Real food = Real confusion… Feedback Friday


For the past year or so I have heard about and have seen “Real Food” phrases, campaigns, and marketing pushes. I know what real food means to me, but my definition is much different than what the people using it define it as (more on that in a minute).

lamb chop-final
This is my version of real food…

I wanted to see how others defined real food, so I did an informal poll of my Facebook friends and family and asked: When you hear the term “real food” what do you think of?

Below are their responses, in order of most common answer to least common answer:

– Home-cooked/grown: 16

– Fresh/raw/whole: 13

– Not processed: 12

– Meat and potatoes or other comfort/satisfying foods: 8

– Made from scratch: 8

– Minimally processed (all-natural): 7

– Not packaged: 5

– Non GMO: 4

– All edible foods: 3

– Food without preservatives/chemicals: 3

– Ingredients you can pronounce: 2

– Tastes great: 1

– Not junk food: 1

– Grass-fed: 1

– Free range: 1

– Antibiotic free: 1

– Wild game/fish: 1

– Organic: 1

In case you are unfamiliar with real food, here is a definition from the Real Food Challenge website:

Real Food is food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth.  It is a food system–from seed to plate–that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.

Some people call it “local,” “green,” “slow,” or “fair.”  We use “Real Food” as a holistic term to bring together many of these diverse ideas people have about a values-based food economy.

This is about more than supermarket labels. The Real Food Challenge has developed an innovative Real Food Calculator, which provides in-depth definitions of “real food” and a tracking system for institutional purchasing.  With this tool, “real food” is broken down into four core categories: local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane.

Real food means different things to different people based on your experiences and food preferences.

What does real food mean to you? Do you think there are right and wrong answers for what real food is? Does the term “real food” imply that the food is somehow better? Do you use “real food” interchangeably with other words? If so, what are those?

popcorn dish

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

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4 thoughts on “Real food = Real confusion… Feedback Friday

  1. Not one of the questions asked, but “a values-based food economy” indicates to me that Real Food Challenge views their values more highly than any values held by others and there is willingness to impose their values on others.

    1. B Leach – I agree. A values based food system can be powerful for some, but for others, price/safety/wholesomeness is important. But in my mind that doesn’t make one system better than another, it just makes them different. The ability to have choice is key.

  2. Lindsay,
    I would have to say the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about “real food” is home grown and/or made, fresh/raw/whole or minimally processed. The biggest hang up for me on the issue of “real food” is processing. It seems like higher processed foods are less nutritious and high priced for what is in the package.

    I like the definition from the Real Food Challenge. It gives a holistic perspective, but is something I think can be achieved on large or corporate farms and ranches or by homesteaders.

    1. I agree, “real food” to me is homemade/grown, minimally processed, with wholesome/fresh/raw ingredients. I think the definition by the Real Food Challenge is good, but to me it leaves a few key pieces out (like the ones we discuss above). Interesting to ponder.

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