Future of food industry is misguided, speaker says



 Events throughout history have shaped how Americans view food, according to Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity. Arnot spoke on the issue in a speech titled “Size Matters: why we love to hate “Big Food” and why sustainable intensification may be the key to survival.” The event was sponsored by the Swine Club and had a turnout from both the public and students on Nov. 4, at the Performing Arts Center.

Arnot began his career in journalism and worked in film and video production prior to working in public relations and corporate communications. He grew up in rural Nebraska, and his family always had horses, cattle, chickens and pigs. His first paying job, aside from putting up hay, was working in a restaurant. Arnot said he loves to cook.

Arnot discussed the cultural and social shifts on agricultural production since 1960s and the progress that has come along with it.

“Food, unlike any other issues, it is needed for survival, and food is the cost and effect of conflict,” Arnot said. When people lack enough food to eat, they will begin to see social unrest, and he gave the example of the Arab spring, which happened as a result of insufficient food supply in the region.

There is a need to intensify the production of agricultural product in order to meet the needs of the masses, Arnot said. Food plays a very important role in our personal, family and cultural lives. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Eid al-Fitr are all food related cultural activities that define the cultures. 

“The price of fast food does not account to the meal true cost to the soil, oil, public health,” Arnot said.

If the price of food should rise, people will realize the value of food and pay more respect to it Arnot said. More and more people are continuing to believe that the food industry is heading on a wrong direction based on 2000 consumers surveyed on different issues related to food industry, which shows that “43 percent believe it heading in the wrong direction, 38 percent believed is heading in the right direction and 28 percent are unsure,” Arnot said.

As a growing number of Americans don’t have food to eat, Arnot talked about how to bridge the gap as more Americans indulge their passion for local organic food and delicacies. The role of the Center of Food Integrity is to provide by objective, good information and consistence with people’s value to help them make informed decisions.

Small farmers need social support and use of more technology to improve production, Arnot said. He also mentioned that in comparison with other states, South Dakota has an agricultural advantage due to the availability of land, labor and water.

“Arnot was a great speaker because he brought a global perspective to our Midwest region, and also he explained in detail different things we should look into in our agricultural sector,” SDSU student Dustin Compart said. “He also draws attention to possible solutions to the problems we face in our big food industries today.”