Like the broader news, food media inhabits niches. Interested in the progressive politics of the plate? You could stack your RSS feed exclusively with Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Grist. Love to cook? You could bookmark Martha Stewart and SimplyRecipes and never have to scroll through Eater. Few consumers of food media take a comprehensive view of the major forces influencing what and how Americans eat.

That’s what’s interesting about The Daily Meal’s list of “America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food,” just out this morning. Editorial director Colman Andrews and a team of 10 staffers whittled down the 2012 list (the website’s second annual) from a pile of a hundred candidates, and ranked them according to their degree of influence. It’s an honest list: Pollan and Bittman are there, for sure, but also Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, and Monsanto chairman Hugh Grant (and, we should note, CHOW vice president and general manager Jane Goldman).

“These are the people,” Andrews says, “whether you know it or not, that when you go into the grocery store, who are making decisions about what you see.” It’s an approach that pretty much guarantees controversy. “Comments we got last year were like, ‘How could you put somebody from Monsanto and Cargill and all these devils up there?’” Andrews says. “But that’s just the reality of things.”

Has looking at who really has a say about what Americans eat made Andrews pessimistic about the state of food? Not exactly. “It’s made us a little more realistic about things,” Andrews says. “Some of the staff here never stopped to think, for instance, how what McDonald’s decides to put on the menu influences what farmers across the country grow.” Andrews calls that an eye-opener—especially, he thinks, for readers.

Image source: The Daily Meal

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