Many people distrust the food industry. Part of that is funded on sheer paranoia. The rest is the food companies’ own doing and they well deserve it. A call for more honesty in food marketing.
The Other Side Of The Medal
Recently I wrote an article about how a certain elitism has taken over the definition of healthy food and turned it more into an expensive lifestyle choice than one affordable by most of the population.
However, our reader Neil sent a comment that had me thinking about the other side of the medal: I swiped the concerns of these people off the table without regarding why their thinking actually came to be.
After all, the healthy eating movement is, at its core, a political movement, and political movements are reactions to actions. For the peace movement of the 60s and 70s, that action was the Vietnam war, for the food movement the action are the developments in food production that leave them deeply distrusting of anything that graces supermarket shelves these days.
Home On The Range
That is something the food industry brought upon itself by its own hands. Go ahead, turn on your television and watch some commercials. Chances are you’ll come across at least a couple for meat products, depicting happy farmers who apparently know each of their cows personally. Others feature supposedly Italian chefs showing us how sweetly they caress each and every single portion of their pizza dough before it arrives in the deep freezer of your local supermarket.
Essentially we are supposed to believe that the food industry is still using the production methods of the 19th century. In reality, livestock is raised on farms that approach the size of New Jersey and their herds go into five-digit numbers. Pizza dough is prepared in gigantic steel containers and in the most modern production facilities not a single human hand will touch your pie before you put yours on it.
It’s an illusion, and one we apparently liked to believe in. After all, advertising only uses elements that sells stuff. We deeply wanted to believe that food is still made like in those cozy days of yesteryear. While we were spared the sometimes tedious task of preparing our food from the ground up in our own kitchens like our grandmothers used to, it was such an alluring dream that somebody would do it in our stead.
Let’s Have Some Realism With That
That again sounds like I’m putting us, the consumers, at fault, but not quite. The food industry took the easy way out to sell a product instead of taking an approach that was more in line with reality. In comparison, it is next to inconceivable that computer companies would run commercials with images of nerds soldering computers together in a badly lit shack. Not even the most devout Apple fans could be sold the idea that their gadgets are still put together in a California garage.
Why didn’t the food industry choose to show people how their streamlined methods made foods affordable that once were only available to the rich? That it took a large helping of ingenuity to come up with a pizza dough you can freeze, bake and still have it rise? That the idea of urban farming is nice enough, but can’t feed a city like New York? That in the 1960s industrial food production took a huge burden off women?
If the food industry doesn’t start painting a realistic picture of its products, the number of people turning away from their offerings will only increase. Some consumers already are paranoid enough to blame factory-made food for any ailment that befalls them, no matter how little factual backing those claims sometimes have.
Picture courtesy of Paul Hudson.