Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the big disconnect...

Hi guys-

So I sat down last week, tired from too much office work and decided to see what Oprah was into these days. I like to check her show out now and then to see what she has America thinking, feeling, wearing and reading at any given moment.

Well, her show was about hooking people up to make their lives better…note that I said to make their lives better…and the promos for the show were positively seductive! Oprah looked directly into the camera, her big brown eyes moist with compassion and promised America that she was hooking everybody up with a special gift.

The show begins and Oprah ends the anticipation and gives America its present. Each and every American is entitled to head on over to her site and download a coupon for a free grilled chicken dinner from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Huh? I was sure someone had slipped crack into my lunch. Did she say KFC? Seriously? KFC?!?!?!?

Of all the food on this fragile planet; of all the promotions Oprah could endorse, she goes with KFC grilled chicken dinners. This is Oprah, the same Oprah who has Dr. Mehmet Oz come on the show and talk to America about health and wellness and making better food choices. The same Oprah who has everyone from Eckart Tolle and green experts to Kathy Freston on her show talking about making a lighter footprint and living more compassionately. That Oprah. Is she schizophrenic?

Now that I have calmed down, (yes, this is me calm over this disgraceful promotion of junk food to an already obese and sick nation), I checked out the comparative nutritionals. While a breast of KFC original recipe has 370 calories, 21 grams of fat and 1050 milligrams of sodium, the new Kentucky Grilled breast has 180 calories, 4 grams of fat and 440 milligrams of sodium. Is it better than fried chicken? Of course; even I can see that. But here is the thing. It’s still chicken, with all that goes with being chicken.

When we eat chicken, we participate in cruelty…period. Nearly 10 billion chickens are raised for food each year and if you think for one minute that there is a compassionate, humane way to raise that number of animals, you need to think again. Each chicken is raised in a space that is less than one half a square foot; their beaks are cut off without anesthesia to prevent injury when the stressed out birds freak out in the crowded conditions. Imagine if you stood all day and night in a hot, packed space with nowhere to turn to be free. Oh, wait, we did that. It was called Auschwitz!

And because more and more Americans are turning to it as a fabulously healthy protein source (Oprah said so; it must be true, right?), we need to produce chickens faster, so they are genetically altered and fed growth hormones and steroids to encourage abnormally fast growth. Pushed beyond their biological limits, hundreds of millions of chickens die each year before reaching slaughter at a mere 6 weeks of age. Yikes! See, their lungs and hearts can’t keep up with how fast their bodies are growing, so they die of congestive heart failure. Not to mention the crippling leg disorders occurring because they can’t support the abnormal weight of their bodies. And that is even before the processing which can involve stunning the birds in electrified water, slitting their throats while conscious and if the blade misses that slits their throats, well, they are boiled alive.

But okay, suppose you’re not all into the animal suffering bit. Suppose the suffering of a living creature is not that big a deal for you? How about this? The chickens are raised in such unsanitary conditions that they become disease-ridden and need massive amounts of antibiotics to try and stem the tide of the diseases they carry. And all that poison lands right on your plate for your dining pleasure.

Sidebar, lest you think I am out of touch: There begs to be a discussion of organic chicken production here, to be sure, but since we are talking KFC and organic is not a word in their vocabulary, we’ll save that discussion for another time. Suffice it to say, however, that if you think organic chicken is a better choice, do some research and make sure the producer you buy from is following the spirit of organic production, not just the technical letter of the law. Organic feed used in the same circumstances as other factory farms may technically be organic, but it’s far from the spirit of sustainability and compassion. I’m just saying…

But back to KFC. For decades, their savvy marketing of kind ‘ole drawling Colonel Sanders helped shove this swill down our more than willing throats. My mother used to say that you could fry wood chips and people would eat them. She was right. And so now, after all the heart-stopping, artery-plugging fried junk food they have promoted, even going so far as to say dinner in a bucket was the greatest way for families to eat together again, they are trying to jump on the healthy food bandwagon. (Seriously, is that the best we can hope for, dinner in a bucket?)

And why do we think KFC is going this new route? You can bet your clogged arteries it ain’t for your health, but for the health of their bottom line. With healthy eating on everyone’s mind, it has become the fastest growing segment of the food industry today. And with that every health-stealing pirate in the fast food industry is looking for creative ways to keep you walking through their doors and purchasing their food…well, it looks like food, but trust me…

Look, at the end of the day, this is not an indictment of Oprah. I love the work she does in the world and I think she has a great heart. But she is also the perfect illustration of the disconnect Americans have with their food. To be able to move from green experts talking about a lighter footprint to giving away KFC (grilled, I know; I know…) to the entire country suggests a disconnect on the most basic level.

We have lost touch with who we are and what’s fit and unfit for human consumption and if we are to survive and thrive, we’d best reconnect right quick. Our very lives depend on it. There’s no free lunch. This Kentucky Grilled Chicken meal comes at a very high price.

Love,
Christina

9 comments:

Gweithgar said...

