Consumers are people, too
May 21, 2012, Updated Nov 21, 2012
Words matter. They set the tone; they frame the story.
In articles and discussions of food, food business, and food politics, there’s one word I keep encountering again and again: Consumers.
When it comes to food, I propose it’s time to stop using this word. Let’s instead start using the word “people.”
Why? Because it will humanize the conversation.
Using the word “consumer” to refer to “people who eat,” makes food impersonal. But of course food is intensely personal by its very nature.
“Consumer” implies “optional,” or a specific sub-category of people who buy a certain type of item. “Consumer electronics,” for example, aren’t used or purchased by everyone, because they’re not mandatory (and they’re also different than “business electronics”).
But here’s the thing: Everyone eats.
A consumer is a statistic, lacking the richness of the human experience. A consumer is something that fits into a business model, a tally on a company’s spreadsheet. A number.
Consumers buy products; people eat food. Consumers don’t put dinner on the table for their families, people do. Consumers don’t lead unique, varied, and productive lives, experiencing the richness of being human — people do!
So next time you’re reading an article that uses the “c” word, stop and consider why the writer chose that word. Perhaps their motivations and perspective will become just a little bit clearer.
Corollary: Consider, too, the difference between “producer” and “farmer.”
Photo by David Blackwell.