guarantee enforcement, and federal action ostensibly on behalf of minorities just perpetuates erroneous ideas that minorities actually have power in the political system. I think a good case can be made that extrapolitical solutions to Jim Crow actually worked far better — see for instance Mark Kurlansky’s great book “Nonviolence”.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Hi James, I don’t think you’re wrong to define property as broadly as you have, but you should appreciate that when you avail yourself of this expansive definition, your arguments against your leftist foes lose a lot of force. I don’t think many leftists have a problem with free exchange as long as it isn’t founded on the systematized use of violence to defend particular property arrangements (e.g. the laws underpinning industrial capitalism). I certainly have no problem with truly free trade — and although the fact that I’m a left-anarchist might make me something of an exception, even people like Karl Marx thought that a kind of personal property was perfectly consistent with socialism.

        Another way of saying this is that both socialism and capitalism (as well as pretty much any other system you can conceive, really) seem to allow for “markets” under your expansive definition: The only difference is about what each system thinks can be included in the bundles of rights. On the one hand, Marxists would say that the means and modes of productions cannot properly considered “property”; on the other, capitalists would analogously argue that, for instance, most accession-based property claims deserve no systematized protection.

        I happen to think this is actually a pretty fruitful way of looking at the issue, as it very effectively shows that modern market libertarianism is not as simple or primal or neutral as its proponents often claim, and that it’s actually a very artificial and contingent state of affairs. But I doubt you would grant that point.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    While I’m on a roll, you hit another one of my pet peeves, Robert: this so-called “public interest” terminology. It’s a conceit. “Public interest groups” and “public interest lawyers” serve an ideological slice of the public, nothing more. They’re as fully “public interest” as the NRA is; just more special interest groups wrapping themselves in one flag or another.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      With “public interest lawyer”, I intended to distinguish myself from the common generalization that lawyers primarily work for their own financial benefit. I’d have less of a problem than you might think with characterizing NRA lawyers as working in “public interest” broadly conceived if they were volunteering or taking wages less than they’d be able to command in private practice, though obviously I’d take issue with the idea that they’re actually benefiting people.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Bah, it’s still an ideological conceit. You’re working in your own ideological interest, and perhaps your interest in feeling noble. Money ain’t the only goal. “The public” in large portion doesn’t care about what you do, hasn’t asked you to do it, and doesn’t agree with it. Some do, sure, but they’re not “the public” anymore than any other segment of the population is. “The public interest” is just more of that mindless agglomeration that allows us to either ignore values differences or tell ourselves that those whose values differ are the wrong ones, not in line with the true “public,” or with “society.”

        Hell, I think “the public” would be better off in a much more libertarian society, but at least I’m not going to go around glamorizing myself as a “public interest intellectual.”Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        “The public interest” is just more of that mindless agglomeration that allows us to either ignore values differences or tell ourselves that those whose values differ are the wrong ones, not in line with the true “public,” or with “society.”

        Come on now. Just because the pro GMO labelling crowd has absolutely no credible science to back their claims does not make them wrong. They’re a different kind of right. Big difference.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Dave, it’s just information. Don’t you think it’s a sound libertarian position that consumers should be required to have information about the dangerous poisons that money-greedy big business wants to inject into their children just to save a few bucks?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Hi James, in the legal world, “public interest lawyer” is a common term with a generally-accepted meaning. I’m sorry you take such offense at my using such a word, but it really seems to apply given its common understanding of the term.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Dave,
        who needs credible science when you’ve got market forces?
        It’s not a matter of if there will be a plague, but when…
        Naturally, the plague will target the Other Manufacturer’s goods…Report

  6. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I do feel your article, while well intended, has some serious flaws as previous commentors have pointed out.

    My own quibbles: Is it relevant at all that your cheif bugaboo, the soda industry, has been seeing soda sales plunging for a decade now as non-soda alternatives flood the market?

    Also in the absence of your specific policy proposals would you agree that simply rolling back unhealthy government interventions would likely be the most wise policy at least in order to allow one to assess what a less distorted food market would look like?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North
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      says:

      Are the non-soda alternatives really any healthier than soda though? The most healthy thing for humans to drink in the world is clean drinking water followed by moderate amounts of beer, wine, black coffee, and unswetened tea. Most of the non-soda alternatives are just as problematic as soda from a health perspective.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I stand second to no one in my blazing contempt of the idiots who drink bottled water but it remains a fact that bottled water is a very big growth market. There’re a lot of variation out there and since soda is pretty lousy for you I doubt many of the alternatives could be much worse.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        All right, I am healthy!

        Oh wait, you said “moderate” amounts of coffee and beer.

        Well, shoot.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph

        Moderate is an extremely subjective quantity. Your ‘moderate’ consumption of beer might make me seem like a teetotaler.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        I really don’t drink that much beer anymore.

        Coffee, on the other hand…I think I may have a problem.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Drikning lots of coffee probably isn’t that much of a health problem as long as its black. If you put a lot of milk, cream, and sweteners in it than there might be a problem but not because of the coffee.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        North, long live King Tap Water. I hate buying bottled water to. If you have a container or cup and a faucet than you drink all the water you want for free.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Lee,
        Long live king rusty!Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq – I put this in it the other night, and it was delicious.

        http://www.drinkspirits.com/tequila/patron-xo-cafe-dark-cocoa-review/Report

      • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Word Lee *fistbump*
        Kimmie: A lil iron never hurt anyone.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq

        Re: bottled vs tap – one of the nice things out here is most of our tap water comes straight off the melting snowpack. It’s usually better than bottled, yet bottles still sell very well out here (which I write as I crack open a bottle of Kirkland water from Costco – there is something to be said for convenience).Report

      • Avatar Johanna in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        @north I grew up with horrible tasting tap water. I had no idea that tap water should not have a scent or be discolored until I moved to a place where the water didn’t. Sadly the aversion was already there and drinking from the tap never quite stuck for me. I had no clue what it was like to not have “hard” water. After living in a place with good water I moved to another with what I called “dirt water” – limestone tasting water ugh. Most of the time now the tap water here is drinkable except after a rain when they treat the water and you can smell the chlorine upon turning on the tap. I don’t fault anyone for drinking bottled water. The reason I grew up drinking so little water was because I hated tap water and at least with bottled water, I don’t taste rust, dirt, or chlorine. Yes I am a bottled water drinker.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        @johanna That sounds like a good reason to drink bottled water. My own life experience is the opposite: the water in rural Nova Scotia where I grew up was clear and pleasant. Water in Minnesota (at least the public water I sample) is much the same. So I am baffled by why people pay so much to drink it out of the bottle.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to North
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      says:

      Hi North, I certainly agree that rolling back unhealthy government interventions is a good start, and I believe I even say that in the article, though perhaps I should have done a better job highlighting it.

      “Yes, the government is subsidizing sugar and fatty livestock to the tune of about $10 billion a year, and that is indeed a travesty we have to fight hard to end.”

      I agree with LeeEsq that declining soda sales aren’t necessarily cause for hope, as (to my understanding) they’ve been accompanied by a rise in sugary energy and sports drinks, which really are just as bad.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Robert, sure but they’ve also been accompanied by the rise in water sales which are (while economically idiotic) very superior and water enhancements (mio for instance) which are still much better than soda (a lot less sugar per glass). Also the various boutique drinks and the like are in varying degrees of healthier (coconut water is quite good for you while fruit juice is pretty much just flat out sugar).
        So if you add in sports drinks (about as bad for you as soda) then the new market is, healthwise, much better than our old soda one.

        Very good on the follow up article. In the future I’d suggest, humbly, that you mention in your post that you’ll be touching on various subjects in a folllow up post. It can help people to hold their fire until they get your full arguement.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        Hi @North, coconut water as commonly sold generally has a lot of added sugar, which makes it only negligibly different from soda. And drink companies are still selling sugary sports drinks in schools (i.e., captive impressionable audiences) by the boatload. I’m glad that soda sales have dropped, but I don’t know that we have enough evidence to say we’re out of the woods just yet.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North
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      says:

      @north

      The question is how much will food prices rise without the subsidies. Food Subsidies seem to be the kind of indirect welfare that Americans love instead of the direct welfare that you see in Europe.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Saul, I’d be surprised if they rose a great deal and would be quite unsurprised in some cases (sugar) if they fell. Candy, for instance, is manufactured in Canada a lot because you can get the sugar without tackling US sugar barriers.

        I would expect prices on some food to rise, most likely meat and corn products.. but then again most foodies would celebrate such price changes.

        The US food market is H-U-G-E so it’d be interesting to see just how far down the turtles go if one removed the distortions of the subsidies. That said food isn’t wild expensive in Canada or Australia and they don’t have the same kinds of subsidies that the Americans do.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Changes in food prices can also do a good job changing eating habits.

        If beef is cheap, steaks are common. If beef is expensive, you’ll see more beef stew, or casseroles, etc. because you still want the beef, but you have to stretch its value in your foods.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        True but IIRC there was also a revolt when the Nixon Administration suggested people go back to the lesser cuts of meat and using things like the humbles, kidneys, and liver.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        If we’re talking about Agricultural policy, Europeans love them some indirect subsidies too.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @north ,
        American food subsidies go to producers, not consumers. Food is cheap in Canada b/c they buy it from subsidized american farmers.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @north

        Food is extremely expensive in certain parts of Australia (e.g. Canberra). A vege burger and coffee in the university café (ANU) cost me $20. In Sydney, prices are more reasonable, but not in places like Melbourne, Canberra or Perth. Most food is of course cheaper in southeast asia except things like pizza which is super inflated over here. A fried rice dish from a food court can be bought for $4 or less. I think it would be difficult to match such prices in the US. A 12 inch pizza from domino’s costs $29 and up (unless there are some offers) while a similar sized pizza in the US costs about $6Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        And yet the Canadians grow mountains of wheat and other agricultural products.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw

        I think part of that is just the standard American response to being told to do X by the government, when X is not a palatable option. Nixon might have been better off just saying, “hey, that’s the free market at work, meat is expensive.”Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I agree with your sentiments largely. The farm bill was one of those American compromises that seems to be going the way of the dodo. The rural areas got subsidies and the urban poor got EBT cards/food stamps and everyone was happy. Simply it was the kind of wheeling-dealing that makes politics work between ideological adversaries, everyone needs to get something. There are stories about McGovern and Dole dueling it out over Vietnam and Foreign Policy but becoming best of friends over the Farm and Food Stamp bills.

    I think that the problem here is that a lot of environmental and food activists don’t want to deal with economies of scale. A lot of my friends from undergrad are of the anti-Monsanto, everything can be organic school of thought. I’m a bit cynical on this and think everything can be organic if you want to see the cost of food skyrocket and see more people in agriculture and sustenance level farming. A good deal of industrial farming is necessary to feed 7 billion people.

    There is also a tendency for environmentalists and food writers to go for the school of impossible morality. This article is a good example:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/11/22/7_more_trendy_superfoods_that_are_anything_but_partner/

    It seems like everything you do is going to fuck up the planet and the poor. The subtext of the article might as well read “Please just grow all your own food or starve yourself to death.”

    Now I am not fully in the James camp. I think there is room for objective over subjective goods because too much subjective good can become a public policy problem. I also think that it is important to be relatively mindful and perhaps consume less palm oil or coconut water if it produces poor monofarming and monoforrest growth. Lee brings up a good point that the French can better because of a level of state paternalism that most Americans would find unbearable though.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      It’s so nice to be able to straight out agree with you on your eco point. So many food leftists and environmentalists start out with the utipian “there is no cost to eliminating industrial agriculture*” to “organic farming can so feed X billion people” to “Gaia will provide” to “well there shouldn’t be that many people around anyhow” really quickly when you drill down through the arguement layers.

      *Which is -not- to say that industrial agriculture couldn’t be improved a hell of a lot by the right policies or internalizing certain externalities.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      I think there is room for objective over subjective goods

      So the person who doesn’t value these claimed objective goods over subjectively preferred goods is….objectively wrong?

      This is the kind of claim that requires either some empirical demonstration or one heck of a good philosophical argument.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        There are still huge public health and other costs that come from rising rates in obesity, diabetes (including childhood diabetes), and other diseases and health conditions that comes from our diets. So I do think public health is a valid concern. There are also huge environmental costs to bottled water especially in the age of drought in the West.

        The Salon article did have a lot of silliness but it did have serious issues about how almond farming takes up 10 percent or so of annual water use in California! That’s nuts! Perhaps it would be better to go off vegan and/or other I need to be diary and wheat free pseudoscience diets to save some water.

        There are also huge environmental impacts and problems caused by monoculture growth like palm oil

        http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/environmental_impacts/Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Proponents of public health subsidy should not use public health subsidy as a rationale to tell people what to do.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @will-truman

        My biggest concern is more of the environmental impact from overconsumption and monoculture farming that includes razing diverse biological environments.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Saul,

        That didn’t actually address my question, did it? Is preventing obesity an objective good?* Or is it something we subjectively value?

        *Is it objectively wrong for a guy in our height range to stuff himself with oreos and twinkies until he weighs 400 pounds? How would you demonstrate that it was objectively wrong?Report

  8. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    In general i agree with the criticisms James and North have noted. However there is one point i think they are overlooking regarding consumer choice. Yeah consumers choose what they want and it is hard for the gov to get in their way nor is that even wise in many cases. But consumer choice is not solely a product of internal consumer desires. Companies spend a lot of money to drive demand.

    They don’t spend all that money on advertising for the fun of it. Of course the obvious response, which i pretty much agree with, is that people aren’t controlled by stupid ads they can still make their own choices. But in the realm of designing foods to be more “addictive” ( a term a i really dislike but works in this context) food companies good beyond consumer choice into manipulating unconscious biological processes. If Consolidated Food Co finds through careful experimentation the right combo of crunch, salt, fat, designed smell and dozen other factors how to make a chip that people eat a ton of they are creating a demand based on processes we have no awareness of. It is trite and simplistic to just say they are serving the consumer and offering choices since their model is based on tickling nerves we aren’t aware of and taking advantage of various processes we can’t consciously access.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to greginak
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      says:

      greginak, I think this is a great point, and in my opinion it really cuts against the “consumer demand” defense several commenters have already raised. If I could write this article again I would really emphasize the “craveability” section.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to greginak
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      says:

      So the counter to taking consumer demand seriously is simply to assert that food companies have powers of manipulation over people?

