Responding to my latest critique of Archer Daniels Midland and its business practices, a reader writes in to ask, “If I want to stop supporting ADM when grocery shopping, is there a list somewhere of what products to avoid buying?”
That’s a great question. The short answer is, the best way to stiff ADM is to avoid processed fare and stick to actual food: fresh produce, dried beans, grains, rice, etc. If you’re a meat eater, you’ll have to stick to free-range, grass-finished products. ADM is a huge supplier of livestock feed and distiller’s grains, a byproduct from the ethanol process that will be finding its way more and more the livestock food chain as the price of corn rises.
Now, not everyone has the time or cash to avoid processed fare. For those folks, refusing to support ADM is extremely difficult — perhaps impossible. To carry around the list my reader asks for, you might need an iPod, not a little fold-out sheet like people use for sustainable-seafood choices.
When ADM calls itself the “supermarket to the world,” what it means is that it’s the supermarket to the food industry.
By its own reckoning, the company supplies over 1,000 ingredients to the food makers. Moreover, ADM claims to be the “the world’s #1 processor of vegetable oils, including soy, corn, canola, sunflower, palm, kernel and coconut.”
Click around the above link, and you’ll find several scary lists of stuff that’s worth avoiding, including a veritable roster of xanthan gum products. Twelve varieties of xanthan gum — now that’s freedom of choice!
Tread especially carefully while negotiating the supermarket candy shelf. ADM not only dominates the market for high-fructose corn syrup, but it also claims status as “the world’s premier cocoa and chocolate manufacturer,” capable of supplying industrial candy makers with “cocoa beans [as well as] custom blends of cocoa powders, butters, liquors, and chocolates, and compound coatings.”
The company has been accused of knowingly buying cheap cocoa beans from suppliers that exploit slave labor.
Watch out also for vitamin pills as well as “functional foods” such as “power bars.”
Then there’s those ubiquitous corn and soy derivatives, which pervade processed food like weevils in an open bag of flour. Here are lists of commonly used ingredients derived from corn and soy. It’s a safe bet that ADM is a major supplier of all or most of them.
If all of that weren’t overwhelming enough, you really sort of … can’t drive. ADM controls a quarter of the ethanol market, and the federal government keeps mandating that gasoline mixers use more and more of it.
It takes real effort and commitment to stiff ADM. Anyone who takes a path of least resistance with regard to food and transportation even occasionally ends up fattening ADM’s bottom line.
So, if you can, dust off that bike, and those pots and pans, too. Your own health will flourish even as ADM’s declines.