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From Reefer Madness to Fast Food Madness PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 06 July 2006
AFF Sentinel Vol.3 #16

One could surmise from his actions and writings that Mike Callicrate rather dislikes packers. His latest publicity move seems sure to offend nearly everyone else in America's beef chain, too.

Callicrate announced that he is "very excited and honored" to bring in "celebrated author" Eric Schlosser for a "book signing bash" at his restaurant in Colorado Springs, timing the appearance with the upcoming release of the movie version of Schlosser's book and his teen market version text indicting the fast food industry for many of the nation's supposed ills.

Callicrate bills himself as a founding member of R- CALF, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and the Kansas Cattlemen's Association (KCA). That's in between suing packers, processing meat and running meat markets and a restaurant.

Schlosser is the author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. The former book, not surprisingly, got ringing endorsements from vegetarian and socialist reviewers for attacking fast food. But Callicrate's endorsement of Schlosser shows his scorn for the beef chain extends to modern everything - feedlots, packers, retailers, restaurant chains and fast food.

Schlosser's book gets things backwards, claiming that big fast food chains, big packers and minimum wage opponents conspired to create a society that liked consistent, predictable, fast, quality food at a cheaper price - so that they would have customers to exploit. The facts show fast food is not "the revolutionary force in American life," as Schlosser claims. Our society is not "the world it [fast food] has made." Changing American lifestyles created a demand for food on the go and the marketplace delivered.

Schlosser is unhappy our economy is creating more service jobs than manufacturing jobs. Fact is, manufacturing has become a more efficient, more productive industry. Manufacturing jobs worldwide have declined 11 percent from 1995-2002 (same in America) and 15 percent in China, according to the Heritage Institute.1

Schlosser harps on the fast food industry's use of minimum-wage workers. Yet data show only 15 percent of the people earning the minimum wage or less are currently living in poverty.2

"The average family income of the typical low- wage worker was a respectable $40,000 per year," Kersey said. What minimum wage jobs do, many of them in fast food, is provide income for lower-skilled, less educated and young people without long work histories. These jobs are "work that can serve as a springboard to better jobs," Kersey said.

Schlosser claims wages are down. But real hourly earnings are up nearly 9 percent over the past ten years for "production or nonsupervisory jobs," Kane found.3 The service sector jobs Schlosser doesn't like now make up over 83 percent of our jobs, ranging from doctors, lawyers and engineers to social services and teachers, besides retail and foodservice jobs.

Part of the proceeds from the book signing (tickets-$60 per person) is to help injured packing plant workers, Callicrate said. Schlosser claims meatpacking is the "most dangerous job in the United States." But the claim is false. We checked the annual listing of the top ten most dangerous jobs for recent years. Meatpacking wasn't ever on the top ten list, much less number one. In fact, The Economist noted that for all the tough conditions in packing plants, being a cabbie was much more dangerous than being a packing plant worker.4

Ironically, the category that made the Top Ten most dangerous every year was farm and ranch workers. Interesting where Callicrate's sympathies lie.

Schlosser claims that modern meat industry practices have introduced deadly pathogens into ground beef. The fact is, practices are scientifically designed and laboratory monitored to yield a product far lower in bacterial and pathogen levels. In a cooperative effort, industry and government results are already hovering just above or below 2010 targets for E. coli 0157:H7 illness levels. Schlosser claims that the beef industry works hard to allow it to keep selling "tainted meat." We're to believe the beef chain is really trying to poison their customers?

The capitalist principles Schlosser and Callicrate decry are the very economic principles that underpin the human values leading food producers to protect their customers - for the good of the customers and to safeguard their businesses.

It's hard to understand why Callicrate is promoting someone who is an unapologetic opponent of the beef industry. Schlosser's campaign, aided by Callicrate's image as a cattleman, can only hurt everyone's marketplace and the livelihood of independent cattlemen. Can you imagine George Bush staging a book signing for John Kerry?

Callicrate seems not to understand that creating doubts about food safety tars everyone with the same brush. It's one thing to engage in self- defeating behavior, but to display it so publicly and then expect others to join you?

1 "Framing the Economic Debate," Tim Kane, Rea S. Hederman and Kirk Johnson, 2004.

2 "The Economic Effects of the Minimum Wage," Paul Kersey, Bradley Visiting Fellow, Heritage Institute, 2004.

3 "How Good Are the New Jobs," Heritage Foundation, 2004.

4 "Of Meat, Mexicans and Social Mobility," The Economist, 06/17/06.

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 18 July 2006 )
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