      Again, that is empty calories to me. Remember New Coke? How many new products do food companies come up with every year that fail to gain any traction in the market?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r It is well documented the research food companies do to design foods to be eaten and in as big quantities as possible. That in itself is not necessarily bad. But they really do design food specifically to not only having a pleasing crunch but to dissolve away leaving you without a feeling of fullness. They design tastes based on neuro/food receptors to trigger a stronger response. It is one thing to make a product and push it. I think it is a bit different to have designed that product to take advantage of unconscious biological processes.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to j r
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        says:

        “It is one thing to make a product and push it. I think it is a bit different to have designed that product to take advantage of unconscious biological processes.”

        Therefore, we need to ban, or at least heavily regulate, pornography.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to j r
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        says:

        I think I agree with JR here. How on earth does one write into policy “though shalt not cater to thy customers unconscious and biological preferences”? I mean that’s all of porno&fashion, half to all of entertainment, half to all of food manufacturing, maybe half of manufacturing out the window right there.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j rIt is well documented the research food companies do to design foods to be eaten and in as big quantities as possible.

        OK. And it is well documented that car companies try to design cars that people want to drive as much as possible. And it is well documented that record companies try to produce music that people want to listen to over and over again. And Netflix releases whole seasons of shows, because some people like to binge watch. So what?

        If you want to argue that these facts alone are justification for taking choices away from individual consumers and investing more power in the hands of government bureaucrats, then you need to actually present a case of why individuals are unable to make good choices for themselves and why we can expect the bureaucrats to do better.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r Oy…When did i bring up the specter of the dreaded Gubmint Bureaucrat? @north I sort of replied to Murali about this. The best, although imperfect, analogy is to cigarettes. Cig companies sold an addictive product which they made more addictive. Saying an addictive product is the same as trying to make a good song or car is wildly missing an obvious difference. Food isn’t the same as nicotine but there are similarities in terms of how many/most people react to fats, salts, etc.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        @greginak

        Saying an addictive product is the same as trying to make a good song or car is wildly missing an obvious difference.

        I read this as saying that it is such an obvious difference that you do not even have to make an argument for it.

        What exactly is the difference?

        All firms that make goods and services for public consumption do their best to make their goods and services palatable to their consumers. Give me some meaningful principle, some dividing line by which we can adjudicate between companies that sell “addictive” products and every other firm. And then tell me why it’s so obvious that food companies belong in the former category.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to j r
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        says:

        And while you’re at it, ban the TV networks. They’re pretty good at dodging the censors to get folks unconscious itches scratched.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
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        says:

        Maybe we could enact some sort of social policy with the ad campaigns we *DO* allow. Something like “okay, the only people corporations are allowed to try to exploit are cis-het white males” or something like that?

        No more targeted ads besides those.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r Yes all companies try to design things that peopel want and try to convince peopel to want them. Many food companies have spent millions and many years trying to understnat how taste, smell, digestion, etc work. They aim to design foods that bypass your counsious thoughts to affect your uncouinsious processes. Okay, so now you’ll say that we all make decisions bases on unconscious thoughts, which is true. However the example i’ve used of an industry that i would say went to far was the cigarette industry. They made an addictive product then claimed to be serving a need.

        Food is similar although not the same. I think in some ways the similarities are important enough. Would you or anybody disagree that at some level unconscious manipulation of consumers is wrong? It seems like most debates which are have more grays then B and W’s. Some unconscious manip is wrong but since we all make decisions based on less than conscious things some is inevitable.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        Food is similar although not the same. I think in some ways the similarities are important enough. Would you or anybody disagree that at some level unconscious manipulation of consumers is wrong?

        I hope you see the tremendous and unfounded leap you make when you go from the first sentence to the second.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to j r
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        says:

        I love, love, love the way that people are making Precious Bodily Fluids arguments with an entirely straight face.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to j r
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        says:

        Greg, the problem is that you concede your own argument when you say that food is similar but not the same. Food is similar in that it appeals to our biologically wired propensities for certain textures, certain salts, certain sweetness’s but it’s not the same because while our wired propensities may incline us in those directions they lack the concrete chemical dependence chains that addictive chemicals like nicotine have.

        Also, in the case of nicotine you have an addictive chemical that is being used to induce customers to inhale what is otherwise a poison. In the case of food we’re talking about using natural inclinations to make us eat something that is harmful to us only in excess.

        I can see the connection on the surface but if you drill down they’re really different things and it’s a horrible horrible grey place to try and be erecting policy barriers.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to j r
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        says:

        @jr @north Are you guys aware of the extent to which companies manipulate every aspect of some foods to trigger responses. I’m not talking about trying to make stuff yummy, fine enough. But designing a chip to have a crunch, which people like, then to dissipate as quickly as possible so you don’t feel a sense of satiation goes beyond stuff that tastes good.

        I think addiction is a widely overused term but for some aspects of discussing food it gets close enough. Companies add fat or sat or HFCS because people like them. They make people feel good. Are companies open and honest about when they add those things…no of course they aren’t because most people know they aren’t healthy. And for the most part that is the just the world, companies can fill food with unhealthy stuff and it is up to us to figure that out if we want. But i’m wondering if we coming from different places about the extent food companies are designing good to trigger certain responses.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        @greginak

        What I am asking for is a meaningful, usable set of principles that would allow me to distinguish the difference between what the lab coats at Frito-Lay are doing when they are trying to come up with the next big flavor in the Doritos’ lab and what someone like David Chang is doing in his own lab (http://www.eater.com/2013/11/19/6327597/david-changs-harvard-lecture-fermentation-is-a-cultural-universal) trying to come up with newer and better ways to give his food more umami.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to j r
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        says:

        Greg, I’m aware of what you’re referring to but it’s just not the same.

        Firstly, niccotine is a direct addictive chemical and it’s impelling people to inhale poison. Food receptors are potent but they ain’t niccotine and food isn’t poison.

        Where the links to cigarettes collapse is in the consequences. If I chow down on manufactured snack foods in abundance but run marathons every day I am going to be just fine. If I plow through a package of smokes each day and run a marathon I’ll die of throat cancer or emphysima at about the same rate that a non marathon runner does. Substitute any activity you like. Food is not cigarettes.

        I’m not trying to be dismissive here but JR is right about the grey zones. Can you succinctly explain the clear lines that policy should draw the line between making food appealing/appetizing and manipulation of biological triggers? Note that I just repeated myself in the last sentence using different words; they are the same thing just described differently.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r
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        says:

        I think it is a bit different to have designed that product to take advantage of unconscious biological processes.”

        That sound, what is it? Sooo…rhythmic….my feet…my hips….I can’t stop moving them!Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to j r
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        says:

        @north “Firstly, niccotine is a direct addictive chemical and it’s impelling people to inhale poison. Food receptors are potent but they ain’t niccotine and food isn’t poison.”

        Actually, processed sugar operates on the brain along very similar pathways to compounds more traditionally considered addictive — it generates the same kind of dopamine spike response. When rats have been habituated to both processed sugar and cocaine, and are later given an option of what they can get, over 90% of them pick the sugar.

        But even if you don’t buy that, what about soda? Caffeine is clearly addictive in certain quantities, and the processed sugar found alongside it in soda is really terrible for your health.

        “Where the links to cigarettes collapse is in the consequences. If I chow down on manufactured snack foods in abundance but run marathons every day I am going to be just fine. If I plow through a package of smokes each day and run a marathon I’ll die of throat cancer or emphysima at about the same rate that a non marathon runner does. Substitute any activity you like. Food is not cigarettes.”

        This issue is not as cut-and-dry as you think. First, processed foods have a negative effect on motivation to exercise. Second, even if you are capable of eating lots of sugar and still exercising, you’re not necessarily healthy, because processed sugars get stored as visceral fat, while your body prefers to burn subcutaneous fat. There are lots of “skinny-fat” people who have the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome but do not appear grossly overweight.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to j r
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        says:

        When rats have been habituated to both processed sugar and cocaine, and are later given an option of what they can get, over 90% of them pick the sugar.

        Hmmm… they pick the thing that has actual caloric content and tastes good, you say? Unexpected.

        I’m not sure that’s an argument for sugar’s “addictiveness”, in the sense that I am “addicted” to taking in calories each day, lest I starve.

        I am also against using the term “addictive” for mild things like caffeine in general; while I understand there is a continuum of habit-forming things, caffiends are not robbing pharmacies to get their fix, and wouldn’t be even if it were prohibited. But that’s perhaps a separate conversation.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to j r
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        says:

        Glyph addressed my point for the most part vis a vis addiction.

        I’d love to reiterate my main question to Greg to you as well Robert: Can you identify in a clear and simple way what objectively differentiates improving the taste of food from unconscionable manipulation of human biological inclinations?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to j r
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        says:

        @North Hi North, I don’t think I’ll be able to come up with a universal definition that would successfully categorize all instances into one group or another. I think what distinguishes grandma adding a little nutmeg from large industries developing all sorts of additives is largely the matter of intent: Grandma is trying to please you, while the food companies’ attempts to please you are really just subservient to their attempts to make money.

        This difference in intent is a bigger deal than you might think: If Grandma comes across good evidence that nutmeg is bad for you, she’ll be a lot more likely to cut it out of her recipe, but for food companies to do the same, they’ll require a lot of sustained and knowledgeable opposition, which they might fight with disinformation campaigns (as with tobacco companies’ mendacity, or with Big Soda’s insistence that there’s no link between soda and ill health), perhaps even direct governmental prohibition. Alienation is a pervasive problem of large markets like the current one we have for food, and I think it’s fair to take it into account.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak
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      says:

      It is trite and simplistic to just say they are serving the consumer and offering choices since their model is based on tickling nerves we aren’t aware of and taking advantage of various processes we can’t consciously access

      How does this differ from when companies are actually serving the consumer and offering choices? (I’m assuming that the unobjectionable sort happens often enough that this bad kind of manipulation is actually distinctively bad). People’s choices are always somewhat amorphous and are made precise by the act of decision making: an act in which we don’t really have control over our neurons in any robust sense.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Murali
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        says:

        @murali Because it ignores the role companies have in creating the demand they serve. Yes many of our decisions are based on un or barely conscious things. Cigarette companies sell an addictive product that they made more addictive. They would say they are just serving a demand but they helped to create that demand and the demand exists based on a physically addicting process. Food aren’t addictive in the same way nicotine is but there are some similarities which the food companies leverage as much as they can.

        There are all levels of awareness and consciousness of our choices. I’m saying that at a certain level having your physical processes affected by physically manipulated substances is different than a commercial with an allegedly sexy blond fellating a burger.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali
        Ignored
        says:

        @greginak

        So we’re not talking about particular ads but certain substances in food. Its late for me so I’ll go sleep on this. But I’ll get back to you in the morning.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Murali
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        says:

        @murali Yes. Ads may be dumb or creepy or a million other stupid things but i don’t think they are an issue here. It is about how foods are designed and the level of unconscious manipulation of physical processes involved. Some of that seems close to deliberately making things to be “addictive”.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Murali
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        says:

        It is important to keep in mind, in this conversation, that you’re talking to a conspiracy theorist.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Murali
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        says:

        Jim,
        you, I presume.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali
        Ignored
        says:

        @greginak

        I have never smoked so I don’t know how cigarette addiction feels like. I have tasted some junk food which you just want to keep having more of even though it tastes rather bland. I can’t compare the two. But there are also some home made snacks that I just can’t get enough of even though I know those will ruin my diet. So, it is unclear at least to me if there is any substantive effect these additional substances have which put them on the same scale of badness as cigarettes.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Murali
        Ignored
        says:

        Murali,

        Home made snacks. Mmmmm. My daughter’s becoming an outstanding baker–she’s manipulating me. And those folks who make baclava…why aren’t we holding them to account?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to greginak
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      says:

      Companies spend a lot of money to drive demand.

      They don’t spend all that money on advertising for the fun of it. Of course the obvious response, which i pretty much agree with, is that people aren’t controlled by stupid ads they can still make their own choices.

      Do you have any idea of how much advertising does zilch to budge sales? It’s maybe not hard to get people to try a product once–as long as it’s low budget–but if they don’t groove on it, no amount of advertising can make the go out and buy it again.

      As for making foods “addictive,” that doesn’t mean the tastes for every new food item will make people buy it. Watch the food markets closely, products come and go, and only a few stick around long term.

      The short story is, they’re not “manipulating” us so much as they are desperately trying to find what will attract us enough to keep us buying more.Report

  9. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    I remember reading an article about niche farming that said that, of the crops grown in the United States around the time of the Civil War, three quarters aren’t grown any more and many of them don’t even exist anymore, outside of very specialized seed banks that don’t just let anybody at their seeds, or family seed banks from old southern clans. I’ve been trying to find out how you gain access to these seed speakeasies for a while now. I’ve got a close friend who belongs to one and she said they quizzed many of the people she knows before they’d let her in. She owns a restaurant though.

    At any rate, my problem with consumer choice, as a person who likes to eat a lot, is that I don’t have nearly as many as I’d like.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      @rufus-f

      This is largely true. A lot of regional varieties have disappeared especially for fruits like the apple. There are some places (usually hipster farmers and grocery stores) that are trying to bring back different species of apple but usually the prices are relatively high for fruit. One local expensive grocer in SF does try to have more than just red delicious and granny smith. You can find apples like the Rome Beauty, the Winesap, the Arkansas Black, Pink Lady, etc. I’ve noticed that McIntosh Apples are more common on the East Coast than in SF. There are only two stores I know of where I can find McIntosh apples in San Francisco.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        LOL. McIntosh is code for “apple that’s not one of the others”. There’s tons of McIntoshes.
        We’re in apple country here, so I can tell you that not only are there tons of old varietals, there are tons of new ones too. Goldrush to Crimson Crisp, Stayman Winesap to York — it may take a little bit of work, but they’re all still out there. Even costco’s selling Empires and Gingergolds…Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        To sound a cynical note a lot of those food crops that aren’t grown as food anymore? They’re not grown as food because they’re utterly vile and given alternatives no one wants to eat em.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        At least for bananas, it was disease that wiped most of the alternative cultivars out of existing. Banana experts tell me that the Gros Michel was much more delicious and creamier than the Cavendish but the Panana disease killed it.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        I really wish we could recover that cultivar. I love banannas and the idea of a breed that tastes even better is just mind boggling.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        According to Wikipedia, the Gros Michel is still available in parts of the Caribbean, South East Asia, and Africa.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        You can find them here too, but they are usually marketed as the ‘Keaton’ or ‘Gummer’ banana.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq @north

        And it looks like Tropical Race 4 might kill off the Cavendish. This is why monofarming is bad. You can sometimes find non Cavendish bananas in SF. I am not sure I agree with your disgusting analysis North. A lot of the stuff in supermarkets are bland especially Red Delicious apples. The tasty tomato was essentially killed by bigger is better industrial farming. It is smaller farmers that are bringing back healthier bananas and more variety. I do think a lot of the big farmers produced stuff that gave a higher yield and was more disease resistant than tasty.

