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Archive for April, 2010

I’m sure you’ve seen the promotion that KFC’s doing for breast cancer. If not, I’ll give you a quick summary. For every pink bucket of chicken you order through May 9th, they’ll donate a whopping $0.50 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® campaign. Nice, right? Especially since breast cancer is a huge killer, and I’m sure any donation would help.

Well, it’s not quite $0.50. If you read KFC’s own press release, only “Twenty-five percent of the funds raised from this promotion will go directly to the local Affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.” Where does the other 75 percent go?

Seems kind of ironic that a fast food chain selling fattening, salty, and generally unhealthy food supports finding a cure for breast cancer, when they could very well be one of the contributors to the disease in the first place.

KFC uses low-quality ingredients and all sorts of chemicals to bring you the famous “bucket” at an affordable price. Let’s examine their original recipe bucket. Since I couldn’t find nutritional information for the entire bucket as one serving, we’ll have to look at a single drumstick and then multiply it by 15, which is about how many of them are in the Pink Bucket (this information taken from the KFC website):

One drumstick

120 calories

60 calories from fat

7 grams of fat

1.5 grams of saturated fat

50 milligrams (mgs) of cholesterol

340 mgs of sodium

15 drumsticks

1,800 calories

900 calories from fat

105 grams of fat

22.5 grams of saturated fat

750 mgs of cholesterol

5,100 mgs of sodium

The chicken is marinated in salt, sodium phosphate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Isn’t MSG linked to cancer? The chicken is then breaded with wheat flour, sodium chloride, and anti-caking agent (tricalcium phosphate), nonfat milk, egg whites, and their secret recipe seasoning. The last step, of course, is frying it in oil. Doesn’t sound like there are many healthy ingredients there, unless you thrive on salt. Sure, chicken is a source of protein, but I highly doubt the mass-farmed chickens they use are great, either.* Probably pumped full of antibiotics and synthetic hormones. Same with the cows who make the milk and the hens who lay the eggs. We all know the health concerns related to hormones being used to mass-produce enough chicken, eggs, and milk to feed our ever-growing population. And by ever-growing, I mean in number and in size.

They probably get their chicken from Tyson Foods, which is the world’s second-largest processor of chicken. Tyson sells chicken to 90 percent of the largest restaurant chains. In order to get that much chicken, they work with independent contractors, mainly in southern states, who raise the chickens that Tyson breeds, slaughters, and processes. The typical poultry farmer has three houses, which hold 25,000 chickens each. All are controlled by Tyson, and many are in debt. However, this isn’t about the deplorable conditions of the chickens themselves and the “farmers” who raise them. If you want to know more about that, read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or watch the movie Food, Inc.

Back to my original point: If KFC was really concerned about the health of America instead of trying to make a quick buck, they’d put their money and energy into creating healthier meals that don’t contribute to obesity and disease.

* Since writing this entry, I read Eating Animals and found the following quote:

“KFC insists it is ‘committed to the well-being and humane treatments of chickens.’ How trustworthy are these words? At a slaughterhouse in West Virginia that supplies KFC, workers were documented tearing the heads off live birds, spitting tobacco into their eyes, spray-painting their faces, and violently stomping on them. These acts were witnessed dozens of times. This slaughterhouse was not a ‘bad apple,’ but a ‘Supplier of the Year.’ Imagine what happens at the bad apples when no one is looking.

On KFC’s website, the company claims, ‘We are monitoring our suppliers on an ongoing basis to determine whether our suppliers are using humane procedures for caring and handling animals they supply to us. As a consequence, it is our goal to only deal with suppliers who promise to maintain our high standards and share our commitment to animal welfare.’ That is half true. KFC does deal with suppliers that promise to ensure welfare. What KFC doesn’t tell you is that anything the suppliers practice is necessarily considered welfare (see CFE).

[CFE – page 50

Common Farming Exemptions make legal any method of raising farmed animals so long as it is commonly practiced within the industry. In other words, farmers—corporations is the right word—have the power to define cruelty. If the industry adopts a practice—hacking off unwanted appendages with no painkillers, for example, but you can let your imagination run with this—it automatically becomes legal.]

A similar half-truth is the claim that KFC conducts welfare audits of its suppliers’ slaughter facilities (the ‘monitoring’ alluded to above). What we are not told is that these are typically announced audits. KFC announces an inspection meant (at least in theory) to document illicit behavior in a manner that allows plenty of time for the soon-to-be-inspected to throw a tarp over whatever they don’t want seen. Not only that, but the standards the auditors are asked to report on do not include a single one of the recommendations recently made by KFC’s own (now former) animal welfare advisers, five of whom resigned in frustration. …

How were these five board members replaced? KFC’s Animal Welfare Council now includes a vice president for Pilgrim’s Pride, the company operating the ‘Supplier of the Year’ plant at which some workers were shown sadistically abusing birds; a director for Tyson Foods, which slaughters 2.2 billion chickens annually and where some employees were also found to be mutilating live birds during multiple investigations (in one, employees also urinated directly onto the slaughter line); and regular participation from its own ‘executives and other employees.’ Essentially, KFC is claiming that its advisers developed programs for its suppliers, even though its advisers are its suppliers.”

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The government would like to increase taxes on soft drinks, supposedly to help fight obesity. According to the New York Times, “The state budget office estimates such a tax would raise $1 billion a year when fully in effect, and reduce consumption by 15 percent.”

