This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.
Learn more about corporations VOTING to rewrite our laws.
Cargill, Inc. is based in Wayzata, MN and is the second largest private corporation in the United States, after Koch Industries. The companies diversified operations include grain, cotton, sugar, petroleum and financial trading; processed food; futures brokering; health and pharmaceutical products; animal feed and agrochemicals. Industrial products include biofuels, oils and lubricants, starches and salt. Cargill is one of the top U.S. grain producers. Its Excel unit is one of the top U.S. meatpackers. Brand names include Diamond Crystal salt, Gerkens cocoa, Honeysuckle White poultry, Sterling Silver meats and Nutrena dog and cat food.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
Cargill was a corporate funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and a "Director" level funder and new member of ALEC in 1998. On April 17, 2012, a representative from the Cargill corporate affairs office contacted SourceWatch to say that the company is not a member of ALEC and it has no internal records of ever having even been a member of ALEC.. See ALEC Corporations for more.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Overview & history
Cargill is the largest supplier of grains in the world. It is the world's second largest supplier of animal feed and the second largest supplier for food and industrial starches. The company is also the second largest meat packer in the U.S., after Tyson Foods. Excel was bought by Cargill in 1979 and has divisions in Australia and Canada. The company also owns Caprock, a large beef feed lot operation. Cargill is the second largest turkey processor in the U.S. It also owns Sunny Fresh egg products and Empack Foods, a meat processing company. Cargill owns Wisepack Transport, a refrigerated trucking company which transports Empack Foods and Wisconsin products across the U.S. 
Cargill has been described as the "most dominating and obsessively private". Cargill is twice the size of its closest rival, Archer Daniels Midland. In sales Cargill, is the 19th-largest company in America. The company runs over a thousand production sites and in 59 countries. Cargill or farmers working for the company, raise 17% of the world's turkeys. In the U.S., it controls 22% of beef production and 25% of grain and oilseed exports. Its vast financial trading branch is a leading commodity broker and a heavyweight in sovereign debt. Cargill reportedly controlled one quarter of Russia's bond market.
Is this behemoth too big or its own good or the good of the country? Suspicions run deep as Cargill goes to such lengths to keep a low profile. Some foreign facilities do not even bear the company's name and its annual report contains no financial tables. Even former employees are reticent about their previous employer. The company has been incomparably adept at growing without having to go public and having to make the compromises that entails. According to lawyer C. Daniel Clemente, a Cargill family trustee:
- "Cargill should be the Harvard Business School model for how to stay private."
Cargill was founded in 1865 by William and Samuel Cargill, sons of a Scottish sea captain. It started as a lone grain storage flat house in a frontier town in Iowa. The company grew like bamboo, snaking its roots below ground and shooting up in unexpected places. From the grain trade, Cargill diversified into farming, milling, flavoring, energy trading and a global mixture of seemingly unrelated ventures such as steel, finances and ownership of a Las Vegas casino. The businesses operated autonomously, unaware or unconcerned with each other.  William's son-in-law, John MacMillan took control of the company in 1909. The Cargill family owns 88% of company and the remainder is employee owned. In 2008, the company's net profits were almost 4 billion dollars, up 69% from previous year. The company also owns the majority of the publicly traded Mosaic Company, which makes fertilizer. 
Lawsuit: Minnesota E.-coli outbreak traced to Cargill
In December of 2009, a Minnesota woman sued Cargill for $100 million after becoming severely ill from an E. coli infection. Stephanie Smith, 22, became ill in September of 2007 after eating a tainted hamburger traced to Cargill. Her infection led to hemolytic uremic syndrome, causing kidney failure. She suffered from seizures and spent three months in a medically induced coma. The former children's dance instructor spent two years in rehabilitation and remains in a wheelchair. She was featured in a New York Times story that traced hamburger to four plants in two countries, revealing how the modern meat packing industry operates. The story generated worldwide attention and spurred Congress to consider tougher food safety laws. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Minneapolis and names the Wichita based Cargill Meat Solutions. According to Bill Marler, her Seattle-based food-illness attorney:
- "What it comes down to is Cargill really believes it's not their fault. They believe that it's one of their supplier's faults, but there's no evidence to suggest which one of their suppliers is at fault."