        @glyph

        The Keaton Banana is well known from many Silent Films. Its grandson was often seen in 80s sitcoms.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw, bananas aren’t really a good example of why monoculture is bad. The reason why bananas are so disease vulnerable is that every banana of a particular type is a clone. One cavendish banana is literally genetically identical to every other cavendish banana. This isn’t true for any other type of plant we eat.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @leeesq , nearly every fruit you’ve every eaten is a clone, created by grafting a cutting onto rootstock. And for good reason. Apples, for example, don’t grow true from seed, so if you plant appleseeds from one type of apple, the trees you get will yield a variety of dissimilar apples, most of which will be too tart to eat.

        @saul-degraw , McIntosh apples don’t grow well on the west coast, and bruise too easily to transport across the continent. The thing about regional apple varieties? Well, they’re regional for a reason. Many are also very seasonal–and so can only be eaten for a few weeks of the year.

        Still, I think we’re living in a golden age of apple varieties. I used to work in a discount grocery store–one that was know for neither the variety nor quality of its produce–and yet, it was on rare occasions that we didn’t stock at least six varieties of apple.

        If you’re looking for rarer apple varieties in the bay area, get them from Dave Hale at a farmers market. Or drive up to his farm in Sebastapol and buy them there. That’s the apple farm my dad grew up on. The uncles referred to in that blurb are my grandpa Bob Scott and his brother Frank.

        Of course, when my dad was a kid, that apple farm grew Gravenstein apples that got bought by big companies and turned into applesauce and baby food. Nowadays, he grows dozens of heirloom cultivars on half the farm, and the other half has been sold off and converted into a much more profitable vineyard. I’m not going to pretend that that’s good for Dave, from an economic standpoint. But it is good for anyone who wants to eat apples. Because they can still get applesauce and babyfood at the supermarket, but they can also get heirloom apples at the farmers market.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @alan-scott, I understand that but my understanding is that it is more true for bananas than other fruits.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        It’s also worth noting that some of the most popular apple varieties today weren’t commercially available in the US back when my dad was a kid. The Gala is from New Zealand and the Fuji from Japan–and they didn’t make their way to US consumers until the 70s and 80s respectively.

        I’ve told you about my Dad’s family and their apple farm, but there’s an apple story from my Mom’s side of the family too:

        My grandfather on my mom’s side had a coworker whose son went to Oxford University in the 80s. One of his friends, a Japanese student, regularly got shipments of apples from Japan that he shared. The coworker’s son said they were the best and sweetest apples he’d ever tasted–they were Fuji apples, and this was before most people in the US had heard of them. The Japanese student said they were from his grandfather’s garden.

        What he did not say (or at least not right away) was that the grandfather in question was Emperor Hirohito.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      I sincerely doubt it.
      we’ve still got celery, and lettuce, buckwheat and sorghum, rice even… and tobacco. I can see the loss of particular varietals of a crop — apples got hit really, really hard in that regard… But unless you’re counting the Cheeseborough as a crop, you’re going to have to show some numbers.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      @rufus-f If you want, contact me via email. My friend David Shields is one of the premier academic cataloguers (maybe *the*) of the movement to preserve these seeds.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      Rufus: Ten years ago barely anyone outside South America knew what quinoa was, and craft brew was something that your buddy made in his basement. If you absolutely must, I can find more examples of recently new things, but I don’t think the problem in the food market is too little consumer choice.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    US industrial grain farming is as much a foreign policy as a domestic one. Do away with the very large exports of corn, wheat, and soy that such farming practices support and much of North Africa and the Middle East starve. Similarly, corn ethanol may or may not be good domestic policy; there is no doubt at all that it’s a terrible foreign policy, pushing higher grain prices and instability in a variety of places globally.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Michael Cain
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      says:

      Another interesting problem. Agricultural subisides might wreck a certain amount of havoc in the United States wastline but they also provide for cheap grain elsewhere in the world.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        They don’t. The US would not stop growing grain in the absense of subsidies- we’re the Saudi Arabia of arable land. I am massively skeptical that our subsidies promote materially cheaper grain prices elsewhere.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        “Cheap US grain” can, in fact, a problem. The USA prefers to provide food aid rather than straight cash. On the one hand, this means that the cash can’t be hijacked and put in someone’s bank account. On the other hand, this means that in areas that are receiving US food aid, there’s no way to make any money by growing grain; and so nobody bothers to set up a grain-growing infrastructure, and when the US food aid stops there’s a grain shortage.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Jim,
        look up nafta and corn production in Mexico. boy, did that go wrong in a hurry.Report

  11. Avatar j r
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    says:

    I am not at all opposed to having a conversation about the means that various types of firms use to sell more of their goods and services. If you want to have that conversation, however, be ready to do the work. What I am seeing here is a whole lot of weasel words and meaningless linguistic constructions trying to do the work of meaningful analysis.

    By now, educated people generally agree that the government is screwing the pooch on food policy…

    It’s uncontested that food companies put a lot of money into shaping and creating demand for their products…

    …food companies good beyond consumer choice into manipulating unconscious biological processes….

    …they are creating a demand based on processes we have no awareness of…

    It is well documented the research food companies do to design foods to be eaten and in as big quantities as possible.

    These are not arguments. They are assertions.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r
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      says:

      Yeah, but they’re assertions in the same way that “eating nothing but ice cream is bad for you” is an assertion. After the first one you quoted, those are pretty much all not only well documented but readily copped to by food manufacturers.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Of course, we saw the same bullshit about Communist Infiltrators back in the 1950s, and now we all agree that it was just silly right-wing paranoia.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Disagree. All companies put effort into making their products palatable. If you want me to believe that food is different, then you have to give me concrete reasons.

        Here’s the thing: hunger is an unconscious biological process; taste is an unconscious biological process. So anything that anyone does to make something taste better or to make something more suitable to a given taste profile is working on unconscious biological processes, but we generally don’t tend to talk about it like that.

        Is your grandmother manipulating your unconscious biological processes by using nutmeg as the secret weapon in her snickerdoodles?

        When a graphic designer puts together a clothing or furniture catalog or when a merchandiser sets up a showroom in such a way to maximize the chance that you will buy something are they shaping and creating demand for their products?

        I have yet to see anyone spell out what it is exactly that makes food companies different from all the other companies that use the same. Again, I am not opposed to the idea that there are some differences, but you have to do more than just assert that difference.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @j-r I don’t understand. How did you not just confirm all of what you quoted?

        Things don’t have to be a dark conspiracy to be true.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @tod-kelly

        The assertion that I am complaining about is not that food companies do things to make their products more palatable. Of course they do.

        The assertion is that what food companies do is meaningfully different than what any company does to make their products more palatable. Maybe it is different and maybe that is a case for viewing it with alarm, but before I accept that I want to know why.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        I think you were reading a whole lot into those sentences that you quoted it isn’t there. Seriously, I don’t know of one food manufacturer that doesn’t talk very openly about doing any of the things that you just claims were unproven assertions.The question has never been, do food manufacturers knowingly create less healthy food knowing that there will be a greater demand for them. The question has always been,what if any public policy decisions need to be made about that fact? I’m not a big government interventionalists when it comes to things like this. I think companies should be required to let consumers know what is in their products, but other than that I believe the consumers have the right to choose what they do and don’t put into their own bodies.but wherever you fall on that particular issue, it’s a very different one from the question of whether or not food companies make food unhealthy to be less palatable. They do, and they’re very open about the fact that they do.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @rtod

        The question has never been, do food manufacturers knowingly create less healthy food knowing that there will be a greater demand for them.

        Yes, they do. They know that there will be a greater demand for those items because less healthy foods tend to be a heck of a lot cheaper to purchase than their more healthy counterparts like whole foods, fruits, veggies, etc. Artificial sweeteners are found in all sorts of foods from condiments to candy to canned tomatoes to soups etc. One of the reasons the food companies do it is because it’s cheap.

        The question has always been,what if any public policy decisions need to be made about that fact?

        Less healthy doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy. I may not like the fact that a can of stewed tomatoes may have a little bit of high fructose corn syrup, but i’d rather eat that than a candy bar.

        Given that Big Food does have a lot of political pull, I don’t see any solutions happening.

        I think companies should be required to let consumers know what is in their products

        We have ingredients labels that address these very things with the exception of things that have not been shown to have an impact on health or safety (i.e. GMO labeling). If I want to read the ingredients of a can of peanut butter, I’ll know if it only contains peanuts and salt or if they’ve added sweeteners or different types (something you see in a lot of cheaper generic brands).

        from the question of whether or not food companies make food unhealthy to be less palatable. They do, and they’re very open about the fact that they do.

        I think you meant to say more palatable.

        My response. So what? There is so much health and wellness-related information out there that anyone with an interest and/or desire to understand how bad some of the foods are can find it as I did. It’s actually pretty common sense to me but I may be coming at this from a different perspective given my own diet and exercise choices (and the fact that I’ve been able to keep 30 lbs off my body for the last 18 months or so).Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @tod-kelly is entirely correct to indicate that the basic process, and overtly intentional objective, of the kinds of companies we’re discussing here is to create foods that reach a ‘bliss point’ where the consumer’s sensation of pleasure is maximized and thus their desire to purchase more product is also maximized. The objective, after all, is profit.

        We’re going to have to either say that a profit-driven market for food is at least potentially consistent with consumers getting the kind of nutrition that subject matter experts want them to have, or that ultimately, profit motive and optimal nutritional choices are inconsistent. The OP hints at, but does not quite say, that the second position is the correct one: if food purveyors are permitted to operate without significant regulatory restraints, consumers will ultimately wind up with poor nutrition. That they collaborate in this, choosing poor nutrition, is something that the OP suggests is kind of beside the point.

        I pessimistically suspect, though, that far-future generations of our descendants are going to pretty much all look like the red-jumpsuited space travelers from Wall-E. As inevitable as global warming.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @Tod Kellyis entirely correct to indicate that the basic process, and overtly intentional objective, of the kinds of companies we’re discussing here is to create foods that reach a ‘bliss point’ where the consumer’s sensation of pleasure is maximized and thus their desire to purchase more product is also maximized.

        As far as I can tell, no one is disputing that claim. The dispute is why we ought to care, why this needs to be elevated to the level of public policy.

        @burt-likko, I applaud you for coming out and saying what other are only asserting, that the government needs to step in and save us from ourselves, because otherwise we will make all sorts of horrible, unalterable life choices. I disagree with that assessment, but I applaud you for saying it straight out.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Thanks Burt for finding that article. I was going to google it but didn’t have the time. It is pertinent to at least know what the issues are. I’m not even saying it should be illegal or i want the gov regulating it. But what companies are doing is far more then just selective breeding of pretty apples.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Burt, if you want people to not “lampoon and mock” or jump to conclusions, then maybe you didn’t ought to be rolling out stuff like “far-future generations of our descendants are going to pretty much all look like the red-jumpsuited space travelers from Wall-E. As inevitable as global warming.”

        And that’s setting aside the usual “food companies have special mind-control techniques they use to LITERALY MAKE PEOPLE ADICTED TO FOOD!”Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Yeah Burt, you make it sound like Americans are growing fat and flabby.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        You know, as a Person Of Substance, I find the lack of diverse body positivity on this board to be exceptionally thinist.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @burt-likko

        I wasn’t trying to mock or lampoon you. I sincerely applaud you for coming out and stating the case that others are just sort of dancing around.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        By the way, this right here is the point of disagreement:

        That they collaborate in this, choosing poor nutrition, is something that the OP suggests is kind of beside the point.

        It is not beside the point at all. People have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies so long as it does not cause harm to others. Bob being fat does not directly harm Joe. Sure, you can make some argument that Joe ends up paying for Bob’s health care, but that is as much a reason not to have socialized health care costs as it is for “nudging” Bob in the supposed right direction.

        None of this is to say that there is not a category of things that are legitimate public health risks, but if you want to prove that health and nutrition are in that category then you need to offer some argument as to why this represents an actual market failure. The argument that food companies are really good at making things that people want to eat is not in itself a market failure. It’s actually a sign of a market that is working pretty well.

        As @james-hanley said elsewhere in this thread: a market failure is not a market that reaches an equilibrium with which you disagree.Report

  12. Avatar Kimmi
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    says:

    A few things that seem odd:
    “The very act of processing grain into flour removes nutrients from an already nutrient-thin product.”
    ORLY? You eat graham flour? You tell me what nutrients get removed when you put the whole kernel back into the flour??

    “With meat, processors do this by injecting chicken cuts with brine to make them larger and more flavorful, though less healthy”
    … only applicable if you have high blood pressure.

    “Unprocessed foodstuffs (such as raw peaches, fresh mint, etc.) are often difficult to distinguish from competitors’, meaning that the opportunity for monopolistic competition in food (and therefore, for profits) is generally low. ”

    Generally not true, surprisingly enough. Even cornmeal has grades…

    ” Even more troublesome, processed foods can even be engineered to be “craveable” in ways natural foods are not (“craveable” in this sense is perhaps the food industry’s euphemism for “addictive”).”

    … um… what? You do realize we breed plants to be sweet, right?

    “these tomatoes are still among the healthiest choices at a typical supermarket!”
    … you really wouldn’t rather buy the “picked ripe” tomatoes? You really think that the cardboard ones are healthier than ones that have been picked at the peak of ripeness? Try the canned tomatoes — they’re good!

    “Eating foods that have been molested by industrial grinders and blades and ovens means that our food is not being presented to our digestive systems in ways they recognize, and the predictable result is that our systems go haywire”

    Our digestive tract is neither short enough for raw meat, nor long enough for efficient processing of most vegetable matter. Humans fare better with ovens and cooking. Our bodies evolved for cooking foods…though perhaps not in the ways you’d expect.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Kimmi
      Ignored
      says:

      Kimmi, I was slightly incorrect about a few things there, but I still think I was correct on the whole.

