If you’ve ever travelled outside of the USA, you’d immediately notice that other countries don’t eat the way that we do.
Here in the United States, our eating habits raise eyebrows throughout the world – and that’s because of a few reasons, not the least of which is American culture.
For example, take a look outside the next time you drive through the city. What do you see?
Odds are, you’ll see a lot of fast food options. National chains populate the streets like pigeons and reproduce like rabbits. Their biggest appeal is their affordability – 99 cents for a cheeseburger? Sold.
The other major attraction is convenience. Fast food joints can feed you in as little as 2 minutes with no effort on your part minus a few singles. All in all, it’s fast, tasty, filling and cheap. What’s not to love? We live in a country where time is money and the need to eat during the day is a huge inconvenience for many.
The other thing you’ll see, of course, is obesity.
How did this happen?
Because American workers during the industrial revolution and onwards through to the end of WWII worked incredibly long hours, the demand for cheap fast food was very high.
In order to meet the demand, farms and food production companies focused less on quality and more on efficiency – more for less. This began the trend of packing sugar and calories into as little of a space as possible.
The fast competition for quick, tasty meals also contributed to the increased use in butter, margarine, and oil in many different foods.
Then there’s America’s obsession with meat. This comes from the fact that a vast majority of Americans are descended from Northern European settlers, who utilize meat in virtually every recipe. The use of meat was also very high in the Northeast and the Mid-West, where harsh winters and an abundance of bison and other game fed into our obsession for red meat.
As demand for meat grew higher, companies and government joined forces to subsidize the cost of raising cattle and growing the corn necessary to feed them. Now that the USA has reached a population close to 350 million, the meat market has had to take even more drastic measure to meet the demand, such as using antibiotics on cow feed and hormones to increase the animal’s meat production.
The Role of Politics
Over time, government policies evolved to help farmers and food production companies generate enough product to feed the growing population and become more profitable.
The increased role of government in food production led to heavy lobbying by different industries, such as meat and dairy, to be represented in key policy arenas – including education. As a result, every child now learns that meat and dairy are key parts of a well-rounded diet.
Young Americans in government-run schools are taught that the Standard American Diet is what’s best for them. Science, on the other hand, argues that dairy products and copious amounts of meat are actually not the best for you.
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