business news in context, analysis with attitude

There was an email exchange on yesterday’s MNB regarding modern diseases – with one person suggesting that bad habits create these maladies and another saying that we only really get these diseases because we live a lot longer than we used to.

To which one MNB user responds:

Not so fast. It is quick and easy to say that but there are other things to consider. How long do you think we would live if it weren't for drugs, trauma care, modern plumbing etc. A study was done a few years ago comparing the age of the Roman Senate to our Senate sitting at the time of the study. The Roman senate had an older average age. Pull out infant mortality, the effects of accidents that current technology could easily treat, the deaths due to infections that were untreatable, modern drugs and you have a different picture.

The hunter/gatherer may have died in a hunting mishap while trying to slay the woolly mammoth; but when using forensic anthropology to compare the health and condition of a 50 year old Paleolithic man to that of a 50 year old American you will find the Paleolithic man to have none of the diseases of civilization. They would be taller, with better bone density and musculature, no evidence of heart disease. On the other hand the ancient Egyptian, a big wheat eater, will be found to be shorter, fatter and afflicted with the diseases of modern civilization.

I maintain that the diseases of modern civilization are not diseases per se but symptoms of eating a diet that we have not evolved to eat (high in sugar and starch and low in protein and quality fats). Maybe in a few million years we would have adapted to deal with it but we can't now.

MNB user Michael Freese sent in the following email:

Obviously I have a differing opinion on print than you but I knew this would ring a bell as you comment on this often:

Excerpts from "9 Things I Learned About Magazines from Blogging," by Rex Hammock:

"If you actually read what people write under those 'print is dead' headlines, you'll find they're talking about a business model and not a publishing format. Also, I've never heard of anyone who writes about the death of print turning down a book offer...

"The magazines we love are...expressions of who we are...The Web is a wonderful thing when you want to drink information from a fire hose. But the magazines people love are like bottles of fine wine: Even if you have to wait a little before opening them, there's something a bit exciting about the anticipation."

I don't really disagree with much of that…I love magazines, and books, and will be happy to plug the print media when Sansolo and I come out with our book.

But that said, you cannot escape the reality of how the younger generation gathers information. Example: We gets “Sports Illustrated” at home, but my son doesn’t read it because by the time it arrives it is old news – he’s already been all over SI’s website, as well as and assorted other sites.

I’m not sure, in this case, that you can separate the business model from the publishing format.

MNB took note yesterday of a Boston Globe piece about butter entrepreneur Dan Patry, who make a brand called Kate’s Homemade Butter that won top honors last year at the World Dairy Expo … and who is under price pressure from much bigger butter manufacturers.

My comment: I guess it is a function of the open marketplace that products judged inferior will use their money and power to try to squeeze a smaller, superior competitor out of business.

That’s too bad…though it is heartening that Patry seems to committed to continued growth and being a robust competitor…and that he’s not going to reduce quality to get there … I, for one, am going to look for Kate’s Homemade Butter in my local store…and I’m going to buy some just because I like the way it was portrayed in the Globe. And I suspect that I won’t be alone.

MNB user Ken Wagar wrote:

I believe that some companies do practice predatory pricing and I believe the practice is a bad one and should be pointed out. However, there is another dynamic here that wasn’t addressed. The USA currently has a significant oversupply of milk, demand is weak and milk, cheese and butter commodity costs have been below government support levels for some time. Butter consumption is down due to the poor economy and its price premium versus alternatives. And in fact Dairy Farmers are under immense financial pressures right now because of that over supply. High supply and weak demand leads to lower prices. Rather than indict Dan’s competitors for predatory pricing maybe we should be praising them for passing lower commodity costs through to the consumer.

I’m not sure I indicted anybody. But your point is a fair one.

MNB user Tom Ford made another point:

Come on, Kevin! You want transparency in food safety, but you'll buy butter made in a guy's garage???

You’d be amazed what I’ve put in my mouth over the past 54 years.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) responded yesterday to criticisms that organic foods are no more nutritious than mainstream foods, which led MNB user Steve Lutz to write:

The flaw with the response from OTA and the esteemed professor is the false choice they offer that organic and conventional must be at opposite ends of the health, environment and quality of life spectrum. Their shorthand is Organic = good, conventional = bad. Take the quote from the OTA that any time a consumer buys organics they are choosing to “protect farmers from harmful chemicals.” Excuse me, but many of the chemicals used in organic production are quite deadly and used more often in greater quantities than synthetic alternatives simply due to lower efficacy.

I’m all for supporting farmers growing organic foods and making them widely available in supermarkets for consumers to purchase as they choose. Marketplace free choice is a great thing. At the same time I remain frustrated that marketing approach for many organic industry promoters is to demonize with false information the highest quality, lowest price food supply in the history of the world.

Maybe it is because I’m not paying attention, but I’ve never believed that organic is good while conventional is bad. I think that organic producers believe and market their products on the premise that organic is better…but not bad.
KC's View: