Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis smiling in front of a dense cornfield

Eating Challenge
Can you go a week without eating corn? We did!

Corny Corn Maze
Master the maze to get an earful of corn fun and facts.

So You Want to Be a Farmer?
See how corn farming has changed and try your hand at the cornulator.

Alternatives to Ears
Find ways around high-fructose corn syrup and fatty burgers.

Alternatives to Ears

With corn cropping up everywhere from Tootsie Rolls to toilet paper, it may seem impossible to avoid, especially when it makes its way into some of the most basic and beloved foods: meat, milk and eggs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consumed approximately 200 pounds of meat per person in 2005, almost all of it corn-fed. And each American eats, on average, more than 200 eggs per year.

But despite this penchant for corn-fed products, American consumers do have increasing access to alternatives. Although about 99 percent of producers continue to raise meat and dairy cattle on a corn-based diet, a growing population of farmers is answering a consumer demand for grass-fed cattle by putting their cows out to pasture. Since 2000, in fact, more than 1,000 ranchers in the United States have pulled out of the conventional system and replaced grass for grain in their animal feed. An increasing number of grocery stores—including national chains such as Trader Joe’s—now carry grass-fed meats and cheeses alongside more conventional products. And beginning in 2008, the American Grassfed Association will also begin to certify grass-fed cattle operations, providing consumers with an industry-approved standard for pasture-raised meats.

A brown and white cow in a grassy field

Beyond meat and dairy, Americans also have increasing access to fresh, direct-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables. More than 4,300 farmers’ markets are currently operating in cities and towns across the United States, many of them year-round. As a result, Americans have more opportunities than ever before to buy their salad fixings directly from a farm. More than half of all farmers’ markets accept food stamps and WIC coupons. For door-to-door service, many consumers can also subscribe to Community Supported Agriculture programs, which arrange for farmers to drop off boxes of fresh-picked, seasonal produce directly to consumers’ doorsteps. In 1990, only 60 such programs existed in the U.S.; in 2008 there are more than 1,000.

Still, consumers don’t need to search for a grass-fed label or shop at a special market to eat outside of the corn-based industrial food system. By buying whole produce in its original form, and eschewing foods that come in a box or package, Americans can immediately—and easily—take a break from the corn kingdom.

Updated 4/14/08

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