Like the nation’s obesity problem, food-producing conglomerates in the United States are big and getting bigger.
In Grist, Tom Philpott explains why, even though the market for local and sustainable milk, veggies, and meat is expanding, small farmers are still having a hard time making a living. In an article titled “From Concentrate,” he tells an old story (but one that bears repeating), this time about pork giants like Tyson and Cargill:
They use their market might to squeeze prices, giving small, independent growers two options. They can get bigger, in hopes of making up in volume what they’re losing in price; or they can shut down. The result has been a nearly wholesale obliteration of small hog farms, and an explosion in the size and geographical concentration of operations.
And with that concentration comes a host of problems. More hogs in one place brings more pollution and thus a potentially more dangerous food supply.
Philpott reminds us that the free market and consumers’ desire for cheap food aren’t the only factors in the frightening consolidation of our food supply. He also implicates, like Michael Pollan, federal subsidies, as well as local and state governments turning a blind eye to corporate labor abuses and increasing environmental damage from feedlots.
Maybe we should replace the all-American mantra “Get Big or Get Out” with a new, food-friendly mantra like “Small Farms, Better Food.”