Big Corporations Have An OVERWHELMING Amount Of Power Over Our Food Supply
Big Corporations Have An OVERWHELMING Amount Of Power Over Our Food Supply. [click image to enlarge] From our fields to our forks, huge corporations have an overwhelming amount of power over our food supply every step of the way. Right now there are more than 313 million people living in the United States, and the job of feeding all of those people is almost entirely in the hands of just a few dozen monolithic companies. If you do not like how our food is produced or you don't believe that it is healthy enough, it isn't very hard to figure out who is to blame. These mammoth corporations are not in business to look out for the best interests of the American people. Rather, the purpose of these corporations is to maximize wealth for their shareholders. So the American people end up eating billions of pounds of extremely unhealthy food that is loaded with chemicals and additives each year, and we just keep getting sicker and sicker as a society. But these big corporations are raking in big profits, so they don't really care.
If we did actually have a capitalist system in this country, we would have a high level of competition in the food industry. But instead, the U.S. food industry has become increasingly concentrated with each passing year. Just consider the following numbers about the U.S. agricultural sector...
The U.S. agricultural sector suffers from abnormally high levels of concentration. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios around 40%, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40% of the market. If the concentration ratio is above 40%, experts believe competition can be threatened and market abuses are more likely to occur: the higher the number, the bigger the threat.
The concentration ratios in the agricultural sector are shocking.
-Four companies own 83.5% of the beef market.
-The top four firms own 66% of the hog industry.
-The top four firms control 58.5% of the broiler
-In the seed industry, four companies control 50% of the proprietary seed market and 43% of the commercial seed market worldwide.
-When it comes to genetically engineered (GE) crops, just one company, Monsanto, boasts control of over 85% of U.S. corn acreage and 91% of U.S. soybean acreage.
When so much power is concentrated in so few hands, it creates some tremendous dangers.
And many of these giant corporations (such as Monsanto) are extremely ruthless. Small farmers all over America are being wiped out and forced out of the business by the predatory business practices of these huge companies...
Because farmers rely on both buyers and sellers for their business, concentrated markets squeeze them at both ends. Sellers with high market power can inflate the prices of machinery, seeds, fertilizers and other goods that farmers need for their farms, while powerful buyers, such as processors, suppress the prices farmers are paid. The razor-thin profit margins on which farmers are forced to operate often push them to "get big or get out"—expanding into mega-operations or exiting the business altogether.
Of course the control that big corporations have over our food supply does not end at the farms.
The distribution of our food is also very highly concentrated. The graphic shared below was created by Oxfam International, and it shows how just 10 gigantic corporations control almost everything that we buy at the grocery store...
And these food distributors are often not very good citizens either.
For example, it was recently reported that Nestle is running a massive bottled water operation on a drought-stricken Indian reservation in California...
Among the windmills and creosote bushes of San Gorgonio Pass, a nondescript beige building stands flanked by water tanks. A sign at the entrance displays the logo of Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water, with water flowing from a snowy mountain. Semi-trucks rumble in and out through the gates, carrying load after load of bottled water.
The plant, located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, has been drawing water from wells alongside a spring in Millard Canyon for more than a decade. But as California’s drought deepens, some people in the area question how much water the plant is bottling and whether it’s right to sell water for profit in a desert region where springs are rare and underground aquifers have been declining.
Nestle doesn't stop to ask whether it is right or wrong to bottle water in the middle of the worst drought in the recorded history of the state of California.
They have the legal right to do it and they are making large profits doing it, and so they are just going to keep on doing it.
Perhaps you are thinking that you can avoid all of these corporations by eating organic and by shopping at natural food stores.
Well, it isn't necessarily that easy.
According to author Wenonah Hauter, the "health food industry" is also extremely concentrated...
Over the past 20 years, Whole Foods Market has acquired its competition, including Wellspring Grocery, Bread of Life, Bread & Circus, Food for Thought, Fresh Fields, Wild Oats Markets and others. Today the chain dominates the market because it has no national competitor. Over the past five years its gross sales have increased by half (47 percent) to $11.7 billion, and its net profit quadrupled to $465.6 million. One of the ways it has achieved this profitability is by selling conventional foods under the false illusion that they are better than products sold at a regular grocery store. Consumers falsely conclude that these products have been screened and are better, and they are willing to pay a higher price.
The distribution of organic foods is also extremely concentrated. A little-known company, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) now controls the distribution of organic and natural products. Publically traded, the company has a contract with Whole Foods and it is the major source of these products for the remaining independent natural food stores. This relationship has resulted in increasingly high prices for these foods. Small manufacturers are dependent on contracts with UNFI to get their products to market and conversely, small retailers often have to pay a premium price for products because of their dependence on this major distributor. Over the past five years, UNFI's net sales increased by more than half (55.6 percent) $5.2. billion. Its net profit margin increased by 88 percent to $91 million.
Everywhere you look, the corporations are in control.
And this is especially true when you look at big food retailers such as Wal-Mart.
Right now, grocery sales account for about half of all business at Wal-Mart, and approximately one out of every three dollars spent on groceries in the United States is spent at Wal-Mart.
That is absolutely astounding, and it obviously gives Wal-Mart an immense amount of power.
