“Big Food” refers to the major food and beverage corporations in the United States. Some well known examples of Big Food companies include Kellogg’s, Post, Kraft, General Mills, Nestlé, and Coca-Cola. Like other monopolies, Big Food hinders a free economy. Smaller, alternative brands have a hard time competing, and many have been forced out of business.
With a huge responsibility to provide us nourishment, we would expect Big Food to carry out their mission ethically. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Their main objectives are TO MAKE MONEY and please their SHAREHOLDERS. Their desire for profit comes before nutrition, ethical practices, and sustainability. Here are five dishonest tactics used by Big Food:
1. Harmful Ingredients
Obsessed with profits over health, Big Food uses highly processed ingredients stripped of most if not all of their health benefits. They replace nutrients with sugar, seed oils, and salt. These highly processed foods don’t nourish us, they lead to whole body inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and early-onset dementia. These man made products are cheap, fast, and convenient and, cha-ching for Big Food, they’re also addictive.
2. Big Food and Big Agriculture
Big Food supports Big Agriculture (factory farming). Because Big Food’s mission is to produce the largest quantity of “food” at the lowest possible price, they encourage the worst practices in farming, including the use of abundant pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics that are harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. Big Agriculture, supported by Big Food, strangles smaller farms that are forced to give up healthy and sustainable farming practices in order to compete in the same market and comply with the demands of these mega companies.
Big Food is masterful at marketing with brilliantly deceptive ads that shamelessly target kids and minorities. For example, Big Food uses athletes in their ads to trick kids into thinking that they need their products so that they will excel in sports. Big Food plasters their products with pictures of fresh fruit and vegetables and animals walking peacefully in wide, green pastures, when the truth is, they support industrial agriculture.
They craft labels such as “all natural,” “responsibly resourced,” “sustainable,” “cholesterol free,” “heart healthy,” that distract us from the unhealthy ingredients in their products. They associate their products with triggers that we strongly desire, such as happiness, adventure, human connection, fun, and being cool. All of these strategies are marketing ploys meant to trick the consumer into buying their products.
4. Big Food and the Government
Big Food has an enormous budget to lobby the government and influence public law. For example, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup were among GRAS (generally regarded as safe) items because of Big Food lobbying. Big Food is more powerful and better resourced than Big Tobacco. Tobacco taxes have been proven successful in reducing tobacco consumption, however, any attempt to tax sugary beverages has been shot down. Because of their enormously deep pockets, Big Food is allowed to carry on as usual, and politicians often look the other way.
5. Fake Science
Big Food has enormous research and development budgets. They fund bogus research and only publish favorable articles while killing and burying negative findings. They pay their scientists to publish conflicting evidence regarding the harm of sugar, seed oils, and processed foods. These practices create a lot of confusion (that we’re constantly trying to clear up!) and make it difficult for the average consumer to determine truth from falsehood.
Avoiding Big Food
We don’t have to accept the ways of Big Food. We can choose to support better brands with healthier products and more sustainable practices every time we shop.
Smaller brands and local brands may be more expensive, but is there anything more valuable than your health? When we eat nutrient-dense food we improve our energy levels, improve our health span, and live a more fulfilled life. We can also support brands that contribute to a healthier, more sustainable world. Check to see if the brands you like are part of an organization that truly cares about ethics, the environment, and the consumer (think Fair Trade).
If we demand better, Big Food will have to change.
*Many of the above-mentioned companies have bought smaller companies. This makes it difficult to recognize the brand. Look for the logos and trademarks from big brands hiding in small print. For example, Kellogg’s owns Kashi and General Mills owns Annie’s.
Change Is Possible!
We are living in exciting times where change is truly possible. Consumers are demanding more transparency, simpler ingredients, and brands that match their values. Large food associations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are beginning to fracture. One food executive said, “Food in general is just changing… This is a new norm. We’re all in the crossfire, just trying to figure out what it means.” Join us in accelerating this change so we all can live our best lives!