Over the weekend the New York Times ran a story on how the government is helping to increase cheese sales by promoting a new line of Domino’s pizza with 40 percent more cheese, since more cheese on products has been shown to boost sales.
You might be asking why is the government promoting Dominos’s pizza (and using $12 million to actually pay for marketing their campaign) while at the same time supposedly trying to reverse the growing problem of obesity in America. This is like offering chocolate cake to a friend who is on a diet. Talk about mixed messages.
How is the government involved in this? A marketing creation of the USDA, Dairy Management works to promote greater consumption of dairy products, and cheese is an easy way to accomplish this and use the full fat milk that people are drinking less of. According to the Times article, “Dairy Management, whose annual budget approaches $140 million, is largely financed by a government-mandated fee on the dairy industry, [which you can bet is passed along to consumers in dairy prices]. But it also receives several million dollars a year from the Agriculture Department, which appoints some of its board members, approves its marketing campaigns and major contracts and periodically reports to Congress on its work.” So make no mistake the USDA is supporting Dairy Management in many ways.
Maybe if we stopped the use of hormones and brought milk production back to healthy levels for the cows we would not have an industry producing more than there is a market for. Why is it the government is so involved in supporting industries (like Big-Ag and the dairy industry) that are contributing to many problems such as obesity that leads to health issues, and then rising health-care costs, or polluting ground water and rivers from the use of hormones, antibiotics, herbicides and pesticides, that we all then have to pay for?
These are important questions to start asking especially as funding disappears for important programs (how about education, reasonable health care or feeding and sheltering our fellow citizens many of whom have hit hard times from the loss of savings and retirement funds as the banks collapsed and we bailed them out, but not the everyday people effected?) that could create a better future for all of us, not just a small segment of society. How about using USDA funding to promote organics and hormone/antibiotic free products that do not cause health problems and excessive production of food where demand must then be manufactured through more marketing. We are also paying to subsidize the massive production of corn not for eating but for creating sweeteners that further contribute to obesity-you can read more about this here.
Cheese consumption in the US has almost tripled since the 1970’s according the NY Times article. It is no coincidence that mozzarella accounts for nearly a third of US cheese consumption since it is the most commonly used cheese on pizza. I lived in Europe for many years where they eat a lot of cheese, more than here in the US, but somehow it is not such a problem. My guess is that in general Europeans are enjoying a better quality of cheese, usually without hormones and antibiotics, and they do not consume as much “fast food” that is often loaded with cheese. Unfortunately this is changing too as obesity rates start to rise in Europe as well; I am sure it is no coincidence that this has paralleled the rise in fast-food outlets.
We can see how it is the system itself that is creating many of the problems that we are facing today. Massive, large scale agriculture and raising animals in factory-like settings just doesn’t work (except perhaps for stockholders) and we need to change this system.
How can we do this?
We can write or call our representatives letting them know that we want more funding for health-promoting programs, not ones that encourage eating food that is clearly unhealthy and not meant for regular, habitual consumption…If you eat pizza, and I do, make it a healthy one and really enjoy it. It is up to us to make our government responsible to us the voters, not lobbyists with deep pockets who represent a small segment of society.
We also have an opportunity every time we shop and eat to show what we want on our plates and in our bodies. If enough of us stop buying this sort of food (and other products that are harmful) business will respond-after all they are in business to make money so they will give us what we want, if we let them know.
Remember that you vote with your fork three times a day so make your vote count for something positive.