Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest food consumption day of the year, behind only Thanksgiving. So says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to numerous media outlets clamoring for a new angle from which to report on what is not only the biggest football game of the year, but something that has become a major cultural event.
The National Chicken Council got plenty of pickup on its news release and infographic centered on the fact that Americans will eat more than a billion wings — enough for every man, woman and child in the United States to have four each. The National Pork Board says 10 million pounds of ribs are sold the week leading up to the Super Bowl, behind only Independence Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s said that Super Bowl pizza sales trail only Halloween, the day before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Walmart says the chips it sells this week would equal the weight of 440 18-wheelers, according to an article at Forbes.com.
Food is very personal to the public. It’s needed for basic sustenance, of course, but it’s celebrated at all types of gatherings and allows us to share good times. There’s no doubting the importance of food to a successful football game watch party, but a variety of issues have resulted in food being viewed differently today than it was 50 years ago for the first Super Bowl. Society’s distrust of progress and scientific discovery works against efforts to ensure a safe, affordable and sustainable food supply.
People shouldn’t have to worry about not having enough to eat nor should they have to question the safety of their food. Yet, less than half of the U.S. population gives the food system high marks. In CFI’s latest consumer trust research, 40 percent of survey respondents said the food system is headed in the right direction. It’s a slight decrease from a year ago but up significantly from 30 percent in 2012 when the question was first included in CFI’s annual study. Those who believe the food system is on the wrong track has dropped by 11 percent the last two years.
The survey results are evidence that progress is being made, but today’s food system is still widely perceived as highly industrialized and likely to place profit ahead of public interest. Those involved in producing the food that will highlight Super Bowl parties across the country this weekend must commit to communicating the ethical foundation of their work. Food producers can’t assume that the public knows they care about issues such as health, food safety, animal well-being, and the environment. They must be willing to engage in a dialogue with consumers and embrace and answer their questions in an honest, open manner.