Impacts of a Borderless Society
None of us seldom give a second thought as to where our food comes from. Most
children believe all they eat originates from the grocery stores they visit each week. The
complete opposite is true and, in many ways, hides the fact the commercialization of the
agricultural industry has shattered boundaries between both countries and continents.
Where Do Our Foods Come From (Ribeye steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, peach pie,
Living in the midwest, I was raised in a farming community. Much of the beef, pork and
poultry sold in our grocery stores were raised within a few counties of the town I lived in. The
same was true for vegetables that were in season at the time. Huge cattle farms produced a
majority of the steaks sold in our local stores. Cattle in other parts of the country comes form the
western United States or countries like Brazil or Argentina. South American nations have been
known to eliminate large sections of rainforest in an attempt to increase the number of cattle they
can raise for export. In South America, huge herds are of cattle are raised at once often with
devastating consequences to the environment. It is often easier to slaughter the animals on site
and then transport frozen carcasses to delis and markets where they are butchered into specific
cuts of meat (“Harmful Environmental Effects”, 2007).
Potatoes and green beans are common seasonal vegetables in many parts of the U.S.
While green beans are commercially grown and harvested in the state where I live, many of the
potatoes we use are brought in from Idaho and Montana. Transporting the potatoes is normally
accomplished via train or semi trailers. The same is true for peaches. Although some are grown
in near my home, the majority are shipped across country from southern states who rely on them
as a staple, cash crop. Crops like beans and potatoes are grown on large plots of land with
commercial irrigation systems to help keep plants hydrated even when there is no rain.
The peach pie includes a host of ingredients including flour and sugar. While sugar is
grown widely throughout the United States, it must be brought in from distant growers to meet
increasing demand. Peaches are seasonal in areas like Michigan and other northern states,
however, they can be harvested at various times in states such as Florida and Georgia. Much of
the processed sugar imported into the United States comes from Indian, Brazil and Columbia.
Sugar comes from a variety of sources including sugar cane, beets and molasses. Sugar that
originates from sources like beets and molasses often come from within the United States.
Coffee beans are imported from South and Central America. The export of coffee has
become a lucrative business for several companies who are known for growing the beans. The
economic benefits of the crop often overshadows the risk of the people who harvest the crop and
the environmental hazards caused by its production. Coffee farmers often make less than it costs
to produce the beans for sale. While the coffee industry is a booming one once the beans have
been brought to market, getting them there is financially draining and very hazardous to the
health of the farmer (Wintgens, 2009). Many farmers must risk their lives to carry the coffee
beans down the side of mountains to waiting carts that transport them to market.
How Were They Packaged?
Depending on how foods are transported will determine the type of packaging used
during shipping. Meat shipped from South America is normally slaughtered and then frozen
before it is exported. This enables ranchers to sell large quantities at once and not worry about
feeding or maintaining the cattle during shipment. When local markets purchase beef and other
livestock, they are most often shipped in live and butchered on location. When large numbers are
purchased locally, a slaughterhouse usually is the first step. After the animals is killed and cut
into halves or quartered, the meat is transported in a frozen or chilled state.
Fruits and vegetables are shipped in their freshest state. For foods that tend to perish
quickly, they may be processed and coated with a preservative to maintain color and texture
during shipping. Peaches, for example, can be shipped to colder climates, where freezing will
impact their quality. In this case, they may be processed, frozen or canned near where they were
grown in an attempt to keep them fresh and preserve their nutrients.
Coffee beans are actually the seeds of a South American cherry. Once the beans have
been removed from the inside of the fruit, they are dried and shipped in bulk to various
destinations where they are either left in their whole state or ground into small particles for
brewing. Coffee exporters call the process where the beans are removed as “pulping” the
Economical and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages
The United States has many regulations in place concerning trade and the importing and
exporting of foods and food related items. The economic impact of the commercialized
agricultural industry can be a positive for many foreign countries. The environmental impact,
however, can have the opposite effect. An excellent example of this is the beef industry in Brazil
and other South American countries. It has been a common problem for the past few decades,
where ranchers have systematically destroyed millions of acres of valuable rainforest to create
more grazing land for cattle. As cattle herds increase in size, their impact on the environment
In the United States, fruit and vegetable growers often spray their plants with pesticides
designed to prevent bugs and bacteria from damaging their valuable crops. The dangers in this
scenario are two fold. First, the pesticides can wash off of the plants and leach into the ground,
ending up in aquifers and wells that are used for drinking water. The second environmental
impact is the absorption of the chemicals into the fruits and vegetables themselves. This allows
the chemicals to be ingested by whoever eats them. If they are consumed by animals who are in
turn going to be sent to slaughter for human consumption, the chemicals remain in the foods
throughout the chain of events (Trautmann, Porter & Wagenet, 2012).
We no longer live in a world where we are limited by what exists around us. The ability
to mass produce foodstuffs and ship them across the world has spoiled us into getting what we
want when we want it. The environmental impact of being able to do so includes massive
amounts of pollution and the alteration of the lands around us. While the economy is driven by
the agricultural industry and relies on the constant sale and trade of agricultural goods, people
have become accustomed to paying dearly for the privilege of eating whatever they desire at
their convenience. Individuals and companies pay higher prices for foods that are out of season,
paying little heed to the damage that processing and transporting the goods causes the
Manufacturing techniques and preservatives prevent loss and reduce the risk of spoilage
during the transportation phase and allows much more of the produce to be sold for profit. This
boosts the economy of both the buyer and the seller keeps the resale price of many of the
products low. It also allows growers to meet the needs of the consumer and provide a wide range
of food products that are available at any given time.
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