Ms. Smith's medical bills have already totaled over two million dollars. It is estimated that they will add up to tens of millions. Her attorney predicted she would need multiple kidney transplants and likely remain in a wheelchair. Cargill has paid for some of her medical bills. According to her attorney, Ms. Smith's case is exceptional due to the severity of her injuries:
- "She is far and away the most severely injured person who's ever survived this that I've ever seen.", 
Ms. Smith developed a rare, but potentially fatal complication from her E. coli infection which shut down her kidneys and ultimately left her paralyzed. Ten other Minnesotans became ill after eating the hamburger. Three of the ten developed the same complications, suggesting a particularly nasty strain. Were it not for Minnesota's Department of Health, more people would have become ill. State health officials quickly linked the outbreak to the hamburger and issued a recall for approximately 850,000 pounds of beef.
According to a company statement responding to the New York Times story, Cargill "issued a voluntary recall in October" after they "learned there might be a problem". However, assuming the health department's well publicized recall was already underway, Cargills' recall could hardly be considered "voluntary". They go on to assure that they "conduct nearly 400,000 tests for pathogens each year using a testing methodology that exceeds U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards." However, no amount of testing can ensure that meat or dairy is pathogen free. Missing a contaminated particle the size of a pinhead, may potentially result in an infection. According to Dr. Kirk Smith, an epidemiologist from Minnesota's Department of Health, "It's just not physically possible to test your way out of the problem."
It is common meat industry practice to use a number of suppliers, both in and outside of the U.S. This practice has led to problems in other industries, such as pet foods and pharmaceuticals. This increases an already high risk of contamination. However, according to Cargill:
- "We are committed to continuous improvement in the area of food safety."
Food borne illnesses & high risk meat products
Due to factory farm and slaughterhouse methods; there are risks of food borne illness in virtually all U.S. meats, dairy products and eggs. There are currently no requirements for testing for food borne illnesses due to lobbying by the meat and dairy industries. Cows are raised in huge feed lots the size of cities and become smeared with fecal matter and other filth. Slaughterhouse workers are under pressure to work at an ever increasing pace, sometimes being forced to kill and gut as many as 330 animals an hour. 
E. Coli bacteria can be found in up to 50% of U.S. cattle carcasses.  It has been estimated that 70% of of store brought chickens contain harmful bacteria.  and 90% of turkeys.  Campylobacter is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the U.S. with the primary source being contaminated chicken flesh. Chicken warehouses may contain 50,000 birds. Antibiotics also make them vulnerable to disease as strains of bacteria become resistant. Approximately 5,000 people a day contract Campylobacter food poisoning every day in the U.S. Chickens in the U.S. are frequently infected with salmonella, unlike European countries where livestock are treated more humanely and given more space, resulting in better health and fewer pathogens. According to Mitchell Cohen, M.D. of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), there are outbreaks of Salmonella related to almost every animal product, including poultry, beef, pork, eggs and dairy products. Instead of addressing and correcting factory farm conditions which encourage disease, the U.S. meat industry uses irradiation or nuclear radiation to kill pathogens.  See also meat & dairy industry, sections 4 & 5.
"Animal Nutrition Young Scientist Award"
Lance Baumgard, PhD received the 2007 Cargill "Animal Nutrition Young Scientist Award". Dr. Baumgard "writes and speaks on the weak connection between dietary fat and human disease." 
Sierra Club's "Ten Least Wanted" list
In 2002, Cargill made the Sierra Club's "Ten Least Wanted" list.
Just weeks after the second-largest beef recall in history, the Sierra Club released a report on hundreds of criminal and civil violations of America's largest corporate factory farms. The Rap sheet documented convictions for animal cruelty, bribery, records destruction, fraud, worker endangerment and pollution.
- "Despite repeated violations of environmental and public health laws, many of the companies highlighted in the Rap Sheets continue to receive millions of dollars every year from the School Lunch Program and other federal food assistance programs." 
Public relations & lobbying
The Cargill parent company and its subsidiries; Mosaic Company, Cargill Safelane and Cargill Salt, spent a total of $1,318,066 on lobbying for 2010. Firms used were Cornerstone Government Affairs, Russell & Barron, Charles V. Cunningham, Federal Advocates, Judith Lemons, Alcalde & Fay, Blank Rome LLP, Dawson & Associates and SC Partners. 
Center for Consumer Freedom
Cargill uses deep pockets to finance front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), while staying out of the lime light and protecting their corporate image. CCF runs attack campaigns against health, food safety, animal rights and animal welfare advocates. 
