August 20, 2009

Time (magazine) is not on your side

In its article America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It, Time magazine further proves how far removed it is from the reality of -- or any simple understanding of -- contemporary food production and farm life. (NOTE: Time changed the headline of this article - it now reads: "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food". See here for screenshots.)

Like other similar pieces, the article's author paints with broad brush strokes dipped in a bucket of fear mongering in an attempt to justify a full canvas of opinions. (Opinions that some pass on as facts.)

According to the author, corn production is one significant problem. Large livestock farms are are another. (All in all, it reminds me of Google journalism - do a Google search and write an article.)

While the article is filled with tiresome (yet currently fashionable rants among assorted food fear mongers and food elitists), I found this line interesting and odd:

With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories — some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s — but too many are unhealthy calories.

Are farmers really producing different calories than they did 30 years ago? And forcing us to eat them? Huh?

Anyway, the "how to fix it" part of the article begins with this:

If a factory farm is hell for an animal, then Bill Niman's seaside ranch in Bolinas, Calif., an hour north of San Francisco, must be heaven.

If Niman can make a living feeding cattle the way he does, more power to him. But to say that's how it should be done everywhere is out of touch with the reality of billions of people who can't afford $7 a pound ground beef or a $45 beef roast.

Chipotle (see this post) is held up as an example of the 'right way', organic is held up as the only sustainable method of farming and people who buy 'regular' food are told they must not be too smart:

Niman takes care with each of his cattle, just as an organic farmer takes care of his produce and smart shoppers take care with what they put in their shopping cart and on the family dinner table.

Other than a couple of quotes from someone at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the reporter apparently made no attempt to learn what farmers think. Instead, he talked to the usual suspects, including someone with Pew about antibiotics (more on Pew here).

Another couple of lines:

But animals aren't widgets with legs. They're living creatures, and there are consequences to packing them in prison-like conditions. For instance: Where does all that manure go?

Pound for pound, a pig produces approximately four times the amount of waste a human does, and what factory farms do with that mess gets comparatively little oversight. Most hog waste is disposed of in open-air lagoons, which can overflow in heavy rain and contaminate nearby streams and rivers.

What?! Does the reporter actually believe manure is stored perpetually and never used as fertilizer to grow crops that feed the animals? And I'm not so sure a farmer who had to file a manure management plan would agree that there is "little oversight".

I'll stop here...but if you have the stomach to read the article and would like to tell Time what you think, email: or call Time at (212) 522-1212.

1 comment:

  1. Time magazine has gone off the deep end. They regularly criticize farming, food and ethanol. Perhaps they need to get out of their office a bit more often and join the real world.