Published on: February 16, 2010
MNB took note the other day of an interview in Fast Company
with Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, in which talked about the need for a more sustainable food culture. It prompted MNB user Susan M. Miller to write:Gary presses forward with some good points regarding real food, but the problem encompasses so much more, for example the people who actually work the farms, i.e. migrant workers and illegal aliens. If this problem was rectified, we would see what the REAL cost of REAL food would be. As Gary states, “We're not ready to pay for it. We have this illusion that food not only can, but should be, cheap. I call it an illusion because we do end up paying it, through our bodies and also our planet. We really have to restore to help the financial state of our farmers”.
Figures would be very interesting if we could get a true read on how many farmers employ illegals, and then take the action that is needed, to pay them a fair wage. THEN we would see the REAL cost of food. Being in CA 30 years, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the financial state of the farmers—I have seen and read too much.
Regarding the current trend toward editing SKU counts in stores, one MNB user wrote:Isn’t it interesting how today retailers are stating the reason they are cutting back on SKUs, assortment and inventory is “that there just to many of all of these and they confuse the customer.” But only a few years ago retailers couldn’t get enough of SKUs or brands..
Why? They wanted all the money that taking them all got them and not what the customer wanted. In fact buyers were helping, suggesting and visiting companies to create items, as if new items also meant new sales and new sale were driving the retailers business. Even with a 99% failure rate for new items...
What you seem to be suggesting is that retailers often can be accused of making decisions for short-term tactical reasons as opposed to long-term strategic goals. I’m shocked.
We wrote the other day about the death of Fred Morrison, which led MNB user Joyce Mann to recall:"Making Frisbees" is the phrase that brings back bittersweet personal memories. The primary security question on any secured software program is usually "What was your first job?". And my first job (in 1971, the height of Frisbee mania) was making Frisbees in a California factory, $1.91 per hour on the swing shift, 6 days a week. Cheap Frisbees, expensive Frisbees, tournament Frisbees - we made them all in that hot, dirty, loud factory environment.
I quickly learned that I needed an education and better job skills, because I didn't want jobs like that for the rest of my life. Every time I answer that question I can remind myself of a successful journey out of that factory.
Thanks for sharing your story.
We continue to get email about the debate about Audi’s ‘Green Police” commercial, which turned into an impassioned discussion about government regulation and personal freedoms.
MNB user Ray Wolfson wrote:I do understand the fear of privacy and freedom, however the other side of the coin is that without regulation and boundaries to many people take short cuts that are harmful to our society. Prior to regulations meat plants were so dangerous that human body parts (from employees) were found in our meat supply. I could go on with many other examples of an unfettered society…it is called anarchy. It seems to me that as a society we to often want freedom without responsibility. Until we as a society exhibit that level of responsibility we need to establish boundaries to protect us against those who have no internal set of boundaries or regard for the safety of all.
There was much discussion about whether the assertions of one writer about government interference were “B.S.,” or if the refutations of those assertions were “B.S.” Another MNB user weighed in:I have two issues to take up with you:
First, the BS issue was handled oddly, in my opinion. The first BS writer had it about 80% wrong (the writer brought up about 5 points and was right about the light bulbs as the third wave pointed out). The second BS writer had it about 80% right, as the third wave pointed out. The third wave was 100% right, but on only 1 point when they stick to light bulb legislation. It seems to me that there is not so much evidence of a government takeover of our lives, and this should be reflected in the balance of unsolicited commentary.
Second, the statement that "Government's purpose is to provide infrastructure and protect our borders. Period," seems to be possibly true, possibly false. One of government's roles, at all levels, is to balance the rights of individuals against the rights of communities. We have a right to own property, and we have limited rights to do what we want with the property. Rights are limited because "government" has decided that the rights of an individual or corporation to enjoy their property should not impinge upon the rights of others to enjoy their own property. Pollution is a prime example where multiple decisions have been made whereby property owners can pollute - no one using air, water, or land is required to return it to pristine conditions - and in exchange, communities get some economic/social benefit that offsets the environmental degradation. Some governments do a better job than others at measuring the externalities - the costs that are not priced into an economic transaction (which pollution is) in setting the right balance between allowable pollution and economic/social benefit.
