THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Ethnicity and the War on Big Food


  • John Ikerd University of Missouri, Columbia



Ethnicity, Industrial Agriculture, Discrimination


First paragraphs:

A recent Fortune magazine story, "Special Report: The war on big food" begins, "Major packaged-food companies lost [US]$4 billion in market share alone last year, as shoppers swerved to fresh and organic alternatives. Can the supermarket giants win you back?" (Kowitt, 2015, para. 1). The story describes how a wide range of consumer concerns is eroding the market power of the large corporate food companies. The consumer concerns include artificial colors and flavors, pesticides, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, growth hormones, antibiotics, gluten, and genetically modified organisms. All of these concerns stem directly or indirect from the industrial paradigm of food production and distribution, including industrial agriculture.

No one has more at stake in the outcome of this war than America's ethnic minorities. Today's industrial food system has failed in its fundamental purpose of providing food security, leaving many Americans without adequate quantities or qualities of foods to support active, healthy lifestyles. In 2012, nearly 15% of all Americas were classified as food insecure (RTI International, 2014, p. 1-6), and more than 20% of American children lived in food-insecure homes (RTI International, 2014, p. 1-7). Ethnic minorities experience significantly higher levels of food insecurity than the U.S. population as a whole. In 2012, 25% of African American and 23% of Hispanic households experienced food insecurity (RTI International, 2014, p. 1-7). One study found that 40% of American Indians lived in food insecure households (RTI International, 2014, p. 1-7). This level of insecurity is far higher today than during the 1960s—the early years of "big food" and "big farms."...


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Author Biography

John Ikerd, University of Missouri, Columbia

John Ikerd is professor emeritus of agricultural economics, University of Missouri, Columbia. He was raised on a small farm and received his BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Missouri. He worked in private industry prior to his 30-years academic career at North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Georgia, and the University of Missouri. Since retiring in 2000, he spends most of his time writing and speaking on issues of sustainability. Ikerd is author of six books and numerous professional papers, which are accessible at his University of Missouri website and personal website.
John Ikerd



How to Cite

Ikerd, J. (2015). THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Ethnicity and the War on Big Food. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 5(4), 7–10.

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