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Open Forum on Food Politics


stovetop
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I believe I can offer another perspective. My brothers have a small family farm in North Dakota, one that formerly belonged to my grandparents and on which I spent most summers of my youth.  My brothers receive few government subsidies.....

I worry that I probably don't know 1/1000th of what's going on. I hope that humans don't leave the planet in a mess that is impossible to resolve.

Just want to add my thanks for this insightful & cogent post. I now feel like I know 2/1000 of what's going on. It's something.

Listening to Bush's Inaugular (I swear he said that on TV the night before) Address yesterday, I was repeatedly drawn back to thoughts prompted by this thread. Specifically:

It's ironic that the spread of our brand of liberty frees corporations to behave in ways that one might call tyrannical. I view Monsanto's harrassment of farmers who may have unwittingly infringed on their patent rights for GM seed as, at bottom, a manifestation of the tyrannical impulse that always seems to be lurking in our organizations. Hopefully this will prove to be just another phase in the evolution of our society & a new framework will develop that will inhibit the worst abuses of our laws.

Bush wants to create an "ownership society." It remains to be seen if this is anything more than rhetoric. Between corporate lawsuits against farmers & the decline in real wheat prices explicated so well by Darcie B, I have to wonder just who will own our country's farms in another decade.

Please note that I am not attempting to steer this thread in a partisan direction. The content of Bush's address could just have well been delivered by a middle-of-the-road Democrat. I view the issues here as existing between those who control today's power structure & the rest of us who are simply trying to make a living within its confines.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I saw the thread about eating sustainable/locally produced food on a food stamp budget.  That's an interesting project you undertook.  Have any actual food stamp recipients taken you up on the challenge yet?

This I don't know. We did distribute 4,000 copies of the 5th edition of our Better Times Almanac of Useful Information during December 2004 in the Oklahoma City area, mostly in baskets of groceries handed out by churches and charities at Christmas. The first week of February we are doing a second printing of 11,000, all destined for similar demographic groups.

The text of the 5th edition is online at http://www.bettertimesinfo.org/2004index.htm , and tries to present in one publication the essentials that a family would need to transition their cooking to our suggestions. We also have quite a few people waiting on the Oklahoma Food Cooperative to get qualified to accept food stamps for our local foods. The cooperative will give the memberships to them, but alas the food stamp bureaucracy is taking its own sweet time deciding on our case. It's not as if the concept of farmers markets taking food stamps is unusual, our research has found that farmers markets all over the country accept food stamps. But the USDA office responsible for Oklahoma doesn't quite seem to understand this. It is very frustrating.

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Bush wants to create an "ownership society."  It remains to be seen if this is anything more than rhetoric.  Between corporate lawsuits against farmers & the decline in real wheat prices explicated so well by Darcie B, I have to wonder just who will own our country's farms in another decade.

Y'know, you bring up something interesting. If wheat prices are so gawl-durn low, why can't I find a pound of bread that's less than $2.00 and worth eating? Wheat is ~$3/bushel, and there are 52 pounds per bushel of wheat.

Crazy.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Bush wants to create an "ownership society."  It remains to be seen if this is anything more than rhetoric.  Between corporate lawsuits against farmers & the decline in real wheat prices explicated so well by Darcie B, I have to wonder just who will own our country's farms in another decade.

Y'know, you bring up something interesting. If wheat prices are so gawl-durn low, why can't I find a pound of bread that's less than $2.00 and worth eating? Wheat is ~$3/bushel, and there are 52 pounds per bushel of wheat.

Crazy.

Darcie B brought it up, I'm just piggybacking.

And yes, it's perplexing.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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And as for the PR department WHT I believe you could move to GReensboro and work with Syngenta there. Opportunities...endless! :)

I am not quite sure if I should take that as a compliment or an insult.

Living hard will take its toll...
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And as for the PR department WHT I believe you could move to GReensboro and work with Syngenta there. Opportunities...endless! :)

I am not quite sure if I should take that as a compliment or an insult.

I think CharityCase got us confused. See my comment at post 86 on this topic.