      You’re right that it’s not necessarily the grinding of the grain into flour that removes nutrients. But food companies have shown a marked preference for white flour, because without the germ and bran, the flour degrades much more slowly. I think this is consistent with my broader point.

      You point out that there are different grades for cornmeal, but that seems beside the point because it’s still difficult for sellers of cornmeal to differentiate their products and capture monopolistic profits.

      Your point that humans evolved to eat cooked foods is a common one, but I think this is a misconception. Yes, the human digestive tract is shorter than our closest relatives, chimps and gorillas. But not by much. And the only real benefit they get from long digestive tracts is that they’re capable of eating rougher plant material like twigs, branches, and tough leaves. You don’t need a long gut to process fruits or nuts or even most leaves.

      And yes, I realize I’m going against a certain consensus here. I think it was Michael Pollan who wrote that tomatoes have more bioavailable lycopene after they have been cooked. I think this fact has more to do with the state of our tomatoes than with cooking: Because are tomatoes are picked when they are not ripe and then artificially ripened (even “on the vine” tomatoes), we’ve interfered with the plant’s fruiting process. Cooking, however, can mimic many of the aspects of the ripening process that we’ve otherwise forestalled. I bet that if we compared the available lycopene of picked-when-ripe heirloom varieties to that of cooked supermarket tomatoes (or even cooked heirlooms), we’d see the uncooked version look relatively much more nutritious.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        food companies have shown a marked preference for white flour, because without the germ and bran, the flour degrades much more slowly

        Food companies or consumers? You realize white flour’s not the only type available in the average grocery, right? You don’t think good processors would make less of it and more of something else if other stuff started flying off the shelf while sales of white flour stagnated.

        And your insistence that humans are relatively adapted to fruits and nuts from all over the world, but not to cooked foods is wildly inconsistent given that humans have been eating cooked food for at least 250,000 years, while your favored oranges–unknown as wild fruit, in fact–have been cultivated for about 1/10th that time, and originated not where Homo sapiens originated but in Asia. My European ancestors didn’t eat them u them until about half a millennia ago. There’s really no way your and my pasty white bodies are better designed for raw oranges than for cooked foods. There’s just an astonishing amount of nonsense, of pure woo, here.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Scientists have shown that humans didn’t start chewing their food until about 100,000 years ago. Before that, they applied it topically.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Slowly. While funky music played. Awwwwww yeahhhhhhh.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I’m not denying that consumer choice is a major contributor to the problem. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t examine how the way our food system is set up is causing problems. The fact remains that asymmetries of information abound in food markets, whether you like it or not. Maybe that’s not enough to justify government intervention, but it’s enough to at least put a question mark beside your weird Panglossianism.

        I don’t think this “oranges are evolutionarily novel to humans” battle is really the hill you want to die on. The basic mammalian frugivore digestive system body plan has been around at least as far back as humans diverged from our wild-orange-dispersing cousins. If you can find one reputable nutritionist or physiological anthropologist who’s willing to say that highly processed foods are more consonant with the human digestive tract than wild oranges, I’ll concede the point, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Wild orange dispersing cousins? Robert, wild oranges are, as I understand it, non-existent, and oranges as we know them go back 2500 years in East Asia, cultivated from we-don’t-really-know-what, it appears. We’re from Africa a quarter million years ago. We had no wild-orange-dispersing cousins.

        But some of our cousins did eat meat. And we were cooking food a quarter million years ago.

        Why don’t you drop the historically unsupportable claims, the bad science, and the emotionally manipulative language? If you have something left after you’re reduced to facts, I might be interested. I have a big problem with the blatant bullshit.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Hi @james-hanley , wild oranges are very much a thing: The modern orange is descended from wild mandarin oranges, which still grow wild in Southern China. These wild cultivars are also higher in antioxidants and phenolics than the common commercial varieties.

        “As one of the most important centres of origin for the genus Citrus L., China is rich in wild mandarin germplasm.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24128530Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        no, the hill i want to die on is made of cheese. Seriously, you’ve got to be crazy if you’re drinking cow’s milk and trying to tell us that we did that a million freaking years ago.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        From Purdue:

        The orange is unknown in the wild state; is assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps southeastern Asia (formerly Indochina). It was carried to the Mediterranean area possibly by Italian traders after 1450 or by Portuguese navigators around 1500.

        Your source doesn’t say wild oranges, it says wild Mandarin germplasm. The orange itself is a human invention. Who knows what happened within the organisms as humans selectively bread them. You have great worries about the effects of human interventions, but here you just gloss over the possibility of anything funky having happened and assume this extremely artificial–human designed–fruit is wholly natural.

        And even giving you your best case scenario on oranges, they didn’t come to Europeans until about 500 years ago. Below you wrote:
        I really do believe that if our digestive systems are presented with something evolutionarily novel, it’ll probably lead to problems of one kind or another.

        Ok, so oranges were evolutionarily novel to Europeans (whose ancestors had been eating cooked foods for ~250k years), so they should probably have led to problems of one kind or another, right? 500 years ago you would have counseled Europeans not to eat them? And 500 years is a very short time on the human evolution time-scale, particularly with such a large population, so it’s very unlikely that my (and your?) Euro digestive system could possibly have co-evolved with oranges.

        On the other hand, with my and your ancestors having been eating meat and cooking food ever since they first became anatomically modern humans–the whole history of homo sapiens as a distinct species, and for cooking possibly the history of our ancestors for more than a million years prior to that–your digestive-system/food co-evolution thesis necessarily applies to those foods incomparably better than to oranges.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Hi James, I’m aware that oranges are a modern invention of sorts, which is why I used the term “wild oranges” to differentiate. You can see from my earlier posts (ctrl+f “tangerine”) that I was aware that oranges in their natural state are more like mandarins or tangerines.

        I’m still waiting to hear your proposed mechanism for why the human gut is relevantly different from the native dispersers of wild mandarin oranges, or in what way mandarins are different from the other fleshy, sugary, fibrous, vitamin-C-laden, antioxidant- and phytonutrient-rich fruit that humans undoubtedly co-evolved with — at least such that wild oranges would be worse for humans than processed sugar, for which the deleterious dietary mechanisms are very well-understood by the top experts in the field.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        You won’t get that answer from me, because I’m not saying oranges are bad for us. I think they’re quite good. What I’m saying is that your evolutionary arguments that allow for co-evolution happening over a few hundred or few thousand years, but not over hundreds of thousands, and perhaps over a million, years, shows you are not being scientific but pseudo-scientific.

        I’m also pointing out that oranges were new to the European gut just a few centuries ago, so by your own arguments should have been harmful, but you just gloss over that inconveniency.

        A lot of your arguments rest on pointing out differences between things, but now with oranges you’re solely emphasizing similarities and assuming any differences are irrelevant. That is, you use different standards to consider foods you like and foods you don’t like, case-by-case using whichever gets you to the result you want.

        Bluntly, I think it’s crystal clear that don’t think you actually understand the science behind your claims about what actually goes on in the gut anymore than I do. The difference between us is that I’m not going to publicly pretend to an expertise I don’t have.Report

  13. Avatar Jim Heffman
    Ignored
    says:

    The food industry has been tailoring its products to narrowly focus on consumer preference ever the first sheepherder killed a weak lamb so it wouldn’t breed.Report

  14. Avatar Burt Likko
    Ignored
    says:

    While I do not dispute that a lot of food processing produces a nutritionally degraded content, it seems to me that such degradation of nutrition results from additives and fillers, and excessive amounts of salt and other preservatives, rather than the process of working the food itself. The result is what seems to me an unfair slant against the idea of a for-profit company manipulating food at all, a bias in favor of food surviving application of a likely plastic sort of purity taboo. For instance:

    If you eat a whole orange, you’re being perfectly healthy (which is no surprise, because your digestive system and the orange evolved in tandem) — but macerate an orange with a blender, freeze the resulting stew, and reconstitute it in your morning orange juice, and you’ve made your breakfast into a (relatively profitable) diabetes-bomb.

    I’m very curious about the science that backs up this claim. You mash up an orange, freeze it, and then mix it back up into juice, it seems to me all you’ve done is take some water out and then put some water back in. How is the end product nutritionally different — and higher in the kinds of sugars that trigger diabetic reactions — than the fruit picked right off the tree?

    “Macerate the orange, add sugar or HFCS, and reconstitute,” okay, I can certainly see where the sobriquet of “diabetes-bomb” applies to the resulting beverage of that process. Maybe even and reconstitute at twice the ratio of sucrose to water found in the fruit when on the tree. Is there some chemical reaction that alters the sugar content of the orange when it is ground into slurry and the slurry then frozen? Or maybe the slurry is pasteurized and the pasteurization caramelizes some of the fructose into a more complex sort of sugar?

    I’m willing to believe this claim if a plausible explanation, seemingly missing from the exposition, can be offered. But absent such, the acts of macerating and freezing would seem to add nothing, and indeed only minimally detract from (through dehydration), the nutritional content of the orange, and make me wonder if the focus of the complaint is not that corporations are deceptively sapping the nutrition from our food, but rather that they are making substantial profits by selling us food.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      Hell,processing a carrot increases the amount of vitamin A you get by 10 times.
      But, by churning up an orange, you’re losing fiber (no fiber afficiando me, mind).
      And if you buy fresh squeezed orange juice out of season, you’re getting tictac flavoring as a “bonus”Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kimmi
        Ignored
        says:

        Food low in fiber does not necessarily present a diabetes risk. The claim is that an orange, macerated and frozen into concentrate, creates a higher risk of diabetes when reconstituted into juice than that same orange would have represented had it been eaten immediately after being picked off the tree.

        An orange plus tictac flavoring is not the same thing as the orange on its own; if an orange plus tictac flavoring is a diabetes risk but an orange on its own is not, then it seems much more likely that the risk of diabetes comes from the tictac flavoring than the contents of the orange.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kimmi
        Ignored
        says:

        http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/1/269S.long
        Are you familiar with glycemic load?

        Also, one should consider that an orange is consumed at a slower rate than orange juice. Maybe that’s just me, though.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kimmi
        Ignored
        says:

        As I read the article you linked, and extending it to your point that drinking juice gets calories and thus sugar into the system substantially quicker than chewing and eating the raw fruit, that suggests that the problem is juicing the orange.

        Whether I express the orange by hand in my organics-only rural home kitchen, or macerate it with a big scary-looking machine in an urban factory, still doesn’t seem to be the issue. No matter how you squeeze it, it’s still orange juice.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      The assumption is that the blended, juiced orange is easier to consume and therefore promotes overconsumption, because people have stopped thinking about meals in terms of quantity of food and started thinking in terms of quantity of time. That is, “I drank that whole cup of juice in like two seconds, that can’t possibly be a whole serving of fruit, I’ll drink another cup!”Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Thank you. This, I understand. The nutritional benefit of eating one orange is a net benefit to me; eating four, however, might be a net detriment because of all the sugar. So if it takes four oranges to make an eight-ounce glass of orange juice, when I drink eight ounces of orange juice, I’m effectively consuming the sugar from four oranges. I really only needed one orange, which means I really only needed two ounces of juice, but two ounces looks pathetically small and not at all satisfying when put in a glass.

        But again, the problem isn’t processing the orange into FCOJ. It’s the quantity of the food that is consumed. I ought to limit my consumption of juice because it is dense in sugar. (Maybe that’s why “juice glasses” are made smaller than glasses intended for water.)Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        “Maybe that’s why “juice glasses” are made smaller than glasses intended for water.”

        It’s funny, I’m not sure when we “forgot” that juice was full of sugar. When I was a kid we definitely used “juice glasses” for juice, and they were maybe 4 oz (?).

        Though maybe it was the *cost* of fresh juice, rather than the sugar, that made people take smaller portions.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        @jim-heffman @burt-likko This is not really the mechanism for juice’s ill effects. The problem is that by separating the juice from the fiber, your body is presented with a lot of sugar all at once, which your liver is forced to either shunt into the bloodstream (short-term dangerous) or convert into visceral fat (long-term dangerous). In a whole orange, the fiber surrounding the sugar acts as a natural quick-release capsule, slowly releasing sugar as your system breaks down the fibrous pulp. Endocrinologists regularly counsel diabetics to stay away from fruit juice. They rarely do the same for whole fruit.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        Actually, endocrinologists are just about as likely to tell diabetics to keep some orange juice around the house. Hypoglycemia is real bad news, ya know?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Speaking as an actual diabetic and not just someone who’s heard about them on the internet, I’ve never heard anyone tell me to stay away from juice. Carbs in general should be limited; nothing about “high glycemic index” or any other Magic Evil Food Power.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Jim,
        There are ways to measure how much of an effect a particular food will have on your insulin production (assuming you’re a type II diabetic).
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycemic_index
        This index has been rightly criticized, and seems about as good of an idea as checking someone’s urine to see if they have too much sugar.

        However, I do know someone who is prediabetic, and they really can’t eat too much bread straight (without butter).Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      “If you eat a whole orange, you’re being perfectly healthy (which is no surprise, because your digestive system and the orange evolved in tandem) ”

      Wait a sec, this is complete bull-(oney). Citrus trees are native to east Asia, and Homo Sapiens only got there around 150 K years ago. Which then developed into symbiotic relationship (which privileged certain species) around 2,500 years ago, and then started to spread across all the longitudes that contain humans around 2000 years ago. (with the major spread starting 500 years ago).Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        “which privileged certain species”

        Notably, Homo Boehnerus.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        evolution can run on quicker timescales than that. See humans and beer (select subpopulations, sure…)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        It also ignores how we’ve domesticated fruit trees in the past few thousand years. Bananas, for example, barely resemble the original fruit anymore. But this kind of loosey-goosey assertion is par for the course with these food claims.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        Hell, Almonds used to be poisonous! A few trees had a regressive gene that would occasionally make the nuts non-toxic. Add in human selection and now the overwhelming population of almond trees on the planet are non-toxic and the toxic ones are the occasional minority.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        @kolohe There are plenty of other frugivorous mammals native to 150kya East Asia, and there are plenty of fruiting plants native to 5 mya West Africa. The digestive systems of frugivorous mammals aren’t that different from each other. The adjustment between humans starting to eat oranges (actually they were more like tangerines at that point: less acidic, smaller, more flavorful) is not really comparable to the adjustment of starting to eat processed sugar in large quantities.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Bananas are not a great example because they function more like grains than most other fruits, which is why they’re so much starchier — they’re more “herb of the field” than “fruit of the tree”.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m unconvinced, Robert, that you’re not getting your information from organo-natural comic books. Because magically all unprocessed foods are marvelously healthy, no matter how lately adopted in human evolutionary history, while all processed foods are intrinsically harmful, no matter how long humans have been eating forms of them. Even the active imagination is a bit beggared by the neatness and convenience of it. Add in the somewhat messianic fervor you’ve shown when you appear to talk about these things, and my Acme Bullshit Detectors are all going off.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I don’t think you’re accurately portraying my position, James. I actually wrote that bananas are less than ideal, because they haven’t followed the same evolutionarily-symbiotic pathways as more typical fruits.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        Why no, Robert, your fudging back and forth on bananas doesn’t reinforce my suspicion about the convenience of your arguments at all.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Please stop misrepresenting my positions. I have nowhere said that all unprocessed foods are good for you. And I take this same ambivalent position on bananas other places, so your aspersions about my motives are misplaced. Cut out the derisiveness please.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        I have nowhere said that all unprocessed foods are good for you.

