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Food Choices & Consolidations

August 3, 2012

Critics of agriculture and food love to point out the “big ag” but miss completely the consolidation of food companies beyond the farm. Or they seem to, as with a news item that is largely unseen, as has been previous food acquisitions.

“ConAgra Foods announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to buy the Bertolli and P.F. Chang’s Home Menu frozen meals businesses from Unilever PLC for a total cash consideration of $265 million.” The release continues with “This will be the fifth acquisition in the last 12 months for ConAgra Foods, following the acquisitions of National Pretzel Company, Del Monte Canada, Odom’s Tennessee Pride and the pita chip business of Kangaroo Brands.”

Now when you put something up for sale, whether a car, a small business or a company, most intend to sell it. If someone buys a portfolio of items most would think that’s a good thing….until it’s in a perceived dominating fashion as food companies are.

This fits the quest for volume that keeps prices down. Those wanting food choices have them, and may avoid the big brands by buying direct. But will you? Does it matter to you if a handful of companies provide the food and a handful of companies distribute it? Are you comfortable with someone having the breeding chickens, hatching the eggs, raising the chicks, marketing the young birds and selling the meat? No? Then why do so many say support farmers who do just that (small farms)? And if Tysons does it, for the same reasons, does that make it any different?

Does how your food gets to the freezer matter to you? For many it does, but not if it costs more. They want more expensive production methods but the same price they pay now for it…and that doesn’t always work.

Let’s say you’ve got a truck for sale for $3,000. I want the truck. I have $3,000 but demand you fix up the $300 in little things, then sell me the truck for $2,900. Would you do it? Why? More than that, would you do it 100 times? 10 times? 1,000 times?

 

Everyone has to make a profit to be sustainable – to continue on to the next year, or the next generation. This is true whether a small place like us or a farm supporting 3 families with 250,000 birds – we’re all still keeping a goal of providing quality food.

Management decisions differ with size and quantity, but may or may not differ that much in how we grow. Many point to Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm, but he uses the same commercially bred stock that “factory farms” have. We don’t have commercial stock, but could be seen as having similar views with both “extremes.” From a size standpoint, Polyface is a big farm compared to us.

The fact is there’s over 300 million people making food choices every day. Some may buy from us, some may buy from Polyface, some may buy from Tysons and there is likely consumers out there for whom what we all grow isn’t what they want! Someone out there will provide it!

Food choices are a good thing. Food choices allow farm choices.

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