The Power of The People

Individuals seeking to promote change within the food industry must first overcome the size of the industry itself. All of us can be active participants in the change of a broken food system. These companies do not only directly affect those who consume food, but also the natural environment and local economies. Many people who purchase these products every day do not realize that they have more power than they think over the food industry.

Consumer demand is a powerful tool that can be used to change the way that food manufacturers and suppliers decide to market and develop new foods. When large companies and industries see customers moving away from a product, causing to drop sales; They seek ways to adapt to the social issue. The smart business response is to develop a substitute product that is more in-line with customer needs. An excellent example of the power of customer demand is the shift that has taken place in the dairy industry: due to declining dairy sales, many food companies have invested in developing non-dairy alternative like nut milks and plant-based cheese substitutes. Non-dairy milk substitutes have exploded in popularity; they are now widely found in grocery stores all over the world. The Journal “The Globe and Mail” posted an article by Eric Atkins addressing this change, and he states that “The milk sale continues to slide as diets, society shift away from dairy”. The availability of these substitutes is the direct result of customers deciding to opt for healthier and more sustainable food choices. Another way the dairy industry has responded to customer demand has been the removal of growth hormones in milk and offering organic dairy products. This shift to improved quality of dairy products is due to the buying habits of individuals.

Overwhelmingly, the most difficult and most disheartening problem individuals have is the affordability of healthy food. In order to develop better solutions for this issue the researchers at the health department over at Harvard T.H. Chan explains that “Meta-analysis pinpoints the price difference of consuming a healthy diet, which could be burden for low-income families but is trivial compared with health costs of eating an unhealthy diet”. Unhealthy, packaged food products are cheaper than healthier foods like produce. A boxed meal is cheaper than tomatoes, so some families are drawn to unhealthier options simply due to budget constraints. A solution to this issue would be to lobby government bodies to heavily subsidize produce rather than subsidizing corn, wheat, meat, and dairy. Unfortunately, this would also require a large cultural shift, as all of the aforementioned food groups are pillars in diets all around the world. Social change is required as well: consumers must not only influence the companies that provide their food, but also their neighbors and friends. This is difficult, but grassroots efforts led at the community level can spark positive change. The creation of community gardens in large cities provide unique opportunities for individuals to learn more about their food and understand the importance of health and sustainability. More initiatives led on the local level can spark the changes needed in the system to inspire and empower consumers to make health conscious choices.

There are many practical solutions to feeling overwhelmed in the face of the food industry. Conscious decisions made by consumers shape the industry, and local efforts surrounding food shape communities. Hopefully these positive trends continue as buyers continue to demand higher quality food with little to no negative impact on the health of the world and the balance of Earth.

Lucas Campos

1. Atkins, Eric. 2015. “Milk Sales.” The Globe and Mail.

2. Dwyer, Marge. 2013. “Eating Healthy vs. Unhealthy.Harvard T.H. Chan.

3. Figure 1, “United Food Brands”. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.


Meet the Meat

Chicken Little? When it comes to confronting corporate abuses, chicken farmers chicken out. Now we’re left with oversized chickens, corporations, and jeans. It’s time to see what’s really in the butcher’s bucket.

The meat industry seems to have ingeniously invented a way to make food cheap, quick, and uniform, but in the process they are crumbling animal rights by inhumanely turning their farms into factories, destroying the natural environment while negatively affecting consumers, and gaining immense power while abusing chicken farmers as they construct a deceptive environment behind the scenes.

McDonald’s may be known for being unhealthy, but that doesn’t stop the food chain from being one of the most powerful fast-food chains in America. Their game-changing idea of making interchangeable food has paid off. According to Food Inc, suppliers had to create a factory environment to match the fast-food market in order to stay on top of the economic game. Chickens are raised and killed in half the time they were 50 years ago and are now twice as big (Food Inc.). In order to make the animals plump enough for business, they are fed growth-inducing hormones that can cause painful inflammation of the udder known as mastitis (Geer). The animals are forced to live in crowded warehouses where they will walk the crammed spaces on their own feces. Because of the unnatural size, they acquire due to what they are fed, many become too heavy to walk on their own two feet and die of starvation or dehydration (Food Inc.). Old-fashioned farming has disappeared, as money and speed have become the two predominant factors to suppliers, taking precedence over health, quality, and human decency.

Moreover, many of the health issues that plague the animals have now translated to humans. The hormones have caused an increase in the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer in meat consumers (Farm Sanctuary). Huffington Post says that more than 80% of antibiotics produced were fed to livestock because of unsanitary conditions. These drugs are actually contributing to the spread of super bugs that thrive in the absence of weaker microbes (Huffington Post). Diseases like E. Coli, salmonella, swine flu, and avian flu are communicable from animals and are being passed on to humans.

Worse still, the top four meat-supplying companies control 80% of the market, as opposed to the 25% that was controlled by the top five companies in the 1970’s (Food Inc.). Farmers go into debt buying resources and stay in debt because of all the forced upgrades. They have no say in the treatment of the chickens and if they refuse to upgrade to a dark tunnel-ventilated house system, their contract can be terminated. Because of the payment system, farmers who produce fatter chickens with less feed get raises while the others get pay cuts. Last Week Tonight states chicken farmers live below the poverty line. If a farmer dares to speak out, companies will retaliate through pay cuts and inferior supplies (Oliver). Nothing is done about this because these large companies sponsor many of our representatives in congress. Protective rules for poultry farmers were written, but they are not being enforced because a rider is inserted into the Agricultural Appropriations bill that forbids the USDA from enforcing these rules (Oliver).

