When was the last time you came in contact with the agriculture industry? Many people will spend a great deal of time thinking about when they last spoke with a farmer or attended an event within the agriculture industry. Some may even reply with “never.” But what the average consumer does not take into account is that each time they enter the local grocery store, they are coming in contact with agriculture. Consumers are making decisions that affect the agriculture industry with every purchase. It is our responsibility as agriculture advocates to educate consumers to make responsible decisions and not be deceived by the misrepresentation of agriculture lurking up and down the aisles.
I wanted to take a closer look at the common foods that are impacting our society, so I set off to explore the local County Market conveniently located on campus. I placed each of these familiar foods into ten different categories that include my interpretation of each product.
1. Closest to the farmer- Ranchers Legend Bottom Round Roast
Living on a cattle farm, I was lucky enough to eat our farm raised beef. That being said, I did look through the eyes of the consumer while choosing this product. This roast was fresh and looked especially delicious as lunch time was nearing. On another note, this meat was not plastered with “hormone-free, antibiotic-free, non-GMO, etc.” labels like many of the packaged meat displayed.
2. Healthy hogwash – Fairlife Reduced Fat Chocolate Milk At the bottom of this particular carton of milk the packaging states, “from cows not treated with rbST.” The standard consumer’s first reaction may be to panic at the thought that other milk is contaminated with this harmful toxin called rbST. Do not panic. The marketing goal of this product is to create fear also known as fear-based marketing. An entirely safe supplement, rbST is used to assist cows in utilizing the natural nutrients produced in their milk. In fact, if you inspect the packaging closely there is also a disclaimer notice stating that there is not a difference between the milk from rbST-treated cows and rbST-free cows. This labeling sure looks like a bunch of healthy hogwash to me.
3. Paleo Perfect – Halos California Mandarins These mandarins caught my eye as I was walking through the produce aisle. Mandarins are the perfect snack to grab when I need a snack on the go or a taste of something healthy. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. What? Genetically modified mandarins do not even exist…
4. Dieter’s dream – Lean Cuisine Four Cheese Cannelloni I have to admit, I frequently buy Lean Cuisine meals. I buy them because they are a quick and easy meal for a busy college student with poor cooking skills. If you look closely, these meals are rather high in sodium and contain heavily processed grains. So if you want healthy, I would hit the produce aisle.
5. Too good to be true – Wild Harvest Golden Honey & Flax Granola Plastered with “free from” claims, this box of Wild Harvest granola has the look to fool consumers into thinking “organic.” Do not be fooled, this product is not certified organic. “Products bearing the USDA-certified organic seal must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredient, and must be produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and free of genetically engineered ingredients” according to the environmental working group.
6. Targeted at tots – Chef Boyardee Mini ABC’s & 123’s Chef Boyardee uses some clever marketing techniques to attract consumers to this product. The ABC’s & 123’s will get children excited about the product and the label, “no artificial preservatives” will make parents feel better about their high-sodium decision.
7. Going organic, going broke – Wild Harvest Organic 2% Reduced Fat Milk If you are going organic, this Wild Harvest purchase is certified organic. Is going organic worth going broke? Take a look at this article on organic milk written by the National Dairy Council.
8. Farthest from the farmer – Hot Pockets Pepperoni There is no doubt that this product has traveled the farthest from the farmer. These hot pockets are highly processed and contain numerous additives. As you can see, their one packaging claim is a good source of protein.
9. Simple versus Complex – Just Bare Chicken Tenders For simple chicken tenders, they bear a complex package. This product has a high nutrition content and is extremely low in health concerns. But wait, this product is not certified organic..
10. Disastrous food packaging – Hodgson Mill Unprocessed Wheat Bran Why is this under disastrous food packaging you may ask? The packaging is visually appealing and makes the product look quite delicious. The disaster is the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal. This report by GMO Compass confirms, “Right now, no genetically modified wheat is being grown anywhere in the world. Plans to introduce GM wheat in North America were abandoned in 2004.” So why is there a “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal on this product? It is called fear-based marketing.
My goal of sharing these thoughts is to encourage consumers to take a closer look at the products they are purchasing. What are their labels trying to convey? Are you making an educated decision based on facts? Do not be tricked into misconception. The agriculture industry genuinely cares about its consumers and makes every decision with the consumer in mind. Do your part to help bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.
Thank you for reading and do not forget to thank a farmer every chance you get!
ALL PICTURES WERE TAKEN AND EDITED BY CARLI MILLER
References & Sources:
“Organic Milk.” The Diary Connection. National Dairy Council, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.
Bauman, Dale E. Facts about Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rbST). Ansci.cals.cornell.edu. Cornell University. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
“Genetically Modified Wheat.” Gmo-Compass.org. GMO Compass, 4 Dec. 2008. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
“EWG’s Food Scores.” EWG’s Food Scores. Environmental Working Group. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.