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Beef, Fish, Chicken And Fruits: KPBS Investigates Your Food

Beef, Fish, Chicken and Fruits: KPBS Investigates Your Food

JOANNE FARYON (KPBS reporter): Most of the beef you buy doesn't come from California, and there's a good chance the last orange you peeled came from Australia instead of San Diego County. We're feeding farmed fish cattle and chicken fish, even feathers become food. For the past several weeks KPBS has been tracking your food from the dinner plate to its' source. Here now is some of what we found.

FARYON: Our demand for cheap food, and more food, has altered the food chain. A food chain that is motivated by making the greatest amount of food for the cheapest cost. In other words: efficiency. Almost all the beef you buy in the grocery store comes from cattle injected with hormones.

BILL BRANDENBURG (Meloland Cattle Co.): Because it is much more expensive to produce beef without hormones.

FARYON: Corn makes cattle fat. Hormones gives them more lean muscle tissue. Bill Brandenburg says the cattle can grow 10% bigger with hormones.

BRANDENBURG: That's what the consumers in the United States like is the flavor and the tenderness that goes along with corn fed.

FARYON: American beef is banned in Europe because of the use of hormones. Shelton Murinda is an animal scientist professor at Cal Poly Pamona.

SHELTON MURINDA (animal scientist professor, Cal Poly Pamona): The Europeans were using what I would call the precautionary principle, which simply indicates that if there is not enough scientific evidence, it's better to be on the safe side.

FARYON: There continues to be an ongoing debate over the omega-3 content of farmed vs. wild fish. Omega-3's are the healthy fats that can help prevent heart disease and alzheimers. One large grocery chain claims on it's website farmed salmon actually has more omega-3 than wild salmon. KPBS put their claim to the test and sent fish samples, wild and farmed, to a lab in Oregon. Farmed salmon did have nearly twice the amount of healthy omega-3's as wild salmon, but you had to eat nearly four times the amount of fat to get those nutrients. Consumers like white meat and so the industry has found a way to give us what we want.

CURTIS WOMACH (Chicken Farmer): These are my fast-growing cornish cross, and they're what's in the supermarkets, all the restaurants sell this kind of chicken.

FARYON: Most of the chickens we buy in a grocery store are called broilers. A cross between two other chickens: A cornish, and Plymouth Rock.

WOMACH: They're bred to grow really fast, and have lots of white meat, you see how wide it is? And you see the big breast?

FARYON: But none of these chickens will end up in a grocery store, Womach sells his chickens at a farmer's market. He's decided he will no longer raise this type of chicken.

WOMACH: They can't physically mate because all the white meat gets in the way. They're still chickens, and they want to be like chickens, but they can't move.

FARYON: The breasts are so big, these chickens can barely walk. Look at these, a different breed, and able to run away from our camera. The food chain doesn't look like it used to, fish no longer eat fish, cattle eat corn even though it can make them sick, chickens eat fish and fish are eating cows. Maybe we just stopped paying attention, because the new mass-produced food chain has made life easy. And the food we eat, cheap. Or maybe, we just don't want to know where our food comes from.