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From the mailbag

To the editor:

More and more, I find myself pondering the following questions: What is food? What is food to the average consumer? What motivates our purchasing choices? What drives us to choose one product over another?

The United States Department of Agriculture boasts six food groups in their pyramid: dairy, vegetables, meats, grains, oils, and fruit. Yet, we recently learned about the alleged "seasoned beef" found at a popular fast food chain is only "about 36 percent meat" (CBS News, January 2011).

Simultaneously, we learned about the deceptive marketing practices of several 'food companies'. These companies plaster pictures of fresh fruits on their packaging, yet contain no fruit. Even with the price of these imitation foods exceeding those of real foods, we as consumers, are still willing to make the purchase.

Milk vs. Coke is the perfect example of consumers' willingness and desire to knowingly purchase an unhealthy product. We all know that coke is full of sugar, it can rot teeth, rust nails, cause diabetes, cause obesity, and has zero nutritional value (Alltech, 2011). Whereas milk is full of calcium, full of protein, has excellent nutritional value and is nature's ideal food. Milk is even cheaper than Coke. Milk averages about $2.81 per gallon and Coke retails at about $4.39 per gallon.

Although a farm girl myself, it took Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder and CEO of Alltech, a global leader in health and nutrition, to remind me of this poor purchasing habit. Based on the Coke vs. Milk scenario, price is not the deciding factor when making food purchases. One must assume, that consumers purchase food based on convenience.

The convenience factor is powerful in the United States. Convenience foods are everywhere. Research conducted by Harris and Shiptsova (2007) found that "approximately 90 percent of Americans purchase convenience foods, with younger households purchasing more conve nience foods." Even more startling, is that the more money Americans make, the more money they (we) spend on convenience foods. We are foolishly spending our money on unhealthy convenience foods.

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