A feeling of dread set in as soon as I saw the words “corn syrup” emblazoned on a massive wooden barrel as one of Bud Light’s numerous Super Bowl commercials flashed on my TV screen.
“I wonder where this is going,” I thought to myself.
I’ve seen corn syrup wrongly dragged through the mud before, but never on this big of a stage. For many football fans, the Super Bowl commercials provide as much reason to watch as the game itself. That was the case for me this year after the six-time champion New England Patriots and record-setting quarterback Tom Brady ousted my team, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the conference title game two weeks earlier.
The commercial continued with the Bud Light crew wondering how this oversized barrel of corn syrup wound up on their doorstep – surely it must belong to one of their competitors – because Bud Light doesn’t use corn syrup to brew its beer while Miller Lite and Coors Light do. The commercial never explicitly said anything bad about corn syrup -- but it sure as heck implied it.
I knew the slight wouldn’t go unnoticed among my many agriculture friends on Twitter. And it didn’t. There were tweets admonishing Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light’s parent company, for not supporting corn growers. Soon after came videos of corn farmers pouring full cans of Bud Light down the drain. Several said they would never drink another ounce of Bud Light, which is far and away the most popular beer in the United States according to statistics from Beer Marketer’s Insights.
MillerCoors, which makes the beers targeted in the commercial, was quick to respond with a tweet bashing Anheuser-Busch for using high-fructose corn syrup in some of its other products.
My head was starting to hurt, and I hadn’t taken a single sip of alcohol.
I understood the calls for a Bud Light boycott, but chances are anyone who stopped buying the brew would simply turn to another of Anheuser-Busch’s many other brands, which include Michelob and Busch Light – the latter of which is famously loved by college football fans in Iowa as well as many farmers I know. So, boycotting a single brand wouldn’t necessarily hurt the company in the pocketbook. And, really, neither would pouring out beverages you’ve already purchased.
What’s really needed in this situation is education. It’s not such a big deal that Bud Light doesn’t use corn syrup in its fermentation process. What I learned from a night of scrolling on Twitter is that the company simply uses rice instead – another farm product grown in another part of the country.
What does matter is the company’s portrayal of other products that do use corn syrup, including some of its own beers, as somehow being inferior. They are not. Medical experts ranging from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to the American Medical Association say there’s no evidence to say that high-fructose corn syrup is any less healthy than other types of sweeteners and is not to blame for the nation’s obesity epidemic. An article on the Mayo Clinic website says, “If you're concerned about your health, the smart play is to cut back on added sugar, regardless of the type.”
As some of my ag Twitter friends rightly pointed out: if you’re drinking a product containing alcohol, corn syrup used to aid fermentation during the brewing process is the least of your health worries.
By Tom Block. Tom is Iowa Farm Bureau's Spokesman News Coordinator.