Research Paper


The Conscious Plate

The next time you sit down to eat a meal, take a minute and ask yourself, “How did this food

arrive in front of me? Where did each ingredient in this meal come from? What journey did it

take before landing on my plate? And how many human hands were involved in delivering this

meal to me?

In today’s fast-paced culture, food is often considered an object, disassociated from its source of

origin. We think of meat as plastic wrapped bundles, available in different colors and flavors

from the rear aisle of the grocery store. But we rarely consider the animal – a chicken, cow, pig –

when putting our selection in the cart. We have forgotten that fruits and vegetables have seasons,

and we expect – even demand – access to strawberries in the winter, lemons in the summer,

grapes in the spring.

Every item in the grocery store has a history that tells the story of how that product made it to the

shelf, from cultivation on a farm or production in a factory, to packaging, and eventually

distribution of the product to its final destination. In each detail, it is clear we must consider the

fact that food is more than a commodity, a product to be consumed. Our choice of what and how

we consume results in a broad range of ecological, moral, and political consequences of which

we may be partially or completely unaware.

In West Africa, where 40% of the world’s cocoa is produced, child trafficking for agricultural

labor is a serious issue. In 2005, the chocolate industry voluntarily agreed to end forced child

labor practices, and yet children continue to work in hazardous conditions each day in this region

in order to produce cocoa to be exported to markets in developed countries. Next time you eat a

chocolate bar, consider the possibility that a child may be part of the story of the cocoa that melts

in your mouth.

In California, workers at a microwave-popcorn factory have developed a form of fixed

obstructive lung disease, also known as “popcorn worker’s lung.” Academic studies have shown

a link between this disease and diacetyl, a chemical used in artificial butter flavoring, but no

federal laws regulate the chemical’s use at this time.

Hormones in dairy products and meats have been linked to early puberty (puberty at age seven is

no longer considered unusual these days); food additives can cause hyperactivity in children; and

many pesticides used to grow conventional produce have been classified as carcinogens and

associated with high rates of blood and lymphatic cancers, cancers of the lip, stomach, lung,

brain, and prostrates, as well as melanoma and other skin cancers. Our fish supply is loaded with

mercury, our lettuce with perchlorate – a rocket fuel, and our milk with steroids and antibiotics.

We live in a land of plenty, and yet we rarely consider the context of that plenty, or the

responsibility that goes with it. Our culture and lifestyle have transformed our agrarian heritage

into a system of agricultural industry. The production and commodification of food has become

big business. Nutrition, health, safety, sustainability, and the moral and ethical questions related

to food are often ignored in favor of the larger picture: profit.

In this research paper, you will select a topic related to the politics, socio economics, and cultural

heritage of food and explore it in depth in six to eight pages. In your research paper, you will be

required to:

Define the topic you will be writing about and specifically present your argument

Describe in detail the issues related to your topic

Note the debate that exists around your topic, presenting both sides of the conflict

Present a convincing argument on your position and support it with reliable resources

It is highly recommended that your topic be generated from the required textbook,

Food Matters


and/or from the recommended books.

Research Paper Length

• 2,500 words/6-8 pages

Number of outside sources required

You must use a minimum of five sources in your research paper, and no more than ten sources


These sources can be:

• Books

• Articles from magazines, newspapers, and journals

• Reports from databases

• Reputable web sites

• Documentaries

And remember – you must correctly cite all sources used. Counter arguments and rebuttals must

also be cited correctly in MLA 8.

Format Style

You are required to submit your research paper in MLA 8 format, which means in-text citations

must be used in the body of your paper, and a Works Cited list must appear at the end of your