Great blog, Christina.
The whole 'Oprah giving away KFC' thing is so bad. Don't you wonder how much money changed hands for her to give KFC all that publicity? Considering all the years that Oprah has been battling weight and healh issues, it feels like she has sold her soul for a mess of grilled chicken. I think it is a sad day for Oprah's image.

Wouldn't it be a lovely thing, for Oprah and for everyone, if she would "go veg" for good. I mean, with your recipes, she would never miss the meat!

Lauren said...

I was so disapointed in Oprah when she did this. Here I was thinking wow, Oprah is getting with it: after she did a special on factory farms, did a vegan cleanse, and did another special on puppy farms. Shame on her!

Gweithgar said...

Hi, Christine,
I think you should get a guest spot on Oprah and teach her some of your delicious vegan recipes.

mommybear21808 said...

Well, I think we can be sure that Oprah doesn't always put two and two together. She seemed disappointed to have gained all that weight, and yet if you see the things that she eats just on the show. . .

And I wonder if she would be handing out these coupons if she lived where I live, less than a mile from a chicken processing plant, where you'll sometimes see some very strange looking chickens lying in the road. Poor little chickies. . .

Great blog by the way!

christea said...

Thank you Christina for your last two posts. Maybe your next book should be called The Great Disconnect. I understood about the tainted quality of the seed given to animals, the growth hormones, the massive amount of antibiotics and that factory farmed animals are grown in less than stellar conditions. However, I did not know the detail of just how horrid these conditions are for these poor animals.


The confusion on table salt versus kosher salt versus sea salt and the use of table salt in processed foods is another are I would like to see you blog about sometime. I saw one of your old shows where you talk about it ("never, never, ever, did I say never consume table salt") episode as well as what you wrote about in This Crazy Vegan Life.

Thank you for considering my request and thank you for all that you do.

christea said...

PS. To add something positive to the day ... There is a family in Pasadena CA that was selected Garden of the Decade by Natural Home Magazine. The Dervaes family is operating what they call an urban homestead where they produce over 300 tons of organic herbs, veggies and produce on 1/10 yes ... 1/10 of an acre using skyscraper gardening techniques, etc. It's fascinating. No affiliation, just sharing ...website is www.pathtofreedom.com There is also a video on YouTube under homegrown revolution. It will make you smile!

christea said...

PSS oops.. typo, that was 3 tons of organic produce, herbs and flowers on 1/10 of an acre.. sorry. This year their goal is 10,000 pound yield.

Barbara Allen Moore said...

Greetings Christina! I have just spent my morning sorting thru recipes on your website. Thank you for that availabiltiy. Your show this morning featured a creamy white bean soup that we will try soon and I was able to get it from your site instead of trying to jot it down while watching you cook. I multi task well but cooking is a passion for me so not watching you dosen't happen. Now onto other things....I was daignosed with Chrinic Myloid Leukemia in Jan. of last year. It has been one battle after another to get treatment, pay bills, not be stressed and heal. My medication is one 400mg tablet a day, nothing invasive no radiation, but it costs $3000 a month. Why I ask! What could possibly be in that little pill worth that much money? I have read 2 of your books, talked woth Ann Gentry via email, read Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics and so on trying to find answers and a way to heal myself that will not require taking that pill for the rest of my life, as my doctor has said will be neccessary. I discovered you cooking on PBS about 5 years ago and was fasinated with your recipes and the information you provided. Then I moved and had no TV channels carrying your show. With all the expenses we now have from my illness cable and satellite are too expensive but the new converter box has given you back to me and boy am I inspired again! WE have made many changes in our diet including no dairy, adding soy and miso, brown rice syrup, and many other things. But the problem is that Nebraska is agri business all the way but its grains raised for animals not many local foods for us. So the challenge has been finding umeboshi, kombu, shoyu, tamari, udon noodles and other products. Having listened to you I was able to get all those items and more from the Kushi Institute's store. Veggies are anothe problem, no diakon, no arrugala, often no leeks and even Kale is hard to find but we consider food shopping an adventure and often it takes visiting five stores to get all that we need. Being Nebraskan we are raised on beef and pork so giving those up has been a challenge not because of flavor but because of habit. New habits are lots of veggies and discovering grains and beans and a fantastic chocolate cake that uses not eggs or dairy. I understand my illness is caused by having an acid body so my question is where to find a list of alkaline foods that is not just 3-4 items only? And from my reading I have found that I should avoid nightshade veggies like eggplant and potatoes. Here where we live potatoes are a food group and doing without is harder than no meat. We are learning many things about vegan / marobiotics but I'm afraid to go it alone without the meds. There are no couselors in our state for assistance. So any sugggestions? Thank you so much for all that you have given me, more than you know. Barb

sincerely-drew said...

Very well said.
I am a student working on transitioning towards a completely vegan lifestyle (with much thanks to "This Crazy Vegan Life"!). Unfortunately, I also work in a grocery store deli that peddles fried and baked chicken, BOTH of which are dripping with putrid grease. I am amazed at the amount of people who choose baked chicken and voice that their choice is based on a desire to be more health conscious! People are so misguided. We need more Christinas!