I agree that it would raise tons of money. After all, most people won’t be fazed by having to pay a few extra cents for soda. Just look at smokers. They whine and bitch about how the cost of cigarettes has nearly doubled in 10 years, yet they keep on smoking. I don’t agree that consumption of soda will be reduced by 15 percent, for the reason I just mentioned. And I’m pretty sure the government is counting on that, too.

See, the government wants you to think this tax is for the country’s heath. In reality, it’s just finding additional ways to get more money from the American people. Why would it single out one specific product when there are a million things that could contribute to a person’s obesity? Is it because soda consumption is out of control? According to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), consumption of soft drinks is now over 600 12-ounce servings per person per year. Since 1978, soda consumption in America has tripled for boys and doubled for girls. Or maybe it’s so the government can pay even higher subsidies to the industrial corn farmers, so those farmers can produce even more corn. Why? Read on.

The second ingredient in most sodas is high fructose corn syrup, which is made from — you guessed it — corn. Corn is grown by the industrial farmer. The government pays huge subsidies to these “farmers” so they can afford to grow more of the cheapest crop in America. (Otherwise, the farmers would lose money on the whole deal.)

You know what would make more sense than paying industrial farmers tons of money to grow corn and then raising taxes on the very products this corn creates? Putting your money where your mouth is. That’s right; instead of telling Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables while allowing the cost of them to greatly exceed the cost of processed foods made from corn (i.e., making it a lot cheaper to eat the foods that make Americans obese), give this money to the organic and local farmers so Americans have easier access to and can pay less for the foods that are good for them!

Problem solved!

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I’m sure you enjoy the benefits of society’s technological advances: listening to music on your phone, texting your friends and family, surfing the web from anywhere, reading books without turning actual pages … I could go on. Technology permeates everything we do … including teen bullying. The official term is “Cyberbullying.” Teens now are using email, cell phones, and whatever other methods they can think up to bully and harass each other.  Here’s one official definition: “Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other electronic devices.” Is it just me, or does Cyberbullying seem like a cop-out for teens that don’t have the guts to look their victims in the eye?

What happened to the old-fashioned bullying methods of my youth: in person or over the phone? Oh, they still exist. Just listen to the news or read the paper. For example, how about this Massachusetts girl who killed herself as a result of being bullied?

Of course when I was growing up, bullying was a natural part of my middle and high school experience. I may not have had soda cans thrown at me, but I was definitely involved in many a female catfight. Though the abuse wasn’t physical, it left many scars. Yet here I am today, alive and kicking (and a little resentful).

Do the teens of today have such thin skin that a little harassment from their peers makes the rest of their lives not worth living? At the risk of sounding like my parents, I’m saying that my generation had it much harder. On top of the standard bullying, we actually had to go to the library and use the card catalog to do research! I didn’t even own a cell phone until I graduated from college. My parents tracked me with a pager. When it buzzed, I needed to find the nearest payphone and pop in a quarter.  We spent summer afternoons playing outside in the heat instead of sitting in the cool basement playing video games with fancy graphics. If we wanted music, we had to go to the record store and buy a tape or CD! If we wanted only one song instead of the entire album, we had to wait until it came on the radio and record it using our boom boxes!

Yes, our teenage years were rough. But it was all part of growing up; your teens were just a precursor to the suckage of post-college life. If you can’t handle being bullied by your peers, how will you ever make it in the real world?

Not that I condone teenage bullying, because being the victim isn’t fun. But where is this coming from? Why all the sudden bullying publicity? Take it from the movie Heathers; harassing others doesn’t get you more friends, suicide won’t get you anywhere but the cemetery, and people will believe anything. Wow, that reads like a country song.

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I promised myself I wouldn’t post again until I could write something meaningful and profound. But then I realized that this is a blog, not The New Yorker. Not all of my posts will be educational and/or witty; after all, this is supposed to be a creative outlet for me as well. And in the spirit of spreading my posts over the various categories I’ve created, I think it’s time to contribute to “What is going on UP HERE?!”

It’s been almost two months since I left the working world and became “self-employed.” I put that in quotes, because I’ve made $90 so far. That likely puts me below the poverty line and probably under the IRS’s radar as well. And I can’t complain — $90 isn’t bad for having done absolutely no networking at all. Maybe if I were to send out a few emails to former colleagues, I could up my income to $180 a quarter!

You see, I want to have a steady income, so I can afford the lifestyle to which I’m accustomed, but I don’t want to do any work. So unless I win the lottery (which would require me entering it), I see a bleak future ahead, full of Salvation Army clothes and cheap pasta dinners.

I have a massive “the grass is always greener” complex. It’s haunted me my entire life. When I was in school, I couldn’t wait to get into the working world. Once I got into the working world, I longed for school. There are benefits to each.

School: flexible schedule, social activities, long vacations, all about you

Work: steady income, benefits, set schedule (usually), paid vacation, ability to leave work at work (usually)

But there are also drawbacks. And I’m sure you can guess that with my affliction, I can only see the drawbacks of work and the benefits of school when I am working, and vice-versa. No matter how many times I have told myself to appreciate where I am, I never do. Instead, I fantasize about where I could be.

At this moment, I am missing my salary and benefits. I am not missing sitting in a cubicle, business attire, corporate politics, or working from 9 to 5.

Seems obvious that my perfect world would be one without cubicles. The question is: Can I motivate myself to earn some steady money and make a success of self-employment, or am I destined to be a corporate schmuck?

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