The Cheesy Nanny State

The New York Times reports that “While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales”.

Domino’s Pizza was hurting early last year. Domestic sales had fallen, and a survey of big pizza chain customers left the company tied for the worst tasting pies.

Then help arrived from an organization called Dairy Management. It teamed up with Domino’s to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese, and proceeded to devise and pay for a $12 million marketing campaign.

Consumers devoured the cheesier pizza, and sales soared by double digits. “This partnership is clearly working,” Brandon Solano, the Domino’s vice president for brand innovation, said in a statement to The New York Times.

But as healthy as this pizza has been for Domino’s, one slice contains as much as two-thirds of a day’s maximum recommended amount of saturated fat, which has been linked to heart disease and is high in calories.

And Dairy Management, which has made cheese its cause, is not a private business consultant. It is a marketing creation of the United States Department of Agriculture — the same agency at the center of a federal anti-obesity drive that discourages over-consumption of some of the very foods Dairy Management is vigorously promoting.

Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.

This story reminds me of my friends who ran a dairy farm in the 1980s. They got heavily subsidized by the Massachusetts Division of Food and Agriculture  to modernize their long unused dairy barn, buy some cows and get into the milk business in a state funded effort to promote local agriculture. Two or three years later, when the the US Department of Agriculture was trying to prop up wholesale milk prices, they were paid a huge pile of cash by the feds to slaughter their cows and promise not to sell milk for some bureaucratically determined period of time. So they went back full-time to the construction business just as the housing boom was starting to pick up and bought themselves a nice large sailboat with all the government largess.

Perhaps it just shouldn’t be the governments job to either market certain products, tell us what to eat, or micromanage whole industries. Why is a federally funded and mandated organization paying for Dominic Pizza’s marketing program? And why do the do-gooders in the federal government feel empowered to tell us what to eat?

Can we really afford to spend a fortune for one part of the government encourages certain activities, while other government bureaucrats are paid to discourage those exact same things? Wouldn’t it perhaps make more sense to stop squandering tax dollars on the nanny state and just let the market sort things out and treat citizens as if they had some responsibility for their own lives?

Once again, this story points out  the need for congress to clarify and restrain the role of government in our society. Though cutting government programs will be politically difficult, there sure are a few programs that seem ripe for not only cutting, but permanent elimination.

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1 Comment

Filed under Economic Policy, Politics

One response to “The Cheesy Nanny State

  1. bill z

    agree – it doesn’t make sense for the government to be on both sides of the issue – that is wasteful.

    However, regarding the nanny state, there are a whole laundry list of things that the government does for us that the market likely wouldn’t. From pollution/clean air rules (can you say “fracking”) to health inspections of the kitchen in your local restaurant (“I didn’t get sick last time we were there, I think I’ll go back”), to health/calorie info on packaged and now restaurant food. My problem is more with the poor implementation and waste associated with with all of this. I will grant you, there are a whole lot of rules that don’t make sense, but letting the market decide everything probably won’t work either.

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