Phil Howard: Food and Power: How the Largest Firms Shape What We Eat and Drink (Feb 9)

Phil Howard
Food and Power: How the Largest Firms Shape What We Eat & Drink
Thursday, February 9
1-2:30pm, Dana 3556

The Erb Institute is hosting Phil Howard from the Department of Community Sustainability at MSU. Phil is a sociologist studying food systems. He has a new book out, entitled Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat?, and is perhaps most famous for his widely-circulated infographics about concentration of ownership in the food system.

The largest packaged food and beverage makers constantly run into the limited size of our stomachs in their efforts to increase their power. There is only so much we can physically eat or drink, and only so much that firms can do to reduce their costs as well. Generating profits that outperform the average for other industries therefore requires continually steering our purchases in new directions. This presentation focuses on two key qualitative strategies these firms use to influence consumption patterns and increase their share of food and beverage markets: deskilling and spatial colonization. It explores the application of these strategies more specifically for three products—beer, soymilk and bagged salads—and the enormous energy expended to restrict our eating and drinking habits. It also examines the possibilities for challenging this power.