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Thursday, March 13, 2014


When was the last time you ate at a fast food restaurant?  In the past week?  Month?  Amazingly, one in three American kids eats fast food every single day.  That astounds me.  And probably, that fast food meal is eaten in the car--as 19% of American meals are.

In his The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan continues following the trail of corn to a fast food meal at McDonald's with his son and wife.  He tells how his son ordered McNuggets.  The McDonald's he went to had a flyer that listed ingredients, nutrition info, etc about the menu items.  Guess how many ingredients there are in a McNugget.  Go ahead, guess....

Did you guess thirty-eight?  I didn't think so.  Of those, Pollan counted 13 that can be derived from corn.

Then there's the chemicals that are included--even one that is derived from petroleum and is sprayed onto the nugget or the box to "help preserve freshness."  This is OK with the FDA even though the stuff is flammable.  Yum.

So anyway, what he ended up doing was testing the food that they ordered:  soda, milk shake, salad and dressing, chicken nugget, cheeseburger and French fries for the amount of corn in each.  It can be done by testing the carbon from the corn, which stays intact no matter how processed the corn gets.
The sodas came out at the top, not surprising since they consist of little else than corn sweetener, but virtually everything else we ate revealed a high proportion of corn, too.  In order of diminishing corniness, this is how the laboratory measured our meal: soda (100% corn), milk shake (78%), salad dressing (65%), chicken nuggets (56%), cheeseburger (52%), and French fries (23%).  What in the eyes of the omnivore looks like a meal of impressive variety turns out, when viewed through the eyes of the mass spectrometer, to be the meal of a far more specialized kind of eater.  But then, this is what the industrial eater has become: corn's koala.
To add insult to injury, Pollan figured that they ate a total of 4510 calories--"more than half as many as we each should probably consume in a day."  Plus they "had consumed a lot of petroleum, and not just because we were in a car.  To grow and process those 4510 food calories took at least ten times as many calories of fossil energy, the equivalent of 1.3 gallons of oil."

Something to think about next time you have a hankerin' for a McSomethingorother.

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