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Social Studies

Meat of The Matter

Emily Flake

By Vincent Williams | Posted 1/23/2008

This past week, the food and Drug Administration said that there are no differences between naturally cultivated meat and cloned meat. Furthermore, the government agency went on to declare that, since it found no real difference, there is no reason to differentiate the packaging of the two types of meat. In other words, when we go to our local supermarket, if the FDA has its way, there's no telling what you're getting when you choose your ground round. Need I say that I think this is a bad thing? I don't believe I have to even say this, but here you go: The quality and nature of food should not be parsed and bogged down in semantics and technicalities.

The funny thing about this bothering me is that, historically, I'm not what you would call a "foodie." I guess I pretty much do the inverted pyramid/four food groups deal. I haven't had any pork since I was in college, but that's mostly because we were all righteous and Black Powered and the Revolution frowned on the swine, and then I just never picked it back up. We're mostly a chicken and fish house, but I'm not afraid of a steak, especially if it's summertime and I can grill it while drinking an ice-cold brew. Speaking of which, I'm not a huge drinker, but I'll have the aforementioned brew, and I've been known, every now and then, to make a pitcher of screwdrivers and kill a Friday night watching a couple of monster movies. Periodically, I like a good salad for lunch. But I also like that big-ass thing of nachos at the movies. I would argue that I'm an average eater.

I think this sort of lackadaisical approach to food is why I had long been ambivalent about the Whole Foods crowd. The folks I knew who shopped at the "upscale" supermarkets struck me as pretentious and annoying. And the prices that those markets charge seemed to me a bit much just for a "natural" product. You can probably see where this is going.

Then we had a baby and everything changed. Suddenly, those delicious pesticide-ridden apples that we loved weren't good enough, and we ended up becoming those people who exclusively shop at those supermarkets for the baby; not for all of us, just the baby. In fact, some of my friends, who also had babies and overprotective wives, used to commiserate about how there was food in the house that was too good for us and how, secretly, we would sneak and drink "the baby's juice." (Does that make us monsters? Well, yes, yes; taking juice and milk out of your child's mouth does make you a monster, but, hell, we deserved nice juice, too!) Eventually, we moved out of our two-supermarket phase, because who has time to go to separate supermarkets, and I'm almost ashamed to say it, but we've become "those" people. That "almost" is because of how everything tastes, though. I had forgotten what an apple was supposed to taste like until we started getting organic fruit for my daughter.

And that's the dirty truth: Food from the high-end supermarket actually does taste better. What makes it so icky is that "high-end" part. If you want the good apple, you have to pay extra for it. Now, sure, you can go to a food co-op or a farmers' market, but if we're being brutally honest, I would argue that there's a class component to those food outlets as well. Perhaps a formal educational background isn't required to choose a farmers' market as a place to buy your food, but a cultural-education component often is.

That's always the killer combination though, isn't it? Education and economic access. In a topsy-turvy world where the best food is food that is, well, just the way it's supposed to be, the only people who can eat right are the ones who can afford to eat right and have been educated about the importance of eating right. And they damn sure ain't eating cloned chicken meat. My cynical side also thinks that some of the folks at the FDA who have made this decision about the safety of cloned meat are included in the aforementioned number who would never eat it. Therein lies the rub: If something goes wrong with this decision down the line, it won't be the people who made the decision who will suffer for the mistake. And that's a lot to swallow. H

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