Saturday, September 6, 2014

Why does Big Food exist?

On one hand, it's easy: they exist to make money. The question is whether they do so by providing a valuable service, or if they do so by being exploitative. Surely the answer is a little bit of both, but a lot of us tend to focus on the latter more than the former.

There's a nice interview in the Washington Post with a VP for Nestle, the global mega-conglomerate that produces many products you've heard of.

Interesting quotes: "Packaging is a huge source of littering and other negative environmental impact. But can we take packaging away from food? You know what will happen, and immediately? The amount of waste will multiply by who knows how much if we take away packaging from our food system."

When asked why does Nestle exist, he says, "Because it would be impossible to feed 7 billion people, let alone billions more to come, without it. Because we need to preserve food, and safely, so consumers can eat and drink under any condition and in any season."

It's not exciting to think about, but it seems pretty clear: the work these folks do really does get all of us better nutrition. If we had to eat only what was produced locally and when it was in season, then I'd have grown up eating pine nuts and fish in the summer and probably stews made of rabbit flour in the winter (which is what I understand the Washo and Piute tribes ate in my hometown of Reno, Nevada before Europeans arrived). While that sounds cool in a way, I really like having a lot of different foods in my diet, and I'm healthier because of it.

It's easy to point a finger, but be thoughtful as you do so; remember the other side of the story too!

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