Essay, 7 pages (1800 words)

Impacts of a borderless society

As a country that prides itself on options, we tend to buy what we want and expect the market to provide us with a multitude of choices. Food selections are no different. We plan a meal and seek out those items on our list. Or we select from what is available and plan a meal around those selections. We rarely think about where our choices originated. Some of our purchases may originate here in the United States, while others come from outside our borders. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.

A substantial advantage is that products grown and utilized within our borders help to stimulate our national economy. For example, milk produced from cows is collected at the farm and transported to the plant for pasteurization processing. This is usually done in a specific geographic area since milk has a short shelf-life, usually about two weeks. It is tested for antibiotics and then pumped into the plants holding tanks where it will be processed in 24 to 72 hours of arrival. It is kept below 45 degrees from the time it enters the truck until it is processed.

After processing, it is then packaged in cartons or plastic containers for shipment to the store in refrigerated trucks. Because milk should be kept refrigerated, shipping is not advisable over very long distances, such as other countries. (Milk Processing, 2007) A disadvantage of a global market is that outside the borders of the United States, developing countries may develop crops that pertain to forward thinking technology, like sugar in Brazil in response to the demand for ethanol, lending themselves to a limited variety of crops. Dean, 2007) This tends to materialize in ways that undermine the potential growth of the underdeveloped country, leading to vast clearing of land for development of crops or singularization of crop variety. This can contribute to a surplus of one or more crops leading to unstable prices in the international market.

Another negative impact of the global market is the rampant tendency toward obesity due to food preservation needed to transport over long distances. In order to transport across country borders, fruits and vegetables need to be arvested before they are ripe and processed in order to preserve them from spoilage. Some of the ways in which this is managed is by using waxes, gases and chemicals, such as fungicides and sprout inhibitors. (Dean, 2007) Some of these processes help the fruits and vegetables ripen more slowly so that they make it to the supermarket and thus your table. However, these processes also, due to the fact that to work, that same produce must be picked well before they are ready for consumption, introducing substances into the body that promote obesity.

So those foods that should be naturally good for us, may be contaminated with elements that are just the opposite of what we are looking for in our diets. Vitamin content is also lost during long transport periods. Fruits and vegetables tend to increase in nutritional value the longer they stay on the vine, ripening naturally. When foods are harvested prematurely, they cease to gain their full potential from a nutritional standpoint and shipping is usually done in refrigerated containers to slow the ripening process.

These cooler temperatures add to lower vitamin content. Once they reach our supermarket, they are placed under fluorescent lighting, which, once again, saps the vitamin content we come to expect. So we end up eating an apple or lettuce in our salad that has half or less of the nutritional value we might expect if we had grown the item ourselves or picked it up at our local farmers market. (Dean, 2007) If we were to shop locally for more of our produce, we are likely to see several benefits. First, we would be receiving a higher nutritional value.

The decreased time from land to table in a local market would mean that harvest to market is a difference of a few days, rather than a few weeks. Without the added travel time, there are no lower temperatures or harsh lighting, no chemicals or preservatives and longer natural ripening at the source. There is also the added benefit of stimulating our local economy. By buying from a local farmer, we double the amount of money that goes back into our local economy. (Dean, 2007)

Corporate farms, for example, after harvesting, shipping, processing and packaging, gain a significantly small portion of he total cost to produce one loaf of bread. (Pretty, 2001) This means the corporate farmer must produce a large quantity of a single crop in order to make a living. Whereas, a small farm owner can get by with a smaller crop or several smaller crops. The small farmer will sell his goods at a slightly higher price at market, but he in turn puts that money back into his farm or spends it on necessities for his family, thus stimulating the local economy in his area. After doing much research, I found that I have been using the local foodshed in my area without even realizing it.

If I have two scrambled eggs, bacon and toast with a cup of coffee for breakfast, I would have bought my eggs and bacon from the local farmer about twelve miles south of my house. The rye toast and coffee would have come from my local Brookshire’s grocery store in town. For dinner, I have selected chicken, again from Burgandy Pasture Beef in Grandview, Texas. As a tasty side dish, I have added rice which is grown in every continent except Antarctica (Rost, 1997) and salad from Gnismer Farms in Arlington, Texas. (Gnismer Farms, 2010)

Burgandy Pasture Beef in Grandview, Texas is a local farmer who raises cattle without the use of hormones or pesticides. (Taggart & MacDonald, 2008-2010) Their beef is much leaner and better tasting than that available in the local supermarkets. They have a cooperative existence with other local farmers that raise pigs and chickens under the same concept. By allowing the animals to graze naturally on open pasture, they reduce their exposure to animals that might me infected in a typical feedlot setting. The elimination of hormones and pesticides also increases the nutritional quality of the animal being raised.