        Oh, of course. I’m sure unprocessed meat doesn’t make your list.

        Cut out the derisiveness please.

        Oh, please don’t hold your breath. I’ve got an intrinsic reaction to woo.Report

  15. Avatar Roger
    Ignored
    says:

    What a delight to read something which presents such a different view. It is truly fascinating to discover that an intelligent and well educated person can come up with a view which is so totally at odds with my own.

    For the record, when I buy processed canned tomatoes from Del Monte or Hunts year round in Chicago I am extremely satisfied with the ability. Sure I take it for granted, but if I ever tried to step back and think about it, it would be amazing that some company has figured out how to get fresh tomatoes to me year round for a buck and change. I buy two large cans each week, blend in fresh habaneros, serranos, onions, jalapeños and cilantro and make salsa. In return I give these various companies a couple of dollars. Thus their profit is their reward from me in a reciprocal interaction for which I am grateful. They each make a few cents, I get fresh and nutritious salsa. Yummy. We truly live in a golden age.

    Of course, one of us sees profit as some kind of moral failing, the other sees it as an essential reward in a reciprocal interaction which is greatly responsible (when scaled billions of times) for human prosperity. You call it greed I call it voluntary cooperation.

    Now, if I wanted to pay more I could probably also buy even more nutritious fresh tomatoes, perhaps flown in daily from somewhere. It isn’t usually worth it to me, but the opportunity is there. Guess why? Because some company can make a few cents selling that to me as well. Again, profit is good.

    So to me, profit isn’t equal to processing, it is the thank you expressed in money via mutual exchange telling the company that they meet my needs (or the needs of several billion other customers). Profit isn’t morally neutral, it is normatively positive as it represents one half of a positive sum, value enhancing exchange which benefitted both parties. It’s my little way of saying “thanks Del Monte!”

    I am both aware and absolutely giddy that companies are actively trying to create even more delicious food for me. Of course the down side is this means I have to watch how much I eat and exercise, but I sure as hell don’t want them to stop. Indeed I actively try to find tasty new snacks and sweets and I delightfully share them with my friends and family when I find one that is especially awesome. If we are lucky they will reinvest some of it into even better tasting treats (one can only hope.)

    “Eating foods that have been molested by industrial grinders and blades and ovens means that our food is not being presented to our digestive systems in ways they recognize, and the predictable result is that our systems go haywire. ”

    Whatever. You can take my blender from my cold dead fingers. Some of us like ovens and blenders.

    “Candy is another “foodstuff” that more closely resembles a chemical concoction than something that actually belongs in a human body, and has similarly high profit margins.”

    I love candy and am willing to take the risk. That ok with you?

    “The lowest-profiting foods?”

    Assuming risk adjusted rates of return are not similar between processed and unprocessed my market Spidey senses tell me that one of two things is occurring. Either consumers are telling fresh food producers to switch industries (that is what lower margins signal in free markets), or government is meddling in the distribution of one of the two industries paying someone to do something which consumers disagree with (agro subsidies??)

    Hey, I get it. You are a foodie who wants to eat unprocessed fresh food. Good for you. Based upon the profit margins, sounds like somebody is even slipping you a subsidy somewhere. You lucky duck. I also support your right to complain about “greed” and “profits” and to spread some unconventional views on food. I even agree that sometimes profit based systems create undesirable externalities. Thirty thousands steps forward one step back.

    Would you do me a favor though and allow me to eat my canned tomatoes, my candy, my delicious marbled steak, my diet soda, and my pizza flavored Pringles?

    Seriously, do you agree that I have the freedom to eat these without any interference and that I can gladly reward companies with a competitive profit for meeting these desires?

    You have shared how you feel. Now you know another perspective.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to Roger
      Ignored
      says:

      Roger, all you are doing is making the “Nunya” argment that Jaybird references above.
      Lets stipulate that we should allow people to purchase and eat any foodstuffs they want.

      Would it be unjust, however, to eliminate subsidies for unhealthful foods?
      Or tax ones that are unhealthful?

      Would it be impermissible meddling if we had a public campaign to educate people on foodstuffs?

      Would there be a moral harm in a constant drumbeat of public persuasion (such as blog posts like this very one) that advocated a public rejection of our processed food industry?

      As jr pointed out, the anti-tobacco campaign trod very similar ground, and has largely succeeded.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        Would it be unjust, however, to eliminate subsidies for unhealthful foods?
        Or tax ones that are unhealthful?

        I am 100% down with the elimination of subsidies. As for “unhealthful”, I’m not entirely certain that nutrition science is settled. I remember, in the 80’s, that people were told to eliminate fat from their diet and to try to eat things such as “pasta”.

        There’s an article on mistaken consensus here that discusses the time that the Surgeon General of the US said the following:

        Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of “comparable” magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments.

        He introduced his report with these words: “The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.”

        As it turns out, he was wrong. I’m not certain that we’ll end up taxing the right foods if we say that we need to tax the “unhealthful” ones.

        I mean, *SALT* is not bad for you anymore. Freakin’ salt. Would you have taxed that, once upon a time?

        Would it be impermissible meddling if we had a public campaign to educate people on foodstuffs?

        Sounds awesome. Would you suggest something like a “food pyramid“?

        Would there be a moral harm in a constant drumbeat of public persuasion (such as blog posts like this very one) that advocated a public rejection of our processed food industry?

        None whatsoever. Maybe we could introduce social sanction. “Why are you drinking orange juice? Don’t you know that’s a diabetes bomb??? You should be drinking bottled water!”Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        Sorry I do not know what a nunya is. Is it processed and canned? Or fresh and nonGMO?

        I am fine with no subsidies.

        I think taxation based upon nutrition is a bad idea. It attracts cronyism like marbled meat attracts carnivores.

        I am fine with nutritional information campaigns though I’m suspect they will atttact extreme positions such as those above. They could easily degrade into misinformation. Just imagine the bullshit if we had a public service message on climate change and how the message would change with every administration. So on further thought, I am not even sure these would lead to knowledge.

        I support people personally beating whatever drum they want on whatever belief they have. I think I said as much to Robert. I actually got a kick seeing how he thinks.

        I do think Robert should listen to the constructive criticism offered by many replies that he reconsider the relationship between consumer demand and profit. Consumers are all of us. And we really don’t agree with his views and we are expressing it in our purchases which are then translated into profits.

        As long as he promises not to interfere with our freedom, I am hunky dory.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        Would it be unjust, however, to eliminate subsidies for unhealthful foods?

        That’s not even a serious question in a place like this.

        Or tax ones that are unhealthful?…if we had a public campaign to educate people on foodstuffs?

        While this is not bad in concept, in practice I’d like to know how you’re going to ensure accuracy, and not just create an avenue for rent-seeking? Are you at all aware of the history of corporate influence on the food pyramid?

        Once again, I think, we see the naive view of government–if we think of this good thing, then we can ask government to do this good thing, and this good thing is what we will get.

        But influence over government policy is its own kind of market, in which the big money folks find it worthwhile to invest. Paradoxically, we simultaneously both know this and complain about it and make policy proposals for that implicitly require that it not be true.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA
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        says:

        Nunya == None of your businessReport

  16. Avatar James Hanley
    Ignored
    says:

    Eating foods that have been molested by industrials grinders and blades and ovens means that our Eating foods that have been molested by industrial grinders and blades and ovens means that our food is not being presented to our digestive systems in ways they recognize, and the predictable result is that our systems go haywire. is not being presented to our digestive systems in ways they recognize, and the predictable result is that our systems go haywire.

    Notice the emotionally manipulative phrasing here. If grinding is bad, does it really matter whether it’s done in my kitchen or in a factory? But he warns us specifically of “industrial” grinding, because industrial sounds scary in the context of food. And the food is made in “industrial ovens.” Either industrial ovens are somehow worse than my home-oven, or we need to not cook our food. But as far as I can tell he’s not telling us to eat everything raw (although some people do), so again the message seems to be “industrial=scary.”

    And “food is not being presented to our to our digestive systems in ways they recognize”?
    Is haggis something our digestive systems recognize? Fermented fish? What about Indians of California’s Central Valley processing acorns into meal?

    Beware emotional manipulation–it’s just as much a manipulation as what he complains about big companies doing.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to James Hanley
      Ignored
      says:

      @james-hanley

      Either industrial ovens are somehow worse than my home-oven, or we need to not cook our food. But as far as I can tell he’s not telling us to eat everything raw (although some people do), so again the message seems to be “industrial=scary.”

      Well, it’s economic gluttony rather than the fact that people have shitty diets that cause health problems, right?

      I enjoyed the OP a lot and agree with many points but at the end of the day, the food companies don’t control what we put in our mouths as much as we do. It’s why I have the diet I have and why processed foods constitute less than 2% of the food I eat.

      To Burt’s point:

      We’re going to have to either say that a profit-driven market for food is at least potentially consistent with consumers getting the kind of nutrition that subject matter experts want them to have, or that ultimately, profit motive and optimal nutritional choices are inconsistent.

      It’s the first. Period. Anyone that doesn’t believe me can feel free to walk the perimeter of any grocery store and watch me shot. I won’t invite the pro-organic types though. They are the best example of the perfect being the enemy of the good and I have to keep my food costs down. 😉

      I hate to get all free markets and crap but if produce wasn’t at least somewhat profitable in some way, grocers wouldn’t carry it. Yet, they do. Go figure.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        Dave,

        To be clear, I’m not arguing that modern American diets are particularly healthy, or that the big food companies are predominantly making healthy foodstuffs. But from that point of agreement, everything else that tollows in the OP is nonsense. Humans having co-evolved with oranges but not cooked foods, even though cooked foods appear about the time anatomically modern humans do, and oranges not until about 247,500 years later, and for Europeans, about 249,500 years later. The idea that producers are the ones who want white flour, when it’s consumers buying it off the shelves in mass quantities but buying very little of the healthier varieties. The idea that the market is flawed because producers satisfy what we want, instead of what Robert thinks we need and ought to want.

        There’s so much that is just fundamentally analytically wrong here that the one true fact on which it all rests just isn’t capable of supporting it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        My local grocer is proud as hell of the profits they get out of produce, too.
        (they over charge so much they make whole foods look cheap).Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to James Hanley
      Ignored
      says:

      molested by industrials grinders and blades

      Exactly! I mean, what the hell is your mouth except a cavern full of grinders & blades working organic matter into a pulp in a bath of digestive enzymes & organic chemicals.

      And the stomach! A nasty pit of hydrochloric acid & other assorted chemicals, including an bio-organic detergent!Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Yes, your digestive system is blades and grinders and hydrchloric acid… but it’s a lot more than that too, and so it isn’t accurate to say that one can be exchanged for the other. There are a million different processes going on that developed over tens of millions of years of evolution, and that require the same kind of food they developed in to work properly. Your teeth rely on the antibacterial properties of fruit pulp to make sure that the sugar in fruit doesn’t culture bacteria in your mouth that can damage your teeth. Your inner ear relies on your eating crunchy foods (i.e., uncooked) a lot of the time so that it can convey debris from inside your skull and deposit it safely outside. And so on.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        So you’ve figured out what causes bipolar disorder. Joy. Tell us all. In fact, write a fucking paper and get it published.

        There are not a million different processes. There may be a million bacteria (more, probably), but that’s different.

        So you’re saying that they require Typhoid? And trichosomasis? Yup, we humans used to be a diseased lot.

        ” Your inner ear relies on your eating crunchy foods (i.e., uncooked) a lot of the time so that it can convey debris from inside your skull and deposit it safely outside”
        … cite me on this one, I’m skeptical.

        Tens of millions of years, we’re back to chimpanzees, practically. Evolution works in 100 year time intervals, we’ve evolved (at least the Germans and French have) new reproductive strategies because of liquor (also, it’s lead to a general reduction in violence). This happened in the last thousand years. Evolution works way faster than you think.

        ” require the same kind of food they developed in to work properly.”
        So you’re against cow’s milk? Nobody freaking developed to drink cow’s milk as adults, not ten million fucking years ago.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Your inner ear relies on your eating crunchy foods (i.e., uncooked) a lot of the time so that it can convey debris from inside your skull and deposit it safely outside

        Can we get a cite for that? If true, it’s fascinating. If not…Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        James,
        particularly considering there’s an eardrum between your inner ear and your outer ear.
        My knowledge of anatomy is poor, but at least I know that much!Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, if you have stuff coming out of your ear from your inner ear, then you’ve either punctured your ear drum and probably done damage further in as well, and you need to get to a doctor and possibly the hospital quickly, or you have had tubes implanted in your ear (likely due to repeated infections in your middle or inner ear). The fluid in your inner ear is supposed to stay there. It’s important.

