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McKenna Baker
Prof. Szetella
English 1010
September 30, 2014
Eating - An Agricultural Act
The article The Pleasures of Eating is an excerpt from the book What are People For?
by Wendell Berry. The book was published in 1990 by North Point Press. Mr. Berry gives
lectures on ecoliteracy. After finishing a lecture on the decline of American farming and rural
life he was asked what can city people do. He discusses the fact that most Americans do not
really know where their food comes from - he says they are just consumer eaters. He feels that
we all should be more involved in our food from the beginning of the food - plant seed or baby
animal - to how it is processed and manufactured. He wants people to eat responsibly.
Berry discusses farming and slaughter houses. He explains farming from the point of
view of he would like all people to know. The soil preparation, the planting of seeds, the tending
of the plants as they grow, the harvesting, and finally the foods in the marketplace. He discusses
the fact that toxic chemicals are used to grow plant food in huge monocultures. People do not
tend to have an emotional attachment to the rows of plant food growing in neat rows on the
farms we pass while driving down the road. Berry would like people to think about where the
beef used to make their hamburger came from - feedlots where steer spend their lives standing in
their own excrement or calves who live in a box in which they can not turn around. These
animals are also dependent on antibiotics and other drugs. He states that the consumer must kept
from learning that quality and health is not as important to the food industry as quantity and

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Berry would like people to become more aware. Advertisements for food do not show
the real food. He states that most food advertisements only want to glorify food. Food needs
to look pretty so that consumers will purchase the food. He says advertisements obviously dont
show what went in to the production and manufacturing of the food product. Berry says that
most consumers sit down to a meal with food that has been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced,
gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized so that you could never tell
where the food originated and that at one time the food was actually alive.
Berry wants consumers to consider the freshness of the food. Purchasing foods directly
from a farmer insures that your vegetables will be fresh. Food that is purchased in your local
market usually isnt as fresh as you would like it to be. He reminds us that the food has been
picked, boxed, shipped and sold to the grocery store. The food is then placed on the store
shelves and sold to us, the consumer. This process could take as little as a week or as much as
two weeks. So, how fresh is the food.
He also wants people to consider the cost of those same vegetables. If you purchase your
vegetables from the farmer at a famers market the price of your food will be reduced. Vegetables
sold in stores have the priced increased by the cost of the picking, boxing, shipping, and
advertising of the food. The vegetables you purchased for $2.00 a pound at the farmers market
may cost up to $5.00 or more a pound in the grocery store.
He says the same is true about your meat products. Buying a cow and having it
slaughtered and dressed for you could save hundreds of dollars. Plus you know where the meat
came from - a cow that had free range of a field. You also know how fresh your meat is because

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you chose the cow and instead of waiting weeks for your beef to arrive at the grocery store, you
will receive yours within days.
Berry says that people are industrial eaters. He says that eaters who dont know that
eating is an agricultural act are victims. When food is not associated with the farms and
slaughterhouses they come from, he says that people suffer a kind of cultural amnesia. Berry
says this amnesia can be dangerous. People suffer this because they are ignorant of the history of
the food they eat. He says they dont know the quality of the food. People dont know the
processing method and what ingredients may have been added to the food. He feels people
should be more informed.
Sir Albert Howard said we should understand the whole problem of health of soil, plant,
animal, and man as one great subject. He says eaters need to understand that eating does take
place in the world. Eating is an agricultural act. How people eat determines how the world is
used. Berry says that eating responsibly is to understand that complex relationship.
Berrys answer to the question What can one do? is summoned up in the following.
Berry lists seven things that he feels people should or can do to eat more responsibly. His first
piece of advice is to take part in the production of the food. Berry wants people to grow their
own vegetable gardens. He feels that growing your own garden will help you see the beautiful
energy cycle that revolves around the growing of a plant.
Berrys second piece of advice is to prepare your own food. He feels that you will be
able to eat cheaper and that you will have control of the quality of your food. Number three is to
learn the origins of the foods you purchase at the grocery store. He says that locally grown foods
are freshest and the easiest for people to know about.

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Number four is to purchase directly from a local farmer, gardner or orchardist. He says
by doing this you eliminate merchants, transporters, processors, packagers and advertisers. You
will know how fresh your food, the quality of the food and the should be less expensive than the
same food purchased in a store.
Learn as much as you can about the economy and technology of industrial food
production is number five. He says you should try to learn what additives are in your food. You
should try to find out chemicals were used to process your food. If possible you should try to
learn what the cost is for each step along the way - picking, processing, transporting, advertising
- is for the food you eat.
Number six is to learn about the best farming and gardening. What types of soils are
used, are chemicals or pesticides used to grow your food. And finally, number seven is to learn
as much as you can about the life history of your food. How was your food grown, how were the
animals treated, what did the animals eat. Again, what was added to the food for preservation of
the food.
Berry feels that number seven is the most important. He says there is pleasure in
knowing the lives of wild plants and animals. He feels that farming, animal husbandry,
horticulture and gardening are complex and comely arts.
Berry says if you know the garden your vegetables come from enhances the flavor of the
vegetable. Knowing the orchard where your fruit is grown helps raise the flavor of those fruits.
He says knowing that the cow that produced your steak lived a leasurely, contented life helps to
make your steak or hamburger taste better.

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Berry feels that eating with the fullest pleasure is the profoundest enactment of our
connection with the world. He thinks of a few lines by William Carlos Williams when he thinks
about the meaning of food. He says these lines are honest:
There is nothing to eat,
seek it where you will,
but the body of the Lord.
The blessed plants
and the sea, yield it
to the imagination intact.: 1989.
After reading the article by Berry I was torn on the things he said. Do I want to go out in
the fields and see the bugs that are eating my vegetables? Do I want to go out in the orchards
and see the worms in the apples? Do I want to know where my beef came from? Probably not.
I think just knowing that at one time it was a cow is enough for me. Yes, in this instance,
ignorance is bliss.

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Work Cited
Berry, Wendell. The Pleasures of Eating. from What Are People For?, North Point Press.