Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Food Safety - A Chicken Wing Conspiracy Theory

It's unfortunate for all Chicken-related industries along their entire chains of distribution that one of them was exposed for lax health and safety protocols. They apparently cannot deny their dependence on the government to provide the inspections necessary to keep them in line, and one company has now brought down the entire chicken industry, fear of Salmonella now spreads through the public like wildfire.

The slowdown in demand will increase the supply and consequently lower the price. The season for Hot Wings is upon us and last year there was rumor in the news media about a shortage of Chicken Wings.
The rumors apparently were quashed in a report by Time Magazine (interestingly prior to the above Slate article.)
Rumors alone didn't effectively manipulate market prices, maybe affecting the ability of the government to regulate the industry will knock the support legs out from under competitors and send waves of fear to manipulate prices?

Since such manual controls exist for such manipulation, it stands to reason that they are exploited.

When a company has multiple processing plants, upgrades one plant when there is an outbreak of Salmonella, but then does not upgrade other plants until another outbreak is discovered, we must question the quality of everything we buy that was prepared and cooked by someone we don't know.
Foster Farms decided not to recall it's chicken. It's too easy to say that customers failed to properly cook the chicken to 165 degree Fahrenheit internally. The two sides of this equation are the volume of contamination versus risky cooking methods.

Assuming it were possible for everyone to follow the directions properly and Salmonella was equally prevalent across the entire industry nationwide, all Salmonella might be eliminated from the bird during cooking. In the Foster Farms case, the outbreak is geographically focused in a specific region of distribution which suggests a possible risky cooking strategy involving a specific recipe indigenous to the region.
According to patient interviews, the majority (80%) of the cases were due to preparation in the home. It was not clear where the other twenty percent occurred. 

The fact that Foster Farms implemented new procedures at a plant in Western Washington following a previous outbreak there suggests that processing plant safety equally shares responsibility with cooking for control of Salmonella. If a recipe is to blame for under-cooking the chicken, who is responsible?

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Humiliation Factor of Food

Are you in a situation where your food choices make you feel humiliation? I fixed myself a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for the first time in about twenty five years. I looked at the two flat slices of cold bread stuck together on a plate and thought to myself 'this is demeaning.'

I felt degraded for having a PB&J and surprised at my emotions toward the thing. I knew it wasn't what I wanted to eat. There are plenty of things I would rather eat than a PB&J, buy why was I feeling this way?

Marketing is not just about selling something to you, it's also about un-selling things; creating aversions as well as attractions that guide you in various directions in the pin-ball realm of Operant Conditioning we call "life."

Subtlety has many forms and levels. There are subtle ways of selling things by associating them with other things. In television commercials, a company can place it's products among actors who portray love and friendship. The Emotional Capital in the advertising is a highly effective depiction of intense friendships in the least stressful environments. This is key to the two courses related to Advertising and Nonverbal Communication. Also called Product Placement and Juxtaposition if you take Film Art and history classes.

A previous stage in the evolution of advertising to the Emotional Halo around a product was the Endorsement directed right at the camera by a spokesperson, and then later by a celebrity. It still happens in smaller markets which I find nostalgic and funny. Majoring in Communication is really like taking the "Red Pill" some times.

The downward pressure on marketing for fast food is other media focusing on nutrition, health, wages and working conditions. This is the other side of the coin. A lot of money behind the downward pressure on fast food in general comes from competitors seeking to create aversions toward a specific product by negatively depicting things, places or people associated with that specific product but not directly depicting the product itself.

The rest of us feed on the information we perceive as valuable and spread it around on Internet message boards completely oblivious to the hidden Public Relations agenda. It doesn't mean the information is false. The information could be very accurate indeed, but we are all unwitting public relations operatives who don't get paid for our effort.

So what does this have to do with my Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich?

I associate a PB&J with a grease-stained wrinkled brown paper lunch sack. Where have we seen that? There is a commercial that features the brown bag in a typical elementary school cafeteria lunch situation. Ah, yes! The Lunchables commercial. Lunchables are a product of Oscar Meyer that were invented out of necessity because ironically, Oscar Meyer specialized in making exactly the kinds of sandwiches you find in a brown paper bag like the one depicted in it's own advertisement. 

The Emotional Capital
of a brown paper bag is
popular among
marketers.
The old lunch sack is often used in commercials to such a degree that it resonates as a negative symbol of a social class. Along with this casualty of corporate marketing is what ever usually comes out of the sack at lunch time, including apples, vegetables, and the notorious white bread sandwich.

It's just one of many such depictions, but I also remember the disappointment I personally felt when I had to eat my brown bag lunch at school while the other kids were getting hot meals. Maybe that has something to do with my weight problem.

The advertisement brings back the strong negative memories I had about two cold pieces of bread stuck together with PB&J. I could blame my own experiences for feeling degraded over PB&J, or I could blame the prolific advertising for continuing to reinforce the negative memories. Either way, the pressure to spend money on more expensive food in the past has led me to this inevitable humiliation.