        Your outer ear does have a system for expelling foreign bodies and guarding from infection, but I don’t think the production of ear wax requires uncooked foods (it’s mostly different kinds of fat, right?).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Kimmi,

        Well, the body’s a weird thing, and I don’t know it well enough to presume to say what’s possible or not. But a bit of googling didn’t bring up that information for me. But then I may not have googled the right terms. I find the idea a bit hard to believe, but I actually father hope it’s true for truth-stranget-than-fiction reasons. But I need evidence, and from a reliable source.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Chris,
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earwax
        God save wikipedia.
        Okay, it appears that chewing (and other jaw movement) does actually help clear stuff out of the OUTER ear. Nothing about “eating raw foods” there, though.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        please stop using “evolution” when you mean “innovation” or “adaptation”.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Jim,
        I’m talking distinct phenotypes with larger penetration through the population, phenotypes that are passed along via genes. You can measure plenty of psychological things that have a decent genetic component — one should not be at all surprised to figure out that “angry, violent drunks get killed a lot” leads to fewer “angry violent drunks”.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        I guess it’s not surprising to find that you believe intelligence doesn’t exist and all action is solely based on biological response to physical stimuli.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        I just texted a friend in our biology department. He has taught human anatomy a number of times, although it’s not his primary expertise. His reply:

        He is referring to the cochlea? I have not heard of anything like that before.

        Perhaps he is referring to the eustation tubes running from the middle ear to the nasopharynx? These are normally closed but materials and pressure can be transmitted from the middle ear down to the nasal cavity. I don’t know anything about crunchy food involvement.

        He adds that the debris he’s talking about is ”

        Mostly mucous, I would think. This is on the other side of the tympanic membrane (eardrum) so there shouldn’t be othet material unless there was a rupture or infection.”

        So I’m really curious about Robert’s source on this.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Jim,
        just because reproductive strategies (“wooing or courtship”) tend to run in families, doesn’t mean that being a pedophile who molests small children isn’t wrong.

        That’s obvious, isn’t it?

        Now, if you’d like to talk testosterone levels and how that affects intelligence, sure, we can do that. I’ll have fun, even.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi @james-hanley Yeah, the Wikipedia explanation is pretty much what I had in mind. And because chewing is a lot more common with unprocessed foods, it stands to reason that eating unprocessed foods is better for the cleanliness of your ear.

        A good analogy here is one of malocclusion (dental crowding). It’s generally accepted among physiological anthropologists that malocclusion is a result of eating mushy processed foods — our teeth rely on the resistance of food and the chewing action to align themselves properly. Incidentally, this is probaly where the stereotype of British people having bad teeth comes from — they adopted an industrialized diet earlier than other places, and so for a time had especially bad teeth compared to the rest of the world.

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7035

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15823276Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        please stop using “evolution” when you mean “innovation” or “adaptation”.

        It’s true, we all should. I plead laziness as my defense.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        I was wrong about the inner ear — I was thinking of the ear generally. Thanks for keeping me honest, guys.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        And the necessity of crunchy foods, Robert? Your source?

        Nobody really cares if you’re just talking about the inner ear, middle ear, or whole ear. Give us some evidence for the real heart of your claim.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Oh, wait, your source is Wikipedia and a ridiculous assumption?

        And because chewing is a lot more common with unprocessed foods, it stands to reason that eating unprocessed foods is better for the cleanliness of your ear

        Let’s compare how much chewing an orange, or a banana, or grapes take compared to beef jerky, corn tortillas, pretzels. Are you kidding me?

        Sure, carrots and nuts will give your jaw a good workout, too, but if chewing is the concern, drop the grapes and grab a box frosted flakes.

        You’ve got a JD from Chicago, so you can’t be stupid. Why aren’t you using your intelligence and skills to critically assess these things instead of making such non-sensical and self-contradictory arguments. I think you’re caught up in an ideological cause, and are engaging in an endless cycle of confirmation bias.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley What did you think of my “malocclusion” post, above? If processed food messes with the body’s mechanisms for jaw health, and if jaw health is related to ear health in that they both benefit from certain kinds of chewing, then it makes sense that processed food might have a similar ill effect on ear health.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        James, tortilla chips and beef jerky provide different kinds of resistance than natural foods, and thus will put different forces on the jaw and teeth. Just because they’re chewy or crunchy (they’re often engineered that way to take advantage of our natural attraction to such foods) doesn’t mean you’re getting the benefit of it.

        I don’t know why you’re insisting on the banana thing when I’ve already repeated voiced reservations about bananas that are consistent with my overall thesis. And for clarification, are you saying that tortilla chips and pretzels and beef jerky are better for oral health than oranges or nuts?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        tortilla chips and beef jerky provide different kinds of resistance than natural foods, and thus will put different forces on the jaw and teeth. Just because they’re chewy or crunchy (they’re often engineered that way to take advantage of our natural attraction to such foods) doesn’t mean you’re getting the benefit of it.

        This thread has gotten oddly speculative in a way that, given how much is known about the anatomy and physiology in question, seems utterly pointless.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Why wouldn’t Wikipedia be a reliable source for a commonly-understood and totally uncontroversial aspect of human anatomy? You’re straining at a gnat, but here’s a source for you anyway:

        http://www.ijporlonline.com/article/S0165-5876(83)80112-8/abstract?cc=y

        Also, it’s generally expected that when a person calls another person’s supposition “ridiculous” that they provide an explanation for why it is so.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        James, tortilla chips and beef jerky provide different kinds of resistance than natural foods, and thus will put different forces on the jaw and teeth. Just because they’re chewy or crunchy (they’re often engineered that way to take advantage of our natural attraction to such foods) doesn’t mean you’re getting the benefit of it

        And so we’ve reached maximum speculative nutjobbery.

        I really don’t think there’s anything more to be said at this point.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Heh, do be sure to check out Robert’s source and see if you can find where it confirms the need to chew crunchy natural foods.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley @mad-rocket-scientist

        You guys might be interested to read (or totally uninterested to read) a more thorough exposition and defense of why I think we should pay deference to the natural, see my post on another venue: “Ecology, Economics, and Spirituality” http://ckmacleod.com/2012/10/05/ecology-economics-and-spirituality/Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        for the love of god, read the links you’re posting. Jaw and teeth have changed over the millions of years that we’ve had cooked food. We aren’t neanderthals, even those of us who have a lot of neaderthal dna. This is not saying “you should eat raw foods so your teeth grow right” — that’s stupid and ridiculous.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        I’d like to see the definition of natural foods that excludes beef jerky.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        Okay, if tortilla chips and jerky aren’t right, what is? Please, quantify the power and force required. Draw graphs if needed. And then explain to me what this perfect food is, which is emphatically not tortilla chips and jerky.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Ok, because I’m a bad person, just one more thing.

        Below, trying to defend oranges as not a new thing to human diets, Robert emphasizes the similarities with other fruit, and assumes any differences are irrelevant. They have some similarities, so they work the same way!

        Here, with crunchy foods, Robert assumes any similarities are irrelevant and focuses on (assumed, not demonstrated) differences. They have some differences, so they are different!

        Purveyors of woo do that. People with a solid understanding of their subject do not.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi The links I’ve posted show observed differences malocclusion rates in anatomically-modern human cultures that eat processed foods and those that don’t. Why wouldn’t that be good enough?

        I hope you can at least agree that tortilla chips and beef jerky present different forces to the teeth than natural foods (a definition for @j_r : “foods that humans have been eating in large quantities for more than a few hundred thousand years” — this excludes cured meats). Tortilla chips present initial resistance and then collapse suddenly, causing teeth to grind against each other instead of against the food, as with a crunchy nut. Eating beef jerky is more like gnawing, and puts the mouth into a kind of “grinding one’s teeth” motion than chewing that fully activates the jaw.

        But again, I think these kind of detailed explanations aren’t necessarily required. I’ve written more fully about it here: http://ckmacleod.com/2012/10/05/ecology-economics-and-spirituality/Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        From Robert’s New Scientist link.

        “We’ve evolved to eat mush,” agrees paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood also of George Washington University, but not involved in this study.

        In other words, pretty much the exact opposite of what Robert’s arguing. And below Chris points out that his mandarins/anti-oxidants post doesn’t claim what Robert’s claiming.

        My unsolicited advice, Robert? Follow the first rule of holes, then start using the analytic ability that got you through law school, because you sure as hell have abandoned it completely here.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        natural foods (a definition for @j_r : “foods that humans have been eating in large quantities for more than a few hundred thousand years”

        Stop, Robert, I can’t take anymore! Granted that “humans” predates homo sapiens, homo sapiens–us–are no more than 250,000 years, so your argument is that “natural” foods are only foods that predate our species’ very existence.

        This is beyond the paleo diet, it’s the homo erectus diet.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        first, your links show Nothing of the Sort. I read the bloody articles, and they don’t breathe a whisper of what you’re trying to make them say.

        Did you mean to cite something that you didn’t cite? Please, go find the link you want, I can wait.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Finally, you’ve caught me in a legitimate screw-up. There’s a pretty hefty literature on modern (<12kya) diets and malocclusion; I assumed from the title of the New Scientist article that it was talking about that, and posted it. You got me. I'm sorry. I'm fighting on a half-dozen fronts in this thread, and I got a little lazy.

        But just because I got lazy doesn't mean I'm wrong. You should read the BBC article as well, which provides even better evidence (i.e., not the appeal to authority of the New Scientist article) for the alternate explanation that the problem is with recent diets. If the problem is that we've evolved crappy mouths to deal with mushy diets, then why was malocclusion a significantly less severe problem in societies with less-processed diets? Given that you can apparently induce similar jaw problems with non-human animals by feeding them mush from a young age, isn't that mechanism a much more plausible explanation for bad dentition?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I think if you ask a typical paleoanthropologist, they’ll tell you that cladistics is useful but ultimately pretty arbitrary.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        Ooookay, here’s the damn article that you wanted to be citing:
        http://www.pnas.org/content/108/49/19546.full

        Any speculation on its part about soft versus hard foods is that, pure speculation. Additionally, there’s nothing in there showing that beef jerky (something used INTENSIVELY by most hunter gatherers, because it preserves meat, which is something treasured for it’s nutrient content) would not be part of a “hunter gatherer diet”.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Finally?

        Sigh.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        note that in the article you should have been citing, there’s no comment about malocclusion at all, merely genetic selection of different varietals of mandibles, based on culture.

        In fact, a quick pubmed search (for malocclusion genetic) gets nothing interesting.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi Here’s another good article that goes into why hard foods are better for our dentition: http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4568&context=etd (start on page 16: “Mastication Forces”).

        I can’t find anything about hunter/gatherers eating jerky or other cured meats. Do you have a source I could look at?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        If the problem is that we’ve evolved crappy mouths to deal with mushy diets, then why was malocclusion a significantly less severe problem in societies with less-processed diets?

        Ok, let’s look at the PNAS article Kimmi links, and let’s not settle for your pathetic “I only read the title” nonsense. Let’s actually read some of the substance. From the abstract.

        The results demonstrate that the mandible, in contrast to the cranium, significantly reflects subsistence strategy rather than neutral genetic patterns, with hunter-gatherers having consistently longer and narrower mandibles than agriculturalists. These results support notions that a decrease in masticatory stress among agriculturalists causes the mandible to grow and develop differently. This developmental argument also explains why there is often a mismatch between the size of the lower face and the dentition, which, in turn, leads to increased prevalence of dental crowding and malocclusions in modern postindustrial populations.

        What that says, Robert, is that hunter-gatherers have less teeth crowding than agriculturalists, that an overly vegetable-based diet is the cause, not processed foods, and that folks who hunted and ate meat had fewer problems with fitting their teeth in their mouths.

        Once again, another source that doesn’t support your claims.Report

  17. Avatar Creon Critic
    Ignored
    says:

    @j-r

    If it became apparent that sugar taxes or bans on certain foods or sizes in foods had no impact on the obesity, but that shaming did have an impact, would you support a policy of publically shaming fat people?

    No, that’s not a tool I’d reach for or suggest the government reach for. I’m one of the commenters who was highly critical of the use of public shaming as an instrument in penal policy, essentially, in that context, I think it can be classified as impermissible cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

    I’m also pretty critical of shaming as an instrument in parenting,so Amy Chua’s “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” directed at her daughters was highly suspect to me, amounting to a kind of bullying. I don’t see how it would be constructive when the government directs those kinds of shaming messages at the public.

    I think there’s probably a lot of constructive things that can be done, some that might even get libertarian support. Public education campaigns, scrutinizing the availability of healthy food options, postnatal visiting nurses for at-risk households, expanding community health worker programs, better product labeling… Here, shaming doesn’t enter into the picture for me. (Probably the realm where I’d see shaming as appropriate is when directed at institutions with power. So shaming corporations into better conduct is permissible to me. In short, a kind of punching up, not punching down sort of thing.)Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Creon Critic
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t see how it would be constructive when the government directs those kinds of shaming messages at the public.

      What if it were, though? That’s the question.

      If public shaming worked in reducing obesity would you support it or would you say that the ends don’t justify the means in this particular case? And if you wouldn’t support it, even if it worked, how would you justify not taking action?Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r
        So now I’m curious where this is going actually, even though I’m not sure how instructive the thought experiment you’re constructing is, ticking time bombs and torture come to mind… But no, public shaming of the obese is not appropriate.

        And if you wouldn’t support it, even if it worked, how would you justify not taking action?

        I’d written, “there is an important public health case to be made that government, acting proportionately, can and should foster a healthier citizenry”. Proportionately is doing a lot of the work there. There’s probably 100,000 more words to be written on proportionality in public health policy: why the war on drugs isn’t proportionate, why a so-called soda ban wasn’t in the cards when all one had to do was buy more than one if you wanted more soda, why given the disease burden in the US certain interventions would be worthwhile and other interventions wouldn’t, the use of setting defaults to encourage people towards healthier choices…

        So I admit I haven’t explicitly supplied a bunch of the thresholds that need to go along with the “proportionate” I’m positing, but from the “nunya” perspective, those thresholds don’t matter. It isn’t even clear that there’s a role for the state when non-communicable disease is concerned because as @jaybird pointed out, public health professionals are “not your dad”. To me, it is a very individualistic conceptualizing of what “public health” means.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        The point of this question is to figure out what exactly you mean when you say “proportionately.” That’s a judgment, right? It means that you are weighing a set of values (those pertaining to public health) against another set of values (those pertaining to the appropriateness of public shaming) or another (those pertaining to government nudging).

        You’re saying that the former is out of bounds, but the latter is not. And that distinction seems predicated almost entirely on the fact that you think shaming is bad, but that nudging is OK. That’s fine, but understand that not everyone shares your particular values. Some people would rather be shamed after the fact than nudged before. And some people want nothing to do with either.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        And some people would say that nudging is shaming. Because, after all, why are you “nudging” me? Is there some reason why I needed to be nudged? Are you making some kind of value judgement about my body and concluding that nudging is appropriate for me?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        In my experience, the nudging goes down a lot easier if you add a “wink, wink” to the equation.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        So I admit I haven’t explicitly supplied a bunch of the thresholds that need to go along with the “proportionate” I’m positing, but from the “nunya” perspective, those thresholds don’t matter.

