Escaping the Dollar Menu

My latest English assignment was to write an essay on the topic of sustainability in response to a chapter from the film Food Inc.,. The chapter that I chose was titled “The Dollar Menu”, which discussed the concept of subsidized crops- the food industry’s newest, cheapest, jewel. Subsidized crops, which don’t hold all of the nutrients that people need, are mass produced in such a way that allows the products they’re transformed into to be cheaper than ever. Subsidized crops are often the main ingredient in unhealthy options such as fast food, sodas, and snacks. While they’ve become the virtual “dollar menu” of today, fresh, organic, produce is priced much higher in comparison.

In addition, recent developments in genetic modifications have also allowed food industry giants to mass produce white meat. Chickens now develop in nearly half the time that they would some years ago, and can barely stand because of the weight of their own breasts. Faster mass production enabled by subsidized crops and genetic modification helps drive down the price of these unhealthy products, selling more at a cheaper rate. The same industry giants seem to care much more about slaughtering and selling as fast as possible than any idea of sustainability. The same companies also do not seem to be concerned that their products lead to diet-related illnesses, such as the diabetes in the father of the family that Food Inc. interviewed.

The greed of these food companies has destroyed the bodily sustainability of low income families who have only enough money to partake in the “gift of ‘The Dollar Menu’” everyday. The gap between fresh produce of the organics store and America’s famous dollar menu came as quite a shock to me when I first arrived at Southern in August. Being from a sub-tropical island where things such as aloe and avocados have never held a price to me, I was quite surprised to witness my roommate purchase both of these items at the grocery store for more than the cost of a McDonalds cheeseburger. In my home country, although these things are sold in grocery stores, everyone has the choice to instead go outdoors and pick them for free. At first, I thought it a shame that low income Americans have no choice but to partake of the unhealthy quick-meals. As I continued to watch the interview with the diabetic dad, I realized that, though it is more difficult, Americans do have a choice. An article by StraightHealth[1] states,

“Part of the problem with healthy foods being so “expensive” is the definition of price. Healthy foods are higher in nutrients and satisfy you for a much longer period of time. A better way to measure the price of food is to look at price/nutrient or price/satiety ratios. If you look at these comparisons, the price is not so different”.

While the sacrifice to purchase these organics may be expensive- is it any more expensive than future diabetes medication? Each of us must make this decision- before “The Dollar Menu” proceeds to make it for us.

-Mish Hughes

1.  Bendor, Ken. “Why are healthy foods expensive?” Straight Health.        http://straighthealth.com/pages/qna/healthyfoodexpensive.html.

2. Fig 1: Fast Food vs Healthy Produce. https://www.dherbs.com/articles/featured-articles/unk-food-makes-our-brains-less-adaptable/

The Dollar Menu and Its Risks

Homemade Burger

Fast foods and processed foods are a big part of American lifestyles today. Fast and processed foods are easily accessible and affordable which is why they maintain their popularity. However, only a few consumers are fully aware of the contents that are in those foods. Because fast food and processed foods are cheaper than healthy foods, they are more affordable for low-income Americans. However, they are negatively affected by the processed foods over time. Every American should have the right to know what exactly is in their food and have the right to access healthy food without worrying about costs in order to avoid health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

Many nutritional professionals believe that all Americans, regardless of income, have equal access to a nutritious diet of whole grains, lean meats, and fresh vegetables and fruit. In reality, food prices pose a significant barrier for many consumers who are trying to balance good nutrition with affordability. “When incomes drop and family budgets shrink, food choices shift toward cheaper but more energy-dense foods. The first items dropped are usually healthier foods – high-quality proteins, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Low cost energy-rich starches, added sugars, and vegetable fats represent the cheapest way to fill hungry stomachs.”¹

A consequence of regular and habitual consumption of these types of food is potential of chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. In fact, diet-related chronic diseases are one of the leading causes of death in the United States and they tend to greater affect those having low income. “Low-income [Americans] tend to have diets that promote obesity, morbidity, and premature mortality, are low in fruits and vegetables, and are high in processed and fast foods.”²

Sustainability is the capacity to endure or continue. According to the Weisser essay on sustainability, “if a thing or an activity is sustainable, it can be reused, recycled, or repeated in some way because it has not exhausted all of the resources or energy required to create it.” Based on this definition of sustainability, fast and processed foods are not sustainable at all. All ingredients that are put into fast and processed foods are not used appropriately to increase the nutritional value of the foods. Instead, they are used to increase the energy put into the food but at the same time are used to decrease its nutritional value because of all the negative counter-effects such as higher risk of diet-related chronic diseases.

