Food · let's visit

Let’s Visit: How We Talk About Food

windmill

Hi! It’s Wednesday! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the wind is blowing…just another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

So, let’s pretend we’re in my living room, and you’ve been a real pal and you’ve brought Starbucks with you because, well, you’re a real pal. We’re all comfy and just chatting away, okay? Hokay.

Today, I’m talking about something that’s not beef-specific, but is still a food thang. I thought of it this morning as I was making my morning cup of tea. I like a little caffeine and a lot of peppermint, so I use one bag of Bigelow’s Plantation Mint Green Tea, and one bag of Celestial Seasonings’ Peppermint. As I was pulling out the box of CSP, I noticed something that made me sad:

tea

Now, honestly, I try not to buy products with this seal, but I order lots of things on Amazon, and so I don’t see the actual product before I purchase and the pictures online don’t always show the most recent branding (not to mention I’ve been drinking this exact tea for over ten years because it’s my very very favorite). Also, the selection at rural grocery stores is often wanting for variation, and as more and more companies are choosing to brand their products this way, I don’t always have a choice. But branding is key here, because that’s all it is. More often than not, that little seal is a marketing tool. Why? It’s simple: there aren’t that many GMO crops, and I see this label on things for which GMO crops don’t exist. For example, on a quick perusal of my pantry, I found the following items with this seal:
Paprika
Cilantro
Fennel
Parsley
Quinoa
Salt (?!)
None of these have GMO counterparts, particularly salt since minerals have no genes to modify. So why on earth would they have a seal saying they are non-GMO? The same reason that products that don’t contain gluten and never have are branded “gluten-free”: marketing. And it makes me mad, because it doesn’t mean anything, but it imparts a message and is part of a greater campaign of fear-mongering in the way that we talk about and market food.

Think about all the terms we now use to describe food in this country: “guilt-free” means that we should associate guilt or shame with eating certain foods. “Clean” implies that other foods are dirty. “Cheat days” imply that we’re doing something bad by eating certain foods. Touting cleanses to rid the body of toxins imply that we are poisoning our bodies with the food we eat and obfuscates the function of the liver, which is actually responsible for ridding our bodies of toxins. “GMO-free” is supposed to make us feel better about what we’re eating, which implies that GMOs are bad.

I’m not saying this to condemn or judge the way people eat. I’m saying this because I don’t think we should let food companies or marketing firms influence our diets or our feelings about food. We, as consumers, should decide how and what we want to eat, with the help of our own doctors and healthcare team.

As far as GMOs go, there is no science (NO SCIENCE. As in NOT ANY) that shows that genetically-modified foods are harmful to our bodies or the environment. There is science, however, that shows that genetically-modified foods can help us feed the world by increasing yield and pest and drought resistance. There is science that shows that certain GMOs can fight malnutrition through added vitamins. Eating a genetically-modified apple is not going to be any different to your body that eating a conventional one.

(Well, it might be different to your toddler’s body because everyone knows that consuming—nay, even licking—a slightly browned apple slice will actual cause physical pain and harm to a three-year-old. (That was sarcasm there, guys, in case you didn’t catch it.)

The thing is, where this whacky marketing is concerned, food companies are only responding to what consumers say they want, or what they think consumers want. So, it’s time for us as consumers to help food companies understand that we don’t want fear-based or irrelevant marketing to become the norm in how we do food in this country (or anywhere). The best way to do that is to get to know our food and learn the truth about what’s in it for ourselves. Because, at the end of the day, companies are trying to sell us something to make more money, and it seems that there’s not much they won’t do to sway us to buy their product.

You know what I’m going to say next: ask a rancher. Ask a farmer. We know what we’re growing and have a whole lot more invested in it than just a paycheck. And instead of paying attention to fad diets, or Instagrammers, or the next gal that tells you surely you will die a toxin-filled death if you eat anything that’s not “clean”, paleo, and organic, listen to your own body, and talk to your healthcare team if you notice something that isn’t working for you. See how the foods you eat make you feel. We’re all different, and we all need a variety of foods to be our best selves.

By creating fear and misinformation about food, we are inhibiting the advancement and spread of technologies that could help us feed the world more efficiently. Many of us in this country are so lucky to have a huge array of food to choose from, but we can’t forget that not everyone in the world (or the United States) has that luxury. This fearmongering, misleading marketing, and holier-than-thou food shaming is such a privileged perspective to take about food when there are millions (billions?) of people hoping to just have enough food to stay alive.

So, let’s start changing the conversation about food. To start, #AskARancher! I’m right here!

 

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