Now compare your avatar and mine.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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And as for the PR department WHT I believe you could move to GReensboro and work with Syngenta there. Opportunities...endless! :)

I am not quite sure if I should take that as a compliment or an insult.

I think CharityCase got us confused. See my comment at post 86 on this topic.

Now compare your avatar and mine.

Your skin tone is darker; you have a Mac and a mug of coffee. I have lighter skin, sunglasses and a headset. I guess if one was on the right drugs we could be confused for one another.

Living hard will take its toll...
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Your skin tone is darker; you have a Mac and a mug of coffee. I have lighter skin, sunglasses and a headset. I guess if one was on the right drugs we could be confused for one another.

Maybe I should ask CC if s/he can spare some? :hmmm:

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Sandy, you brought up something that interested me as well. I get Sargento emails every once in awhile, and they are always including that they are a family-owned, blah,blah,blah, umpty-years in the family, and now I am curious about that Parmalat listing of them as one of their family of foods.Maybe that's the family they meant.

In Robert Waldrop's better times info link, there's a very nice piece of advice from the Elders.Worth reading.

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Sandy, you brought up something that interested me as well. I get Sargento emails every once in awhile, and they are always including that they are a family-owned, blah,blah,blah, umpty-years in the family, and now I am curious about that Parmalat listing of them as one of their family of foods.Maybe that's the family they meant.

I'm not that suspicious here, although I'm willing to contemplate the possibility, as I hinted earlier. I'm inclined to believe that it's one of those licensing/marketing/distribution arrangements. These happen fairly regularly in the food industry.

An example that will both explain my lack of suspicion and reinforce yours: I have in my kitchen right now a couple of loaves of Stroehmann Family Grains Healthy Sandwich Bread. In the small type on the bottom label, just after the list of ingredients and manufacturer info, is the phrase "Family Grains is a trademark used with permission." (Note, however, that they do not state from whom.) Moving back to our cheese case, this would be analogous to Parmalat paying Sargento for the right to sell cheese in Canada under the Sargento name.

But wait. There's more. The label also states that the bread is made by "Stroehmann Bakeries L.C., Horsham, PA 19044" and gives a mailing address in the same community for comments to the president of Stroehmann. (Horsham is a Philadelphia suburb; Stroehmann's logo includes the phrase "Pennsylvania Dutch Bakers," and I believe the company still has a bakery in Lancaster County, the heart of Dutch country.)

What the label does not state is that Stroehmann Bakeries is a subsidiary of George Weston Limited, a Canadian company that is one of North America's biggest bakers and the parent of Loblaws, Canada's largest supermarket chain.

So there's something for each position in this little example. However, in the case of Sargento, I'm not inclined to believe that they are secretly controlled by Parmalat, and I will go back to Stroehmann for the reason why: Stroehmann's own web site bears a copyright notice "©2004 George Weston Bakeries" (clicking on the notice takes you to GWB's home page) and has links to Weston's other US brands at the top.

In Robert Waldrop's better times info link, there's a very nice piece of advice from the Elders.Worth reading.

I agree, and the advice resonates with me, even if I do not follow it that much.

Nonetheless, it also echoes stories I've read about opinion surveys in which respondents are asked how happy they are with their lives. In what might seem to be something of a surprise, it seems those in poorer countries are happier than those in more affluent countries. My take on this is that since the folks in the poor countries are not constantly reminded how many things they don't have, they focus more on those things they do have (such as health and family) and take contentment in that. That may be a bit too sanguine for some of you out there, and if someone has an alternate explanation, I'd be glad to hear it.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Another Quebec Dairy Company on the Buy, Agropur wants to buy Island Dairies

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...=0entry814904

I have a lot of links and was learning how few owners there are in the canadian dairy industry.

steve

Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Industry ownership has become highly concentrated. Today, 15% of plants (provincial and CFIA – 36% CFIA only) are owned by 3 leading processors (Parmalat, Saputo, Agropur) who process 71% of the milk produced in Canada. In addition, some firms have developed partnerships or corporate links for processing, distribution and marketing specific products.

http://www.dairyinfo.gc.ca/pdf_files/dairyprofile.pdf

Saputo Inc. (Canadian dairy sales: 2,084.9 millions$) (2003/03/31) Private $3,398,112 Canada

