Fresh Take: Inside The Thanksgiving Industrial Complex

Food & Drink

Ready to go deep inside the Thanksgiving Industrial Complex? My feature out this morning is all about America’s largest private company and how they make so many parts of so many iconic Thanksgiving bites.

That includes key ingredients in gravy, cranberry sauce, packaged dinner rolls, cornbread mix and marshmallows for the sweet potato casserole. Cargill makes the vegetable oils used to roast potatoes and crisp turkey skin, and it even produces Diamond Crystal, the country’s largest salt producer. Cargill’s sugar alternative, Truvia, sweetens pies and the after-dinner coffee. The candles on the table may be made from Cargill’s vegetable wax. Cargill even supplies one in three Thanksgiving turkeys. Read all about Cargill’s domination of the holiday and how the rest of the turkey industry is faring here.

I’m wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful day of reflection and thanks. Fresh Take will be off next week, as I digest and rest from the holiday. It will soon be Black Friday, so check out my gift guide before making any decisions, and look out for two more Thanksgiving features from me ahead of the holiday next week—on the carrot industry and what some billionaires will be serving on their tables.

— Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer

Order my book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, out now from Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.

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Turkey Day Dinner, Brought To You By America’s Biggest Privately Held Company

Cargill started out as a grain warehouse in a frontier boom town in Iowa in 1865, just two years after Abraham Lincoln called for a national day of thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. Cargill has been a holiday powerhouse ever since.

The company has been in the turkey business for six decades, rising to be the third-biggest producer in the U.S. behind Seaboard-owned Butterball and Hormel’s Jennie-O. Roughly 900 million pounds of turkey come from Cargill each year, and the birds are a significant part of Cargill’s North America protein division’s $28 billion in annual sales.

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Even as inflation has led to rising food costs, industry insiders report that “more and more consumers are seeking authentic and unique flavors.” One brand that’s benefiting from the trend is Saffron Road, which is “America’s fastest-growing brand in natural protein-based frozen meals,” according to A.C. Nielsen.

Thanks for reading the 93rd edition of Forbes Fresh Take! Let me know what you think. Subscribe to Forbes Fresh Take here.

Chloe Sorvino leads coverage of food and agriculture as a staff writer on the enterprise team at Forbes. Her book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, published on December 6, 2022, with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. Her nearly nine years of reporting at Forbes has brought her to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-ridden farms in California’s Central Valley, burnt-out national forests logged by a timber billionaire, a century-old slaughterhouse in Omaha and even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in northern France.

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