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What Is the Deal With Corn?

The weekend is closing in and most all of you are expecting good weather, which hopefully means you’ll be spending some time outdoors… possibly grilling… and possibly throwing some corn on that grill.

Here’s a barbecue related question you never thought you’d ask yourself: what’s the deal with corn?

Let’s dive in.

More Than Just The Cob…

We grow a lot of corn in the U.S.

Nearly 60% of our farmland is dedicated to commodity crops like corn and soy. Over 90 million acres of that land is devoted to growing just corn. Now, 90 million acres may not mean much to some people so to give you a point of reference, that is about the size of the state of Montana. For any city folk not familiar with where Montana is on the map (no judgement here), 90 million acres is more than 460 times the size of New York City.

The point is: we grow a ton of corn.

So where does it all go, how did we get here, and why does it matter? Great questions! I thought you’d never ask. Where does it all go? Well, less than 10% is used for human edible food, but that doesn’t include the delicious corn on the cob you can grill on MDW. Most of that 10% is made up of high fructose corn syrup, which is a heavily processed sugar (bad) used in pretty much everything in some form you’d find in the middle aisles of your grocery store. Even things you wouldn’t necessarily categorize as sweet foods have HFCS. Pasta sauce, salad dressing, ketchup, you name it. HFCS is everyone. Ok, but that only accounts for 10% of corn.

Another 20% of U.S grown corn is exported toMexico, China, and other countries, while 30% of our corn is used for feed to fatten up livestock in CAFOs. That leaves the last 40% of corn for biofuel.

That’s right–most of the corn grown in the U.S is added to gasoline as corn ethanol. So how did we get here? Well as the legendary informant, Deep Throat, reminded us, you have to “follow the money!”

Corn has been heavily subsidized by the U.S government for decades and unfortunately, farmers will grow what the government pays them to grow. Combine the cash incentive with advancements in genetic engineering (giving us good ole GMOs) and the advent of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers to increase yield and you get a lot off armers growing corn on 90 million acres of U.S farmland. So why does this all matter? Well, highly processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup are making us sick, corn used for livestock feed is making those animals sick, which in turn produces meat that is also making us sick, and I don’t know if ethanol is making your car sick but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is: all this corn is making us sick. And finally, this all matters because those 90 million acres of corn fields are monoculture farm land that is actively depleting the life out of that soil every single year. Those fields are tilled, lay bare over the winter, and are constantly treated with all sorts of chemicals in order to keep yields high. The solution? Enjoy your organic grilled corn on the cob this weekend, but keep checking ingredient lists for HFCS and if you see it, maybe put that product back on the shelf.

Keep buying grassfed, preferably regenerative meats, and of course–forward this article to some friends!

What do you think?


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