Some Things I Read Make Me Have to Go Lie Down

Today Andrew Sullivan says they’ve done a report to determine…

I’m sorry.  I’m going to need just a second.

Okay.  Let me compose myself.

Let’s try again.

Today Andrew Sullivan says they’ve done a study in which they’ve determined, and I quote,

The bulk of a fast-food hamburger from McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s is made from cows that eat primarily corn, or so says a new study of the chemical composition of more than 480 fast-food burgers from across the nation.

And it isn’t only cows that are eating corn. There is also evidence of a corn diet in chicken sandwiches, and even French fries get a good slathering of the fat that makes them so tasty from being fried in corn oil.

I don’t even know what to say about this.  You eat corn-fed beef and corn-fed chicken and corn-oil fried things all the damn time.  Who doesn’t know this?!

You have to have a study to tell you that?  Where do people think all that corn in the midwest goes?

I mean, y’all know it’s not sweet corn, right?

28 thoughts on “Some Things I Read Make Me Have to Go Lie Down

  1. you might be surprised to find out how many people have no real idea there’s a shitload and a half of corn being grown in the midwest, B. heck, i live in the midwest (rust belt, but it still counts, right?) and i only have a vague notion that there’s about a mountain range of corn harvested each year.

    there’s a movie out about it, King Corn, but i haven’t had a chance to see it yet.

  2. I know. This is what baffles me. It’s like when people find out chickens are kept in cages in barns. Where else do they think chickens live? If you have 5000 chickens running around outside, they’re going to spend a lot of time eating poop and squabbling and getting eaten by every dog and coyote in the neighborhood. Or, like the “free range” chickens around here, sitting in the ditches along the side of the road sucking up tons of car exhaust.

    Not that I agree with any of those practices. I’m just stunned that people know so little about what they eat. Yes, cows should be eating grass. It would be better for the environment, better for the people eating them, better all around for everyone but the farmers trying to maximize profit. You can bring a corn-fed cow to market faster than you can bring a grain-fed cow and you can keep a lot more cows on a lot less space if those pastures don’t also have to feed them.

    I don’t know. It’s just a cultural thing I guess, but when people fly over the middle of the country and they look down and see all those fields of corn and beans, what do they think those are for?

    Of course the animals we eat eat corn. The scary part is not just that, but how much corn is in everything. Farmers feed cows corn to make them big. We feed our kids corn in everything–soda, cereal, yogurt, gum, etc.–in the form of corn syrup and then we blame people for being lazy and that’s why kids are fatter now than ever.

    I defy any of you to spend one day trying to eat normally without eating anything that contains corn. That’s the alarming thing. Since they put corn syrup in so much, avoiding it is really difficult. And most folks never think to look and see “Oh, there’s corn syrup in my vanilla” or “there’s corn syrup in my yogurt because my yogurt has fruit flavoring in it (and yogurt coming from milk coming from cows is more corn)” or “there’s corn syrup in my granola.”

  3. Its hard to do, but not impossible. I look for non corn syrup stuff all the time. We are pretty close to being corn syrup free, but i do let my kids have soda, and unless its made in mexico, it has it.

    Cows are usually fed beef to put on weight and fat, of course, but also to flushout the wild grass taste. When we take a cow off pasture, it will stay on corn about 30-45 days.

    You can also buy non corn fed beef, if thats your thing.

  4. But what did people *think* cows were eating?

    hay, probably. or grass. that’s the stereotypical image of “cow” spoonfed to kindergartners everywhere, right? no cutesy coloring books show cows being fed slaughterhouse offal and corn unfit for human consumption, after all. (nor do they show nearly as many cow patties as the real things tend to leave behind… ahem.)

    heck, the dairy cows i grew up around lived on grass, hay and silage all their lives. but that was on the far side of the planet, and too far north to grow corn. milk here in the USA tastes weird to me even after all these years.

  5. I saw King Corn a few months back and it was an excellent documentary. My memory may be hazy, but the film stated that the cows that are fed this corn have to be slaughtered at a certain time because they would die a few weeks later, ANYWAY, because their digestive systems are not designed to handle this type of diet.

    Really, go get the movie. I’ve been a long-term Coca Cola fanatic and addict for years, but after seeing this movie, I switched to Diet Coke because of the corn syrup issue (not that Diet Coke is exactly healthy).

    I was telling someone the other day, on another topic, that the best hamburger I ever ate was from the herd of a friend of mine. Her cows graze in a field all day — man, that was a tasty burger!

