The Cost of Affluence: A Closer Look at the Food Industry

Lauren Brown, Ramona Houmanfar


There is often much confusion among consumers in the U.S. as to which food products are healthy for humans and which products are not.  One reason why this occurs may be seen in the disconnect among results of various scientific research studies.  A prominent example involves one set of research results that indicate that meat and dairy products are healthy for humans to consume (Biesalski, 2005; Pereira & Vincente, 2013), while results from other research indicate that animal-based foods are detrimental to human development and can lead to health issues (Campbell & Campbell, 2006; Esselstyn, 2001). This paper aims to define and identify some externalities/internalities that exist within the food industry as well as utilize a behavioral systems approach, including an analysis of the relevant meta and macrocontingencies and the interlocked relationship formed between the two. Additionally, the three processes of selection within the metacontingency (leadership practices, aggregate product by consumers, and group rules) are addressed as they relate specifically to the food industry in hopes of offering potential solutions for change initiatives at each level.  Various strategies for changing the current practices surrounding the production and consumption of potentially harmful food products are also addressed, with a focus on the altering of leadership practices and changes in consumer behavior.  By utilizing what we know about organizational practices and how to better those practices through incentives (i.e., tax breaks, cooperatives), we can hope to see healthier options for food available to all U.S. consumers.


consumer behavior, externalities, group-rules, internalities, leadership practices, metacontingencies

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility