Viewing the movie Food, Inc. some time ago has changed my consciousness of food marketing ever since. For instance, I now pay much closer attention to what is suggested by packaging and commercials, rather than just what’s explicitly stated. The film begins with a sequence of images found in grocery markets –pictures and drawings of beautiful farmland, grinning field workers and healthy livestock. The documentary then continues on to show the divergence between the promises and the fact. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and marketers certainly take that seriously. They have to be honest when it comes to what’s written down or stated, but there are no laws to govern honesty in implicit promises made through images.

Consider dog food, for example. What are you really buying when you purchase it? You might think that you’re buying the happy, healthy dog shown in bold color, big in the center of the label. This is the simplest promise made by these brands, like Eukanuba dog food for example. Actually, I rather respect brands like Eukanuba that keep their package clean, simple and straightforward. Other products, like this one, present the shopper with scenes of pristine natural settings with wide open vistas. The suggestion being that by feeding your dog this kind of food, you’re giving him a taste of the natural world that he probably doesn’t get in your cramped city apartment. Still other companies, like Merrick dog food, use idealized pictures of the items supposedly included in the formula. This would seem like a sensible option, except that if you’ve read anything about the typical ingredients generally contained in commercial dog foods, they don’t resemble resemble the succulent Thanksgiving dinner spreads you see on the cans.

Does this mean that I’ve sworn off all commercial food products? Surely not. But I do read up on the products I buy rather than trusting to the promises on the labels.