        Let’s compare food to sex. Because, why not?

        What sanction is appropriate against those who have STIs (or whatever we’re calling them now)?

        Is there any? Does it depend on the STI? Would it be more appropriate to sanction someone HIV+ than someone who has crabs, for example?Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @jim-heffman
        I don’t buy the nudging is shaming line. Are drivers being shamed when the local Department of Transport adds an HOV lane? And where is the evidence that the policy-makers, public health professionals, MPHs, and medical doctors, are aiming or intending to shame the populace? Or put it this way, that is not what I see in evidence in JAMA or the Lancet, or the New England Journal of Medicine. I see scrutiny of the disease burden in the populace, and oftentimes carefully calibrated proposals for intervention to reduce that disease burden, a minimum price per unit of alcohol tax for instance.

        Is there some reason why I needed to be nudged?

        Yes. People, all people, are subject to cognitive biases. We use a lot of shortcuts to get through our everyday lives and do not act like rational actors. So one fairly simple shortcut is the tendency to finish a portion. It makes a difference whether an individual is given an 8 oz., 12 oz., 16 oz., or 32 oz soda – portion control and state imposed standards matter and can help curb some of the (over)consumption of something of dubious nutritional value.

        you making some kind of value judgement about my body and concluding that nudging is appropriate for me?

        No, the value judgment is being made about your health. The state would prefer a healthy citizenry. As far as I’ve seen, the individual still has a great deal of say, often the final say. It is just that instead of a 32 oz soda you’d have to buy two 16 oz sodas. To me, that isn’t an overly burdensome imposition. And really, how crucial to your pursuit of the Good is that imposition on your liberty? Balancing that liberty to 32 oz. sodas against the concerns about diabetes rates, I can see the state (to me, reasonably) siding with reducing diabetes rates.

        @jaybird
        What sanction is appropriate against those who have STIs (or whatever we’re calling them now)?

        Is there any? Does it depend on the STI? Would it be more app ropriate to sanction someone HIV+ than someone who has crabs, for example?

        So I don’t understand how this relates to the propositions I presented. I’ve not proposed sanctioning people with diabetes. I’ve not proposed taxing people who are overweight for their status of being overweight. The intervention’s I’ve been discussing have all been preventative measures targeted at specific, serious public health problems: state mandated portion control of sodas, “Public education campaigns, scrutinizing the availability of healthy food options, postnatal visiting nurses for at-risk households, expanding community health worker programs, better product labeling”.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        You say…
        “I don’t buy the nudging is shaming line.”

        And then you say…
        “People, all people, are subject to cognitive biases. We use a lot of shortcuts to get through our everyday lives and do not act like rational actors.”

        And then you say…
        “…the value judgment is being made about your health.”

        And I kind of get the sense that you mean those last two things more deeply than you mean the first thing.

        And, um, one man’s “value judgement” is another man’s “shaming”. When someone sniffs about a poor person using his welfare check to buy a new fancy jacket, do we call that a shaming attempt or a value judgement?

        ***********

        “Balancing that liberty to 32 oz. sodas against the concerns about diabetes rates, I can see the state (to me, reasonably) siding with reducing diabetes rates.”

        Boy, I remember back when we were talking about the very idea of government-run healthcare, and when some of us said “the government might say that since they’re paying the doctor bills they’re going to ban things they think are unhealthy”, and others of us started snarking about the Paranoid Style in American politics.

        “And really, how crucial to your pursuit of the Good is that imposition on your liberty?”

        are you sure that you’re not just some right-wing troll pretending to be a caricature of a liberal because damn dude that was like the most stereotypical thing everReport

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m really not *THAT* against milder forms of social sanction.

        You know, you *SHOULD* quit smoking. You’ll be better off for it. You should eat better. You will get more pleasure from leisurely cooking and sharing a meal with a loved one over conversation about the trivialities of the day than scarfing down a pre-packaged meal in front of a mindless television show. And you know what? You should go for a walk with him or her after the meal. Just around the block, if you’re just starting out. Longer if you’re up for it. Hold hands at points. You’ll both benefit.

        I’ve got no problem with society saying that we should do these things, smiling when we see that people are doing these things, and making grumpy faces when we hear that people aren’t doing these things. I’m 100% down with that.

        What I am not down with is government policy saying that we should do this. This is not the government’s business.Report

  18. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    Food is a big, complex topic. Nearly everything you purchase in a grocery store is ‘processed’ in some way; even the bag of potatoes has been washed. Many of our ‘fresh’ fruits and vegetables are gassed with ethanol, waxed, etc. A can of tomatoes (BHP lined, most likely,) is not the same as a can of spaghetti sauces with lots of added sugar and salt.

    So arguing about ‘processing’ as if it’s the bad thing strikes me as silly. To make most foods edible, they need to be ‘processed’ in some way, usually cooked.

    So looking at food requires looking at individual foods. It starts with how we grow things. Most animals that end up in our kitchens as meat are raised in conditions that, more than anything, seem like something straight out of Mordor. This is not just a what’s-on-the-shelf choice, but a choice about cruelty and torture.

    Much of the grain supply has been manipulated, not to make it more nutritious, but to make it resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide. Whenever something kills off most of a species, the survivors are the ones that reproduce. And that happens on wheat fields, where farmer’s tend to respond by applying glyphosate in levels even Monsanto calls extreme.

    There are a lot of problems with our food supply, and many of them are not ‘consumer choice’ issues; consumers don’t necessarily have a choice of non-industrial farmed meat and they’ll never know if the wheat in their cereal was desiccated with glyphosate a week before it was harvested.

    I’m equally appalled by the garbage notions that flood our food culture. I’m reading Julia Child’s cookbook, “The Way to Cook,” published in 1989. It’s an autographed copy, I purchased it from Julia in Cambridge for my mother-in-law, and just got it back when we cleaned out her home. It’s heartbreaking; all those fine techniques she honed over the years, littered with ways to make the low-fat or no-fat because fat was considered the enemy of good health without any science behind it. Her calls for ‘good fats,’ olive oil, butter, etc., and her reminders that some fat are essential, have this guilty tinge to them.

    Also, upthread someone dinged quinoa as ‘new.’ Quinoa was a staple grain when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived; and to disrupt culture so that they could conquer, they did their best to wipe out the quinoa crops. Potatoes, tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, squash all got shipped back to Europe. But the quinoa was too crucial to the food supplies of the indigent population; so the conquerers outlawed it, burned it, and tried punished those who grew it. It is not ‘new,’ it is a recovering food staple; the single best source of vegetable protein out there, and a really good example of how food is used to manipulate cultures.Report

  19. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Maybe we, as a society, could push for something like “cooking shows” that involve fun personalities that teach people how to cook easy, but healthy, recipes. Chicken breasts, salads, vegetables, that sort of thing. Have someone say “Oh, I saw this on my show and I wanted to try it!” would result in people cooing and saying “me too” rather than “I don’t have a television and, even if I did, I still wouldn’t have cable”.Report

  20. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    And apparently, there’s a turkey recall.

    Researchers at the National Turkey Producers Association have determined an at home diagnostic for determining if your turkey is safe to eat. Following cooking by any method, infected turkeys will develop green colorations across the wings and thighs. This is due to a chemical produced by the virus. IF YOUR TURKEY TURNS GREEN IN THESE AREAS AFTER COOKING, DO NOT EAT IT. If it does not turn green, it is safe to eat.

    Report

  21. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m not sure if others have touched on this, but here is where you lost me:

    One of the largest players in the bread market, Subway, until recently put in its bread the same kind of polymer that make yoga mats so pliably puffy.

    This is either evidence of extreme scientific ignorance, or a deliberate attempt at fear mongering/disgust triggering. Either way, it damages your credibility in a serious way.

    First off, there is the old adage, “The poison is in the dose”. The presence of a toxin is not necessarily harmful or cause for alarm if it is below a given concentration. Excepting persons with compromised systems (immune or waste removal), or the toxins that are known to build up in the body (e.g. Lead), the majority of people can easily handle a little bit of this & that. We did not ascend to the top of the food chain by having delicate constitutions.

    Second is the concept of chemical activity. A toxin can be present in something and be perfectly safe if it is rendered chemically inert. Remember the whole BPA issue? Plastic with BPA is perfectly safe, as long as the plastic is not exposed to high temperatures (I think it was around 200F) for a significant amount of time. Subject it to the inside of a car in LA during the summer, or microwave a lot of food in the plastic bowl or bottle, and the BPA molecule can detach from the plastic as the plastic decomposes*. I believe something similar was the case with regard to the presence of Mercury in vaccines. The mercury was chemically bonded to other compounds that made it safe in small amounts, and those bonds were not something that could be broken by normal biological processes.

    Which leads to the final point, that the components of a compound are not characteristic of the compound itself. Or salt would not be such a critical part of our diet, seeing as how one of it’s elements is a nasty toxin, and the other should cause us all to spontaneously combust.

    So, making a naked** claim that compound A is in our food & it happens to be used to make non-food B & this is bad, is either exposing your own ignorance of basic chemistry, or it’s trading on the ignorance of your readers. Seeing as how this is OT, and the rule of the day is do not assume the worst of an author, I will discard the notion that you feel that your readers are ignorant rubes to be deceived. Of course, that implies that you are not well versed in basic, high school level chemistry. Which calls into question your understanding of advanced & organic chemistry, as well as bio-chem, which makes me wonder how much value I should place on claims like this:

    Our digestive systems evolved to deal with the foods we eat in their unprocessed states: Eating foods that have been molested by industrial grinders and blades and ovens means that our food is not being presented to our digestive systems in ways they recognize, and the predictable result is that our systems go haywire. If you eat a whole orange, you’re being perfectly healthy (which is no surprise, because your digestive system and the orange evolved in tandem) — but macerate an orange with a blender, freeze the resulting stew, and reconstitute it in your morning orange juice, and you’ve made your breakfast into a (relatively profitable) diabetes-bomb.

    Since this statement has a whole lot of organic & bio-chem underlying the basic claim.

    Robert, I generally enjoy reading your comments, and I am happy to see your post, and I look forward to your next one, and any after that you choose to put out there. But you can do better than the common tripe I find on AlterNet or Mercola. If you think I’m being overly harsh, I encourage you to cite/link to your sources (although make sure they are authoritative & reputable). I am not opposed to eating raw, unprocessed crow (although I do like some Worcester sauce with that).

    *Not surprising, as heat will cause most compounds to become chemically active/reactive as electrons start to ascend and get stripped off. Even glass will, although at that point, the glass is hot enough to start melting and quite beyond the point we can safely handle it unprotected

    **naked as in unsupported by evidence that there was a harm beyond squicky feelingsReport

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      I appreciate your comment on the chemistry issue. As to this,
      makes me wonder how much value I should place on claims like this:

      The correct answer is none. I’ve critiqued his claims about co-evolving with oranges, but not with cooked foods, above. This post is based on bad science through and through.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      Hi @mad-rocket-scientist , you’ll be unsurprised to hear that I think you’re being overly harsh.

      The reason I included the anecdote about the yoga mat substance was because of a short comment exchange I had here with another poster on James Hanley’s GMO thread. The other poster noted that even before widespread industrialization, people were putting sawdust in their food, and wasn’t I glad that modern food science had gotten us out of that kind of thing? So that’s what really motivated my inclusion of the azodicarbonamide kerfuffle.

      I agree that just because something is used for one purpose, that it doesn’t mean it can’t be good another, quite different purpose. But I admit to using a sort of shorthand here, because I generally think that people’s gut reactions to industrial chemicals in their foods are pretty reliable — I really do believe that if our digestive systems are presented with something evolutionarily novel, it’ll probably lead to problems of one kind or another.

      And actually, upon further research, it appears that my theory held up pretty well in this instance. Although azodicarbonamide is GRAS in the US and Canada, the requirements for GRAS are pretty low — all it really means is that people generally recognize it as safe in the context of common usage, and one GRAS designation even allows the industry to self-report a chemical as GRAS. Not very comforting.

      More troublingly, azodicarbonamide is banned as a food additive in the EU. Why would they do that? Because it’s actually probably pretty dangerous at least on some level: azocarbonamide reacts with flour to produce ethyl carbamate, a compound listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed as “probably carcinogenic” to humans, and that its negative effects accumulate over time. So actually, azodicarbonamide is apparently NOT safe even below low thresholds, contrary to your supposition.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethyl_carbamate

      Regarding my claims about fruit being fine but fruit juice being dangerous, I’m not saying anything that leading endocrinologists are not:

      http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/making-the-case-for-eating-fruit/?_r=0

      I hope I’ve convinced you that there might be at least something to what I’m talking about.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        I really do believe that if our digestive systems are presented with something evolutionarily novel, it’ll probably lead to problems of one kind or another.

        Like oranges?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        So, um, because something might potentially produce a carcinogen, you’re upset with it being included?
        How about KNOWN CARCINOGENs??? Will you swear off grilling? Do you find every BBQ joint a menace to public health?

        “I really do believe that if our digestive systems are presented with something evolutionarily novel, it’ll probably lead to problems of one kind or another.”
        Like Sodium Bicarbonate? Like Theobromine?

        You are obviously not from South Carolina, where they have recipes that involve eating mud. They’re not dead yet, sir.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley No. Oranges have evolved to be processed by frugivorous digestive systems just fine, so we can be reasonably sure that they’re consonant with our machinery. I’ve provided a couple different examples throughout this thread of how the chemicals in our food are disanalogous to the foods we ate in our natural state. Your task at this point should be to demonstrate how the digestive systems of humans are different from the systems of animals who coevolved in the same location as citrus fruit, and given that, how the differences between oranges and other fruit poses a problem. I’m looking forward to your substantive responses, thank you.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        You’ve made vaguely scientificy claims without giving any reason to think you actually have any scientific understanding at all. You don’t understand chemistry anymore than I, and your hope is that I’ll be bamboozled by your words. But the guy here with actual chemisry knowledge called bullshit on you, and I’m inclined to trust him. I do know a fair amount about human evolution, and I know your claims about cooked food are bullshit. Having gotten that wrong, and having been called out on your chemistry, my confidence that you actually understand any of the science that you’re throwing out here is zero.

