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Since all number 2 corn is treated as though it is exactly the same, we don’t have to follow Naylor’s kernels. We just have to follow the main branches of the river of corn as it flows and divides through the industrial food chain. As you can see, most of those kernels wind up being fed to animals. Much of that goes to feeding America’s 100 million beef cattle. And the place they are fed is the American factory farm. The factory farms take the raw material, corn, and turn it into another product—meat.

And like any good detective, I realized I had to start at the very beginning, which in this case meant a field of corn in Iowa. I began with that field and tried to trace the corn as it traveled across the country, first to my supermarket and then to my stomach. I watched it being turned into meat, milk, and eggs by cows and chickens. I watched as it was torn apart and rebuilt into all the different foods and products listed on all those labels. What I discovered was a vast industry—a giant agriculture business or agribusiness.

The nitrogen runoff has creating a “hypoxic,” or dead, zone in the Gulf that is as big as the state of New Jersey—and still growing. RICH FIELDS, POOR FARMERS The industrial food chain makes some people very rich. Big agribusiness companies take in billions of dollars in profit. Yet one person who is not getting rich from the mountain of corn is the American farmer. George Naylor is all but going broke—and he’s doing better than many of his neighbors. His farm might feed 140 people, but it doesn’t support the four who live on it.

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