Saturday, May 14, 2005

The nutrition message in beef, pork, and dairy checkoff board advertising

The working paper mentioned in an earlier post reviews research in agricultural economics and marketing, which shows how obesity and healthy weight concerns appear from the perspective of food commodity promotion boards. For example, it turns out that demand for beef and pork is threatened if consumers have good information about fats and cholesterol. But, if consumers just worry about nutrition, without having good specific information, there may be no harm to product demand. If consumers are on a weight-loss diet, especially a fad low-carb high-protein diet that is not consistent with the Dietary Guidelines, demand for beef and pork will be increased.

As a consequence, the checkoff boards have a strong temptation to use advertising campaigns with low-carb and micronutrient-specific weight loss messages contrary to the Dietary Guidelines.

Similarly, the Pork Board promotes low carb diets through a special motto and logo: "Counting carbs? Pork’s Perfect!" (Figure 4). According to the Pork Board’s website, "The ‘Counting Carbs’ initiative is part of ongoing checkoff promotions to highlight pork's role in a healthy diet and to encourage consumers to buy and consume more pork." The Pork Board recently approved $750,000 for checkoff-funded efforts to increase consumer demand, "particularly for people who are interested in low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets." In additional to the "Counting Carbs?" motto, these efforts use the slogans, "Not all proteins are created equal" and the "Power of Protein."

There is a sharp contrast between the Pork Board’s marketing to the nutrition community and its marketing to food services, including restaurants. The board’s special website for nutritionists -- -- includes strong warnings against low carb diets: "As with many fad diets, the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets cause weight loss because they are low in calories. Unfortunately, these fad diets may have negative effects on your body. Whenever you diet, your body breaks down muscle for energy. The muscle that’s broken down releases water for excretion by your body, which is why the scale initially reflects weight loss. But the weight loss is mostly water."

Meanwhile, the Pork Board’s website for food services -- -- recommends low carb marketing: "There’s no denying that the low-carbohydrate/high-protein phenomena has taken the food world by storm. According to some reports, up to million consumers have tried some type of low-carbohydrate diet plan." The website favorably quotes a "leading" chef, Marlin Kaplan, saying, "There’s no denying this diet. If you are a restaurant operator not offering high-protein, low-carb options on your menu, then you are not listening to your customer."

According to USDA’s report to Congress, the Dairy Board’s campaign with the motto, "Ahh, The Power of Cheese," is targeted at "cheese lovers," with an emphasis on "cheese enhancers" and "cheese cravers." The "enhancers" use cheese in their cooking, while the "cravers" eat cheese straight on its own. The USDA report to Congress emphasizes the Dairy Board’s success with cheese promotions through fast food restaurants: "DMI also worked closely with top national restaurant chains, including Pizza Hut ® and Wendy's ®, to drive cheese volume and ensure that cheese was featured prominently in menu items. For example, Wendy's ® introduced two new sandwiches, the Wild Mountain Chicken sandwich and the Wild Mountain Bacon Cheeseburger, nationwide. Both included a slice of natural Colby-Jack cheese and a smoky Southwestern pepper sauce. These new menu items were developed through a partnership between DMI and Wendy's ® that tested consumer acceptance of these sandwiches in select test markets. "

To take the most recent example, last month (April, 2005) the Dairy Board began a collaboration with Pizza Hut to promote a 3-cheese stuffed crust pizza (Figure 5). This pizza features an exceptional amount of cheese. A single slice of the plain cheese version contains 35 percent of the federal government’s recommended daily value for saturated fat and 39 percent of the daily value for salt, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The Dairy Board features this pizza on the front page of its website, with the address

The excerpt in an earlier post asked, how is it the federal government's business to help Pizza Hut advertise 3 cheese stuffed crust pizza?


Anonymous said...
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william said...

sounds like big brother at work again. always controversial, rarely effective