        I need to quit now. Pseudo-scientific woo in particular raises my blood pressure, and I know from long internet experience that there’s no reaching a woo-meister.Report

  22. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    Telling me the EU bans something, or has a lower threshold for something, is not exactly the damning evidence you think you’ve found. Nor is the label of “probably carcinogenic”, since ‘probably’ is doing a lot of work there. However, I will give you points for the explanation & the links (next time, include that, don’t make naked claims).

    All of that, however, misses the larger bit your Wiki link tells, which is that Ethyl Carbamate is a naturally forming compound in bread (and other things, like alcohol). Take ethanol (a gift from the yeast we use to make bread rise) & urea (also from the yeast), add heat (baking) and you get Ethyl Carbamate! Yea! Congrats, you’ve just shown me that humans have been consuming massive amounts of a “probably carcinogenic” compound since the dawn of freaking civilization!

    I’m betting, unlike rats & the other test animals, we’ve probably been evolving a bit of resistance to the carcinogenic effects of the compound (actually, I’m a bit surprised the rats haven’t as well, might have something to do with being fed the pure compound instead of the compound as it exists in bread).

    Which leads me to my next point, evolution. Do you know part of the reason why we are one of the most successful species on the planet? It’s because we’ve evolved to be able to extract calories & nutrition out of a massively varied array of plant & animal matter. We can eat a lot of the things that live on this planet. Insects, fungus, plants, animals, etc. Sure there are things which are deadly to us, and there are things that are toxic if not deadly, but by & large we can eat a dizzying assortment of things compared to other animals. Of course, lots of that stuff doesn’t taste good, so we don’t eat it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t, or haven’t tried. Our digestive systems & immune systems are pretty damned robust & flexible when it comes to extracting value out of organic matter.

    I mean, a person can go full paleo (or whatever the hip kids are calling it these days), but even if you do, you aren’t, unless you are picking primitive wild fruit (not the stuff we cultivated & it got loose into the wild) & hunting wild game.

    I’ll agree with you that eating a whole fruit is a better option than drinking just the juice. No question that it’ll spike your blood sugar if that is all you consume. But if I drink a glass of OJ with my pancakes & eggs & sausage, I won’t be spiking my blood sugar, because I just found some more stuff for my stomach to play with, the sugar intake won’t be as quick. I mean, the whole fruit is still better, but now only a little bit so, and mostly because the fiber will help you feel satisfied sooner.

    However, all that aside, you’ve still shown a poor understanding of basic chemistry, and I’m not convinced your understanding of nutrition & the associated bio-chem is any better than any other layman, and has a heavy patina of woo crusted onto it.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      t’s because we’ve evolved to be able to extract calories & nutrition out of a massively varied array of plant & animal matter.

      minor quibble: this is mostly a result of cooking; which has many variations including drying and fermenting, not just application of heat; and from an evolutionary perspective, has resulted in weaker chewing mechanisms (jaws and teeth, in particular) and gut biomes. It’s also led to larger brains, or so I’ve read; but I do wonder which came first — cooking that allowed for the larger brain or the larger brain that could conceive and remember cooking.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, toss in food prep & we can eat even more (puffer fish, anyone?). I’m saying of raw, unprepared foods we still have a wide variety we can eat compared to other animals, which allows to succeed in numerous climes, which bolstered our ability to survive.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      Hey @mad-rocket-scientist , I didn’t think I’d convince you with the EU thing alone, which is why I included the other information. I’m not sure how comforting the “other stuff probably causes cancer too!” response is supposed to be, and at any rate I think it’s fair to look askance at alcohol and even bread for other reasons.

      You seem to be saying that there’s no real point to thining about carbamates in food unless you’re going to go straight to a totally primitive state. I don’t see why that has to be the case. Oranges are better for you than orange juice, and cultivated mandarins better still, and wild mandarins even better than that. Does that mean that if we can’t eat wild mandarins that we should drink orange juice? No — eat a mandarin, and if that isn’t available, an orange. Nutrition experts generally agree this is good advice and is consistent with what they know about biochemistry — I have friends with dietetics degrees from prestigious institutions and they’re totally on-board with what I’m saying about processed foods. I admit to being a layman, but if I’m in agreement with the experts, I don’t really see the problem.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        wild mandarins even better than that.

        Source?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Wild mandarins have more antioxidants and phenolics than cultivated mandarins. It’s the same source as the one I linked above — just ctrl+f “antioxidants” on this very page.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        According to the Essential Oil website: Mandarin Essential Oil is a favorite of children and parents. Of all the citrus oils, Mandarin Oil is the sweetest and tends to be the most calming. If desiring to diffuse a citrus oil in the evenings before bed or with children, Mandarin Essential Oil may be the best choice.

        http://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/mandarin-oil.aspReport

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Wild mandarins have more antioxidants and phenolics than cultivated mandarins. It’s the same source as the one I linked above — just ctrl+f “antioxidants” on this very page.

        That source just compares different wild mandarins.

        Perhaps this (which seems to contradict your claim)?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        You seem to be saying that there’s no real point to thinking about carbamates in food unless you’re going to go straight to a totally primitive state.

        You are confusing me with James.

        There is no real pointing in thinking about carbamates in food because they have been since we figured out how to make booze & bread. Now since azodicarbonamide can form into carbamates, it’s not a bad idea to limit the amount we add to bread beyond what the yeast makes, but the question of what is the dose of concern? How much can a human consume before harm is found? Animal tests suggest that 1.2g/kg of body mass is a good estimate. Average human is around 80kg, so the body needs to have ~100g present before we notice toxicity (assuming humans react the same as rats). If the presence of carbamates is measured in ppb, how much booze & bread do you have to eat before it’s an issue?

        And again, since this was not part of your initial discussion, but rather a claim that Subway bread is made with the same stuff as Yoga Mats (I know that isn’t what you said, but that is the implication of how you wrote it), you had to be going for the disgust reaction. Which is where you lost me.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Hi @chris , I don’t see how your link seems at odds with my claim — I don’t see where it compares wild versions to cultivated ones.

        I don’t know if we’re looking at the same article I referenced. “Overall, Guangxihongpisuanju, Nieduyeju, Cupigoushigan and Daoxianyeju [i.e., the wild mandarins studied] contained more phenolics and exhibited higher antioxidant capacities than the mandarin cultivars Satsuma and Ponkan.”

        That seems to be pretty square support for my claim. For more reading on this issue, check out Jo Robinson’s well-researched “Eating on the Wild Side”.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        You are confusing me with James

        No, I said nothing similar.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        The dirty secret Johnny Appleseed doesn’t want you to know: An apple is 85% water, the very same ingredient used to mix concrete.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      And the EU stuff matters more, I think.

      First, it means markets closed to American products. (I think this is a driver of many bans, too; keep the American crap from flooding food production, keep it regional.)

      Second, it affirms something that matters to many people culturally, their local food traditions. That clinging to food traditions, too, is what enriches cuisine. I can make foods based on the traditions of the Dadas of Morocco. It’s delicious. I’m grateful that, after they were released from slavery, a few people bothered to write some of their recipes down, because their tradition of secrecy (which secured better treatment as a slave,) were deeply ingrained. (A dada was a slave who was a household cook; and much of their culinary wisdom was lost after slavery was ended in the 1920’s and the Dada’s, now free, kept up the traditions of secrecy. So I think local food traditions matter a great deal.

      Here, in the US, much of the problem is that our food tradition, the American one we developed on our own, is that of processed food; the Western diet, based on grains with the bran and germ removed (better shelf life, lighter, fluffier,) sugar (bountiful,) and corn. I highly recommend Western Price’s book, a photographic documentary of what a western diet does to people. He was a dentist, and he photographed hundreds of people the world over, showing the changes in dental and jaw structure that happened after people began shifting to a western diet. On top of the diabetes and heart disease that plagued the first generation of eaters, these changes who up in the second. That said, I don’t go in much for the Western Price Foundation and thin Sally Fallon, the mother of the current food fad for fermented vegetables, is a bit of a quack; and that’s not to say that lactofermented vegetables aren’t better for you than vinegar-brined pickles.Report

  23. Avatar Kimmi
    Ignored
    says:

    Rob,
    Jumping down here:
    “Another study by Corruccini and colleagues examined a convenience sampling of
    casts from two cohorts of Pima American Indians (Corruccini et.al., 1983), the older group
    from 1949-1957 (67 individuals) and the younger group from 1963-1969 (274 individuals).
    The diets of these two cohorts were studied extensively at the group level cross-sectionally.
    The older cohort had a diet that consisted of primarily home-grown beans and stone-ground
    indigenous corn tortillas. The younger cohort’s diet was different due to the opening of a
    commercial food processing facility on the reservation which provided commercially
    processed beans and pre-processed industrial cornmeal. These two staples of the diet were
    considerably more processed and required less vigorous mastication to ingest than traditional
    foods. Along with these staple foods, the diet was altered further by the availability of
    packaged foods for the younger generation. ”

    UM. Yeah. if you’re not going to read your articles, please don’t mind us laughing at you. Because one of the significant studies you just cited used tortilla chips… as an “older method of eating”.Report

  24. Avatar Kimmi
    Ignored
    says:

    Rob,
    re: beef jerky — it’s in the name. Charqui was the Native American term for dried meat — also see pemmican. Major, major foodstuff, particularly for those who weren’t mostly agrarian.

    “traditional (dried salt-cured pork is
    the basic meat, hunting is practiced, cornmeal is stone-ground, wild and garden foods
    complement the diet). ” == still citing from that thesis…Report

  25. Avatar Dave
    Ignored
    says:

    My thoughts.

    1. I’m not going to spend anytime addressing what I see as a flaw in your thinking of what constitutes a market failure. I agree with the people that have already addressed it.

    2. Yes, government food policy is screwed up; however, unlike you, I prioritize the consumption side of the equation whereas you seem to be so hung up on the problems with Big Food (some of them valid btw) that you give no space to the fact that people are willingly putting things into their systems that they shouldn’t have. I don’t care if high fructose corn syrup or sugar is contained within a sugary drink. People consume way too much of it and the caloric intake associated with it causes all sorts of health problems. The standard American diet sucks, but consumers demand what consumers demand.

    3. I take it you don’t eat meat. I base this on two comments: the “meat enthusiast” comment and you claiming that there’s a debate over whether or not meat is an unalloyed health good.

    4. Your example with grain nutrients is a perfect example of our differences in approach. While you lament the decrease in micronutrient content, I’m sitting here wondering why anyone in their right mind advocates including grains in a daily diet for anyone other than active individuals. The grain problem isn’t the fact that the nutrient content has declined. The problem is that grain products are calorie dense and so easy to overeat that people can rack up hundreds of calories if not more without thinking too much about it. With pasta, once you start adding sauces, sausages, etc. etc., you could sit on a big calorie bomb.

    Grains are not a part of my daily diet and for good reason.

    5. But probably the worst part of the grain story is that a huge portion of our grains are now being converted into sugars (“corn syrup” or “corn sugars”) that can be added to make mass-produced “foods”, which would otherwise taste like the sawdust they are, more palatable.

    It’s a double edged sword. First, if small amounts of high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars are being added to improve flavor, I’m not convinced that this is a big problem. It’s not ideal but a little added sugar in a can of tomato sauce isn’t causing the problem here. The worst part of the story is that the product used to sweeten foods is being put into food products, especially beverages, where it is the predominant ingredient. You’re lamenting the existence of an artificial sweetener while I’m lamenting its worst uses.

    5. Butchers don’t avoid the chopping block, either, because industrial farming has considerably reduced the healthfulness of our animal products considerably.

    What do you mean by considerably? That should be quantified.

    Also, while I’m aware that, for example, grass-fed beef has higher CLA and Omega 3 levels, it does not mean that grain-fed beef with lower levels is bad for someone. While there’s truth to saying grain fed beef is less healthy, unless grain fed beef is unhealthy, the “less healthy” comparison is almost meaningless to me, especially since the cost differential puts grass-fed beef out of the price range of the typical American consumer.

    6. Consumers’ tastebuds, which are very good judges of the healthfulness of foods that are still in their natural state…

    Yet they’re so easily tricked by the food companies to buying processed foods.

    7. With meat, processors do this by injecting chicken cuts with brine to make them larger and more flavorful, though less healthy

    If it’s not unhealthy to consume them, who cares? Again, I’m not at all scared by “less healthy”. Consumers like bang for the buck. I’d buy free range if it was the same prices as what I get, but since it’s not and I consume almost one pound of cooked chicken a day, I gotta vote with my wallet.

    8. Most markets have information asymmetries; therefore, that alone does not determine whether or not markets fail. Therefore, your claim about the price mechanism has no substance behind it. It’s a mere assertion.

    9. which means the animals were grain-fed and thus have less nutritious meat

    But perfectly fit to consume and cost effective.

    10. This is because the relationship between the profitability of a food and the unhealthfulness of it is remarkably strong and consistent, and would be the case even without government meddling.

    I think you meant to say profit margins.

    11. Even more troublesome, processed foods can even be engineered to be “craveable” in ways natural foods are not (“craveable” in this sense is perhaps the food industry’s euphemism for “addictive”). Food companies have entire departments dedicated to just this kind of manipulation — and nearly invariably, the tweaking makes the food less healthy.

    It’s not troublesome if they aren’t consumed. Problem solved. I’m aware of what sugar can do and anyone with a computer and five minutes of time can learn it too. Seeing as I’m no slave to the food companies, I don’t see why others can’t follow my path in that regard so the idea that consumers are hoodwinked by the food companies is pure Grade A bullshit. They eat the food because they like it.

    12. This is highly regrettable, because industrial processing almost always reduces many of the health benefits foods (if it doesn’t render them positively poisonous).

    I proposed a solution in (11). I think we know who is responsible for helping these companies make money.

    13. In the 18th century, a butcher may have thought it absurd to inject brine into his chickens instead of simply feeding them a healthier diet. His customers were his neighbors, and even if they didn’t discover the problems with his meat because they live near his farm, he might still feel a responsibility for the people he saw every day.

    Or a butcher would have done it if it meant making more money and providing for a family. We have no idea. I doubt they were as enthusiastic about the micronutrient contents as the pro-organic crowd is today, much to the detriment of public discourse on the subject.Report

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