For those of you who eat gourmet food, you need to be aware of something if you haven't already noticed it: in order to "simplify" their menu, back in December, Burger King changed the names of the items on their value menu. Whereas, if you once ordered a "medium #1 with cheese" you now get ~ and pay for ~ what used to be a large. I had this happen the last two times I ate there (which was a while ago) and wondered why 1) things were so expensive; and 2) why there was too much extra crap. There's nothing on their website about it, but I was able to find an article or two complaining about it. Their website doesn't even mention meals... it just talks about the individual items. Allegedly, they have posters up to explain this, so they don't think anyone was confused. Me, it just pissed me off because I spent money for food I didn't eat. Supposedly they now size things as "value", "small", "medium", and "large", where before it was "small", "medium", "large", and "king" ~ although one of the articles I read translated the former "medium" to the current "value", so who knows.
Overall, it seems to buck the trend of recognizing how bad too much of that kind of food is for you. Then again, Wendy's, which is apparently growing out of the phase of trying to appeal to a mature, healthy eating audience, is going for the three quarter pound triple burger crowd, with some unfortunate slogan I can't seem to track down online. Maybe it's a version of their "3conomics" thing focused on the triple decker, but it was another example of ignoring the current trend towards recognizing how bad this stuff is for you, and encouraging you to spend more (even if you're getting paid less ~ and if your pay raise is less than the rate of inflation, you making less money) on even more fattening crap.
Then there's the thing that ticked me off and got me to write this down. I haven't eaten at a Wendy's since June, and before that, maybe early to mid 2007, so I don't really have any stock in what they offer: they had a decent fish sandwich, but they discontinued it one time to many, not to mention their burgers never seem anywhere near as fresh as they claim they are. Gourmet Food, I mean Burger King, I do visit more often, but probably a bit less than once a month. Maybe even less now that they ticked me off with the name change game. Pissed me off when they first moved things around - if I recall correctly, at one time what I was eating for years, that "medium" size", was, way back in the 80's, the "large" size. Anyway, the thing that set this all off tonight was another ad that seemed so out of step with everything that, combined with those other two things, probably proves that those three are in lock step with a new trend.
It's been quite a while since everyone knew just how bad high fructose corn syrup is for you. Until HFCS Facts
came along to tell you how wrong that is, and how great it is for you... in moderation of course. Yeah, their TV ad really pissed me off.
And it comes from corn, so it's got to be good!
I'm sorry, ethanol also comes from corn, and if you pour it all over an industry marketing moron and light it, he'll still scream and writhe in pain, so it's got to be good!
The ads go on and on about how high fructose corn syrup is just as good (or bad) for you as sugar or other sweeteners. Remember, though, the ad is paid for by the folks who want to sell you high fructose corn syrup, and the studies that combat all that earlier advice about how bad it is for you, healthwise, are, likewise, paid for by the Corn Refiners Association, the beverage manufacturers, and the others who want to sell the stuff to you.
They're just a tad biased.
"But it's all natural!", they whine, "so it's got to be good!"
It's all natural in the same way asphalt is ~ sure, you suck up some dead dinosaurs, mix in some all natural stone aggregate, and slap it over the green and pleasant fields to make a parking lot, that's all there is to it. All natural. So you take corn ~ already one of the most tweaked monoculture crops on the planet with only a handful of genetic variation in the product after years of manipulation to get it to where it is today ~ and you further alter it to get it to have the characteristics you want. That lack of variation is just ruinous to the environment.
For one thing, raising a monoculture means your Product no longer has the natural variances it once did, it can no longer change or adapt to new pests. So now you have to fret and fuss over it and go out and hand pick every bug from every ear of corn in every acre in every farm ~ oh, hell with it, just gas the fuckers! Poison 'em, wipe out the enemy of the corn! Pesticides, of course, don't just kill the stuff that eats the corn. They kill the stuff that was eating the stuff that eats the corn. Hey, more dead bugs! Woah, more live bugs! More pesticides! Not to mention those pesticides don't get out there into the corn we eat without some help! There's all the fuel and resources spent to deliver those poisons. And then the stuff sits there in the fields. Or washes downstream. Kills more stuff that way, stuff that doesn't eat the corn. And the stuff it kills gets eaten by more stuff, and next thing you know that shrimp you're dipping in cocktail sauce or that bit of tuna has more nasty stuff packed into it than the untreated sewage effluent.
Well, maybe not that much. Certainly, not the same nasty stuff.
Oh, and they feed those pesticides to the other animals that end up on the plate.
Corn, as a crop, is a terribly demanding plant.
More! More! Give me more! it screams, and this plant ~ and it is, being genetically identical, the same exact plant (six plants, if I recall, on recent Discovery Channel mention) all around the world ~ is high maintenance even beyond the monoculture demands of pest protection. Let me take a step back. Six plants. Imagine if everyone in the world still existed in the same quantity, but there were only six different
people. That's what corn is, and all other monoculture crops follow the same pattern. That should be shocking enough.
Back to the fugue at hand.
Corn is high maintenance. It needs a soil that is so lopsided in nutrients the only way it gets that way is by the addition of more and more fertilizers. Fertilizers used commercially are manufactured things ~ a current favorite "all natural" ingredient, urea, a component of urine, is commercially made from two great all natural sources: coal and petroleum-based resources. At least those are some healthy, plentiful ingredients, eh?
Corn, being high maintenance, doesn't just want more fertilizer. It actually destroys the soil structure, degrading it further, so that next time you grow it ~ which, in commercial situations means pretty much immediately ~ you need more fertilizers. And with such a weak soil structure, if it gets wet it all washes away. That's okay, take some more coal or gas, exert some more coal or gas to break it down to urea ~ or invent some other chemical blend ~ and add more fertilizer. So what if all that runoff is destroying ecosystems down stream!
Yeah. High fructose corn syrup is definitely a winner. Why, it's so good, not only is it based off the most demanding crop we invented, it's also got to be further processed ~ highly processed ~ to get it all high and fructosy. So tip back a glass of high fructose corn syrup ~ in moderation, of course ~ and be glad the industry that sells it paid scientists to say it won't kill you any faster, and just ignore the man behind the curtain... and all the pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels, and chemistry that went into bringing you that natural sugary sweet slime.
Side Note: The HFCS promotion began back in June, really hitting its stride in September. The LA Times published this article
back in August, and The Washington Post put this one
out in March. I'm sure there were a lot of other "attacks" on a poor humble industry, just trying to fatten up a calf so it can make a buck or two billion. Some additional post-ad blitz info on grist