Following correspondence from my favorite Food Sleuth & Dietitian, Melinda Hemmelgarn, the Disney food story began unfolding. Melinda works on media literacy issues, so I knew she was the perfect person to go to to get the 'dig.'
From a PR Associate at Disney:
Disney Eggs were introduced in March 2009 in 2 test markets initially (Florida and New York), and will launch in Colorado in April. Disney Food, a division of Disney Consumer Products, wanted to offer a "better for you" egg that was fun for families with children. Having the quality endorsement of Eggland's Best, with their all natural, all-vegetarian patented hen feed seemed like a great fit. The eggs are high quality-stamped with Disney characters and the collections of characters will rotate every month, to refresh the product.
The Disney Eggs product line consists of Large, Extra Large, 18-pack Large, Disney Cage Free and Disney Organic eggs. All the different versions are currently being offered and were presented to retailers in the 2 markets where the product was launched (Florida and New York). The retailers decide which and how many options they want to offer to their customer base, and currently retailers are only selling the #1 variety, which is Large, and no additional varieties at this time.
Eggland's Best patented hen feed contains healthy grains, canola oil, and an all-natural supplement of rice bran, alfalfa, sea kelp and Vitamin E. The Eggland’s Best hen feed contains no animal fat, no animal by-products, and no recycled or processed food. Eggland’s Best never uses hormones, steroids, or antibiotics of any kind. Eggland’s Best eggs contain ten times more Vitamin E than ordinary eggs, 100 mg of Omega 3, shown to be beneficial to cardiac health, 25% less Saturated Fat, and 200 mcg of Lutein, shown to contribute to eye health.
Kids will love the eggs because of the Disney characters, but parents will appreciate their nutritional value as well so it appeals to the entire family. In 2006, The Walt Disney Company introduced nutritious food guidelines limiting the use of the Disney name and its characters to only those kid-focused products that meet specific limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar. Today, Disney’s extensive food portfolio offers nutritious options in key meal categories including fresh produce, bread, pasta, dairy and baked goods.
In response to the Eggs: I am unsure as to the point of feeding chickens vegetarian feed. Chickens are omnivores and eat insects, worms and vegetation. I guess if we are feeding cows corn we can feed chickens vegetarian feed. I'm just not sure of the marketing tactic. Who cares whether a chicken was a vegetarian or not, beside the ability of the industry to yield to specific product, as is the case with Eggland's Best. My next point is the marketing of "farm fresh." I hope consumers realize by now that this means nothing, much like "natural." However, "Naturally Raised," is a value adding marketing claim regulated by the Agriculture Marketing Service that
"applies to livestock used for meat and meat products that were raised entirely without growth promotants, antibiotics, and animal (mammalian, avian, and aquatic) by-products derived from the slaughter/harvest processes including meat and fat, animal waste materials (e.g., manure and litter), or aquatic byproducts (e.g., fishmeal and fish oil)."One of the producers of Egglands Best eggs is Morning Fresh Farms which, by looks of their operations, is by no means a small family farm (although family owned). These types of tactics further the agrarian myth that people's food is coming from an idealistic farm with a red barn and roaming cattle. The egg industry is one that is very much industrialized no matter what certifications, claims and programs they put on the carton. Egglands Best does offer Organic and Cage Free Eggs, but I can't even find a picture of a chicken on their website. It reminds me of when I asked a student where hamburgers come from and he replied: "the grocery store." Do we want kids thinking eggs come from Mickey Mouse?
In response to Disney Food: Disney Consumer Products uses their classic Disney characters to market a full line of processed foods, including frozen and dried pastas, baked goods, snacks, novelties, dairy, confectionery, beverages and breakfast foods.
Disney Food, Health & Beauty takes an active role in the development and marketing of a diverse array of quality, innovative products that touch consumers' lives each day. Through new food licensing programs, product reformulations and relationships with leading manufacturers and retailers around the world, the Disney food group offers nutritious alternatives parents approve of and kids love.Some of my favorites are Mickey Pizza's, Disney Campbell's Spaghetti O's, Disney's General Mills Cereals, and Disney Tummy Ticklers & Bellywashers (100% juice drinks).
While at first glance, it may seem that Disney is promoting healthier foods then the typical commercially processed and advertised foods, I side with Marion Nestle on the point that kids don't need special 'kid-friendly' foods to eat. Should we be inundating kids with more advertising? Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood would say no. I would argue that this contributes to more disconnect between people and food culture.