The path humans now tread is one of misery for animals and consumers alike. In a capitalist system, it is not surprising that corporations will go the extra mile to rake in more dough, but some are now arriving at surreal ends through despicable means. The public cannot continue to ignore the fine print. Together we can make the issue a more prominent topic until change becomes a reality.

-Christine Magnuson

1. Food Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Official Food, Inc. Movie Site – Hungry For Change? N.p.,n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

2. Oliver, John.”Scandals.” Last Week Tonight. 17 May 2017. Youtube. Web. 28 Mar.

3.”9 Facts About Factory Farming That Will Break Your Heart.” Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Has Your Government Failed You?

America the land of the free. A place of opportunity and equal rights. That is if you are a human, or domestic animal. Sadly, animals that are simply bread to be used as a resource live in much worse conditions. This however is a modern phenomenon. Animal farms used to be used to simply to feed communities and families. However, in recent times, with the boom of fast food restaurants and increasing demand for produce, farming has become dominated by a few major companies whose animals are treated awfully. When this boom started the government failed to put regulations in place and to enforce them. The meat packing industry used to be spread across a large number of companies with the major companies only controlling 25 percent of the market however today 80% of the market is controlled by 4 major companies. This is due to fast food companies like McDonald’s, who is the largest purchaser of meat in the United States, wanting there to be constant taste across all their restaurants. The lack of multiple companies also meant that these companies had to up their production. This led to many cut corners and mistreatment of animals which would in turn create problems that could affect humans as well.

One might ask “How are these companies allowed to get away with this mistreatment?” It is quite easy to blame the government and intergovernmental agencies like the USDA. And one could say that blame is properly placed. The government has failed the people of the United States by not holding these large companies truly accountable. One mistake of the government that went on to have deadly consequences, was there failure to close down factories that tested positive for E.coli. This would later lead to recalls of meat and sadly the death of a 2-year-old boy who died from eating a contaminated burger. This is a tragedy brought on by a government who has failed to protect the common man.

One might ask what can be done if the meat industry is controlled by a few companies who do nothing to truly make things better, and a government who doesn’t hold them accountable. The answer would be that the power is in the people. These companies are only able to survive based on consumers, restaurants like McDonalds only produce what is in demand. If the people’s demands change what is produced changes. However, some people are only able to afford the lower quality and because of this companies still hold a large amount of power. This means people have to pressure the government because only the government has the true power to set rules that regulate these companies. However, until regulations are put in place and enforced that protect the health of animals, which will in return protect humans, these companies will continue to take advantage of animals and the American people.

~Azzi Mayes

Food, Inc. By Robert Kenner. United States: Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2009.

The Effectiveness of Warning Labels

In the past, consumers have had an issue with the food industry because of secretiveness. Although the people have demanded to be let in on what they’re consuming, I don’t think that knowing will be as helpful as they might think. There are many products that have very clear warning labels on them that seem to have no effect on people’s choice to purchase. The public doesn’t actually want to be properly informed about the things they buy because if they did, the warnings labels on simple things like cigarettes and alcohol would have a bigger impact on their decision to purchase.

The tobacco industry was a very successful and fast growing industry early on. It all started after it became popular in America when the Spanish arrived. Over the years there has been a decline in the number of consumers. This all started in the mid-1900s when people were informed of some of the negatives effects on the body. An article from the Washington Post written by Brady Dennis tells us the following:

Half a century ago, more than two of every five adults were smokers. But that has fallen steadily over time. From 2005 to 2014, the adult smoking rate declined from 20.9 percent to 16.8 percent. Public health officials are hoping to drive that rate below 12 percent by 2020. (Dennis)

Even though adults keep choosing to stop smoking, there is still that 17 percent of them in the United States who smoke. Consumers are well-informed of the effects of smoking and continue to harm themselves. It seems that they care more about feeding their inner vices.

Like cigarettes, alcohol is another one of the things that warns people of its effects and contents. Alcohol overloads your liver and gets into your bloodstream; it affects your entire body while cigarettes just affects one part. Despite the fact that alcohol consumption has caused problems within families and their household, in society, and to the consumer, it is still a growing industry that I don’t think will ever have to worry about bringing in money.

Although tobacco and alcohol are not as essential as food, they all do have one thing in common: in some form, they are all going into consumers’ body. There is an issue at hand with the amount of information being given to consumers about what is in their food and how it is getting to their plates, but I don’t think that’s really the issue. I think the problem is that a lot of Americans live in the moment and don’t value the long-term effects of things they are consuming. I don’t believe very many people will change the things they buy if more information is given. Too many of us are more concerned with what we like and how easy it is to get it rather than what is best.

Merypaula Lara

Dennis, Brady. “Who Still Smokes in the United States – in Seven Simple Charts.” 12 Nov. 2015.

“How To Stop Junk Food Cravings?” Gymaholic. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.