Food Industrialization: Cheaper but quality lacking

I’m an advocate of living frugally, within one’s means.   I work hard to reduce expenses where possible.  But an area where I’m “not cheap” (or “thrifty”) is food.

In Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, he compiles a lists of “do’s” and “don’t’s.”  For example, he advocates avoiding food products that make health claims; have a glass of wine with dinner; cook, and if you can, plant a garden [something I did this year – the garden part], and pay more, eat lessThat last nugget of advice touts buying organic.

Some of you are thinking, buying organic is too expensive.  That may be true but Americans must stop focusing exclusively on price.  Quality does matter.

Yes, McDonald’s menu is inexpensive, but eating that food every day will have negative consequences on your health.  Don’t you remember Supersize Me?

The movie, King Corn, noted a corollary between the introduction of and increased used of high fructose corn syrup (such as in sodas) and obesity levels in the United States.  Companies used to sweeten their drinks with sugar.

It’s smarter for your health and, in turn your finances, if you eat right and exercise.

So, it’s best to eat those fruits and vegetables.  But  industrialization has even  negatively impacted our produce.

Today’s Wall Street Journal had an article written by Anne Marie Chaker entitled Before the Mac, Vintage Apples.  This article mentioned some negative consequences of the industrialization of food.

Heirloom apples were regionally popular for generations but have ceased to be cultivated commercially.  From the 1950s on, mass-production farming favored reliable apples that could stand up to shipping, and stores have been dominated by apples from fewer than a dozen familiar types, including McIntosh, Red Delicious, Fuji and Granny Smith.

The heirlooms, in contrast, with freckles, stripes and other visual peculiarities, buck the modern idea of what an apple looks like.  Often priced in the $3.99-a-pound range, they can cost up to twice as much as common apple varieties.  They are coming back  strong nonetheless, as the increasing numbers of people who cook and eat at home seek out novel ingredients.

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Prof. Nablan, who studies farming and culture, says 15,000 different apples were once grown and eaten in the U.S.  Today, he says just one-fifth that number are available from nurseries and other sources, and most are at risk of being lost to commerce or disappearing altogether.

Apple orchards were once fixtures of American communities, typically growing varieties that were well-adapted to local conditions.   With the consolidation of farming and the advent of better ways to ship, many small orchards disappeared in the decades after World War II.  Slow Food USA’s catalog of 200 endangered foods, “The U.S. Ark of Taste,” lists seven endangered heirloom apple varieties, including Granite Beauty and the Newtown Pippin (

Today, the U.S. apple-industry is concentrated mainly in Washington and New York states.  Modern varieties are bred to be tough travelers, easily packed and good-looking on store shelves.  The upshot, some experts say, is that the modern apple has sacrificed a lot of flavor.  In contrast, heirloom apples – once popular for pressing into cider, or for their ability to hold up in baking and cooking – have a range of flavors, from tart to sweet to spicy and aromatic.

The cover of today’s WSJ caught my eye because I recognized two of the apples – Winesap and Stayman.  This time of the year is the best time to  purchase apples.  A farm called Twin Springs Fruit Farm in Pennsylvania, sells a variety of heirloom apples.  Once you ‘ve eat heirloom apples, the apples sold at the grocery store just cannot compare in quality, taste, texture.

industrialization of food  has provided benefits to the American economy, but as noted above,  consuming industrialized food may not always be the healthiest option.

And what about supporting local businesses?  You can do your part by shopping at local farmers’ markets!

Remember, don’t cut corners when it comes to your health!


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