They have a local storefront for walk-in purchases or you can go on line and order for Saturday delivery in the Metroplex. The rye grain in my toast was grown in South Dakota, Georgia, Nebraska, North Dakota, or Minnesota (Oelke, et al. , 1990) Rye is a good winter crop and hardier than wheat. It matures 7 to 10 days earlier and does better in infertile soil, as well as being tolerant in dry conditions. After harvesting, the rye would be shipped to a mill for processing into flour. The flour would be mixed at the bakery, after which it would be packaged and shipped to Brookshire’s for me to find on the shelf.

The coffee I like so much in the morning comes from Brazil, Columbia or Indonesia. (Starbird, 1999) These are the top three coffee producing countries in the world. Once the coffee is ready for harvest, when the coffee cherry turns bright red, the beans are individually picked by hand and sent to be dried. After drying, the beans are sent to be milled where the parchment hull is removed and the beans are polished and sorted by size before bagging for exportation. At every step along the way, the coffee is tasted for quality to ensure the finest flavor is being produced.

The importing country will roast the beans to an internal temperature of 400 degrees, after which it is quickly cooled to retain the finished flavor. It is then ground or left as beans and packaged for shipment to your local supermarket. (Lotenzetti) Rice is a very hardy plant and can be grown in the very wettest conditions, as in Asia, to the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Once the rice has reached maturity it is ready to be harvested. After harvesting, the rice is threshed. This is the process that removes the grains from the straw.

The grain is then dried by one of three methods; sun drying, laying the grains in the sun on concrete, plastic sheets or in the field until the moisture has evaporated, mechanical drying, ventilating the grains with natural or heated air or chemical drying, using a salt solution to extract the moisture from the grains. Next it must be cleaned and hulled. This is where the outer husk is removed and separated from the grains. Brown rice is finished at this point and needs no further processing. White rice, however, has a few steps left before a finished product results.

The outside bran layer is removed and separated from the grain. The last step is to grade, sort and package. Grading is based on several criteria, but the end use is usually what determines the overall quality. After grading, the rice is sorted and packaged for storage or shipment across the border. (Rice Processing) During the spring and summer months, when produce is fresh and at its peak, I like to shop at Gnismer Farms for fruits and vegetables to add to my menus. They are family owned and have a unique set up that allows their customers to harvest some items directly off the plants.

Other items that they grow, where the plants are viney, such as watermelons, or very delicate, like tomatoes, are picked by the family and placed on the ‘ sell wagon’ for easy access of selection. They have a variety of items available during the growing season, but are limited by harvest times. I can get a lettuce at Brookshire’s any time I want it, but it isn’t as tasty as that available at Gnismer Farms. Based on what I have learned about global markets and my local foodshed, I will probably not change the way I shop in the future. I live in a small farming community south of the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex.

I like the quality of produce and meats I have access to from the local farmers and only purchase what is necessary from the grocery store. I believe that every dollar I spend with the farmers is put to better use in my community to stimulate the local economy. The money I spend at Brookshire’s, while necessary to maintain a variety of foods not available from the farmers, does not stay in town. The corporate office utilized those dollars to maintain its overhead and any other expenses they deem necessary. However, other than utility bills to keep my store open, all that money leaves my community and is spent elsewhere.

While a global food market is necessary and usually cheaper, it does not supply the nutritional content available from the local farmers. We have a larger variety to select from, but we are giving up nutrition and vitamin content in the process. Foods shipped from outside our borders are tainted with chemicals and preservatives in order to prolong their freshness, which is adding to our obesity as a nation. Overplanting by underdeveloped countries can destabilize prices on the international markets as well. We need to decide if the variety we have available is worth the tradeoff of cheaper prices and loss of health benefits.


http://www. milkfacts. info/Milk%20Processing/Milk%20Processing%20Page. htm

http://www. policyinnovations. org/ideas/briefings/data/local_global

http://www. ncausa. org/i4a/pages/index. cfm? pageid= 69

http://www. hort. purdue. edu/newcrop/afcm/rye. html

http://www. sustainweb. org/pdf/afn_m1_p2. pdf

http://www-plb. ucdavis. edu/labs/rost/Rice/introduction/intro. html

http://www. nationalgeographic. com/coffee/ax/frame. html

http://burgundypasturebeef. com/public_home. php

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