The costs of dishing up mechanized meals by the plateful is on the table for some Conference of World Affairs panelists, whose panel on the industrialization of the food supply is expected to cover the human gains and environmental costs of the changes in how we grow our food.
Panelist Alicia Robb, a senior research fellow at the Kauffman Foundation in San Rafael, California, says she wants to address how food choices create environmental impacts that many people aren’t aware of.
“We’re getting most of the meat we eat through factory farms and the environmental consequences are so large that you could drive seven Hummers and still be more environmentally responsible,” she says.
According to FarmForward, factory farm facilities can house more than 125,000 animals under one roof.
“If you think about all the food animals are fed just so we end up with the meat we eat, it’s very inefficient. Beyond that, there are greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and water pollution that stem from large farming operations,” Robb says. “Ninety-five percent of the meat we get in U.S. is from factory farms. It’s not like we’re all eating locally and sustainably.”
Fellow panelist Robert Egger, who speaks internationally on the subjects of hunger, sustainability, nonprofit political engagement and social enterprise, is more focused on the societal aspects of agriculture.
“I’m intrigued by the history of the agriculture industry. I’m interested in helping people understand how exciting times were when we birthed the modern industrial age,” Egger says. “For the first time after World War II, soldiers came home and didn’t have to go back to the farm. For many men and women it was like, ‘Hallelujah, science freed us.’ These people didn’t have to deal with drought and locust and loans.”
However, Eggert says that we’ve let the industrialization of food “get away from us.”
“I’m interested in, what’s the new medium?” he says. “What is the way our citizens can eat a decent meal? How does the big glorious hunk of America eat in this new world of food production? We have to find a middle ground between industrialized food production and local, sustainable options.”
The free-range conversation at the Conference on World Affairs should allow panelists to explore both spectrums of the subject.
“Fear Factor: Our Shocking Industrialized Food Supply” takes place at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 11 at the Conference on World Affairs. Panelists are Robert Egger, David Groenfeldt, Alicia Robb and Maggie Simbeye and the moderator will be Lee Shainis. A full schedule is available at www.colorado.edu/cwa/.