Product of Mexico

Two weeks ago, I was at the Today’s Dietitian Conference in Las Vegas. I went to several great educational sessions, but the one that blew me away the most was the talk Sharon Palmer, RDN, gave on “Who Feeds America? An Examination of the Condition of the Food Labor System.”

I’ll admit, as an omnivore, I’ve given much more thought to the conditions and treatment of the animals that provide my meat, milk and eggs than I have of the human beings who pick my berries, tomatoes and lettuce. That’s a grievous oversight that I am trying to remedy. Yes, we need to eat, but why should people suffer so we can have cheap produce?

Today I’m going to start a four-part weekly series highlighting some of the information in Palmer’s presentation that made a deep impact on me. Today, I want to point you in the direction of the Los Angeles Times series “Product of Mexico.”

For the series, LA Times reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti traveled across nine Mexican states, observing conditions and interviewing workers at some of the mega-farms that have powered the country’s agricultural export boom. There video as well as four lengthy articles, and I strongly encourage you to both watch and read. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but the words themselves are also powerful. There are four parts:

I know that many people don’t really want to know where their food comes from. They don’t want to think about the animals that get slaughtered, they don’t want to think about someone doing back-breaking labor for a pittance. But is it right to allow ourselves to remain in the dark. Even if, ultimately, our choice is to do nothing with a piece of information, at least when we have that information we are able to make a choice.

So what am I doing with this information? Making more of an effort to buy local, putting renewed effort into growing my own produce, paying more attention to where produce in the store comes from, and realizing that even stores like Whole Foods, with their feel-good advertising campaigns, are guilty of selling produce picked by workers who are subjected to harsh conditions.