Posted by: r.m. | November 12, 2008

eating corn? too much corn?

What do you think you’re eating?  If you’re eating American food (i.e. food from the US), you’re probably eating corn

Corn is central to agriculture in the United States, where it is grown in greater volumes and receives more government subsidies than any other crop. Between 1995 and 2006 corn growers received $56 billion in federal subsidies, and the annual figure may soon hit $10 billion.

But in recent years, environmentalists have branded corn as an icon of unsustainable agriculture. It requires large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, both of which require large amounts of fossil fuel to manufacture.” 

How do they know that you’re basically eat corn when you eat a chicken sandwich?

“Jahren’s team analyzed hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and french fries from multiple McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s restaurants in six U.S. cities. In both types of meat at every location, a telltale configuration of nitrogen and carbon traces showed that the animals had eaten corn-heavy diets; in the case of beef, 150 out of 162 samples came from animals that ate nothing but corn. Fries were prepared in corn-based oil. ”

Here is the details of that report:

“Americans spend >100 billion dollars on restaurant fast food each year; fast food meals comprise a disproportionate amount of both meat and calories within the U.S. diet. We used carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes to infer the source of feed to meat animals, the source of fat within fries, and the extent of fertilization and confinement inherent to production. We sampled food from McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s chains, purchasing >480 servings of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and fries within geographically distributed U.S. cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Detroit, Boston, and Baltimore. From the entire sample set of beef and chicken, only 12 servings of beef had δ13C < −21‰; for these animals only was a food source other than corn possible. We observed remarkably invariant values of δ15N in both beef and chicken, reflecting uniform confinement and exposure to heavily fertilized feed for all animals. The δ13C value of fries differed significantly among restaurants indicating that the chains used different protocols for deep-frying: Wendy’s clearly used only corn oil, whereas McDonald’s and Burger King favored other vegetable oils; this differed from ingredient reports. Our results highlighted the overwhelming importance of corn agriculture within virtually every aspect of fast food manufacture.

and where does Obama stand on this issue?

He has supported subsidies on corn-based ethanol. why?

“Asked about his support for ethanol, Obama was remarkably candid in explaining why he backed the subsidies: “Look, I’ve been a strong ethanol supporter because Illinois … is a major corn producer.”

So, expect more corn. much more corn.

and all its negative consequences.



  1. there is a really interesting documentary about this that came out last year called “king corn.” for readers who have itunes available to them, they can download the movie. but here is a trailer of it:

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