I was enlightened by Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to discover how corn has made it’s way into almost everything in the American diet and dominates American agriculture. Considering this crop is a heavy feeder requiring lots of water and fertilizer, and it is responsible for the fall of ancient civilizations, it seems ludicrous that the American diet would be so dependent upon corn. The dominance of corn is especially apparent when you consider its prevalence in American fast food.
American fast food is almost entirely produced from corn according to a chemical analysis of dishes served at McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using a stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen to determine the origin of molecules present in hamburgers, chicken, and fries, Hope Jahren and Rebecca Kraft found corn to be the almost exclusive food source of the beef and chicken served in fast food restaurants.
Of course, there other reasons to avoid fast food than simply avoiding all that corn. The researchers also found fast food restaurants mislead “consumers as to the oils used in preparing french fries and that animals slaughtered for production are kept in confined quarters, rather than outdoors”. The study’s authors continue:
Fastfood corporations, although they constitute more than half the restaurants in the U.S. and sell more than 1 hundred billion dollars of food each year, oppose regulation of ingredient reporting. Ingredients matter for many reasons: U.S. corn agriculture has been criticized as environmentally unsustainable and conspicuously subsidized. Of 160 food products we purchased at Wendy’s throughout the United States, not 1 item could be traced back to a noncorn source. Our work also identified corn feed as the overwhelming source of food for tissue growth, hence for beef and chicken meat, at fast food restaurants.
So if you still eat at fast food restaurants, consider the impact not only on your family’s health, but on the environment as well of these cheap, corn-based meals.