The US & overconsumption: a European view

02-03-2010 | |
Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world

My first visit to the USA took place in June 2006. I was told to go and visit that year’s World Pork Expo, in Iowa. Off I went – visiting Des Moines and Chicago in one go – and I came back with a truckload full of experiences.

The major storyline I kept telling, once I was back home: in the US, everything is HUGE. Some of the enormity I had anticipated. For instance, Sears Tower is one of the world’s tallest buildings – located right in the heart of impressive downtown Chicago.

Crossing gigantic Mississippi river at Davenport, Iowa, was unbelievable as well. I knew she had to be vast, but I had never seen anything as wide in all my life.

There were other examples. I fully enjoyed the spacious rooms in American hotels. More than twice the size of any European hotel room – and so were the beds! Rolling over until you could roll no more and still be in the same bed. Great!

Cars – the amounts of pick-ups made any vehicle in Europe look tiny. Even the smallest car in the most budget rental deal I could find was two times as large as my standard-size hatchback in the Netherlands.

The most impressive, in my memory, were the meals. I must admit to be a lover of fast food every now and then so a close encounter with some proper American burger place was quickly on my programme.

I clearly remember this one-off hamburger place – it must’ve been the first or second day after my arrival. I felt really hungry and ordered a meal with fries and a large burger. Mouth watering I was waiting for what was to come. Bring ‘em on!

Once the waitress had brought the plate, I felt guilty. Staring at the enormous heaps of fries and the gigantic burger right in front of me, I felt my stomach turn upside down and I knew this lover of fast food would lose the first close encounter… This I could never finish…

That was when, even in meals, I recognised America’s preference for ‘big’. Taking the view I’d just like to be served as much as I require, I have refrained from ordering starters in no matter what US restaurant. And I started to grasp why the US seems to have so many excessively overweight people – another example how ‘United States’ and ‘big’ go together.

Meat-heavy diets
This week, the US Pork Checkoff, refuted a critical article in the culinary magazine Frontburner. The author of the original article, Tara Mataraza Desmond, was quoted to have said that “meat-heavy diets have been consistently linked to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis.”

On behalf of the Pork Checkoff, dietitian Adria Sheil-Brown replied. She wrote: “Consumption survey analysis shows that despite an average amount of meat and meat equivalents of 5.3 ounces per day by Americans, only 44% of all individuals two years and older, 62% of men 20 years and older, and 37% of women 20 years and older, consume at least the minimum recommended amounts from the meat group.”

Her conclusion was: “Clearly, Americans are not over-consuming meat.”

I appreciate the attempts of the Pork Checkoff to protect the pork business. I just have one question for the Checkoff people: How to match the statistics with reality?

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