Abstract: Nature’s Endorsement of Breakfast Cereal or: the Value of the Natural World at the turn of the Twentieth Century

Michael S. Kideckel


In the early twentieth century, the leading manufacturers of breakfast cereal suggested a new interpretation of nature. Rather than being composed of divinely shaped landscapes, this nature was both personified and rooted in the body; its instructions for harmonious living allowed the right manufacturers to produce it in urban factories. Wielding this concept of nature, which I call “breakfast cereal environmentalism,” manufacturers suggested that their methods of production created “natural food.” They argued, by extension, that returning to nature required standardized goods and automated production. Breakfast cereal environmentalism allowed manufacturers to collapse the differences between standard industry and capricious nature, as they helped make nature’s presence and endorsement a proxy for measuring food’s healthfulness and quality.