For Beginners, Plant Proteins  

Follow Up: The Truth About Chicken + Cholesterol

I was asked an interesting follow-up question to my post on chicken and cholesterol: “If chicken were really as bad for your heart as red meat, why do we always hear that chicken is ‘healthy’? Food companies wouldn’t be telling us that if it there weren’t some truth to it, right?”

In the book I am currently reading, “Appetite for Profit,” author Michele Simon examines why we cannot expect food companies to be the guardians of public health. Food companies are corporations. (In fact, they are some of the world’s largest corporations.) The most important guiding principle of all corporations is to maximize profits for shareholders. Individual corporate actors are legally and financially obliged to be motivated first and foremost by profit. “In fact, managers who willfully allow the bottom line to suffer to protect the public good can be sued by company shareholders for breach of their legal obligations.”

You may be thinking, “well, of course corporations care most about their bottom line, but can they really get away with lying??”

Not only can they get away with it, they are protected by law. The Supreme Court has granted corporations certain “personhood” rights, such as limited free speech, which allows companies to advertise largely unhampered by government regulations.

However, unlike actual people, corporations don’t have any moral or ethical constraints. As legal analysts Frank H. Easterbrook and Daniel R. Fishel note, “Corporations can no more be said to have moral obligations than does a building, an organizational chart, or a contract.” They aren’t guided by a respect for humanity or faith or a reverence for truth and justice. Rather, a corporation’s sense of “doing the right thing” is based upon continuing to make profits.

Food companies have no obligation to give us the straight facts in their advertising campaigns, and they won’t unless it’s in their financial interest to do so. Our best interest–good health!–isn’t their main motivation. And just because something has been advertised for years doesn’t make it any more true.

Asking questions and examining some of our assumptions about food is in the best interest for ourselves and the ones we love.
Thanks for reading.

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