Grocery Store Confusion

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You walk into the grocery store, with a list that seems to be a mile-long in hand. You prepare to face the crowded aisles of others filling their carts to the brim so that they can avoid another trip to the store in the coming days or week. With dreams of a fast-paced grocery run, the shelves upon shelves of product options make the supposedly easy task seem like taking the ACT.

Labels, label, labels!

Who knew there could be so many different types of “farming procedures?” Do you and I need to pay extra, sometimes almost twice the price, for the extra labels? Who are they marketing to with these labels? You and me? Children?

Let’s look at some of these labels and marketing schemes more closely.

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“Wildflower” Honey

This honey from Brazil is USDA Organic, but that’s not the part that sticks out to me. I notice that it is wildflower honey; does this mean that the bees were only allowed to drink the nectar of wildflowers? And how are the bees confined to only the wildflowers, and not a neighboring garden of pristine planted petunias? That sounds a little too good to be true.

Going Organic, More Like Going Broke!

Going Organic, More Like Going Broke!

This AMAZED me! $2.74 difference between organic peanut butter and non-organic. Being a college student, I think of all of the other places that $2.74 could go; although it doesn’t seem like much, buying only organic items would add up very quickly. Harvard Medical School says that organic foods are not more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. If the two products have the same nutritional value, what’s the point in paying more?

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“Natural” Ham

This ham is “natural.” Does that mean that there are pigs that are unnatural? There is also no gluten found in this ham, who would have guessed? There is no gluten found in meat products unless they have a marinade or breading on them, so this is an example of disastrous food packaging.

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“Wild” Caught

These shark steaks had to travel quite far to wind up in central Illinois. They are pointing out that the sharks were wild caught and not raised for their meat. Would consumers be opposed to eating sharks raised for meat right here in Illinois? When was the last time anyone ate beef, pork, or chicken that was wild caught and not raised for its meat?

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Organic Soymilk

As a dairy farmer, this hurts the most. My family milks our cows, yet I have yet to see anyone milk their soybeans. This soy beverage seems like an ironic food, and the cardboard box packaging isn’t helping it much. Who doesn’t remember the taste of “cardboard milk” from grade school, it was the worst! I for one believe that milk is to be found in the refrigerated section and in glass or plastic bottling.

Juice Comparison

100% Juice Vs. Flavored Juice Drink

Here are two different drinks that I picture kids drinking at snack time. The top box says 100% Juice; I think that is what all moms want their children to be drinking. The bottom box says flavored juice drink, which sounds like chemical soup.  The juice drink contains high fructose corn syrup and only 2% or less of each concentrated juice.

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Campbell’s Healthy Kids Soup

Now, what little girl wouldn’t want to eat princess soup? Here is a prime example of marketing to the kids. Traveling through the grocery store with a little one in tow is already challenging enough and having them throw a temper tantrum about getting special soup sounds like a battle that isn’t worth the time, or embarrassment.

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Amish Family Farms “Straight From Our Farm to To Your Table”

The packaging on these eggs says that they are straight from the farm to your table, giving consumers a feel-good sense of where their eggs are harvested. The label also mentions that the eggs are “All Natural” and have no chemicals or hormones. This might make you think that these eggs are better than others that don’t label them as hormone free. But as the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association says, “Some egg cartons say that the eggs are hormone free; however, this is true for all eggs in commercial egg production in the United States.”

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Brussel Sprout Chips

Here’s a “Paleo Perfect” snack — Brussel Bytes. They happen to be non-GMO, gluten free, vegan, and paleo. Who would have guessed that a veggie-based snack would be both vegan and paleo friendly (Paleo diets include eating a lot of meat)? It’s no wonder these Brussels sprout chips are non-GMO; only 8 GMO crops are commercially available – corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar Beets, papaya, and squash. (Note that Brussels sprouts are not on the list.)

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Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers with 70% less fat than 75% lean ground beef sound like a dieter’s dream. This box happens to have a label from The American Humane Certified™ program. This is a voluntary third party animal welfare audit program that is trying to set standards for the way that food animals are raised in the U.S. This label is confusing because I don’t know what the humane certification requirements are, and how do I know that other farms don’t also follow them?

I and many other consumers make decisions in the grocery store on what to feed ourselves and our families. The number of confusing labels is alarming; I believe that the labeling process should be streamlined so that there is less confusion for shoppers. Especially due to the fact that the FDA does not regulate labeling such as hormone-free, non-GMO, or American Humane Certified. The FDA does regulate organic and gluten free labeling, but do shoppers truly know what those labels mean.

The list of advocacy

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Advocacy, what does this word really mean?

For years I have been telling friends, family, and acquaintances that when I grow up and have a “real job” I want to be an advocate for agriculture (this is how I ended up with ag comm as my major). About how I want to share the story of what my mom and dad do everyday on our farm. How hardworking, determined, and kind-hearted they both are. Of all the farmers in our county who would help each other out at the drop of a hat.

I want to give farmers, like my parents, a voice with the consumers, to show that they use the products and practices on their fields because they feel they are the most effective and productive ways to feed their families and other’s families, especially within the dairy industry.

In ag comm class we went over a list of what it truly means to be an advocate. This list put it all into perspective for me, I hope it does the same for you.

1.Offers a collective voice

Advocates need to find a collective voice for the cause that they are passionate for. If multiple advocacy groups for the same cause push different facts for an issue, there is no consistency and publics will find material scattered and unbelievable.

Members of the Illinois Farm Bureau exemplify this aspect. Each county in Illinois has a Farm Bureau office and their own county board. The board is elected from local farmers and represents what that area wants at the state level. This allows that county and state to have a uniform voice for their Farm Bureau members.

2.Supports those who can’t be their own advocate

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To be an advocate means to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To me this means speaking for my dairy cows. Although I can’t talk to my cows, I believe I can tell when they are satisfied.

Cows are unable to speak up to PETA activists in California, who want to restrict water resources to dairy farms due to the drought. Theses activists insist on a ban of all meat and dairy consumption in California. What would happen to all of the cattle residing in the state?

3.Creates accountability for people and organizations in power

Advocacy groups are building blocks for higher organizations and officials. They lay the ground work for others to

Groups such as Illinois Corn Growers Association and Illinois Soybean Association are pathways for Illinois politicians to find information about the agriculture industry in our state. These advocacy groups compile information and help farmers to have a collective voice. Credibility of the two groups aids politicians in making decisions for the state, such as supporting the 2014 Farm Bill. 

4.Protects vulnerable populations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American farmer is 57 years old. A 57 year old male doesn’t sound like a vulnerable population.

To me they very well can be.

I see my father being trampled on by others who aren’t farmers. They perceive him as a farmer with little education, when in fact he is quite intelligent and talented in his field.

Allowing those who aren’t fond of public speaking to ask for assistance in sharing their story is advocacy. Most farmers don’t have a scientist on the farm to compute data so they can dispute claims from the public about GMO usage or other common complaints. Having a combined group to support the farmers allows for services that will make a larger impact in righting these false claims and sharing informational data.

Advocacy is NO small task. Bringing a voice to vulnerable populations is a challenge. Backlash from opposing groups is almost always present. I’m ready for the fight for agriculture, how about you?