Earlier today, I let you know about an exciting new website, Fair Food Fight. They’ve got some great posts that will get your blood boiling. This one, What Lurks Behind the Label, Part I by Madre Naturaleza, is sure to get your hair standing on end – but that’s a good thing. Education is power. After you’ve finished reading this one, click on Food Democracy 101: Who’s Really Behind our Food? And Who Owns Organic? for more information about the organic industry. Then let us know what you’re discovering on your walk down the grocery aisle? How do you feel? Most importantly, what steps are you taking to assert your rights to be part of a healthy, green and more just food system? Share your thoughts and ideas with us! We’re on to something here…
November 16, 2008 by Madre Naturaleza
ATTN: FOOD FIGHTERS
If you are about to head down to the nearest food co-op or natural foods store for some grub, here is a helpful experience that will give you tips on which brands to be weary of. The food Goliaths are trying their hardest to hide behind these brand names, but we can see right through them!
I’ve decided to make a new lifestyle change. I want to move away from the industrial food system. I want to eat natural foods, organic foods, LOCAL foods. Now, don’t get the wrong idea about me. I’m no tofu loving, granola munching hippie, I just believe that there are better alternatives to Hamburger Helper and Kraft Mac N Cheese. Maybe it’s all the hype on TV that’s changing my mind, the buzz in the city when farmer’s markets are open, or the sense of hope and change that’s floating through the air lately. Either way, I’m ready to experience the health, ecological, and social benefits that come attached to natural foods. First item on my agenda: A visit to the local Food Co-op. Food Co-op….? I’ve never stepped foot in one before, I’m skeptical, but ready.
● Spaghetti Sauce
● Tortilla Chips
● Rice Pilaf
● Frozen Veggies
● Fruit Spread
● Baby Food
● Olive Oil
I begin my journey weaving my cart down the center isles looking for my new and improved processed foods, full of natural goodness. Wow, I never knew there could be so much variety of natural foods. The co-op shelves make me feel right at home, lined from top to bottom with different brands of pasta, cereal, and soups for as far as the eye can see. I zip through tossing my goods into the cart feeling very impressed that I am finding everything I need. These foods sure do look healthier, chocked full of whole grains, real fruits and vegetables, and they even give you a picture of the farm it came from. Now that I can believe! After checking out, my bill was not through the roof like I expected. Most of the items I bought did not cost a whole lot more than foods from the average chain. How reassuring.
Upon returning home I empty my grocery bags and begin examining the very beginning of my lifestyle change. Just look at all these natural food brands: Bearitos Tortilla Chips, Mountain Sun Juice, Muir Glen Spaghetti Sauce and Soup, Cascadian Farm Cereal and the list goes on! Take that General Mills! Take that Kraft! Dean! Heinz! Coca Cola! I have overcome your powerful grip on the food system! I am all natural now!
This excitement only led me to explore deeper. Cascadian Farm, hey? It sure looks like a beautiful farm. I go to the website to get a closer peak. They have a 28-acre farm that you can visit anytime because they would love to meet us! Well that is sure a change from General Mills. But wait, it also says that they are the leading organic brand in the country? They have a multitude of food products that are available all over the U.S? I’m beginning to think that they can’t grow all of that food just on 28-acres! I investigate deeper. The back of the cereal box claims that it came from California from Small Planet Foods. Hey, that is the same place my Muir Glen spaghetti sauce, salsa, and soup is from! Not to mention the fruit spread and frozen veggies that are from Cascadian Farm! Hm…okay, now I am on a mission! I’m beginning to think that these natural/organic food brands aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Small Planet Foods. It turns out that Small Planet Foods owns Muir Glen and Cascadian Farms. But you want to know what is even more of a discovery? Guess who owns Small Planet Foods? GENERAL MILLS! Let me say that again, six of the natural food items, some organic, that I bought today, are owned by General Mills! I was trying to avoid Hamburger Helper! Now I am becoming even more skeptical of the natural foods industry. I need to investigate the other brands I bought and see what is really going on here.
Westbrae Natural Pasta, Bearitos Tortilla Chips, Casbah Rice Pilaf, Health Valley Cookies, Hain Pure Foods Sugar, Mountain Sun Juice, Spectrum Organics Oil, Earth’s Best Baby Food.
These are all of the other products I bought on my grocery list today, and it turns out they are ALL owned by the Hain Celestial Group Inc. So this means that in my attempt to buy all natural foods and move away from the industrial food system, I actually ended up supporting two mega corporations that are trying to find a niche in natural foods. Do they not already have a big enough oligopoly on the food system!? Isn’t natural foods supposed to be supporting small-scale farmers? How can they grow ALL of this food without it being super industrialized? How do they separate their crops to avoid chemical/gmo contamination in the organic crops!? How large are their crops!? Do they even get all of their food from the United States?! In many of our pursuits to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I believe that we must look beyond the folksy brand images and rediscover what natural and organic really means to us, the consumers, and discover the ways in which we are being mislead.
I have so many questions to investigate now, but how easy will that be? Large corporations are not very transparent and it’s like pulling teeth trying to get information from them. I’ve run head on to what they call “Big Organic” and I have a lot of research to do on Hain Celestial and Small Planet Foods. In my own attempt to move away from ‘the beast’ I have found myself against a road block I never thought existed. I hope to dig in deep to find out what these two companies are really all about! Stay tuned as I begin to unmask the organic-industrial complex and win this FOOD FIGHT!