Economics of beer
Your paper needs to be your reflection on the movie we have watched in class. The movie is King Corn. You need to write an in-depth 5 page analysis on your opinions and reflections on the key points discussed and mentioned in the documentary. Other than the movie, you should do some additional research of your own about the topics discussed in the movie and elaborate on it. Please also pay attention to the grading rubric to see what is expected from you in this paper.
A reflection paper is an analytical response which enables a writer to provide a description of an event or item while adding a personal reflection. The movie, King Corn; produced by Aaron Woolf, persuasively argues that corn is always present in everything that Americans eat. This paper provides a reflection on the film by providing its main themes as well as the evidence and facts used to support the primary themes. Additionally, a position will be taken as to whether the film has been persuasive. finally, a critique of one of the disagreeable issues in the film will be conducted.
One of the primary themes in the movie is that corn has become an ever-present commodity in every meal that Americans take. As such, according to Ellis Curtis, one of the characters in the film, “The first time in the American history, the current generation was at risk of having a shorter lifespan than that of our parents” (Woolf 1:40) Various examples have been provided to support the presence of corn in almost all meals taken by Americans.
The second theme; in the film, is that corn farming has now shifted from the traditional image of the family farm to becoming an industrialized agricultural activity. In specific, the family farms for the corns have been replaced by large industrial farms. These trends are a reflection of the larger industrialization of the North-American food system (Woolf 20-45). As such, the decisions on what to grow has now been manipulated by the economic consideration of the government.
The two themes stated in the previous paragraph have been supported by various facts and arguments from the movie. One of the facts that support the point that corn is ever present is the point that the hair of human beings contains a record diet of corn. In specific, when the two main characters in the film; Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, visited the University of Virginia don, Professor Steve Macko, he analyzed their hair and found it to be primarily made of corn (Woolf 50).
Apart from the human hair, the movie characters move from the lab to the farm as well as cattle lots and manufacturing plants for fructose. Moreover, they conduct interviews with various groups of farmers. From their investigations, they discover that corn is a high starch value which; despite having a little to no nutritional value, is used either directly or indirectly in the processing of foods and animal feeds.
The other evidence they give is based on the investigation by Cheney and Ellis about where corn goes. They establish that 32 percent of the corn produced is exported and subsequently turned into ethanol. However, 50 percent of the corn goes to animal feed which then produces a high number of saturated fats with the remainder being used as corn fructose (Woolf 45). The sweetener is then used in different types of commercial food and the processing of beverages.
Although Cheney and Ellis were refused entrance into a fructose manufacturing plant because of security reasons, they discovered that corn is also deployed in the processing of fructose. In their tour of Colorado cattle feedlots, the two characters in the film discovered that corn has replaced grass as the primary feed for cattle. In specific, they established the fact that when cattle feed on large amounts of grain, they become ready for slaughter in between 120-150 days. Such a fact supports the theme of the universal use of corn.
To back the shift of corn farming from a family issue to an industrial concept, Cheney and Ellis visited the industrial kitchens of American and discovered that an abundance of corn ends up in the factories. For instance, in Brooklyn, they found out that corn was used in the sweetening of sodas. Additionally, corn is used by industries make fast food cheap and thus make consumer sick. Everything that Americans eat contains corn- from the high-fructose corn syrup to the corn-fed meat and the corn-based processed foods.
Whether Argument Is Persuasive
The arguments made as to the multiple areas for the use of corn are persuasive. In specific, the point that corn has become an integral raw material in the industries is believable. According to White, the process for the production of beer requires the use of corn which has been brewed as corn syrup (13). The use of corn in the production of beer is based on the fact that it is cheaper than barley. As such, beer companies have used corn syrup which is highly fermentable as a cost-saving measure. As a result, the argument that corn is vital in industries is convincing.
The social impact of the industrial production of corn from the movie is also well grounded. In specific, according to the movie, “the first time in American history, our generation was at risk of having a shorter life-span than our parents. And it was because of what we eat” (Woolf 1:40) Such a statement is well grounded considering that most of the fast foods taken have been populated with saturated fats. For instance, the meat Americans consume comes from cattle which have been fed with corn and a huge percentage of antibiotics.
The agricultural side of the argument where the movie underscores the role of government subsidies is well founded. In specific, the arguments that government subsidies have necessitated the industrial growth of corn is persuasive. Notably, the decisions made by the government as to the specific crops which are grown is pegged on the economic considerations as opposed to the effects on the citizens (Poreda 137). The government continues to provide subsidies to farmers so that they can increase their productivity and yields irrespective of the adverse health effects.
The connection between the rates of obesity in American society and the production of corn syrup is convincing. Notably, one of the primary causes of obesity is the intake of huge amounts of calories. Corn has been found to contain high amounts of saturated fat (Bode et al. 137). Since most of the fast foods contain fructose made from corn, then it automatically confirms that the rates of obesity trace back to the corn produced in high amounts in the farms.
Economically, the arguments on the reasons for the new advancements in the industrial production of corn is justified. In specific, Pollan; one of the characters in the movie, argues “if you’re standing in the field of Iowa, there’s an immense amount of food being grown, none of it edible.” Such a statement is persuasive to the extent that many of the farmers are focused on industrial production of corn despite them not farming any staple foods which can feed them. The goal is on the economic benefits which will arise from the high demand for corn.
I do not agree with the movie and specifically with the statement by Michael Pollan “The commodity corn… nobody can eat it. It must be processed before we can eat it” (Woolf 55). The character seemed to suggest that the only role that corn play is as raw materials for various industries such as beer companies. Additionally, such a statement suggests that corn is harmful when consumed raw. According to the authors, corn is only edible raw by animals (cattle). However, such a statement fails to be cognizant of the fact corn is consumed in many countries around the globe before being processed.
People in low-income countries have relied on corn meals as their staple food. For instance, in Kenya and Uganda, corn has been consumed daily by many households (Cockx et al. 2). Additionally, in the Philippines, corn is the staple food for 20 percent of the Filipino populations. Based on information from the FAOSTAT, close to 30 percent of the calorific intake of individuals from sub-Saharan African arises from corn. As such, corn has become a vital staple food in Africa. The claim by the film that nobody can eat corn before it is processed is a misstatement of the truth.
In conclusion, the film has been persuasive in arguing that corn has become an integral part of American society as it is virtually present in every meal. Some of the points to support such an argument such as the use of corn to produce most of the fast foods as well as in the production of beer are convincing. However, I disagree with the film on the assertion that corn cannot be eaten before being processed as it is the staple food for many countries in Africa.
Bode, John W., Mark W. Empie, and Kyd D. Brenner. “Evolution of high fructose corn syrup within the sweeteners industry.” Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sucrose and Health. Humana Press, New York, NY, 2014. 137-148.
Cockx, Lara, L. Colen, and J. De Weerdt. “From corn to popcorn.” Urbanization and food consumption in sub-saharan Africa: evidence from rural-urban migrants in Tanzania390.2017 (2017): 1-42.
Poreda, Aleksander, et al. “Corn grist adjunct–application and influence on the brewing process and beer quality.” Journal of the Institute of Brewing 120.1 (2014): 77-81.
White, John S. “Sucrose, HFCS, and fructose: history, manufacture, composition, applications, and production.” Fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose and health. Humana Press, New York, NY, 2014. 13-33.
Woolf, Aaron (Director). King Corn. Performance by Ian Cheney, and Curt Ellis, Mosaic Films, 2007. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywJOKF445Go