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The Press Promotes Agribusiness Front Group

November 20, 2009

Yesterday the Grand Rapids Press published a story in the Business section of the paper entitled, “Learn about farming, enter to win groceries.”

The article begins by stating, “Michigan’s farmers have a story to tell. And they are offering you a chance at $5,000 in free groceries if you are willing to listen. A coalition of agricultural industry groups launched a Web site this week, farmersfeedus.org/mi, offering visitors a chance to register to win one of three $5,000 grocery giveaways if they take the time to view any of 10 farmer profiles.”

The story goes on to quote the owner of a “poultry ranch” in Saranac telling readers, “We want to give people a little glimpse into where their food comes from.” Seems well intentioned, until you dig a little deeper.

Towards the end of the story we find out who is behind this campaign and the $5,000 sweepstakes. “The sweepstakes is organized by the Center for Food Integrity, a nonprofit established to build trust in the U.S. food system.”

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) is a food industry funded front group. Founded in 2007, CFI’s creation was set to coincide with the release of a film version of Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation, since the book and the film challenged some fundamental aspects of the agribusiness in the US.

If you look at the website for the Center for Food Integrity you notice that the member groups are state and federal industry associations like the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Michigan Ag Council and the National Pork Board. Other members of CFI include the international animal agriculture giant Novus and Monsanto, one of the worst companies in the world in terms of food control and genetic modification.

Unfortunately, the Press article did not explore who was behind the $5,000 grocery giveaway. Instead, the Press accepted at face value the information provided to them by CFI and even posted two of the “local farmer” videos with the online version of the story. You can see in the video below that this “egg farmer” runs an industrial sized operation that is highly automated and produced most of their eggs for “the food service industry.”

Readers of the Press should not be deceived by this attempt to present agribusiness as “local” and we should see the grocery sweepstakes as no different than the contest that McDonalds offers every so often.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. stelle permalink
    November 21, 2009 2:43 am

    Eggs are a very good example of how big agribusiness mistreats animals, hurts the environment and delivers us nutritionally inferior food. Compared to factory hen eggs (like those shown in the Herbruck clip) eggs from free range chickens have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene as well as a good daily dose of vitamin D. (source: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Natural-Health/Health-Benefits-Free-Range-Eggs.aspx) Instead of being able to run about clucking “life is good” and eating nutrient-rich bugs and what not, the factory hens are fed corn and soy (as bragged about in the clip), two often genetically modified monocrops that are devastating our natural environment the world over.

    The same applies to other animals factory farmed for meat and milk. The animals suffer, humans who eat the food are at higher risk for malnutrition and nutrition-related disease, and the toll on the environment is horrific.

  2. Nora Chamberlin permalink
    November 24, 2009 1:22 am

    Though, eggs collected from free range hens are not necessarily collected from hens living a happy life pecking around in the earth, eating bugs and being truly hens. As far as I know, the requirements for being a free range hen are pretty loose. They can look anything from like what Stelle described above to something that more closely resembles a CAFO, as long as there is a small door leading to some sort of outdoor space that the hens may or may not ever use (seeing as all of the food, for the most part, is inside).

    It could just be that the range free eggs for sale at the supermarket is just another unfortunate example of the marketing genius that powers the capitalist system. Storied food is what Pollan calls it in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Consumers who are informed, at least to some extent, about the horrors of the livestock rearing industry see free range and tend to think it better than the conventional, which is generally true, but the system still reigns. All I am saying is a label is never all that it claims to be. Much more needs to be done to ensure that eggs are truly, well, eggs.

  3. stelle permalink
    November 24, 2009 4:52 pm

    thanks, Nora! I guess that’s why it’s important to know your farmer… or grow your own.

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  1. Public Hearing set this Tuesday on Proposed Chicken Ordinance « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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