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Food Inc, opinion paper Essay

Question 1: Based on your viewing of Food, Inc., how does your view of “farm-fresh” and other marketing messages that suggest a more organic flow of food products relate to the realities of 21st-century marketing channels for food?

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large” (https://www.ama.org/AboutAMA/Pages/Definition-of-Marketing.aspx). The marketing mix consists of product, price, place, promotion, which means that a company needs to sell the right product at the right price and in the right place, using the best promotion. Because of all of this, “farm-fresh” and organic foods must fight in the marketplace against traditionally farmed foods.

Looking at the product: what exactly makes a food organic? Organic can mean different things to different people, and even has a different meaning between companies. According to organic.org, the USDA defines organic food as that which is produced with emphasized use of renewable resources, plus conservation of soil and water. Organic food is produced without conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetics or waste, bioengineered, or ionized radiation. “Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones” (http://www.organic.org/home/faq). A government-approved certifier must inspect farms where organic foods are grown to assure that the farmer follows all USDA rules and meets organic standards.

Price is a large factor when most people go grocery shopping, especially during these tough economic times. Many, including myself, can argue that organic or “farm-fresh” foods are just too expensive to buy on a regular basis, or even at all. Personally, I will buy whichever brand is cheapest, without paying attention to where or how it is produced. According to organic.org, one should consider the following facts when wondering why an organic product might cost more than it’s traditionally grown counterpart:

Conventional farmers receive federal subsidies, while organic farmers do not, so the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing. Environmental cleanups, that we pay for with our tax dollars, is not reflected in conventional food. Organic production is more labor and management intensive. And finally, organic farms do not benefit from the economies of scale that larger, more conventional farmers receive.

The placement of organic foods is generally next to conventional foods in most grocery stores. Some stores may have a separate organic section, or the organic product could be placed next to its conventionally grown counterpart. Some grocery stores, such as Natural Grocers, only sell USDA approved organic or naturally grown produce and meat, and would not be concerned with placement.

Organic foods are generally promoted as being more nutritious than conventional foods. Although, organic.org admits that there is not research to back this claim, at this time, there are studies that show that organic food has a higher nutritional value. This makes since, considering they are grown more naturally, with less chemicals. This film does expose something about organic or “farm-fresh” foods: the American food industry is supposed to be protected by the USDA and FDA, but they have been allowing these suppliers to focus on profit and put aside consumer health, the environment, and worker safety.

Question 2: Based on your answer to Question 1, are you likely to change how and where you procure your foods (i.e., grocery stores, farmers’ markets, fast-food outlets)? Please explain your reasons.

I have never been concerned about how my food was made or where it came from. I have never paid attention to organic foods, GMOs, all-natural, or anything related to the production of the foods I eat. As far as I know, my parents never paid attention to these things either. Because of this, “farm-fresh” and other marketing of organic foods has not affected me. I just purchase the foods that I want and pay no attention to whether they are “farm-fresh”, organic, locally grown, etc. I will buy whatever is cheapest, not whatever is healthiest, most natural, or whatever. My opinion and food purchasing habits will most likely not change after viewing this movie.

This question reminds me of high school health class, where we had to watch “Supersize Me.” Everyone started saying how gross it is, that they are never eating at McDonalds again, or whatever other promises they were making. All I could think was that I could totally go for some McNuggets after school that day! I guess it is just because I have never worried about where the food I eat comes from. However, I have always paid attention to salmonella and E. coli recalls. I remember not eating beef or spinach or peanut butter when there was an outbreak in their plants, because why would I want to get sick?

So, I would say no, I will not change where or how I procure my groceries. I will not say that I did not get sad watching those little baby chicks die, or the chickens getting slung around. And those poor cows getting slaughtered, and that one that had that hole and the guy was digging around in her stomach, and said that she was not in pain…how does he know?! He’s just cut a big hole in her and is sticking his hand in her stomach, and she cannot tell you that she is in pain!

Question 3: Finally, do you think there are any ethical and/or social responsibility issues that confront marketing channels for food distribution?

Chicken are manipulated to grow bigger breasts, tomatoes are genetically engineered to not go bad by being picked while they are green, then ripened with chemicals. Tens of thousands of Americans get sick from new strains of E. coli every year. Levels of obesity are shooting upwards, and diabetes in adults and children have reached epidemic proportions. If Americans knew how corporations used subsidies and exploited laws to make more money, would they think more carefully about what they are eating? The truth is, most people have no clue where their foods come from.

Below, I will list secrets and other things that the public should know about the food that they are putting into their bodies. I found a list on www.takepart.com (http://www.takepart.com/photos/food-inc-facts/the-impact-of-food-inc-lives-on-) of 18 “Food, Inc.” facts that everyone should know, which I have compared with my notes and compiled the following paragraphs. I feel that if everyone was aware of these facts, it would increase the social responsibility of these companies, and people would have trust in them.

These facts pertain to the slaughterhouses and meat packers. In the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market, while today, more than 80% of the market is controlled by the top four. In the 1970s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses producing the majority of beef sold, while today, there are only 13. In 1972, the FDA conducted 50,000 food safety inspections. Approximately 32,000 hogs a day are killed in Smithfield Hog Processing Plant in Tar Heel, NC, the largest slaughterhouse in the world. In 2006, the FDA only conducted 9,164.

These facts pertain to Monsanto and the USDA. Prior to renaming itself an agribusiness company, Monsanto was a chemical company. In 1996 when Monsanto introduced Round-Up Ready Soybeans, the company controlled only 2% of the U.S. soybean market. Now, over 90% of soybeans contain Monsanto’s patented gene in the United States. In 1998, the USDA implemented microbial testing for salmonella and an E. coli strain so that the USDA could shut down the plant if they repeatedly failed these tests; the USDA no longer has this power after being taken to court by the meat and poultry associations.

These facts pertain to the FDA, USDA, and congressmen. During the Bush administration, the head of the FDA was the former executive vice president of the National Food Processors Association. Also during the Bush administration, the chief staff at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney at Monsanto from 1976-1979; after his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion in a case that helped Monsanto enforce its seed patents. The SB63 Consumer Right to Know measure, requiring all food derived from cloned animals to be labeled as such, passed the California state legislature before being vetoed in 2007 by Governor Schwarzenegger, who said that he couldn’t sign a bill that pre-empted federal law.

The rest of these facts are just interesting. The average chicken farmer (with two poultry houses) invests over $500,000, but only makes $18,000 a year. The average American eats over 200 pounds of meat each year. The modern supermarket stocks, on average 47,000 products, most of which are being produced by only a handful of food companies. About 70% of processed have some genetically modified ingredients. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes. Among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2. E. coli and salmonella outbreaks have been more frequent in America. In 2007, there were 73,000 people wicked by the E. coli bacteria. Organics is the fastest growing food segment, increasing 20% annually.

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