Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Cheapest to Be Had

H.J. Heinz Co. is recalling approximately 40,000 cases of Boston Market brand lasagna with meat sauce after discovering that the beef was part of a major recall.

The lasagna contains ground beef that was among the 143 million pounds recalled nationally last month by the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino, Calif.

This is a symptom. If you are one of those people who buy products like this and put it on the table for your family and friends then this should really make you stop and think about it before doing it next time. H.J. Heinz is a big company and not some fly by night mom and pop operation trying to make it on a shoe string. This recall should tell you that regardless of the supplier, whether it be Heinz, General Foods, Kraft or whoever, they do not have your best interest at heart...all they care about is profit and that being driven by how cheaply they can manufacture a product on any given day. Let me explain something from personal experience.

My previous job was in the industrial process control business. We took computers and sensors and software and controlled manufacturing processes. We controlled virtually every paper machine, the majority or aluminum foil manufacturing and a host of other things. One of the things we did was control how hot dogs and some blended meat products were made like bologna and salami, etc. You'd figure that the recipe was the recipe and you took a certain amount of this and that and mixed it all up and voila another 3 tons of pickle loaf was created. Guess again sports fans. Our software's mission was to make the bologna as cheaply as possible and still produce 'bologna'. The driving factor was the cost of the raw material and the software created each ton of tube steak with the cheapest blend of ingredients it could get away with by controlling the ratios of beef and beef parts, pork and pork parts and fillers to get an end product the consumer would accept. If you don't think virtually every product mass produced and stuck in little microwavable trays and flash frozen is not made under similar conditions you are naive to say the least.

Burn this on your brain and keep it in mind every time you walk the aisles of your local grocery. Before you reach for that frozen pizza or lasagna or that bag of chicken nuggets just as in the case of the Boston Market lasagna above the manufacturer did their best to produce it as cheaply as possible. The reason that burger from Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino, Calif.
wound up in the "lasagna with meat sauce" from Boston Market was that it was the cheapest ass meat to be had not because it was the best burger available. And if you are wondering why those giant tubes of hamburger you see in the market are such a good price....think about it.

Update: I didn't go into any detail on the methodology used to optimize the cost/profit in the food industry. If you are geeky and want to know more about linear programming here is a little info.

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