  6. …and while I’m on the topic, if you’ve not read “Fast Food Nation” do yourself a favor & put that one one your reading list. I read it a few years back (don’t bother with the movie, it lost the educational thing) and was just astounded. I read it in an afternoon. There was a statistic in there that over 85% or so of the chickens in this country end up at KFC.

    Most people were done with fast food after “Super Size Me” — Fast Food Nation cured me.

  7. There are definitely farmers around here who grass-feed their cows and lambs. The meat costs more, but it isn’t hard to find with an internet. This list of CSAs has some of them: and others show up at the Farmers’ Market on the weekends, though mostly in spring and summer. There is still a beef guy who shows up.

  8. It’s hard being a midwesterner.

    I’m still not sure why we’re demonising corn this week, but I’ll play along, I guess.

    I still think the hormones in beef diet are what need to be looked at.

  9. Hell, my ancestors ate it with, and probably for every meal, Kat. I think the problem is with the subsides and the fact that it is “hidden” in so many foods, and that contributes to obesity and perhaps other diseases. Of course, some people tolerate corn better than others.

  10. Oh, I forgot to trot out my Fantastic Corn Fact.

    Linguistically the word “corn” has been applied to the predominant grain produced in the region. It was a generic term in much the same way that we use “grain” today.

    It was only when the region now known as the United States began redefining maize as “corn” that “corn” came to be the choice denominator for Maize and has lost its generic use.

    Fun, huh?

    As for why I feel sorry for Maizecorn, it’s sort of the same reason I feel sorry for guns. It’s not the thing itself that deserves the bad rap. It’s the way the thing is (over) and (mis)used.

    Maizecorn has been instrumental in a sustainable diet for an exploding population for more than 50 years now. It’s easy to transport, relatively easy to grow and contains a calorie content by volume. When you have people who need to eat to stay alive it’s an ideal product. One of the reasons the various American Indian tribes used Maizecorn was because you could feed a larger amount of people with a smaller crop. It’s also a hardy grain across many growing regions, ideal for a partially nomadic people to plant in supplement to a hunter gatherer diet.

    I love Maizecorn.

    (Granddaughter, Greatgranddaughter, Greatgreatgrandaughter etc. of corn farmers who will one day own part of an 80 acre feed corn farm.)

  11. Well, I just think grass-fed meat tastes better, is all. It’s like drinking raw milk — once you’ve tasted it, you understand the difference, even if what you usually eat and drink is the regular product.

  12. I think the problem is with the subsides

    Spend much time in maizecorn farming country, do you?

    Of course I hate all subsidies, but I can’t see why you do. Please explain.

    the fact that it is “hidden” in so many foods, and that contributes to obesity and perhaps other diseases.

    Oh good! Fat and corn and conspiracies all in one place? All we need to do is throw in God and WWII and I’ll never leave the conversation. I seriously had no idea that corn was THIS infamous these days.

    I understand the argument about HFCS contributing to obesity and other diseases but I really think that falls short of the mark. The problem isn’t the HFCS itself but in the way it’s used.

    1. People eat more of things that taste good. When we found out that HFCS was a damn sight cheaper than sugar then they started adding it to more things to make them taste better so people would buy them. If you have a business you want to make stuff that people will buy lots of. HFCS is an easy way to make that happen. How is that corn’s fault instead of the fault of people’s tastebuds and the free market economy?

    2. Some fool somewhere decided that “low fat diets” were good for America. They didn’t reckon on the fact that everyone everywhere would replace fat with cornstarch thickener, thus increasing people’s appetite for sweeter things, cornbased things, etc. Again, how is this the fault of corn itself and not, say, the Good For You Police?

    That being said, I do have my own cock-eyed belief about corn, which I believed I’ve ranted to one or two people about already.

    I firmly believe that someday hence they will discover that some forms of obesity are an inflammatory reaction akin to other allergic processes. I think they may discover that many “fat” people actually have a form of allergy triggered by maize or another grain product.

    I now know too much about inflammatory disease, including how much they don’t know about it yet. I know too much about weight and too much about corn. Do I think corn is making people fat? No more than I think guns kill people. Even if some folks are allergic to corn in such a way as to cause an inflammatory disease process I think it’s up to them to monitor and control it. Wear slippers instead of carpeting the world, folks.

    As for all the poor fat kids–give ’em back recess for starters.

  13. Grass fed meat DOES taste better. So does grass-fed milk and butter made from said milk. (Kerrygold, anyone?)

    But millions of people are alive thanks in part to corn-fed beef so I’m not gonna complain too loudly.