In fact, if you can believe it, Wal-Mart actually purchases a billion pounds of beef every single year.
So the next time someone asks you where the beef is, you can tell them that it is at Wal-Mart.
On the restaurant side, the ten largest fast food corporations account for 47 percent of all fast food sales, and the love affair that Americans have with fast food does not appear to be in danger of ending any time soon.
Personally, if you do not like how these corporate giants are behaving, you can always complain.
But you are just one person among 313 million, and most of these big corporations are not going to consider the ramblings of one person to be of any significance whatsoever.
Collectively, however, we have great power. And the way that we are going to get these big corporations to change is by voting with our wallets.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans seem quite satisfied with the status quo. So the population as a whole is likely going to continue to get sicker, fatter and less healthy with each passing year, and the big food corporations are going to keep becoming even more powerful.
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Are You Ready For The Price Of Food To More Than Double By The End Of This Decade? Do you think that the price of food is high now? Just wait. If current trends continue, many of the most common food items that Americans buy will cost more than twice as much by the end of this decade. Global demand for food continues to rise steadily as crippling droughts ravage key agricultural regions all over the planet. You see, it isn't just the multi-year California drought that is affecting food prices. Down in Brazil (one of the leading exporters of food in the world), the drought has gotten so bad that 142 cities were rationing water at one point earlier this year. And outbreaks of disease are also having a significant impact on our food supply. A devastating pig virus that has never been seen in the U.S. before has already killed up to 6 million pigs. Even if nothing else bad happens (and that is a very questionable assumption to make), our food prices are going to be moving aggressively upward for the foreseeable future. But what if something does happen? In recent years, global food reserves have dipped to extremely low levels, and a single major global event (war, pandemic, terror attack, planetary natural disaster, etc.) could create an unprecedented global food crisis very rapidly.A professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University named Timothy Richards has calculated what the drought in California is going to do to produce prices at our supermarkets in the near future. His projections are quite sobering...
•Avocados likely to go up 17 to 35 cents to as much as $1.60 each.
•Berries likely to rise 21 to 43 cents to as much as $3.46 per clamshell container.
•Broccoli likely to go up 20 to 40 cents to a possible $2.18 per pound.
•Grapes likely to rise 26 to 50 cents to a possible $2.93 per pound.
•Lettuce likely to rise 31 to 62 cents to as much as $2.44 per head.
•Packaged salad likely to go up 17 to 34 cents to a possible $3.03 per bag.
•Peppers likely to go up 18 to 35 cents to a possible $2.48 per pound.
•Tomatoes likely to rise 22 to 45 cents to a possible $2.84 per pound.
So what happens if the drought does not end any time soon?
Scientist Lynn Ingram, who has studied the climate history of the state of California extensively, told CBS News that we could potentially be facing "a century-long megadrought" in California. If that does indeed turn out to be the case, we could be facing huge price increases for produce year after year.
And it isn't just crops that are grown in the United States that we need to be concerned about. As NBC News recently reported, the price of cocoa is absolutely soaring and that is going to mean much higher prices for chocolate...
As cocoa prices surge to near-record highs on demand for emerging markets, chocoholics brace for a hike in price – and maybe even a different taste, as chocolate makers hunt out cheaper ingredients.
Cocoa futures are up 10 percent so far this year, hitting almost £1,900 on ($3,195) a ton in March. Last year prices rose 20 percent.
In fact, experts are now warning that chocolate may soon become a "high-end luxury item" because it is becoming so expensive.
Meat prices are also starting to spiral out of control.
A virus known as porcine epidemic diarrhea has pushed pork prices up to new all-time record highs. It has already spread to 27 states, and as I mentioned above, it has already killed up to 6 million pigs. It is being projected that U.S. pork production will decline by about 7 percent this year as a result, and Americans could end up paying up to 20 percent more for pork by the end of the year.
The price of beef has also soared to a brand new all-time record high. Due to the drought that never seems to let up in the western half of the country, the total size of the U.S. cattle herd has been declining for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that is has been since 1951.
If the overall price of food in this country increases by just an average of a little more than 12 percent a year, it will double by the end of this decade.
What would you do if you suddenly walked into the grocery store and everything was twice as much?
That is a frightening thing to think about.
Meanwhile, all of our other bills just keep going up as well. For example, we just learned that the price of electricity hit a brand new all-time record high for the month of March.
If our incomes were keeping up with all of these price increases, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As I wrote about earlier this week, the quality of our jobs continues to go down and more Americans fall out of the middle class every single day.
According to CNBC, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans with college degrees that are working for minimum wage right now...
While a college degree might help get a job, it doesn't necessarily mean a good salary. According to a report released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 260,000 workers with bachelor's degrees and 200,000 workers with associate's degrees are making the minimum wage.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and the minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. Some cities and states have recently raised their minimum wage, but the BLS report defines only those making $7.25 an hour or less as "minimum wage workers."
And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States has dropped for five years in a row.
This is why so many families are financially stressed these days. The cost of living is going up at a steady pace, but for the most part our paychecks are not keeping up. Average Americans are having to stretch their money farther than ever, and many families have reached the breaking point.
So what is going on in your neck of the woods? Are you starting to see prices rise at the grocery stores where you live? Are you, and your family prepared? [ Don't forget about your pets too.]
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