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What Are You (Really) Buying? Food Fraud in America

March 23, 2015

It’s a competitive world in the marketplace. It’s not just what we do it’s what people think we do, and what they think of what we do. Sometimes there is a view of everyone’s trying to be what we are. Large corporations looking to find how to make engagement personal, transparent, honest, trustworthy. In short – they’re trying to be us.

Only they’re not. Sometimes those smaller operations, too, seek to increase the share of the pie. What follows is a clip from someone who sees behind the scenes what people claim vs. reality. You don’t see this, and yet it’s not honest.

That “home raised premium grass only fed beef” that shows up at my door as a hobbled up old cow with an auction sticker on its hip fresh from the sale. Or how about that premium duroc pork that shows up at my door white (durocs are red….). Or that grass only fed pork (not happening people) that has whole corn rolling from it when its slaughtered.

LingCodSometimes just shutting up doesn’t help customers. They think grass fed is best – they hear that, so whether it’s right for the animal or not, if it has a grass fed sticker on it then it must be humane. Only it’s not humane if the creature isn’t a grass based diet and it’s not only grass fed if there’s corn in the intestines! It’s not prime beef if freshly bought old cow. Is it edible? Yes. Is it honest and transparent? I think it’s the polar opposite. It’s outright dishonest and deceptive.

People buy that “grass fed” animal and rave about it while the reality is they’re eating corn finished animals. Here’s a tip folks. Unless there was a modern miracle I don’t think that slab of meat was 100% grass fed when it was alive. As a matter of fact, if all that is true I will give away a full CSA share to the person that can prove it. That I’m aware of, ling cod – a FISH – does not come inland to pasture for 100% grass fed. Shouldn’t claims be accurate, or should we just increase the amount of misinformation fed to consumers along with the grass fed ling cod and white Duroc hogs? Do you want honesty and transparency or do you want to hear what you want to hear?

The FDA has over 450,000 food and feed facilities registered, with over 285,000 foreign facilities according to Food Quality & Safety magazine. “Globalization of the food supply increases the length and complexity of supply chains, and arguably increases the opportunity for both foodborne illness and economically-motivated adulteration (EMA).”

Food fraud. There are those who want to do away with the FDA due to approval of GMO Arctic apples, but meanwhile they’re the gatekeepers of food fraud. The National Center for Food Protection and Defense, located at the University of Minnesota, sees eight types of food fraud.

Nice slab of beef, isn't it? Or is it? If you paid $4 per pound would you be happy - even though it's horse?

Nice slab of beef, isn’t it? Or is it? If you paid $4 per pound would you be happy – even though it’s horse?

Substitution (complete replacement of a food product – a different type of fish); dilution (partial replacement – think adding horse meat to ground beef, diluting honey with sugar syrup); transshipment or origin masking (mislabeling imported shrimp as Gulf coast shrimp, for example); artificial enhancements (unapproved additives); mislabeling (false labels for organic, cage free etc); theft and resale (stolen, re-enters the food chain) and counterfeit (fraudulent labeling of a product by an unauthorized party as a brand name). Lastly there’s intentionally distributing a contaminated product – sale of Salmonella contaminated foods, for example.

While people want revenge on those involved in putting melamine into infant formulas and dog food, shall we look the other way about other economic fraud? If they mark that cull cow up as grass fed beef, but can sell for lower than a farm that actually raised the beef, that’s ok? How much do you, the consumer, want to be lied to?

Pretty sure those aren't grass fed either.

Pretty sure those aren’t grass fed either.

As farmers strive to honestly represent what we do, and processors strive to have an honest link between us and consumers, is that enough? Those who talk a good game can undercut us on price. If someone is buying Tyson chicken, repackaging it and selling it as home raised, is that ok or too far? Cheaters are going to push that bar as far as they can, and for all the “I don’t trust big ag” I hear it seems many are blind to cheaters on our level. Especially if something is cheaper.

Sometimes trying to be honest, it seems, means looking the other way to food fraud. If people are willing to pay it then they think there’s nothing wrong with it. They imagine it’s better because it’s small farm raised, as they dine on Tyson chicken. Stay tuned tomorrow for what you think about food vs what you know.

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