  14. I don’t have any problem with corn per se. I have a problem with it being almost unavoidable in the food I eat and I have a problem with people being SHOCKED that it’s in all their food. I mean, I come back to it again–what the fuck do they think all that corn is for?

    if people don’t want to eat a lot of corn, then they need to be conscientious about what they eat and where it comes from.

    And really, studies to prove cows eat corn? What next? Studies to prove that water is wet?

  15. Is it made with unpasteurized milk? Or is it like cheese, and they won’t let the real stuff into the US? We use little enough butter in my household (between olive oil on the one hand and kashruth on the other) that I could pay more for gooood butter and not feel it.

  16. I tend to sit on the side of things with Aunt B — corn is hidden in so many foods. I like to know what I’m eating… that’s all.

    Look at it this way — and I’m no nutritionist –so many people (kids, often) are all of a sudden having life-threatening peanut allergies — where did this come from? I predict something will rise up with corn eventually.

    Two books I have on my list is “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” — saw the author, Michael Pollen, on Nightline and some other shows. He makes a great deal of sense.

  17. Well, the reason high fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar are US sugar price supports which artificially inflate the cost of sugar in this country and ban the importation of sugar from low cost producers (brazil, for instance) and corn subsidies that artificially deflate the cost of corn by over-stimulating supply. The reason every processed food product in this country is derived from corn is because this country is awash in the stuff. There is so much corn that they have to find something to do with it so they refine it and play with it and we use it for practically everything you can think of.

    Michael Pollen is a bit of a wanker and he makes his point with all of the subtlety of a hammer, but either of his books will really put you off of the American food industry as it currently stands.


  18. Let me join in the “no duh” chorus. That’s why they call them “feedlots” and not pastures.

    The first chapter in Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma takes on this very topic.
    If your normal is Burger King for lunch and Ragu for dinner, you’re going to be awash in corn syrup. You might have to change your normal. It can be done, and for cheaper, but you have to be willing to actually think about what you’re going to eat before you eat it.

    The problem is not just the extra sweet calories. The problem is the difference in how HFCS is metabolized. Unlike beet and cane sugar, the metabolization of HFCS forces the liver to kick fat out into the bloodstream, which is a big problem for people whose families have a history of high cholestorol. There’s also some evidence that it blocks the body from digesting key amino acids. What you get is a cycle whereby you’re eating a higher calorie food with lower nutritional quality –> digesting it but not receiving the amino acids out of it —> getting a fat burst into your blood vessels —> left with a body that feels like it hasn’t gotten enough nutrition and so it signals you to eat some more of that high calorie, nutritionally lacking food.

  19. Spend much time in maizecorn farming country, do you?

    Oh, and I can read. You’ll have to remember that I have lived all over this country.

    I haven’t even started on genetic modification of foods….

  20. Maize has allowed the planet to feed a lot more people, but at a huge cost. Definitely go read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “What to Eat.” LE is right — Pollan can be a bit of a wanker (see some of his articles in the NYT and on Salon) but sometimes you need to be to make your point. He takes on big organic too, and the importance of eating locally and seasonally. And what to eat talks about the change in our diets from the early 20th century (let’s eat lard!), the processed mid-century(chemicals and sweeteners) to today — seismic shifts in very little time. It’s frightening stuff, but he’s also got a few solutions.

  21. I find him very inspiring, and the more conscious I become of what I eat, the more I find myself agreeing with his basic premise, which seems to be “eat more kinds of food, and eat them from as close by as you can.” I know that my household is enjoying our meals a lot more because of this. Not that he can’t be wrong, but he seems to be food-driven and not ideologically-driven, which is a great plus.

  22. I think a lot of the eating dilemma is also how one is raised. For example: I grew up in a family where we sat down every night for dinner – a meal which included the four food groups. My brother and I were not allowed dessert or any sweets until we had eaten what was put in front of us. We also grew up in a small town where the one fast food option was Sonic – and one didn’t eat there unless you’d built up a healthy immunity to that stuff.

    Now, I realize that my childhood was actually very abnormal to the way a lot of people grew up – I was very lucky in that my Mother (a nurse) stayed home with my brother and I until I was ten. But the eating habits that were reinforced during my childhood are with me now.* I can’t father eating a non-balanced meal.

    (*On the other hand, I was drinking coffee at 4 years old and my beverage of choice from as long as I can recall has been a Coca Cola product.)

  23. I neglected to add that every summer of my childhood, my grandparents had a huge garden — my parents and grandparents spent a great deal of time putting away food / canning for the winter.

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