Parmalat Canada (2002) Private $2,500,000*            Italy

Agropur, Co-op (2003/11/03) Co-op $1,904,228           Canada

Kraft Canada (2002) Private $2,082,000                     United States

Nestlé Canada (31/12/2003) Private $1,849,160           Switzerland

Unilever Canada Limited (31/12/2002) Private $1,595,869        United Kingdom

Neilson Dairy (2002) Private $400,000*            Canada

Gay Lea Foods (09/29/2002) Co-op $271,960             Canada

Scotsburn Coop Services (09/29/2002) Co-op $223,678            Canada

Farmers’ Coop Dairy Limited (11/03/2002) Co-op $162,876           Canada

http://money.canoe.ca/News/Economy/2004/03/04/370181-ap.html

Parmalat to sell Canadian operations; gets loan to keep main unit running

http://www.parmalat.com/en/fset.html?sez=aaa

Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Another Quebec Dairy Company on the Buy, Agropur wants to buy Island Dairies

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...=0entry814904

I have a lot of links and was learning how few owners there are in the canadian dairy industry.

steve

With this we enter another gray area.

Looking through the thread you referenced, and following some links found there, I see that Agropur is a producers' cooperative.

Now, I thought cooperatives were generally to be encouraged. Does that change once the co-op grows past a certain size?

(Some well-known US food brands that are produced by cooperatives include:

Ocean Spray cranberry products

Florida's Natural fruit juices

Farmland meats

Cabot dairy products

Farmland Industries is [iIRC] the largest agricultural co-op in the United States. The Cabot dairy cooperative became a subsidiary of Agway, the largest farmers' co-op in the Northeast, in the early 1990s.)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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In Canada we use a Supply Management system and with that comes quotas, let's see a farmer buys quotas to produce so much milk, the farmers are the ones with the Co-op, the milk producers are corporations?, but that is a good question; once again you enter into the world of semantics, slippery world that is.

My opinion though I do not see how you can change the rules as you go, we as the customer in Canada subsidies the farmers through paying high prices but I do think the farmer gets what they deserve, they are the best part of Agriculture in Canada except for maybe cattle and wheat.

Can a Co-op grow outside of the local Market like say Provincial but theses companies are becoming Multinationals, they are beyond Provincial rules. So when does a company stop being a Co-op?

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Can a Co-op grow outside of the local Market like say Provincial but theses companies are becoming Multinationals, they are beyond Provincial rules. So when does a company stop being a Co-op?

steve

As I understand it, cooperatives -- like credit unions, mutual insurance companies or mutual savings banks -- remain cooperatives no matter how big they get.

The relevant distinction is in who gets to decide who runs the company--who owns the thing, in other words. A co-op is owned by its members, who usually have to meet some specific criteria to be eligible for membership. A dairy farmers' cooperative, for example, would only permit individuals (not joint stock companies) who own working dairy farms to join.

In theory, if there were 15 million family-owned dairy farms in Canada, say, all 15 million would be eligible to join the dairy farmers' co-op. If the farmer-members decided that, in order to have more outlets for the milk they produce, they needed to buy the cheese business of Kraft from Altria Group, they could, and at that point, Kraft cheese would be made by a co-op. Conversely, if the members decided they needed to enter a distribution agreement with Altria to sell their co-op produced cheese in the United States, they could do that too, and the cheese would still be made by the co-op--the corporation would only handle the distribution. (There are some issues of control involved here, which is ultimately what torpedoed just such an arrangement between Ocean Spray Cranberries and PepsiCo, in which the soft-drink giant would distribute the cranberry growers' beverages.)

The only point at which the co-operative would cease to be a co-op is at the point when they decide to sell stock to the general public. This usually happens when the co-op wants to bankroll major expansion that is beyond the financial capacity of the members.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Nonetheless, it also echoes stories I've read about opinion surveys in which respondents are asked how happy they are with their lives.  In what might seem to be something of a surprise, it seems those in poorer countries are happier than those in more affluent countries.  My take on this is that since the folks in the poor countries are not constantly reminded how many things they don't have, they focus more on those things they do have (such as health and family) and take contentment in that.  That may be a bit too sanguine for some of you out there, and if someone has an alternate explanation, I'd be glad to hear it.

