Food and agribusiness giant Cargill's $120 billion annual revenues makes it bigger than the economies of over two-thirds of the world's countries, reveals a fascinating article published earlier this month by The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. According to the article, Cargill, which operates in 67 countries and employs 160,000 people, has sales that surpass the combined value of Disney, Kraft, and Pepsico—and it is nearly twice as large as ADM (Archer Daniels Midland), its nearest competitor in the sector.
Cargill is one of the top four producers of flour, salt, turkeys, beef, pork, and animal feed in the US. It supplies McDonald's with eggs and Coca-Cola with corn syrup. As one of the world's top five fertilizer companies (which as a group control over 75% of global phosphate and potash production), Cargill's move to cut phosphate production in its mines was seen by some as a way to manipulate the market: Prices tripled over the past year, quadrupling the profits of Cargill's phosphate mineholdings. Not surprisingly, four lawsuits accusing Cargill of price fixing are currently on the go.
The "Cargill effect" underlines the necessity of the packing ban that Obama supposedly supports. Author Chris Serres makes the point: "Millions of Americans eat steaks from cows fattened on Cargill grain, raised in Cargill feedlots, and slaughtered in Cargill packing houses." It is totally insane that one company could have so much control over the food chain.
Because Cargill is a private company, nobody outside really knows how much money the organization makes. Cargill even refused to identify the six family members that sit on the company's board, "citing their privacy." In fact, none of the more than 30 family members of the 100 descendents of the founding families that receive Cargill dividends agreed to an interview.
I'm sorry, but this is creepy. Look for Marie-Monique Robin's book The World According to Monsanto, coming out in March, for an expose on the one company that just might actually be even creepier.
Story by Nathalie Jordi. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in January 2009.