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Food shaming

March 20, 2020
By David Kruse - Columnist , Farm News

Part 2 of 2

As I passed through the Atlanta airport the other day, I grabbed lunch at Panda Express. I noticed next to their menu a big sign declaring how they only use organic honey. According to the USDA, the main prerequisite for being considered organic honey versus natural honey is that the flowers the bees use for nectar cannot be sprayed with any chemicals nor can the bees be located adjacent to an area that may have potential contact with chemical use. Gosh, I sure hope somebody told the bees that. My brother-in-law has a beehive on his acreage, and I am pretty sure the bees go where they want to go. It seems unrealistic that Panda Express was able to certify all of their honey as organic. But then again, does Panda Express even care? All they know is the consumers are willing to pay more for it and they know that consumers have no idea how to tell the difference.

The book "Food Bullying", explains how subtle bullying has a "health-halo effect". Food companies imply that if one aspect of food is better for you, therefore the entire food must be healthier for you. For example, Cornell University Food and Brand Lab found that consumers believe organic food has fewer calories and are willing to pay nearly 25% more for it. This means that consumers believe that organic Cheetos are healthier than original Cheetos. They think organic cheesecake is healthier than regular cheesecake. Newsflash: they are not. You are much better off having the most conventional, standardized, most mundane celery stick you can find, than you are eating organic potato chips.

Organic is simply a type of farming. And based on countless scientific studies, there is no perceptible difference in nutritional value between organically and conventional produced food. Chocolate brownies are still chocolate brownies no matter what food label you put on them. It is important to note that psychological tricks are being played all over the grocery store. The best ones are where they hand out free samples. I had no intention of buying chocolate chip cookies the other day until they gave me a sample hot-out-of-the-oven...and then I suddenly had a huge impulse to buy them.

Our main challenge is that farmers don't have a direct link to consumers. What farmers really need is their own award-winning TV Show on Netflix called "Enough with the B--SH-! The middlemen like food companies and grocery stores are the ones controlling the narrative. They have the platform with more money for commercials and advertisements. Youtube videos and staged documentaries about poorly treated farm animals make people question their meat choices. Food companies have shown they have little backbone to stand up to the bullying from activists. It is much more economical to simply bankrupt their current supplier and get another one rather than spend time and money to try and educate the consumer.

Deceptive food labeling has long lasting effects. Listerine mouthwash falsely claimed that the product helped prevent and reduce the severity of colds for 50 years! The U.S. Federal Trade Commission finally stepped in to order Listerine to do "corrective" advertising. Meaning they had to make new advertisements declaring Listerine did in fact, not help prevent colds. Despite this, a reported 50% of Listerine buyers said that they still bought it for its anti-cold remedy. That is the power of fear marketing at work. It is no different with consumers who avoid antibiotics or GMO's in food, despite it being proven that they are not harmful.

We have also been conditioned to be scared away from things we can't pronounce. Who would want to eat phenylalanine, octadecenoic acid, colors E160c and acetone and phenyl acetaldehyde? I eat them almost every morning. They are called eggs. How about linoleic acid, ethyl ethanoate and hydroxyl linalook? I struggle to pronounce these ingredients but they are all included in blueberries, a fruit, well known for its anti-oxidants. Yet if a company put on a food label declaring they avoided these items, consumers would probably cheer.

If you are in doubt about your food, do some research, and don't let the food bullies get in the way of making the right decision for you. If you truly want to buy organic, then do it. But don't do it because somebody made you fearful or because you thought it was the safer, healthier option.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

 
 

 

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