Institutional Forces Behind Excessive Consumption

While food choices are definitely cultural, another large factor is the excessive supply that Americans have access to. This machine continues to run through desires of stakeholders in large agricultural corporations such as Cargill and Monsanto (Albrecht, 2010). both of which continue to lobby for continued excessive food production from which their large profits are derived. Prior to the agricultural reform, farming was a way of life, not a business. 1970s agricultural reform perhaps contributed the most to the bloated industry that we know today (Albrecht, 2010). Since this reform, agriculture has become an economic force in itself, transforming it into an institution which relies on the quintessentially American ability to consume in order to survive. After all, a large supply is only useful with a large amount of demand. 

Institutional forces have been largely successful in ensuring that Americans continue to consume an excessive amount of agricultural product, namely meat products. The latter has contributed a great deal to the rise of obesity in the states. In forcing a huge supply of cheap products on the states, they have also altered the social geography. To elaborate, as the supply level increased, so has American levels of demand, indicative of a cultural shift. Cultures across the world tend to consume what is most available to them, especially within the poorer segments of society, the United States is no different (Colon-Ramos et. al, 2010). Consequentially, obesity in the United States is more prevalent within poorer communities such as rural areas and large cities (Macnell et. al, 2017). The main issue, in this case, is how American consumption has increased alongside the increased yields throughout the years, which is perhaps one of the main causes of the obesity epidemic (Albrecht, 2010). Ironic considering how much food waste is produced by the United States. The environmental cost is also extremely high, soil degradation and fertilizer runoff have continued to wreak havoc on surrounding ecosystems. Furthermore, greenhouse gasses from over-bred livestock continue to add to climate change. However, the institutional strength from the big-agriculture lobby has made this knowledge ineffective in altering the social geography to reflect a more healthy level of consumption.

Although the harmful effects to human health and to the environment have been studied at length; strong backing from stakeholders keen on self-preservation is such that industrialized farming has yet to be dismantled. Additionally, over-consumption has been encouraged. Advertising and lobbying at the behest of stakeholders within the industry have been able to sustain an inherently unsustainable path (Both environmentally and economically). To make matters worse, a simple walk into the back of a grocery store could show how much food is being wasted, thrown away. While cheap food is fantastic for combating food insecurity, given an effective distribution system, over-consumption is seldom beneficial. Steering away from industrialized farming, and altering the social geography which encourages over-consumption may be the key to a healthier society and a healthier planet.