In order to increase sustainability related to the issue of food, which is a necessity in maintaining life, each and every American should know exactly what is in their food and should have the access to healthier food choices that they can afford. A way to solve this problem is nutrition profiling. “Nutrient profiling involves systematically ranking or classifying foods on the basis of nutrient content, through calculation of key nutrient content, relative to dietary energy. Nutrient-rich foods provide relatively more nutrients than calories.”¹

When every American gain access and the right of way to healthy foods, there will be an increase in sustainability.

Hyunji Park


1. Drewnowski, Adam, and Petra Eichelsdoerfer. “Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?” Nutrition today. November 2010. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2847733/.

2. Lucan, Sean C., Frances K. Barg, and Judith A. Long. “Promoters and Barriers to Fruit, Vegetable, and Fast-Food Consumption Among Urban, Low-Income African Americans—A Qualitative Approach.” American Journal of Public Health. April 2010. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836356/.

Picture credits: http://topreviewtracking.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Dollarphotoclub_61600915.jpg

 

Is it really “Farm Fresh?”

In the present time, our food is usually marketed in stores as being “Farm Fresh,” which gives shoppers a sense of trust of the idea that farms still make and produce foods like they did in the early 1900’s. However, modern food production appears to be more of a factory than an idealistic farm setting. Though people may think differently, thousands of chickens are packed into dark, poorly ventilated houses. On account of these corrupted companies compete over the domination of the market and keep turning profits, production animals everywhere are suffering.

In my research, my interest was taken in the subjects on if the animals in the farms have the right to have a certain quality of life. In the food production industry, the major corporations control the quality of the products being produced by major providers. These providers tend to only care about profit and not the well-being of the animals they produce. One example in the documentary “Food Inc.” was related to chickens. The chickens were mass produced by big corporations such as Tyson and Perdue and have been engineered for the chickens to grow four times the size of a normal chicken in a short amount of time. Though the skin and muscle have been designed to grow very quickly, the bones and internal organs of these modified chickens can not keep up. The documentary showed several clips of these mutant chickens taking a few steps and then having to lay back down because their bodies can not support their weight. Production animals such as cattle should be fed grasses and roots of the land instead of corn, which they are not meant to consume and digest.  If we decide not to abide by these rules, society’s actions of pertaining food can be detrimental to our planet.

I believe that these food and animal processors should aim toward using renewable energy or process wastes to produce energy. Providing safe and nutritious food remains a leading priority for the food industry. It is so important to continue this life cycle of food products where we can use our resources effectively and harvest the foods, so it will not be permanently damaged.

Jamison G. Tsuchiya


  1. “Harman’s Place!” Do Animals have the right to a certain quality of life? Accessed April 18, 2017. http://harman-thes-classover7-series.blogspot.com/p/do-animals-have-right-to-certain.html.
  2. “Factory Farming: Misery for Animals.” PETA. Accessed April 20, 2017. http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/.
  3. “Chickens.” Farm Sanctuary. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/chickens/.

Fig. 1. The Chicken of Tomorrow needs to be the Chicken of Yesterday (http://heritagefoodsusa.com/)

Quality over Quantity

In terms of producing food, the focus has shifted towards having the mindset of quantity over quality. This mindset is what drives mass production companies. It seems as the quantity of food goes up, quality has gone down within these companies. Mass production companies have its advantages, but the negative aspects of this type of producing greatly outweighs the benefits.

Mass production has been beneficial in this busy life. Food that has been processed last longer and does not spoil as easily as natural foods. Storing, packing, and transporting becomes easier after it has been modified to be less perishable (“The Benefits and Drawbacks of Food Manufacturing”). A premade or packaged meal is quicker and more convenient than spending an abundant amount of time prepping and cooking a meal (Thorne).

Small farms are being run out of business because of the FASM Act that was passed. This places a burden on small farmers who can’t afford the costs (Collins). Eventually they will struggle with payments and will run out of business. Small local farms are essential in healthy food production because they increase the availability of locally grown food that has been minimally processed (Collins). Quality of labor is also significantly better in small farms since small farms are usually owned by families.

