August 13, 2012
by john bauer, co-founder - The Foodery
The average consumer has become more aware of the origins of their food. Why? More than ever, information is freely available to consumers about where their food comes from. With the growth of content on the internet, people today are aware of the treatment of animals, the global impact of food transportation and the health concerns behind the rampant pesticide and genetic modification of produce. The conscious consumer is aware that an oligopoly of food corporations controls nearly all of the food found on the shelves of American grocery chains. How can you get better food? Instead of supporting these conglomerates that thrive on global food systems, organic and sustainable food sources can be purchased to ensure food integrity. More people are taking note; the numbers show it. Organic sales have climbed from $1 billion in sales since 1991 to over $27 billion in 2011. Purchasing more products from these food makers, in theory, should make them stronger. But often times the companies you wish to support are controlled by the very oligopoly you’re trying to avoid. Here are some truths to the food system:
Kraft Foods is the largest American-based food company. With revenues north of $40 billion, Kraft Foods dominates the high-fat salty snack market. Despite their deep roots in this market segment, they also lay claim to many products you might consider to be healthier choices. Kraft Foods controls Boca meatless burgers and South Beach Diet food products. You may also look for healthier snacks with Back To Nature’s trail mix, nuts and crackers but just know that these purchases further support the momentum of their owner – Kraft Foods.
Buying hormone free milk is a must. Research has shown the dangers of genetically modified milk (containing rBST/rBGH) in conventional dairy factory farms. But the source of many alternative milk brands may come as a surprise. Dean Foods ($13 billion in domestic milk sales in 2011) controls Garelick Farms in New England, Horizon Milk (an organic brand) and Silk brand soymilk. Knowing that 93% of all soybeans are genetically modified and contain higher levels of pesticides, it’s important to purchase organic soymilk products. Since Dean Foods bought Silk brand milk in 1998, organic choices of Silk products have nearly disappeared.
With America facing 30% obesity and 10% type-2 diabetes epidemics, eliminating (not reducing) sugary soda is an easy decision for health. However, voting against high-fructose corn syrup to advance healthier brands like Odowalla and Naked Juice only fans the fire. Since Coca-Cola bought Odowalla in 2001 and Pepsi acquired Naked Juice in 2006, watching your ingredients lists for adulteration is more important than ever. As smaller family-owned brands sell to the oligopoly, the consumer must gain a deeper understanding of their food than corporate advertising.
Fresh foods are always best. But because of genetic modification and pesticides, making organic choices for boxed cereal and canned vegetables is a smarter shopping choice when purchasing processed foods. What may not be known is that General Mills, the massive conglomerate that owns Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Yoplait and Green Giant also owns some of the natural and organic brands you see at your natural health food store. Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and Lärabar are all organic brands under the control of General Mills.
Food bars marketed as nutritious meal alternatives usually carry with them an ingredient list a mile long. When shopping for a convenience store energy bar or protein bar, try to avoid chemical food colorings, processed sugars and genetically modified soy derivatives. It’s nearly impossible. Looking for snack brands like Nutri-Grain, Special-K and Bare Naked would seem to be ways of getting snacks with whole ingredients. Kellogg now owns them all and many of the “bad ingredients” have found their way into these products. It may seem that Kashi would have better snack alternatives but be careful. Kellogg made their biggest effort to claim part of the organic/natural market share with the acquisition of Kashi in 2000. Since then, the organic offerings in the Kashi brand have diminished and relying on a once organic standard is a thing of the past with Kashi.
America faces great compromises in food quality. Today more than ever, consumers must educate themselves on the origins of food. For more information about the ownership landscape of organic brands the corporate food oligopoly, be sure to follow the work of The Cornucopia Institute. ~ F
©2012 The Foodery. The Foodery crafts meals with organic, local and sustainable ingredients. The company has a mission to support sustainable farming by avoiding global food systems when possible.