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)

When “sustainable” becomes unsustainable… Feedback Friday

This morning I saw the news article that Chipotle had announced they would now be sourcing all of their beef from Australia, instead of from Texas (or any other state that produces beef). I was confused and still am. So I thought I would throw it out for a Feedback Friday post. Now before you think this is a personal attack on Chipotle, it is not. This is an attack on any USA based company that isn’t even giving the USA a chance to produce the product. I love that consumers (myself included) have choices on where they eat and they type of food they eat. We get choices on what to watch on tv, what to wear, who to spend time with, and of course with our food – a huge perk of living in America. From what I understand, Chipotle sources its product from sustainable, humanely raised, no antibiotics, no additional hormones sources – correct? Well, we produce beef just like that in the United States of America. And with so many young persons/women/minorities wanting to become involved in agriculture, a specialty or niche product like what Chipotle wants could be perfect for their start in ag. So what I need help with understanding, and where I would like your thoughts: – Is shipping beef 8000 miles still sustainable? At what point does “sustainable” become unsustainable? – When a product is coming from another country how confident are we that the product was raised and grown to the same high standards we have in the US? What about federal inspections ensuring the safety? – Are there concerns over the potential food safety issues that may arise from a journey like that? The west coast is having shipping port issues at this time – will that impact these beef imports? – The price? I am sure a premium price is already being paid for this beef, will that price skyrocket with the addition of these shipping costs? What is the breaking point on the cost of the beef items for consumers? – Why does Chipotle not think American farmers/ranchers can provide the beef they need? Cows under tree Please help me try to understand… ——————- 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)

Cheap food: Have consumers been trained? – Feedback Friday

I commute, and most of my drive time is either spent pondering life’s happenings or listening to a book on cd. I recently have been thinking about things that I don’t have an answer to, there is no right or wrong answer/opinion, they are just random thoughts.

So I am creating a “Feedback Friday” category, where we can discuss some of these ponderings. I would love your feedback, thoughts, insights…

So here goes…

Do you think the consumer (including myself here) has been trained by retailers and marketers to seek out bargains, cut expenses, and look for deals in every aspect of their life – including wanting cheap food? In the U.S.A. we already spend less than 7% of our income on food – which is much less than most countries (Source: USDA ERS: Percent of consumer expenditures on food, alcoholic beverages…).

Think about it, the biggest shopping days of the year are after major holidays, where people can “save” so much money. Many cars are sold at the end of the year when they are marked down to make room for the new cars. And what about those 2-for-1 options at restaurants, fuel saver rewards for grocery store loyalty, loan interest rates that can be cut, or happy hour specials? I truly think we have become trained to find and seek out bargains (because we want to spend our hard-earned money on something else, right?). And we feel upset when we pay the full price for something, when we could have saved a few bucks on it.

When the weekly grocery store flyer comes in the mail, who doesn’t look to see what products are on sale? In the past month I have purchased: shrimp, chicken breasts, pork ribs, bananas, bell peppers, and apples that were marked down from their “normal” price. Nothing was wrong with them, they were just the featured items of the week, I like all of those items, and well, they were reasonably priced.

I hear a lot of people in the ag community across all sectors (conventional, organic, grass-fed, natural, etc.) talk about consumers moving to cheaper cuts of meat (i.e. hamburger vs steak) or balking at paying the price the food product is worth (because they saw it priced cheaper at another store/supplier). BUT, have consumers been trained to want cheap food? They can score deals in every other aspect of their lives, so why shouldn’t they expect to for their food? ** Note: I realize this generalization does not apply to all consumers who seek out specialty and niche products and will pay a premium for various items they deem important.

Why does that anger and frustrate us in the food production business? Shouldn’t we see that as an opportunity? I fully understand how much work and effort goes into raising and growing food, but most people do not. And when consumers see high price tags attached they think the farmer/rancher is making tons of money (which is not entirely true). Is there a way to make healthy, safe, nutritious, delicious food available at reasonable prices so they consumer feels like they are always getting a bargain? Or is food already a bargain purchase?

food-final

What do you think? I would love to hear your thought on this matter? Am I completely crazy in my thinking, or am on to something here?

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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)