The most "scientific" study of happiness I've seen showed that Norwegians were the happiest. Many other Euro countries were up there. The US scored relatively low, & folks in poorer countries weren't all that happy.

If I can ever find the link to this thing again I'll post it.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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The most "scientific" study of happiness I've seen showed that Norwegians were the happiest.  Many other Euro countries were up there.  The US scored relatively low, & folks in poorer countries weren't all that happy.

If I can ever find the link to this thing again I'll post it.

Maybe this one?

Science Tracks the Good Life

It turns out the Bluebird of Happiness roosts in Denmark

-- Despite their reputation as carefree surfer dudes and beach babes, Californians and other inhabitants of the West Coast are not, on the whole, happier than the average American.

-- Despite all those European films depicting inhabitants of northern Europe as brooding depressives, the world's happiest nations are Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Luxembourg.

-- Despite all those Federico Fellini films in which everyone is happily yakking, making love and tossing pasta, Italians are the third-most-miserable people on Earth.

I wonder how the Canadians fared...

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John Vidal reports from Porto Alegre

30 companies now account for a third of the world's processed food; five companies control 75% of the international grain trade; and six companies manage 75% of the global pesticide market.

It finds that two companies dominate sales of half the world's bananas, three trade 85% of the world's tea, and one, Wal-mart, now controls 40% of Mexico's retail food sector. It also found that Monsanto controls 91% of the global GM seed market.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Just to throw another topic in here. Recently on ABC radio in Australia, I listened to a really interesting program about the concentration of livestock in certain breeds that work well for commercial purposes, to the destruction, and near-extinction of other breeds, many of which display attributes that may be really valuable in future.

E.g. around 99% of the turkeys bred in the USA, are bred to have such enormous breasts that they are unable to breed naturally. This built-in ability for almost the whole cohort of one species of poultry to die out after one generation, should artificial breeding cease does seem something of a concern.

Also, a scientist in the UK discussed experiments that he had carried out in the 80s about which pigs were resistant to a partiularly virulent and destructive disease that affects pigs. Apparently, pigs from what are now considered 'heritage' breeds, and are now almost all gone, do have some in-built resistance - which would obviously come in very handy should an epidemic of this particular swine fever thing break out. Apologies for not having all of the facts to hand - I just wanted to throw this out there.

Lots more useful information can be found at the website of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

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  • 11 years later...

"Everything is politics."  -Thomas Mann (1875-1955), The Magic Mountain

 

...which includes food and drink, of course -- from agribusiness to GMOs to alcohol regulation to raw milk to veganism to, well, you get the idea.

 

What brought this concept to mind today was this article about an Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, NM, that's selling t-shirts with the phrase "Black Olives Matter" on the front. (For those of you who ignore the news or who reside in another country and might not know this, the phrase is a takeoff on the political/social movement "Black Lives Matter.")

 

It reminded me of a topic I attempted to start several years ago, one related to the question, to what extent do your personal politics, etc. enter into your choosing to avoid or patronize a restaurant (or shop at a particular store or chain, stay at a particular hotel, etc.)?

 

That question was engendered by this 2006 news story about a restaurant owner's ties to Hezbollah. The moderators at that time apparently disagreed with Thomas Mann, decided the question wasn't sufficiently food-related, and tossed the topic into the Black Hole of Irrelevance. I'm hoping the current moderators are a bit more broad-minded.

 

Obviously there's no one answer to that question, but I was wondering how eG'ers deal with this issue, if at all. For example, there are two pizza chains whose founders' politics and practices I find reprehensible. Do I factor that into my decision of where to buy my pie?

 

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Well, I don't patronize Chick Fil A, but that has as much to do with the fact I loathe their food as it does with their political attitudes. 

 

Truly, it makes more difference to me with smaller, locally owned places than it does with chains. I once went into a small Mom and Pop sandwich shop, where Pop was engaged in some horrible racist diatribe to a customer at the counter who was nodding in apparent agreement. I turned around and walked out.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

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