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Minnesota’s military-grocery-industrial complex

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.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/16/2010 - 06:44 am.

    Sounds exactly like the typical diet for your average 18 to 22 year old. All that’s missing is the Red Bull and or Mountain Dew. I would suspect that the military does surveys among their enlisted and these products are the top requested items.

  2. Submitted by Michele Olson on 10/16/2010 - 02:17 pm.

    Actually, the single young service people aren’t as likely to use the grocery stores as are military families. Think of college students and how less likely they are to trek to a grocery than to the nearest convenience store. Also, there’s usually some fast food to be had on base, or nearby. (In their defense, these people are on a stricter health regimen than most.)

    In peace or war, people have to eat. It’s easy to forget that there are entire families living their every day lives while their service family member serves.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/17/2010 - 11:54 am.

    I don’t know, since the old maxim has always been an army runs on it’s stomach I always figured food was a big Pentagon item. I’d be more interested in what to any extent private contractors are playing in serving food and how that has changed over time, and how much more or less it’s currently costing the military to feed the troops. The fact that the Pentagon is buying a lot of food from big corporations is kind of a non-story, who else are they gonna buy it from?

    The troops diet is their business, I assume the troops are buying the food the Pentagon is purchasing. These young men and women are fighting and dying on our behalf, I’m not gonna complain about what kind of chicken nuggets they’re eating.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Severns Guntzel on 10/21/2010 - 09:47 am.

    Paul and Danie, these are great questions. The Cargill question has local implications–I’m looking into it!

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