Monday, February 28, 2011

Seeking Alpha: The Tradeoff Of Processed Foods: Less Nutritious, Better Investment

Processed foods get a bad rap. They are often loaded with salt and sugar, low in fiber, and generally deficient in vitamins and nutrients when compared to fresh food. As processed foods are so often energy-dense and affordable, nutritionists have frequently implicated them in the rising rates of obesity and hypertension in the United States.

But there is another, often underappreciated, angle to processed foods – they have largely eliminated the problem of food security in much of the Western world. Though soaring food costs appear to be one of the proximate causes of social unrest in North Africa, and a major concern in countries like Indonesia, India, and sub-Saharan Africa, there has been barely a ripple in the United States or Western Europe.

The Hormel Example
 Hormel (HRL) is a case in a point for the economics of processed food. Corn prices have nearly doubled since late 2009, soybeans and hogs are up more than 50%, and the cost of metal packaging, transportation, and other inputs have all been on the way up. Nevertheless, Hormel's profits have been growing over that same time period and the company raised its 2011 guidance by 5% when it recently reported earnings.

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Anonymous said...

You make a good point about the intrinsic value of processed foods. Like most things in life, they are a trade off; we sacrifice some nutrition and aesthetics in return for a more stable supply and lower prices. We are less likely to have a supply crisis here because at any given time there is a backlog of Spam and canned fruits and such sitting in warehouses and working their way thru the pipeline. Consumers themselves can stock up a reserve supply as much of stuff will last for 2-3 yrs or more. You can't do that with fresh.

Some folks like to rail about processed foods and see them as some conspiracy by "big business" to make us all sick and fat but I think they're one of the best inventions of all time. When times are tough, they sure beat rioting.

Stephen Simpson said...

PI -
Totally agree. It's all about balance and choice.

Much as I like cooking and having fresh ingredients on hand, I have a few cans of meat and so on in the pantry just in case.