[imgcontainer] [img:james_hunter_house-2.jpg] [source]Photo by Richard Oswald[/source] Gold miner James Hunter’s house in Missouri is now home to the author’s daughter. [/imgcontainer]
No one knows why James Hunter left his family for a two year gold prospecting tour in them thar hills. All we really know is a remote branch of the family tree once broke loose from his Missouri roots for the California Gold Rush.
Maybe James wanted respite from routine … or plain old adventure.
Or maybe he had gold fever.
He found gold, probably not the bonanza he wanted, but when James returned there was just enough left to pay for a new brick farmhouse. That’s where my daughter and her family live today.
They hit the jackpot.
It took most of the gold James and the other prospectors found just to buy the supplies they needed. Merchants and entrepreneurs ended up with fortunes while miners lived hand to mouth.
James biggest find wasn’t gold but probably the nugget of information that gold miners and farmers have a lot in common; the wealth they create generally goes to someone else.
It’s still that way for farmers.
Modern consumers have no idea where food is mined because Big Food has the right to draw a curtain across food supply origins. They don’t want us to know what it is or where it came from because these days a lot of high-priced food is manufactured from some very cheap ingredients. Big Food wants those ingredients to remain out of sight and out of mind.
A 10-year-old article in the Wall Street Journal breaks down one of the most popular foods among kids– chicken nuggets– to show the extent of modern food manufacturing.
The article illustrates the question of when chicken is not chicken by pointing out the answer: when it’s a nugget.
[imgcontainer right] [img:chicken_nuggets.jpg] [source]Photo of an installation at the Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill by Ludovic Bertron[/source] When is chicken not chicken? When it’s a nugget. [/imgcontainer]
James might not get that, but Big Food understands 100%.
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) opens the blinds so people can see what they’re buying even if it’s already processed into something else. Even with COOL, consumers still have to care enough to look.
We have COOL for seafood. We have it for vegetables and fruit. We have it for textiles. We have it for virtually every product today, except for meat and chicken.
As far as meat packers are concerned, that’s a gold mine.
It’s good business for bad actors to isolate people from food and alternative markets. In this case local food and country of origin labeling is a serious competitor to profit and control. That’s what makes labeling, farmers markets, farm to table, farm to school, all so critical.
Knowledge of food and where it comes from threatens the gold diggers by giving people knowledge and a choice.
There’s a battle raging between American farmers and ranchers on one hand, and corporate mixers masquerading as food producers who want to bring in products from Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, China or anywhere else without saying so. Adding insult to injury is the fact they can still sell American gold standard meat around the world under private labels, for a premium.
Now a Chinese corporation, Shuanghui International, is poised to buy Smithfield Foods. The Smithfield board is scheduled to vote on the offer Tuesday.
Smithfield was good at buying up food assets and crowding competition, but not very good at operating efficiently. Investors are thrilled at the chance to get their money back. It’s exciting news all right, because owning Smithfield would let China place U.S. food in a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t shell game where raw ingredients leave the U.S. as one thing, only to return as something else.
COOL won’t prevent the buy out. But it would make it tougher for China to stir and adulterate our food supply.
[imgcontainer] [img:gold_rush.jpg] [source]Via California Historical Society[/source] Being accustomed to spending most of their revenues on equipment or loans, California gold minerss might have made good modern-day farmers. [/imgcontainer]
Fighting to implement COOL for U.S. bred and born meat and chicken are several American groups, like National Farmers Union, representing everyone from consumers to American farmers and ranchers. They’ve put themselves and their pocketbooks on the line to fight for Americans right to know what they’re eating and where it came from.
I miss the good old days when Americans stood up for America. It’s costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight for America’s COOL food rights. And there’s concern that some of the check-off money American farmers and ranchers have paid to promote their own products may even be used against them without their knowledge. That’s because of deep insider connections between corporate big business and producer groups that are sometimes one and the same.
Big business buys ingredients from across the country and around the world. It all goes into a big cement mixer. What’s cheap in one place is costly once it’s stirred in. Like concrete, food has become aggregate filler cemented and poured into a corporate controlled yellow-brick road to profit.
Getting from point A to point B means paying the toll, and eating whatever they haul in, no questions asked.
The American label is the gold standard for food, while food miles lower quality and raise prices.
That’s why we need COOL.
It’s our way … or the highway.
Richard Oswald, a fifth generation farmer, lives in Langdon, Missouri, and is president of the Missouri Farmers Union.