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Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Elephant in the Room: What it really means to be an Aggie

ZHEN LU / AGGIE
ZHEN LU / AGGIE

The big business model of agriculture exploits workers and harms consumers

Today, it’s difficult to look at a large corporation and not see corruption. Companies overwork employees, cut corners with quality and subsequently provide subpar service. Look around, and you’ll find a plethora of examples, from Chipotle Mexican Grill to Dole foods. Agribusiness is one industry laden with unsavory consequences from disregard for the safety of workers down to their customers.

Agriculture is dominated by big business. These corporations want you to buy into the family value of farm-grown produce. What they neglect to mention is that small, family farms establish contracts with corporations like Monsanto, which controls 93 percent of the soybean industry. These companies essentially usurp all familial integrity from the smaller farm and exploit them for their profit.

Besides exploiting their contracted employees, corporations also subject transitory workers to abusive conditions. One of the most notable examples lies in the California strawberry fields.  Workers processing the nation’s strawberries toil for up to 12 hours a day, breathing in pesticides and accruing back problems from bending over low vines. Medical insurance, fresh drinking water and clean bathrooms are often a scarcity. Women are targeted by their foremen for sexual favors. The same foremen decide the workers’ occupational fate season in and season out. On top of all that, the hell these workers endure is only worth about $8,500 per season.

Apparently, the consumer is worth a lot less than the worker. While companies pay workers, consumers pay companies, often for substandard products made to save money and time. Most recently, Castle Cheese Inc., which supplies grated cheeses to Target’s brand Market Pantry, was caught selling parmesan cheese without parmesan. It was made with a few other cheeses and, most notably, wood pulp. Since being discovered, this corporation has stopped making its fake cheese product and filed for bankruptcy. Castle Cheese Inc. is not the only company to put cellulose in their cheese products; Walmart’s Great Value, Whole Foods’ brand and Kraft parmesans all tested positive for wood pulp.  

This is capitalist greed at the expense of the worker and the consumer. There is absolutely no excuse for these companies who gross billions of dollars to be cutting corners with quality and safety in the name of a profit margin.
You can reach KATELYN COSTA at kcosta@ucdavis.edu or on Twitter @costaaak.

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