The Problem With Mass Food Production
We are so appreciative of April’s arrival this year. Maybe it was the unexpected arrival of Siberia back in February, or that weekend in March when it tricked us all with a return visit, but we have never been more thankful for a month that promises cherry blossom, lighter evenings and (fingers crossed) slightly warmer weather. As for how this weather-related small talk relates to this email, we’re entering a new month, which means a new focus for our content (If you’ve been with us since Jan, you’ll remember that it’s the year of education and empowerment over here!). For the next couple of months we want to bring light to the mass food market, and how difficult it can be to navigate when you’re looking for healthy, ‘real food’ options. Before starting Pollen + Grace, we were quite naive to thinking a lot of products were much better than they are, but since getting a ‘behind the scene’ view of how food production really works, we’re more aware than ever before just how much is wrong with it. So starting this month, we want to do all we can to help you navigate food labels to make informed decisions about the products you choose to eat, starting this week with a brief background of how the food industry has ended up in this predicament, but also the positive changes that are now starting to come in (I promise it’s not all doom and gloom). Stick around, we hope you enjoy it!
SO WHAT IS THE ‘ISSUE’ WITH THE MASS FOOD MARKET?
Probably quite a logical place to start… what are we actually on about when we talk about these ‘issues’? Put quite simply, we’ve become so attuned to having our food produced for us to be readily available with a pretty huge shelf life, that we’re now, as a population, disattached from how food production in a natural, simple sense should be. A recent conversation we had reminded us of childhood memories of food - we’d go to the village dairy farm for milk in a morning and you’d have to use it by the end of the day otherwise it would spoil. Better yet, it would taste completely different everyday - there’s no product control when it comes straight from the source. Yet nowadays, ‘real’ food has by and large been replaced with manufacturing methods more adept to facilitating this ‘more and more often’ approach we’re so used to.
Starting with the ones that have had a little more time in the limelight, obvious examples are GMO farming and mass-meat production (and dairy too whilst we’re here) but the ‘quieter’ guys are things such as pasteurization, preservatives and artificial enhancers. Did you ever question how a ‘fresh tomato sauce’ could sit in the cupboard for 12 months and still be perfectly fine to consume? We didn’t for a very long time, we just accepted it as the norm, but then once you do question it, you can’t help but wonder exactly what happens to that pasta sauce - especially considering actual fresh pasta sauce that you make at home has about 3 days at best... in a fridge.
A POSITIVE OUTCOME OF A NEGATIVE SITUATION?
Not really many positives, right? Food on the shelves of our stores and supermarkets is being modified and produced in far from ideal conditions to meet the demand that we ourselves have created, and become accustomed to. Until recently, that is. It must be stated, there is very much so, and no doubt always will be, a huge market for convenient, mass produced food, and we understand that. But as more people are waking up to the damage this climate may be doing to our bodies and our wellness, there’s a lot of change hitting the market too.
CHANGE? TELL ME MORE
One of the most exciting innovations within food production and labelling currently is blockchain - a technology that, when used within the food industry, will allow more transparency and traceability. Through a simple QR code, you’ll be able to access information on everything from the farm the ingredients came from, to every step it went through thereafter. If adopted by companies, it allows for all the secrets and smartly worded labelling to become defunct, and the truth to sell the products instead. Exciting? Very!
Aside from technology, there’s also a lot of development in processing methods that help create better products from the start. Whilst it’s become the norm for everything from sauces and marinades to juices and smoothies to be pasteurised (a process that heats liquid or food to kill viruses and harmful organisms, but also kills off all the good bacteria, nutrients and enzymes), new machinery is completely changing how we do this. The main advancement, High Pressure Processing, allows the bad bacteria to be killed and the shelf life extended, but because it doesn’t heat the product, it doesn’t kill the nutrients. Some companies already using high pressure processing are Rhythm Health, MOJU juice, Innocent and Pret.
Likewise, people are also waking up to just how odd it is that a cake can sit on a shelf for 12 months, or why it’s necessary that a loaf of bread has more than 5 ingredients, and the popularity of deli’s, bakeries and butchers is on the rise, reverting us back to the ‘old school’ way of shopping, where a baked goods have to be sold on the day they’re baked and you choose your meat based on the farm it came from rather than how good the BOGOF offer is.
THE TAKE AWAY:
The negative: Food production has ended up a little ‘backwards’ since the frozen food revolution of the 50’s, and convenience has overtaken wellness. The positive however? Awesome companies including Innocent and Pret (and ourselves) are leading the way in creating better products using better manufacturing processes and technology is progressing to provide entire transparency as to where our food came from. It's early days, but we can't wait to see where else this innovation will take for mass food market!