Note — Jun 14, 2020

The Sickness in Our Food Supply

Michael Pollan on the brittleness (there’s that word again) of the American food supply chains—probably quite a few similarities elsewhere. One chain provides for consumers and the other for restaurants, both are way too centralized around a few firms and were pushed completely out of whack by the pandemic. It started when the Reagan administration (of course!) changed antitrust law and made it so that “if a proposed merger promised to lead to greater marketplace ‘efficiency’—the watchword—and wouldn’t harm the consumer, i.e., didn’t raise prices, it would be approved.” Since this is Pollan he, rightly, then goes into how those highly industrialized supply chains produce no actual food but the building blocks of processed food which leads to a horrible diet that’s bad for your health and also happens to feed right into some of the conditions making some people especially at risk of serious consequences from Covid-19.

The president and America’s meat eaters, not to mention its meat-plant workers, would never have found themselves in this predicament if not for the concentration of the meat industry, which has given us a supply chain so brittle that the closure of a single plant can cause havoc at every step, from farm to supermarket. […]

Small, diversified farmers who supply restaurants have had an easier time finding new markets; the popularity of community-supported agriculture (CSA) is taking off, as people who are cooking at home sign up for weekly boxes of produce from regional growers. […]

The advantages of local food systems have never been more obvious, and their rapid growth during the past two decades has at least partly insulated many communities from the shocks to the broader food economy. […]

In addition to protecting the men and women we depend on to feed us, it would also seek to reorganize our agricultural policies to promote health rather than mere production, by paying attention to the quality as well as the quantity of the calories it produces.