Over the past weekend I travelled with a friend to an estate sale and auction. As is my custom, I stopped at a store that is located in a very small town. Though located in a small town, the store had beautiful cuts of meat, chicken, turkey, and a variety of fish, fresh baked goods, a nice deli and much more.
One of the things I like about Vermont is that their citizens really support local businesses at a much high rate than most other states making that really cool store in a very small town a possibility. I love peas coated in wasabi and frequently get them at the coop but on that day, I purchased them at that Vermont store. As I opened the bag and ate a few peas I flipped the package over and at the bottom, in small letters was printed, three dreaded words, “Made in China.”
I have read so many bad news articles about food coming out of China I paused to consider what might be secretly embedded in my peas, some secret chemical designed to make me eat only Chinese food. Actually, I could easily eat only Chinese food with no secret chemical casting its spell on me, that is, of course, another story. Not too long ago a story was disclosed that accused the Chinese of putting melamine into pet food and baby formula and cadmium in rice. Just recently a shocking disclosure was made that Chinese food manufacturers had combined fox, rat and mink meat and treated it with gelatin, pigment and nitrates and were selling it as mutton.
Now China is acquiring the world’s largest producer and processor of pork, an American company called Smithfield Foods for a reported $7.1 billion. Americans consumed 4.1 billion pounds of food produced in china last year. Surprisingly, just over 50 percent of our apple juice comes from China, 80 percent of our Tilapia and about 10 percent of our frozen spinach to name just a few of the foods we are importing from China.
It really boggles the mind that it is profitable for companies to send a small bag of wasabi peas half way around the world from China to be sold in a store in Vermont. If you want to get an eye opener, google the pictures of thousands of pig carcasses floating down a river in Shanghai, the same water that is used to produce food and the same water that might have utilized to produce those peas. There is no debate that the Chinese manufacturing environment has left a path of environmental destruction in its wake.
Chinese officials have alluded to the American industrial revolution and have pointed out that during its industrial development; the United States did not conform to any rules that protected the environment. These same officials have stated that during Chinas industrialization they should not have to observe any rules either. I think it is safe to say that no one can force the Chinese to protect its workers as abuses are rampant, the Chinese environment and ours is suffering as smog from industrial Chinese cities are now sometimes settling on the U.S. west coast . As China produces more and more of our food, where will that leave American food producers who cannot exploit workers the way the Chinese do or cast a blind eye to costly environmental concerns? I don’t know about you but I would rather pay more for my food, clothes cars and any other item knowing that my purchase was providing another American or Americans jobs.
As a nation, it seems to be a poor policy that allows us as a nation to become food dependent on forces outside our own nation. Sure, a number of Americans are becoming even richer by investing in China, the Walton family most notably. They are producing a product that is green; it is money and no matter how much you have of it you cannot eat it. Hopefully some of the efforts to restore local food economies will be successful. Americans will at least have options where these food economies exist. Thankfully, we have local food producers on both sides of the broad lake and signs of expansion around these efforts. They are also producing green things, some of it is money but some of it is real food which you can eat and can provide employment to area citizens.
Remember, all kids count.
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