Chinese Factories and French Food

   I spent last semester studying in Tours, France with Bucknell in France. During the semester, I took a course called food politics, in which we studied French cuisine and analyzed the difference between it and that of the United States. By the end of the semester, we determined that the French are much closer to their food. They are closer to the carcasses that become pork and beef, closer to the farmers that pull the vegetables from the land. Supermarkets with hygienic plastic wraps around carefully cleaned and sliced meats are far less prevalent in France than the United States. Because the French are closer to the sometimes grim reality of food production, they consume less because they understand the true cost. After listening to “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” I realized that there are many more facets in which the American lifestyle distances itself from the harsh reality in order to fully enjoy the modern amusements we have.  

  In his visit to the Foxconn factory, Mr. Daisey uncovered the true price of Apple products – the Apple products that come so neatly in their simple white boxes with a sleek photo of the item, the boxes that serve the same purpose as the cellophane wrap around the meat at the grocery store. His impressive story telling abilities, complete with personal anecdotes and comedic relief, portray a vivid image of a place unlike anything we have ever seen. He shared the story of the workers’ plight which brought the reality a little closer to home – not just in “China.”

My overall reaction to this podcast was a desire to be more informed about all of the products I purchase and companies I support. Our culture of globalization and consumerism has placed the consumer so far away from the production process that our possessions become impersonal and we lose the ability to judge whether their producer is worthy of our support. Perhaps if we as Americans, like the French and their food, place ourselves closer to production, we will more accurately understand the cost of goods and decrease our astronomical spending and start being smarter as a society.


8 responses to “Chinese Factories and French Food

  1. In your last paragraph you mention how our possessions become impersonal. I realize you are addressing the production aspect of the product for the most part, but apart from that I think certain products evoke a great deal of emotion. I am not ashamed to say that I love my iMac. As a company, Apple has done a wonderful job positioning its products as simple and intuitive; they just work. Similarly, fans of Apple have a very close connection to their products. However, to go back to your original statement, I feel that this is the underlying problem. People have such a close connection to their products that they overlook its faults. To exaggerate the point, it’s like if you were to marry someone and then find out that he or she has horrible morning breath. While this is a problem, you are willing to overlook it because you fell in love with them. People become infatuated with Apple, then become unable to judge whether they should support the company or not.

  2. While I find your comparison between the packaging of our Apple products and meat to be interesting, I do agree with the previous comment. As an avid Apple user, I do not credit the packaging of my iPhone for my lack of awareness regarding its production process. Rather, my constant use and attachment to it has caused me to overlook the real questions behind it. I agree with the previous comment’s statement that when you love something you overlook its flaws. I am always surrounded by Apple products, and am so reliant on their presence in my life that I never stop and consider that they could possibly be detrimental to human life elsewhere.

    • In your last paragraph, you discuss the separation of the American consumer from products they use everyday. I agree with the fact that Americans should be more informed about the production process of brands they are purchasing and more knowledgeable about the products before they buy the most popular one on the shelf. Often times American consumers fall into these consumer traps and blindly purchase products without considering if they are environmentally friendly or if workers suffered during the production process. This podcast has also made me want to be more informed about the products that I choose to support.

  3. I feel that your take on the American lifestyle was very similar to my blog post “Out of Sight. Out of Mind.” The people of the U.S. certainly distance themselves from “the harsh reality in order to fully enjoy the modern amusements we have.” It’s easier for us to use these every day products and not have to really think about the time and pain that went into creating them. I agree with your stance on wanting to be more informed with the comings and going of companies to better judge them. In fact, bringing in the position of another developed country was helpful in getting an idea about the perspectives of other countries, and how they handle these types of situations. But the only quandary that I have is the idea of placing ourselves “closer to the product.” I may be wrong, but it certainly seems easier for people to place themselves closer to the carcasses and vegetables that they eat. Yes, the French understand the grim reality of food production, and understand the “true cost.” However, food is a necessity, a driving force of our lives. Cell phones, iPods, tablets, TV’s and computers are all luxury items. This may be my opinion, but I feel that consumers are less likely to worry themselves with the production of their iPhone than they would with something that they are putting in their body. I would be very interested to see what other people have to say on the matter.

  4. Having gone abroad to Tours, France with you last semester, I am very much in agreement with the way you have laid out your argument.

    Having witnessed food production in France and taking part in the Food Politics course really opened my eyes as well to the way people may distance themselves or not distance themselves to certain facets of life.

    I believe if more Americans knew about the production side of the products they were buying, then there might be a shift in the way consumers purchase goods. If people were aware of which companies were being environmentally friendly as well as ethically sound and which weren’t, then they would be much more closer and familiar with the issues.

    This could also increase a better awareness amongst Americans with how much they are spending, what exactly they’re buying, and where exactly it is coming from. I know that if I had a closer relationship with and knowledge about the whereabouts of my products origins, I might think twice about buying it or supporting the company.

    I believe your arguments was very clearly laid out and proven well.

  5. I thought your comparison to food and food production was really creative. I also similarly feel inspired to learn more about where the products I buy come from– both the production processes and about some other companies in general. When grocery shopping I definitely am willing to spend the extra money on fair-trade products as well as brands like Newman’s Own, which donates all profits to charity. I agree with the idea that I should be looking into how other types of products I buy are made, like electronics.

  6. I appreciate the abstract comparison you make between the food supply chain in France and the Apple supply chain for the U.S. While I agree that being close to the production is helpful in increasing mindful consumption,monetary cost is an issue that stuck out to me. Buying from farmers at markets allows the farmers to make more money and the consumers to pay less because the grocery store middle-man is eliminated. Thus, both parties enjoy financial benefits through that forum of exchange. If Apple were to switch to this system, however, prices would be even higher and the thousands of Chinese people employed by Apple would lose their jobs. While I love fresh food, I don’t applying the principles of French food supply to the production of tech products would prove to be wholly successful.

  7. I understand your concern for the inability of Americans to recognize where their products come from, but in reality, I feel as though the production of Apple and other products in America is far from possible. China and other Far East nations have mastered modern-day industry and developing manufacturing plants in the US would come at huge costs. Not only would labor be more expensive for our beloved companies, but also taxes and other fixed and variable costs. Imagine having to pay double for your Apple products. Would this seem like a good idea to you? If people were really concerned about the well-being of foreign factory workers, they would have to simply stop buying the products the foreign workers produce.

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