Taco Bell recently released the new Dorito Loco Taco, a taco with a shell made of nacho cheese Dorito chips. The concoction has sparked a lot of online chatter, but perhaps one of the most frustrating articles about it is the one titled “Can Doritos Locos Tacos Save Taco Bell?” written by Deborah Sweeney for Forbes.com.
The article assesses the taco’s potential to revitalize the fast food chain, which is still reeling from a 2011 salmonella scare and a lawsuit that claimed that only 35% of Taco Bell’s beef was actually beef. Though the lawsuit was ultimately dropped, its assertion that most of Taco Bell’s beef is actually binders and fillers wreaked havoc on the chain’s reputation. Other articles, like this one from USA Today, analyze the introduction of the Dorito Loco Taco in a similar fashion.
But this is not the conversation we should be having. Articles like these treat food as a commodity. They determine its value based only on how much money it can make for its manufacturer. In the USA Today article, one “new-products guru” says that the taco will be “one of the big successes of 2012.” But food is not simply a product like a car or a video game system. It is a source of nourishment that plays a huge role in the health of those who consume it.
It is this narrow, capitalist view of food that has led, in large part, to the obesity and diabetes epidemics in the United States. Food companies load their food with fat, corn syrup, and salt in order to over-stimulate our taste buds and condition us to crave their unnaturally sweet and salty food products. Then their marketing departments pitch these insane food creations to the public – not caring how they impact our health – only to make more money.
Not only does the practice of turning food into a commodity lead to widespread health problems, it is also the force behind the atrocious treatment of animals in the corporate food chain, as well as the destruction of the soil. Animals that are raised for food in the corporate food system are seen as commodities, as well. They are not viewed as living creatures that can feel pain, but as assets used to produce a salable item. As a result, they are forced into tight quarters without the ability to move around or enjoy the outdoors. They are fed a diet that makes them sick. Chickens are raised to have breasts so large they can’t walk. Pigs have their tails docked. They are given all kinds of antibiotics and hormones. All for the sake of profit.
When it comes to the soil, crops grown for use in the corporate food system are frequently grown in monocultures, a practice that strips the soil of its nutrients. And, of course, these crops are grown using pesticides because engaging in organic practices takes more time and is less “efficient.”
As Michael Pollan argues in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the logic of capitalism does not hold true when it comes to food. In the case of food, human beings, animals, and land are all at stake and cannot be transformed into quantitative variables in a capitalist equation. Therefore, it is our responsibility as consumers to avoid fast food and choose foods that do not contribute to the corporate food system.