business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we took note of a Bloomberg story over misleading advertising that Hormel, the accused company, managed to win … though it may have been on a legal technicality that makes it a hollow victory.

Essentially, the lawsuit challenged Hormel’s use of the word “natural” to describe a product that comes from pigs sometimes given antibiotics. Hormel’s successful defense was that government regulations allowed it to do so.

My comment:

Speaking as a civilian/consumer - I am neither a lawyer nor a food company executive - I’d like to suggest that while Hormel may be disingenuous in its approach, the core problem is with regulations that in some cases are a joke. I cannot imagine what the regulators were thinking when they posited that meat from animals given antibiotics could be labeled as ‘natural.’ I’m pretty sure that’s not what consumers are thinking when they see that word, and maybe it is time that regulations reflect reality, not what lobbyist gave the most money to some political party. (Forgive my cynicism.)

This is especially true at a time when, as Bloomberg writes, “American shoppers are reaching for healthier, more environmentally and animal-friendly meat products, with 39 percent saying ‘all-natural’ is the most important claim when purchasing red meat, according to a recent survey by Mintel.”

If USDA’s definitions don’t match consumer expectations, then we have a problem - and the problem is with the USDA, not shoppers.

By the way … it’d be nice if Hormel went beyond what the government expects and actually live up to what consumers expect. They should be transparent, not tricky.

MNB reader Jim Huey responded:

If most retailers (especially the larger ones) would follow your recommendations about transparency we would have a lot less regulations and the country would be a much better place.

Although I am not a fan of government regulations, I also do not feel sorry for the companies affected as they often bring it upon themselves. Sadly the larger corporations, (rather than leading), support government regulations because they believe it gives them an advantage over smaller rivals.

On another subject, MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

Ties to nothing you’ve written about recently, but...

Big grocery war in our small city. New super-size HEB, Kroger Country Market, revamped Brookshire Brothers.

And, Aldi came to town. 

My wife came home from Aldi’s the other day with two potted hyacinths, one to be used for a hostess gift.

“Where’d you get those?” I asked.

“Aldi’s,” she said.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeh. You know, they are getting to be my favorite store. They always surprise me. I never know what they might have.”

My thought? Not a bad thing to have folks say about you.


And, from MNB reader Patrinka Crammond:

Been out of the country and was catching up on my reading when I chanced on your article. Got a good laugh out of it. Most millennials don't have the work ethic that Baby Boomers have and it is more important for them to have a 'work/life balance'. You don't put in the work, you don't make the money. The decline for the millennials is of their own making.

I profoundly disagree with this. I’ve met Baby Boomers who are hard workers, and Baby Boomers who are entitled, lazy slugs. Same goes for people of every generation … and I will tell you that many of the young people I meet at Portland State University each summer are as hard-working and focused as one could imagine.
KC's View: