Saturday, March 12, 2005

ASUC: Boring!

Sorry for the mostly ASUC-related coverage as of late. Unfortunately the Association has been dominating my hours lately. The websites I run for semi-official purposes ( and have been requiring a lot of my time in the last week, especially since I decided to learn a little html and start formatting pages for my webmaster.
, muthafucka.

I'm also going to need to start campaigning for ASUC president pretty soon. My victory should be a cinch, given that Zach, Manny, Justine, and Yvette are all known communists who are Pol Pot apologists, but it still takes time and effort to get your message out.

I promise to return to my good old-fashioned ranting about local and national news soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy an excerpt from the honors thesis I'm writing for my Interdisciplinary Studies Field degree:

Beef is one of the most historically and culturally misunderstood staples in the North American diet. From birth to death, the beef cow transforms corn, antibiotics, and supplements into sellable parts: bone, gelatin, tallow, internal organs, and, most visibly, meat. After slaughter, the beef cow is transformed once more, however this time both physically and conceptually, and by the consumer rather than by any biological processes. In the latter transmutation, our steer is chopped, frozen, shipped, packaged, cooked, and served, not just as nourishment but as an icon. Beef has been constructed as a sort of liaison between twentieth century urban consumers and the receding "natural" landscape that beef production has so artfully helped destroy since the industrial revolution.

This transformation warrants closer scrutiny because the iconography behind beef is rooted in an increasingly mythical landscape. Unbeknownst to most consumers, the idyllic family farm of popular imagery is on the brink of extinction, and large corporations dominate modern agriculture. Today’s steers are fed previously unimaginable amounts of antibiotics, a practice that forces the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at an alarming rate. Unless specifically noted, the grass diet that cows naturally eat has been replaced with government-subsidized corn feed, which takes its toll both on the health of the steer and the quality of his flesh. Artificial insemination has turned natural breeding into an antiquated relic of inefficient cow husbandry.

Yet consumers continue to see beef as a linchpin in the natural human diet. Beef production is still conceptualized alongside green pastures, the open range, and a portly farmer donning overalls and wielding a pitchfork. Consumers still see eating beef as an assertion of their natural nutritional needs. Steaks and hamburgers remain a stand-in for masculinity and independence, and our natural dominion over the acquiescent land. Beef has become a parable for national character. Beef has become a legend.

This paper is an analysis of the processes that transform beef into a culturally meaningful meal. It is an examination of the assumptions we have about the natural landscape, our bodies, and our relationship to the earth, and how these assumptions are used to justify eating a product that only vaguely resembles its ancestors of a two hundred years ago. This paper is a look at the visual and conceptual roots of many of our understandings about nature and, by extension, many of our misunderstandings about beef. It is a deconstruction of the modern myths that infuse every serving of pot roast, tri-tip, and ground beef in North America.

The introduction goes on for another five pages, and the whole thing will be at least 60 pages long. For those of you who are interested, I'll host the entire thing as a Word document once the first draft is completed.


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