The Food System and Why You Should Care About French’s Ketchup
Recently French’s Ketchup made the news for being a Canadian product and being blocked by Loblaws. This article sheds some light on the food system and what I think you should know about it.
- Most city folk (which is most of North America) get their food from big stores, like Loblaws.
- Big stores get most of their food from publicly-traded companies, like General Mills, or large-scale meat or veg farming operations.
- Publicly-traded companies have to create a profit each quarter. There two ways to create a profit: Raising prices or cutting production costs. I could stop this article right here and have already shown how messed up this system is.
The people responsible for our food are obligated to make it cheaper, or charge more, each year.
Raising prices means:
- More Canadians who can’t afford to eat (about 8% of Canadians are food-insecure)
- Inexpensive food is purchased instead of what we want to eat (whether that is healthy or junk food)
Cutting food production costs means things like:
- More pesticides
- Cutting corners on safety
- Shipping goods further around the world (if it’s cheaper, regardless of the negative environment impact)
- Genetic modification (some of which help the system, some are scary)
- Less-humane treatment of animals
- Livestock are fed cheaper feed that makes them less healthy for us to eat
Other Bad Things Corporate Food Companies Do:
- They create demand through advertising and advertising, to adults and children (which in some cases is false and illegal). A typical advertising budget for a big food company is $1 Billion. You paid for that.
- They lobby the government to pass ingredients to be marked as “safe” before scientists say it’s safe. Sweeteners are a good example of this.
- Larger companies make it harder for smaller companies (farmers) to exist. Every time a farmer packs it in, it reduces the competition in the market, and the large companies gain even more market share, and food quality will go down. And when farmers sell their land, it means less places to grow food, and more reliance on genetically modified food and pesticides, and cutting down rainforest.
In our current food system each year it gets more expensive and/or less healthy.
Unless you buy from a farmer that is.
How You Can Support Your Health and a Sustainable Food System (and save money):
- Buy direct from small farmers (you save money, get healthier food, and support the local economy and the middle class):
- Shop at stores that support farmers like http://fiestafarms.ca/philosophy
- Buy food that was grown or made locally (supporting local farmers and distributors)
- Look at the location of where your produce comes from, and try to buy from closer to home
Why French’s Ketchup is an important story:
- The product supports local agriculture
- It caught the attention of the public
- It could inspire a shopper to do more to support local agriculture