Are you eating produce or products? And do you believe what the labels tell you, or do you dare to look underneath? Exploring the P for Product helps you make better choices.
There was a time when our diet was dominated by produce (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy etc) rather than products (granola, lemonade, crackers, ready meals etc.) With the influx of Industrial agriculture, driven by the introduction of artificial fertilizer just after WW2, this drastically changed.
As the higher outputs of this new system satisfied consumer demand, the agricultural industry was no longer as focused on growing produce people need. But rather, creating products that serve the industry, and convincing customers they need these products accordingly. Now that most people in the modern world were able to eat luxury foods like meat on a daily basis, a market for novel food products was born.
Today we continue to see the government guidelines and consumer ideas on what healthy food entails change. An example is, our neurosis around whether eggs and dairy are good for you. Or the endless debate whether meat is a necessity and if coconut oil is healthy or if palm oil is sustainable. Through advertising, social media and government advice our idea on food continues to be shaped.
Some values have remained strong throughout recent years. For example:
‘Food products have to be convenient yet healthy and tasty’.
‘Food products have to be ethically sound. Think eco-friendly packaging, sustainable production with animal welfare in mind’.
The question is not, ‘are we willing to eat these products?’ Most people, if they had an easy choice, or felt they had the financial means, would favour health, taste and welfare at all times. It is not about our willingness to eat better but whether we are willing to be curious and brave enough to discover the (often uncomfortable) truth behind these products?
Ask yourself this. Do I have headspace, time and energy available in my current life situation to walk the extra mile?
Or, and there’s no shame in this, am I overwhelmed to the point I can barely make my self a sandwich?
With that in mind, we see often that manufacturers cater to the idea of good food, using packaging and advertising to create stories of ‘healthy’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ food.
Free-range hens are advertised roaming green pastures on the plastic wrappers of chicken breast in our supermarkets. Some even carry a name and a picture of the farmer. Cans of tuna scream phrases like ‘dolphin friendly and ‘line caught’. Granola is proudly GMO and grain-free, other cereals are low G.I. or high in fibre. Some tomatoes are labelled organic and sold at double the price of their chemically sprayed cousins.
This is not to say that all of this is a scam, or pointless. We should welcome the increasing demands of consumers to eat better. The real challenge is, are you willing to dive deep beyond what’s written on the label, or will you happily consume ‘feel good stories’?
Ultimately, can we face our desire for convenience head-on, and see if it is feasible to carve more time out in our lives spent on sourcing and preparing real food. That is to say, produce, grown in real soil, ideally without manmade chemical, by people in our local community.