Joel Salatin on Big Organic and the Future of Food

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, then you are no doubt familiar with Joel Salatin, the “high priest of the pasture,” as The New York Times called him in their May 2005 profile. Salatin’s philosophy of farming is innovative and holistic, and stresses the natural symbiotic relationship between the soil, the seasons, and the health and happiness of his animals. TreeHugger talks to Salatin about how he got started farming, his appearance in the new film Food, Inc., the government’s role in farm politics, and his ideas on the future of food…

Here are some of the highlights:

What’s the biggest problem with the food industry in the U.S.?

…Safe food. And this runs the gamut from nutrition to outright danger. The food industry actually believes that feeding your children Twinkies, Cocoa Puffs and Mountain Dew is safe, but drinking raw milk and eating compost-grown tomatoes is dangerous…Using its political clout, industrial food is waging war on local, nutrient dense foods.
…Disrespect of the inherent uniqueness of the living world. Industrial food never asks whether the pig is happy. the pig-ness of the pig never enters the conversation. It’s all about fatter, faster, bigger, cheaper. And a culture that views its life from such an arrogant, manipulative, disrespectful hubris, will view its own citizenry the same way–and other cultures.

What’s so important about buying your food from farmers nearby?

I am tired of traveling all across North America and finding that in every locality, only 5 percent of the food consumed there is grown there. Meanwhile, food being grown there ends up in some other community which is experiencing the same low percentage. This is not about production capacity; it is about corporate welfarism, sweetheart regulatory deals, and a host of other societal and economic weeds.

Wal-Mart now sells organic food, which some say is a huge step in the right direction… do you agree?

This all sounds genuine enough, but every outfit that walks through that door prostitutes its mission a little…I suggest that aiding and abetting Walmart is a fundamentally flawed exercise if your goal is localization, decentralizing, integrity, transparency, and triple bottom line accounting. Walmart business models do not include the question: “Does this make more earthworms or fewer?” A few pennies tossed to environmental organizations do not make a company green.

We think it’s a really interesting article, and we encourage you to read the whole thing here, and then tell us what you think!