The food industry is an industry that has been corrupted over the years, and now is an industry that serves mostly those who sit between the farm and the plate. Not ALL food manufacturers and retailers fit this broken model, and these awesome businesses have taken huge strides to actively avoid the pitfalls of mass produced food.
They want their products to LAST. Food retailers and food manufacturers are in the risk management industry. They want to ensure they don't lose money by creating products that expire too fast on the shelf - many retailers force food manufacturers to buy back expired products and retailers want to make sure their stock appears fresh. How do they do this? In multiple ways! Many processed foods are preserved with artificial preservatives, filled with sugar and salt as natural preservers or heat treated to kill microbes (and nutritional value!);
They've discovered the magic combination to take control of your tastebuds. Our tastebuds LOVE salty, sweet and fatty foods, and the food industry preys on this by amping up the sweet, salty and fat in foods. Why? They want you coming back for more and more;
Together with regulators they now list artificial ingredients as numbers, not their real names. Artificial ingredients rarely appear by name in ingredients lists, they are replaced by E-numbers, so instead of saying Ammonium Acetate they say E264. Which one sounds nicer and safer? Consumers tend to not research what the E-numbers mean or are, and happily consume these (predominantly) artificial ingredients;
To make cheap food, they use cheap ingredients. How can that loaf of bread cost less than $2? Or that fast food meal cost less than $5? Simple, cheap, poor quality and modified ingredients! That bread has had all the fibre stripped from its flour and filled with cheap artificial ingredients, and that fast food meal use the poorest quality ingredients that have likely been processed to appear to be food. If you want poor nutrition, eat cheap foods. If you want quality nutrition, invest in real food;
All farms aren't equal. Many food retailers love to show imagery of happy farmers and farm animals, but beneath that is another story. Australian farmers (and their compatriots around the world) receive such low pricing and strict cosmetic standards from some retailers that they regularly dump crops to waste (see recent stories on pineapples and mangoes). Some animal farms aren't all green pastures and rolling hills, with confinement commonplace for many pigs, chickens and cattle. Fortunately there are farmers making changes to offer free-range opportunity for these animals (50% of eggs sold are caged eggs!). Fruit and vegetable farmers are fighting back and going direct to the consumer via farmers markets and box schemes too;
If you demand it they'll do it. Consumers demand oranges year round, they also want avocado when they are not in season, now demand for mangoes has led to the import of mangoes to Australia! Oranges are flown from USA when out of season in Australia, avocados are flown from New Zealand during the out of season February period. Simply madness. Let's switch demand to eating what is IN season! Surely we can hold out for a while when fresh produce isn't in season can't we? Let's demand change that shifts all the points discussed here!.
They say knowledge is power, use this knowledge and be part of the change!
Buy real food that isn't full of preservatives;
Watch for foods that contain large amounts of salt, processed sugar and fats;
Invest in your food, real food isn't always cheap, but when you buy whole food ingredients it comes pretty close;
If you can, go direct to the farmer, find the real farmers at your local farmers market or box scheme;
Demand changes, use your food dollar to vote for change.