The Donkey Came After The Cart
A recent news headline has woken us up to the fact that food manufacturers are not always transparent. This inconvenient truth was revealed when food scientists from Stellenbosch University found animal protein, such as donkey included in processed meats, not revealed on the label.
This presents food activists like me with tempting opportunity to yell ‘I told you so’ from the rooftops. The only surprise to the better informed was that anybody expected anything different from factory food.
Now that the dust has settled, I’m better able to use this in a constructive way. There are great lessons illustrated in this story that I hope will motivate you to get into a more connected relationship with nourishment.
The message to get refined food out of our diet has come at us from various quarters for decades. They’re repeatedly linked to the demise of our health and the rise of disease that has come with industrialization. The era that brought a virtual end to the village craftsman, food artisan and subsistence farmer is the very same that brings us the incidence of donkeys in our hamburgers.
Industrialization pushed the vast majority of land owners and village craftsmen alike into factories. That was the beginning of the era that brought swift mechanical and technological advancement. The price we paid for this comes in the form of the environmental damage we are reeling at today and in the decline of our health. Life changed then.
The changes it brought to the kitchen and to the culture of eating are the ones that now drive the global food revolution. Food became an assembled product to be made in a factory for profit. Food had to have a shelf life. As capitalism advanced and our time at home shortened, the preparation of good food became more inconvenient, we started to prioritize food less and we lost our link with its origin as well as our understanding of its true value.
These are the conditions that outsourced our nutrition to conveyor belts.
This recent scare invites us to decide whether we want our food industrialized and served out of a cardboard box, anonymously assembled from a hidden supply chain, or would we rather eat real food? Real food is food that comes from real farms and not assembly lines. Real food is directly linked to the soil.
Sadly, real food isn’t as easy or convenient to get hold of. If you enter a supermarket, real food is only found on the periphery of the store and makes up less than 20% of floor space. The rest is conveyor belt produce, dead ingredients propped up with additives, chemicals, colorants and preservatives all designed to make it stand on that shelf longer and designed to make it edible.
That is industrial food and it has become our norm. It is perhaps disingenuous of us to yell ‘foul’ at an industry whose very nature requires anonymity. You knew when you saw the logo of the red barn on the chicken sausage that there wasn’t a real farm behind that, right? If you didn’t, this is the call to step beyond the illusion.
If you want to take back your power, buy real food. From farmer’s markets, from retailers who are prepared to sell whole food from real farms that they can tell you the name of. Avoid assembled food; you don’t need anything that comes out of a cardboard box at your kitchen table. You don’t need ingredients lists at all when you buy real food. Let your kitchen, your hands and your family be the assembly line and I guarantee that the health of your family will improve on every level.