719: Phil Howard on Who Controls What We Eat


Our Guest:

Phil Howard is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems and a professor at Michigan State University. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Community, Food and Agriculture, and a graduate course in The Political Ecology of Food. Phil’s research focuses on the “food system” which involves all of the steps required to produce food and get it to our plates–from farming and processing to distribution and consumption. He is the author of Who Controls What We Eat? (2021) published by Bloomsbury Academic.

Listen in and learn about:

    • Fewer and fewer firms are becoming more and more powerful.
    • Oligopolies in the food industry
    • About 4 firms control almost everything in the cereal aisle
    • Firms who have control in one sector are now branching out into other sectors.
    • Half the beer in the world is brewed by just 4 firms – one of them brews 29%
    • Independent craft breweries are part of a countertrend, but even some of them are being acquired.
    • Government subsidies and policies favor the large companies.
    • This is happening at every stage of the food system.
    • Negative impacts: higher prices, lower wages, and environmental and community impacts that citizens end up paying for.
    • What is being done?
    • Chapter 9: End Game – what could happen if this continues
    • Our modern food system is amazing, but very, very fragile.
    • The war in Ukraine has a big effect on our food system.
    • What can you do to help?  Buy local, grow your own food, and pressure the government
    • Amazon has also become very involved in the food industry.

As well as:

His failure – “I wasn’t a very good student my first few years of college.”

His success – Helping to spread the word about these trends that are so hidden

His drive – A value for democracy

His advice – As humans, our short-term memories are limited.  The point has to be right up front.

Books written by Phil:

Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat?

Phil’s Book recommendations:     

The Agricultural Dilemma: How Not to Feed the World by Glenn Davis Stone

How to reach Phil:  

Website: PhilHoward.net


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