Governments also enforce legal contracts which are explicit agreements between private parties (who are competent, have come together for a legal purpose, have agreed to consideration,...) that the government has decided have the force of law. Why? Because the social cost of not enforcing contracts is greater than the social benefit of having a smaller legal infrastructure. Similarly with torts - at some level, I have a duty of care (not to produce for sale to the public, for example, tainted milk or contaminated meat) to the public that may not be enshrined in law or in a formal contract. What I'm getting at is "infrastructure" rightly includes more than roads, rails, bridges, tunnels, canals, and airways. Infrastructure also includes the social, legal, and, yes, regulatory fabric that makes advances in society possible.
Finally, where is the evidence that "we have the best health care in the world." Who is "we?" I would expect the best health care in the world to provide the best life expectancy per dollar spent relative to any other system - but systems are defined by the boundaries drawn. Depending on how you measure the dollars spent, you probably get different results. The US has a great system for acute illnesses and end-of-life care, maybe the best. If you look at overall life expectancy per dollar of health care spending including chronic illnesses, the US doesn't do so well. If you includes all the money spent on farm subsidies, food, supplements, vitamins, and exercise, the US does even worse because so much of our spending is on things that harm health, the US fares even worse.
I mentioned the other day that it was interesting that Walmart and Procter & Gamble are teaming up to produce a family-friendly TV movie for NBC to air this spring, especially because the network TV movie is a dying breed.
MNB user Chris Connolly observed:As the parents of two teenagers, we watch virtually no network television in our home. If it wasn't for the fact that we are devoted followers of the local news offerings, we would not even bother having local channels available to us. Your observations about the two-hour network produced movie being a dying breed are interesting; the one remaining example that we look forward to are the quarterly productions of the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" that are still appearing on CBS. If we can't watch them in person, they always get recorded on the DVR.
Needless to say, we are avid supporters of our local PBS station and the Food Network!
Which explains why network TV ratings are generally down. Though I also think we have to redefine what “network” means.
The industry may differentiate between the broadcast TV networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) and the cable networks (TNT, Lifetime, USA, etc...), but viewers do not. Aided by technology (iTunes, Hulu, etc...), we watch what we want, when we want, where we want. And from my POV, it seems like the cable networks are both more interesting (“Men of a Certain Age,” “Damages”), quirky (“Burn Notice,” “White Collar”) and more intelligently programmed because they produce fewer episodes each year, thus keeping concepts fresher longer. (I would make the same argument about morning television, where it seems to me that MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is far smarter and more provocative than “Today” or any of its broadcast network brethren.)
And what is NBC’s definition of programming innovation? Putting “The Jay Leno” Show” on at 10 pm five nights a week, which really was a financial rather than creative decision. And nobody watched.
This is a classic example of how entrenched businesses ignore changing realities and evolving customer needs. And it can be seen as a metaphor for other industries where entrenched players do business as usual, making decisions for the wrong reasons.
On the subject of governmental initiatives, led by First Lady Michelle Obama, to fight childhood obesity trends, one MNB user wrote:I wonder how our forefathers ever made it without some people telling them how and when to eat. You think it is bad to eat at a fast food restaurant 10 times a month, but I wish everybody would let me decide that for myself.
See, this is where the discussion goes off the rails.
You can eat anywhere you want. You want to have McDonald’s 10, 20, 30 times a month...go crazy. Last time I checked, there is absolutely no legislation out there that would regulate how, when or where you eat.
However, it strikes me as entirely fair that, in the interest of full disclosure, those fast food restaurants ought to be required to inform you about the nutritional values - or lack thereof - of the products you order. It also strikes me as the basic role of the educational system to teach kids how to make intelligent eating and exercising decisions. (Nobody is going to force people to adhere to these principles as adults, but the lessons ought to be taught.)
It is hyperbole of the worst kind to suggest that certain kinds of rules and regulations governing the food industry will automatically lead to you being forced to eat salads and not Big Macs. Ain’t gonna happen. (Of course, your employer may quite reasonable want you to pay higher health insurance premiums based on your eating habits ... which opens up another debate.)
Finally, I got the following nice email from MNB user John R. Hurguy:Years ago, I followed your recommendation to check out a new Spenser book and ended up reading the entire series…a belated thanks for the original suggestion. Please continue to mix in entertainment, (books, TV, film), reviews with retail news, etc. because many of us in the MNB community, (old & new readers), find it to be what makes your “daily” so special.
Thanks. I appreciate that more than you know.