Which Giant Corporation Owns Your Favorite Organic Food Brand?

organic, farm, big businessDid you know that Boca is owned by Kraft? That Naked Juice is completely controlled by Pepsi? That General Mills runs Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen?

This fascinating chart (to view it click the source link below) by Phil Howard, an assistant professor of Community, Agriculture, and Recreation and Resource studies at Michigan State University, will show you where your money really goes when you buy that name-brand “organic” snack -- and you can bet that if it’s made by Kraft, it’s probably not coming from a small family farm, either.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
For those of you who still believed that your Horizon organic milk, your Kashi crackers or your Odwalla green drink was being churned out by a small farm or mom-and-pop shop nestled in a pristine valley, well I’m sorry to burst your bubble.

The reality is that many of the same corporations that make the biggest junk food offenders -- soda, potato chips, sugary cereals, candy, etc. -- are also behind many of the most well-known organic food brands. So how does a soda company, for instance, go from pushing corn syrup-laden “liquid candy” to marketing “all-natural” health drinks with a vision to “nourish people everywhere with the ineffably honest art and rhythm of nature’s offerings” (as it says on Odwalla’s Web site)?

Either they had an epiphany, and suddenly wanted to stop making products that contribute to many people’s early departures from this planet, or they saw the potential to make some money.

The latter option, of course, gets my vote.

Is Big-Business’ Involvement in Organic a Good or Bad Thing?

Depending on whether you view the glass as half-full or half-empty, this can be viewed in two ways:

1. People are speaking with their pocketbooks and demanding healthier food choices, and America’s largest corporations are responding.

2. America’s largest corporations, eager to gain market share in the natural foods movement, have begun mass-producing “organic” foods, and as a result are slowly deteriorating the meaning and health benefits upon which the organic label was founded.

In reality, there’s a bit of truth to both of these views. With the involvement of large corporations, organic food has turned into a $16-billion business, with sales growing by as much as 20 percent per year. What this means for a lot of America is access to more organic foods, likely at lower prices.

Large corporations also have big advertising budgets, which means the idea of eating foods free from pesticides, genetically modified ingredients and raised in sustainable, humane ways is getting a lot of publicity whereas just a couple of decades ago it was next to unheard of.

Phil Howard, an assistant professor of Community, Agriculture, and Recreation and Resource studies at Michigan State University, put together the revealing chart discussed above. He’s also behind many other graphics that show just how the organic label is being expanded by corporations. As of January 2008, for instance, this chart from Howard shows you the massive expansion of popular food lines coming out with their own organic versions.


But there is a downside, and a major one at that. When big corporations dip their hands into a project, they are looking to maximize their profits by turning out the largest amount of product for the least expense. If this means sacrificing some ethics and skimping on some quality, that is often exactly what is done.

As a result, you now have to be very wary when you see the term “organic,” as it doesn’t always mean that the food is any better for you or the environment. For example:
  • The organic label is now being put on salmon, despite the fact that there is not much difference between conventional farm-raised salmon and its organic counterpart.
There’s Something Even Better Than Organic

It’s sad to say but the organic label has become virtually meaningless as a sign of quality. In seeking out food that is truly grown the way nature intended, you are therefore far better off seeking local producers.

These are the people who are truly still running small farms, where you can find grass-fed beef that is truly grass-fed (and not finished on grains in the last months) and produce that is truly fresh, not just coated in wax to make it appear that way.

Depending on where you live, finding a local farmer or food coop may seem unrealistic, but just as demand drove the rise of organic, it is driving the demand for locally grown foods. You can peruse this list of sustainable agriculture options to find like-minded people in your area who will know how you can connect with local food producers. Also be sure to take advantage of farmer’s markets and roadside stands as the summer approaches.

As Phil Howard’s chart has revealed, you just never know who is behind even your “healthy” food choices, that is, unless you meet them face-to-face. So if you’re concerned about where your food is coming from, avoid the processed organic junk foods at your supermarket, and instead support the farmers that are still producing real health food.

+ Sources and References
  • Good Magazine March/April 2008