Cargill, Pilgrim's Pride, Tyson Foods and two other "fresh meat" companies with major Arkansas operations donate at least $100,000 a year to CCF, according to documents obtained by PR Watch in 2003. Cargill officials confirmed donations up to $100,000. See also CCF selected campaigns.
Spreading the wealth
No less than eight members of the Cargill-MacMillan family are represented on Forbes The 400 Richest Americans 2009, including company owners James R. Cargill, Mary Janet Morse Cargill, Marianne Cargill Liebmann and Austen S. Cargill.
- Cargill MacMillan, Jr. - age 82 - net worth - 4.3 billion.
- Whitney MacMillan - age 80 - net worth 4.3 billion
- Marion MacMillan Pictet - age 76 - net worth - 4.3 billion
- Pauline MacMillan Keinath - age - 75 - net worth - 4.3 billion
- James R. Cargill, II - age 60, net worth 1.6 billion
- Mary Janet Morse Cargill - age 85 - net worth - $1.6 billion
- Marianne Cargill Liebmann - age 56 - net worth - $1.6 billion
- Austen S. Cargill, II - age 58 - net worth 1.3 billion 
15407 McGinty Rd. West
Wayzata, MN 55391
Web address: http://www.cargill.com
Articles & sources
- American Meat Institute
- Cargill Eddyville Power Plant
- Center for Consumer Freedom
- CCF funding
- CCF selected campaigns
- Devry Boughner
- Meat & Dairy industry
- Meat Promotion Coalition
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Processed food industry
- U.S. Government's War on Animals
- War on Animals
- Cargill Profile, Hoovers, accessed February 2010
- Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, "Corporations and Trades Associations that Fund ALEC," Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States: The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, online report, 2003
- American Legislative Exchange Council, 1998 ALEC Annual Meeting, organizational brochure, 1998, archived in the Tobacco Library, accessed 2012
- Cargill, communication with CMD, April 17, 2012
- Steve Hannaford Oligopoly Brief: Cargill, Oligopoly Watch, updated September 2007
- Neil Weinberg, Brandon Copple Largest Private Companies: Going Against The Grain, Forbes, November 25, 2002
- James R. Cargill II: The Forbes 400 Richest Americans 2009, Forbes, September 30, 2009
- Minn. woman sues Cargill for tainted hamburger, Associated Press, December 2009
- Micheal Moss E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection, New York Times, October 3, 2009
- More reason to fix food safety system: Cold Spring woman's illness points to need for safety measures., Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, October 7, 2009
- Lynn Truong The Cost of Meat—The Public Health Argument, Wisebread, May 2007
- 991147 Deadly E. Coli Bug May Affect Half of Cattle, Meat Industry Internet News, November 1999
- Consumer Reports Finds 71 Percent of Store-Bought Chicken Contains Harmful Bacteria, Consumer Reports, February 1998
- Hazardous Is Your Turkey, Center for Science in the Public Interest, November 1998
- Lynn Truong The Cost of Meat—The Public Health Argument, Wisebread, May 2007
- NAIA Officers & Board Members, National Animal Interest Alliance, accessed September 2009
- Report and Online Database Document Animal Cruelty, Pollution Spills, Indiana Sierra, Fall 2002
- Pioneers and Rangers, Texans for Public Justice, accessed August 2007.
- 2008 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed February 2010
- Business & Lobbying", The Hill, December 8, 2004.
- Cargill 2010 lobbying expenses, Open Secrets, accessed January 2011
- Adam Voiland Ten Things the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know, U.S. News and World Report, pg. 2, October 17, 2008
- Special Report: The 400 Richest Americans 2009, Forbes, September 30, 2009
- Cargill Key Executives, Hoovers, accessed February 2010
- John Lippert, "Cargill Defines Food Chain While Assailing Government Hoarding," Bloomberg, July 26, 2011.
- Bill Marler Will Cargill, a Multi-Billion Dollar Privately Held Company, Face Punitive Damages in the Case of the Paralyzed Dancer? You Decide, Marler Blog, February 19, 2010
- Bill Marler E. coli Lawsuit to be filed against food giant Cargill on behalf of Stephanie Smith, Marler Blog, December 3, 2009
- Richard Piersol Beef industry under fire after N.Y. Times article, Lincoln Journal-Star, October 17, 2009
- David E. Gumpert & William Pentland, USDA Bets the Farm on Animal ID Program, The Nation, December 2007