Big Gulps, the Petersons, and the End of the World

Note: Doc Callahan, retired professor, part-time farmer, and full-time pontificator, occasionally adds his advice column expertise to our blog. Doc’s viewpoints are not necessarily those held by CAST—or, frankly, anyone else.
Dear Doc,
     A new study says that the amount we eat is affected by how foods are packaged, especially their size labels. Could this be true or should I just be paranoid that the authorities are trying to limit my choices?
Big Gulp in Galveston
Dear Big Gulp,
     So, the shadow of Mayor Bloomberg apparently falls as far as Texas. The study you refer to is interesting. Do we pay more because of the name given to a drink? Do kids drink more if they have to use two hands to lift it? Could be. But maybe this drink size thing is getting more complicated than it need be.

     For example—I don’t drink coffee, so I’ve been as confused as a luddite with a smartphone the few times I’ve been in a Starbucks to get a tea. I didn’t have my Italian phrase book with me, so I ordered a Tall. Later I looked up the definitions of their portions, such as Demi, Grande, and Venti. Apparently, when Starbucks started, Tall was basically a Large. Now, it’s basically a Small. I’m basically confused.
     Things were much easier when I was a kid. We went to Pooch’s gas station in town, and the Coke bottles were one size—those classic 8-ouncers. The Dr Pepper bottles didn’t have the cool curved shape, but they held the same amount–until we poured a packet of Planters Peanuts into the bottle.
     My advice. Don’t get fooled by labels. Order wisely. Drink only until you’re full. And if you need a wheelbarrow to haul your drink out of the convenience store, you’ve probably overdone it.
Dear Doc,
     The Peterson Brothers keep releasing cool parodies and informational videos about agriculture. They always seem to be upbeat about life on the farm. Is everybody that happy when they haul manure and stack bales of hay?
Doubting Thomas in Toledo
Dear Thomas,
     Most farmers don’t float through the day singing “Green Acres is the place for me,” but the Peterson lads seem to maintain positive attitudes regardless of weather, breakdowns, or early morning film shoots. 
     It’s a good thing video cameras didn’t exist when I was a kid on the farm. My brothers and I slept in the basement, and Dad’s early morning call–“Time to get up, boooooys”–didn’t elicit sounds of joy when we knew pitchforks and scoop shovels were waiting. I’m also glad there is no YouTube evidence of me accidentally cultivating a corn row rather than the weeds and no Vine loop of me squirting the cat with warm milk when it should be going into the bucket.
     I’m glad the Petersons are giving viewers an inside look at farming. The videos help me relive those wonderful days on the farm, and at this age, my memory edits out the sight of a grain bin that needs cleaning, the crunching sound of boots on feedlot ice in the early morn, and the smell of a hog house on a humid 95% day.
Dear Doc,
     Some British scientists have set a new date for the end of the world. We apparently have another two billion years. Ag experts are already crying about the crisis of feeding 9 billion people by the year 2050. How will we cope with even more mouths to feed beyond that?
Handwringing in Hattiesburg

Dear Handwringer,
     I’ve always been a big fan of long-term planning, but at my age I don’t even buy green bananas anymore. I’m trying to smell the roses or carp the diem or whatever. But you’re right about the alarm bells—every day someone seems to have suddenly become aware that we could have many hungry people in this world if we’re not careful. Let’s face it—hunger, starvation, and malnutrition are already here. 
     I’m glad folks are working on how to feed a hungry world, but I’m a bit leery about some of the motives behind the methods. I try to figure out who’s really trying to solve world hunger and who’s trying to make a buck out of the situation. I’m hopeful that a combination of conservation practices, biotech, the cutting of waste, efficient storage, effective transportation, and common sense farming methods will prevail. This takes intelligent, creative leadership in all sectors of the agricultural community. I’m not confident that I’ll be here in 2050 to see what’s on my plate, but I’m an optimist about our abilities to solve problems.
 (dan gogerty; photo from

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