When we speak of the “military-industrial complex” we’re usually talking about the companies who build and service America’s war machines and weapons. In Minnesota that means companies like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Alliant Tech (formerly Honeywell). These companies make the list of Minnesota’s top five recipients for Department of Defense money year after year.
Also on that list: General Mills of Golden Valley. No, they aren’t manufacturing tiny bullets in their cereal plants after hours. They signed contracts totaling $930 million between 2005 and 2009 for their yogurt, chilled cookie dough, and assorted frozen food products. And they’re not the only Minnesota food company bringing in defense dollars.
Hormel raked in $179 million in five years for tortillas, “exact weight meat,” and other grocery items. Schwan’s sold $83 million worth of pizza rolls and egg rolls. Land O’Lakes made $79 million in defense dollars for their dairy products.
This is the kind of spending that is more likely to raise the hackles of a nutritionist than an anti-militarist.
Most of the money comes from the Defense Commissary Agency, which operates a worldwide chain of 284 grocery stores for military personnel. All told, 16.5 percent of the defense dollars that flowed to Minnesota in the five-year were commissary dollars.
It wasn’t just the food giants vying for military-grocery-industrial complex money. ConAgra Foods, makers of Chef Boyardee and Slim Jims signed contracts totaling $6 million; Morey’s Seafood sold just over $1 million worth of their pre-packaged fish products; Sara Lee also hit the $1 million mark for shipments of what are generously described in their contracts as “bakery items”; and Old Dutch unloaded $134,000 worth of potato chips and the like.
Some products go directly to specific branches of the military. The Marines paid $275,000 and the Navy more than $1 million for candy from Farley’s and Sathers — the Round Lake-based manufacturers of Now & Later, Fruit Stripe gum and Brach’s.
Your American military, sustained by the best gas station food money can buy.