The main focus of large companies is to produce large amounts of food efficiently and to keep the costs of production low. The problem with this is that because they have a certain mindset, they will go about whatever ways to fulfill their goal. After all, the food company industry is a business and businesses are all about profit. This causes them to take shortcuts which potentially could include using lower quality product, paying lower wages to increase profit, and even using more chemicals (Food, Inc). For example, animals raised in factory farms are fed the cheapest possible feeds and grains to keep the production cost low (Lipman). When an individual consumes processed animal meat, the individual is also receiving a serving of the animal’s questionable diet.

Mass production puts food that is produced at risk of being contaminated with chemicals or even bacteria. One reason why chemicals are often utilized is to make sure all the food tastes the same. Sick animals are given chemical additives and antibiotics which in turn enters the system of a consumer (Lipman). Although measures are taken to reduce the number of bacteria found in meat, there can still be some traces of bacteria found.

Mass production has changed the way our world functions. In today’s society, people are always busy. Having food that has been processed to last longer and having ready-made meals has been very helpful. With the positive benefits, there is also always a negative aspect. Local small farms are being run out of business, the quality of food is not at its highest, and traces of bacteria and chemicals being found in the processed foods are just a few of the numerous negative aspects of mass production. It is important for us to know where our food comes from and to know that the quality of our food is more important than the quantity of food. Despite all the positive aspects of mass production, the negative greatly outweigh the positive.

Stephanie Trinidad


Lipman, Dr. Frank. “FOOD FOR NAUGHT: 5 Reasons To Kick Mass-Produced Meats Off Your Plate.” Be Well. July 23, 2013. Accessed April 20, 2017.

Animals are Friends not Food

What is sustainability? Sustainability is defined as the ability to keep something at a certain level or rate. Sustaining something ensures that it stays good consistently, but does a sustainable world sound realistic? A sustainable world is hard to imagine, but this world was once our reality. In the beginning, God created a perfect world that could sustain itself. This world was in harmony with the animals. Today, eating meat is popular, but the truth is, vegetarianism brings sustainability to the animals, the human body, and the earth.

Vegetarian diets can sustain the lives of countless animals that are slaughtered because of our hunger for meat. Industries that run food business and put food on our tables don’t want to show consumers the truth of how businesses are run. The truth is that food corporations treat animals with cruelty. The food industry is treating animals as a variable or component that brings income, rather than recognizing that these animals are living creatures. In order to prevent this cruel treatment of animals, we can start by not slaughtering them in the first place. Vegetarianism eliminates the need to put these animals through this type of treatment in the first place.

Vegetarianism promotes a sustainable body. Our bodies are made by intelligent design to stay in homeostasis, a healthy balanced state. Our bodies want to stay healthy, but our choices ultimately decide how healthy we are. If we make the decision to live an unhealthy lifestyle eating meat, we are at risk for obesity. “Increased rates of obesity are significant increases in a plethora of illnesses… In sum, excessive weight gain and obesity are growing, unchecked problems in the United States.” (Williams, 2016) Obesity is a growing problem in America because Americans love to eat their meat. Meat does all types of detrimental things to your body. Meat clogs arteries, causes heart disease and promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. On the contrary, vegetarianism, promotes a strong and healthy lifestyle. If eating meat causes the fear of disease and an unhealthy lifestyle, the solution is avoiding the consumption of meat.

A vegetarian lifestyle can give a more sustainable environment. Pollution is a problem that we face. It destroys nature and lets toxic waste infect the Earth. The consequences of our mess not only affects our health but the environment’s health too. Is it worth destroying the planet God created for us because we value our consumer wishes for meat over the well-being of the Earth? If we become vegetarian, it reduces the amount of pollution we put in our world.

God created us to live in harmony with the animals around us and the environment. If we want to go back to the sustainable world God originally planned for us to live in, we should practice vegetarianism. By practicing a vegetarian lifestyle, we can sustain the health of the animals around us, the health of our bodies, and the health of the world we live in.

      by: Joshua Tumundo


Williams, Ryan T. 2016. “SIZE REALLY DOES MATTER: HOW OBESITY IS UNDERMINING      AMERICA’S NATIONAL SECURITY.” University Of Toledo Law Review 48, no. 1: 21-53. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 20, 2017).