Will big business kill the food industry?

I hate the way big business is killing the dairy industry. Here, is how, and should we be worried?

Big business seems to pick a product, mass produce it, cut production costs, gain market share, then treat it as a cash cow to get as much profit as possible.

Tea, coffee and chocolate are classic examples of this practice. Over the last 20 years the big corporations took over most of the production and distribution of these products. As they cut cost, most of the products became very bland and large profits were made as they gained most of the market share.

People then realised that the primary producers were earning very little and Fair Trade began. In time, thank heavens, small businesses saw the high margins as the opportunity to buy really good products and sell them at reasonable prices, often cheaper than the bland, big brand names.

I see this product life cycle happening in the fresh food industry. The dairy industry is moving towards factory farms, where 1,000 cows will be penned under one roof, this is the cost cutting stage. I bet, to be followed, as above, by a rise in prices as the greedy corporations fix prices and take high margins.

Most of the small dairy farmers in the UK have given up, have converted their dairies to industrial units, and will not convert back. Those that are left are not allowed to sell their best product, raw milk, to local retailers, or, if sell to local people, must suffer extra restrictive regulation.

The pork industry was going the same way and may get there in the USA. See the Pig Business video. I hope it has been stopped in this country by the real demand for ‘free range’ and the many small farmers who successfully sell direct to get a fair price.

And that is how to stop ‘big business’ killing the food industry. By buying direct. Consumers can cut out ‘supply chain’ costs, expose farming practices and influencing change through communication and trade. At the same time many more farmers become profitable as they get a better price and can focus on what the customer wants, rather than the middle man. Meaning product quality rather than a lower price.

So if you don’t want to see the food industry destroy any more farming sectors, like the dairy farmers, use our local food map and buy local. Very often the products are better and cheaper. The onions may family grow, for instance, are currently sold to the local distributor for £130/tonne, 2 days later they are on the Tesco shelf priced at the equivalent of £850/tonne. If we sold direct to consumers and small local retailers at £300/tonne consumers would get them better than half price.

We also have some fantastic artisan tea, coffee and chocolatiers in our MarketPlace and welcome any small producer who takes market share from these bloated big businesses.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I know buying local is normally better, but it is not always more convenient. I buy locally when possible, but sometimes it is easier to do one big shop. I do think perhaps more consideration should be given to this fact.

    Reply

    • Thanks Holly, convenience is a huge issue when the supermarket has such a huge range. Even I, a local food evangelist, still go to the supermarket occasionally.

      I find that in our household, most of our meat and veg comes from great local suppliers, every week. We then use the supermarket about once a month for tins, cleaning stuff, etc. We have already noticed that the local suppliers are starting to stock a wider range of goods and most is cheaper and better than the supermarket.

      We are also lucky, that our local suppliers are nearer than the supermarket so more convenient. I suppose there a great many people who do not have this luxury, but I would recommend they have a good look at our local food map to see who is in their area.

      Reply

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