Wednesday, February 17, 2010 (SF Gate)
Hi! Everything wants to kill you
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Then I happened to read a charming, albeit nauseating little news item
that tried to skulk by unnoticed recently, wherein is was announced that
the Huntington Meat Packing Co. of Southern California was expanding its
recall of possibly E. coli-tainted meat, from just over 860,000 pounds to
... wait for it ... five million pounds.
Five million pounds of bad meat. Sounds like a fun movie title. Or maybe a
nickname for Congress. While pondering the number, I did some quick math.
But being lousy at math, I also did some quick research.
All-knowing Google informed me that the average head of cattle, say a
1,200-pound animal, results in something like 500 pounds of usable meat,
give or take. Interesting! Or not.
Ergo, five million pounds is the rough and chopped-up output of about
10,000 animals. Ten thousand head of cattle is, freakishly, only about a
tenth -- if that -- of what the largest industrial feedlots in Idaho,
Texas, California, Nebraska and elsewhere have on their tortured and
tormented, methane-choked properties at any given moment (Broken Bow in
Nebraska can hold 85,000 head. Simplot in Idaho can process up to 150,000.
ConAgra's frightening Montfort lot in reeking Greely, Colo. is so big it
chokes your very soul). Which is just all sorts of disgusting. But there
(Oh and btw, five million pounds of meat is also the equivalent of about
30,000 average-weighted humans, or one big, sold-out Dave Matthews concert
in San Jose. Hey, we're all dead meat in the end).
It gets so you lose sight of the scale of things. Five million pounds?
Seems like a lot. It seems epic and sickening and a little horrifying.
And then you realize that it's not. Really it's just a drop in the giant
meatbucket that is the Western diet, a thimbleful of the staggering
tonnage of industrial foodstuffs we consume every day, much of it loaded
with poison and antibiotics and hormones and environmental burden; that
includes millions of enormous animals that should be eating grass but are
instead being force-fed land-ravaging grains and 10 billion gallons of
drugs per year so we may satisfy our ravenous appetites for far, far more
unhealthy meat than we actually need.
Which in turns makes you sort of amazed that there aren't more meat
recalls, more epidemics and outbreaks, more McDonald's restaurants
spontaneously combusting from all the chemicals. It makes you wonder why
the hell we aren't all dead right this very moment. Perhaps we are? Wait,
is this heaven? Nah. Just the Internet.
Speaking of McDonald's. Did you hear? A woman was sitting in the
McDonald's over in the Great Mall in Milpitas just recently, consuming her
capitalism-approved portion of hormone-blasted industrial feedlot beef and
HFCS-injected everything (though, to be fair, it could have been one of
their "healthy" prepackaged nuclear salads), when, of course, she went
And she gave birth, right there in the food court, in the McDonald's, in a
giant suburban shopping mall, because there is possibly no more
quintessentially American scenario than birthing a human being in a fast
food outlet in a shopping mall food court, unless she also happened to be
thinking about firearms, watching "American Idol" and listening to Dave
Matthews whilst something something NASCAR.
Reading that story, it was impossible for me not to note how this woman,
this divine fertile feminine life force, was likely consuming some of the
worst possible processed foodstuffs imaginable right up to the moment she
birthed a human baby -- a child, we can politely surmise, that had been
nourished though much of its gestation by a veritable pharmacy of
bloodstream toxins, fats and salts and corn syrups, synthetic flavorings
and hormones from that selfsame feedlot beef.
Do you think this new mom was also was perhaps drinking a fine beverage
made by the Coca-Cola corporation at the moment of labor pains? Sipping
maybe a Dr. Pepper or a Sprite? The odds are reasonably good she was, a
Coca-Cola product being something of a prerequisite to browsing Champs,
Foot Locker and Kay Jewelers in any shopping complex in modern America.
Mmm, soda. Have you heard that soda is the new tobacco? A demon in angel's
clothing? Well, it is. Quite the sickening swill, really, far more
unhealthy and dangerous than we readily acknowledge because gosh, how can
something so happy, so all-American, so polar-bear Christmastime Homer
Simpson I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing wonderful, possibly be all
sorts of cancerous and sickening and Sarah Palin-grade wrong? Well, it is.
Like cigarettes, they say soda is in dire need of regulation, heavy
taxation, warning labels, the works. Do you imagine Coca-Cola cares all
that much about the anti-soda campaign being waged against its wares right
now? Hell yes, it does. But maybe not as much as you think, given how it
has pretty much maxed out the U.S market anyway. After all, how many blue
sports drinks, pink energy beverages and nefarious Coke Minis can you cram
down one country's gullet? We simply can't get much less healthy. Time to
And so it did. The Coca-Cola company just reported big profits last
quarter, despite how there's no one left in America to poison (except the
tiny, precious children). Do you know how it did it? Can you guess how it
made more millions? That's right: by slowly poisoning India, China and
They call them "emerging markets," because these countries are just now
emerging from millennia of drinking various liquids that were not
exceedingly good at killing them by way of high fructose corn syrup and
unpronounceable chemical additives. What, the western gift of fast food,
industrial meat and oil dependency weren't enough? Let's give them all
diabetes and obesity and even worse teeth? Fabulous. Have a Coke and a
It doesn't really matter. Might as well eat that industrial burger and
inhale a giant Coke as you speed down the freeway in your tiny Japanese
car. Do you know why? Because your airbag may kill you anyway.
Amid the furor over Toyota's massive recall of stuck accelerator pedals, a
lesser-seen item about Honda Motor Corporation, itself quietly recalling
about a half-million Accords and Civics over dangerously high airbag
pressure, which they say could knock you dead if deployed.
Wait, what? Death by airbag? Isn't that just a little bit of irony
overload? Isn't that a comedy routine somewhere? In hell, perhaps? Then
again, it would be a simply spectacular way to go, really, if you think
about it, if you really love irony, if you think God is basically just a
wickedly devious cosmic trickster. I mean, why the hell not?
It all balances out in the end, anyway. It's all just the grand and
dreamlike circus spinning and laughing and churning its cotton candy
profundity into the Void. For every adult human ironically sent to the
great feedlot in the sky by a misbehaving automotive safety device, a
child is born in a shopping mall food court, pre-addicted to Quarter
Pounders, ready to take on the overheated, surreal world all over again.
And lo, the great play continues ...
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