Monday, May 16, 2011

Post-industrial food is the future, but you can have it now

In our last post, we defined industrial food in detail, and told you how it has created the health crisis. Industrial food is obviously unsustainable. Following current trends, the United States will be bankrupt by healthcare costs, and will be unable to find enough young people fit enough to join the military in just a few decades.

So what comes next?

The solution to industrial food is not, and cannot be, to turn back the clock to a pastoral, agrarian past. Technology and science got us into this mess, and technology and science will get us out.

The old industrial food system would have us buying most of our food at the supermarket, a majority of which would be packaged, canned or pre-prepared foods. We would go to restaurants, which would involve incredibly processed industrial ingredients made compulsively appealing to our basest cravings with massive amounts of low-quality fat, sugar and salt.

The foundational enabler of this system is a pact of ignorance -- We won't demand to know what's in the food, and food processors will do everything in their power to prevent such knowledge from getting out.

The post-industrial food system will be driven by transparency and knowledge about our food and what's in it. Driven by the growing legions of foodies -- locavores, slow foodists, urban farmers, organic foodists, farmers market enthusiasts, real-food fundamentalists, gourmands, Food Network fans and all the rest -- people will increasingly refuse to buy "ignorance food." If you won't tell us what's in it, we won't buy it.

The Internet will spread knowledge of new and traditional food processing and cooking methods from all over the world. Technology will bring us a world of new cooking and food-related apps, kitchen equipment, and supplies. The Internet will make good food stuff made anywhere available everywhere. 

Shoppers will stop buying at industrial-food supermarkets, and start embracing the new range of food sources. Above all, more people will buy directly from producers via the Internet. They'll join co-ops and buy into livestock shares for meat and raw milk. They'll turn to the small specialty stores popping up everywhere that make high-quality bread, or specialize in single ingredients, like olive oil. They'll frequent farmer's markets in such numbers that the size and number of markets will just keep growing.

As food awareness grows, people will stop growing lawns and shrubs around their homes, and start planting fruit trees and vegetable gardens.

You'll see a transition by the massive food corporations toward healthier fare. Industrial food processors will start innovating in ways to mass-produce healthy food, not just cheap food.

All this will be driven by science information. As researchers continue to understand the central role of news areas of health, including gut flora, epigenetics, endocrine disrupters and the role of diet in predisposing people to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more, it will become common knowledge that today's toxic industrial food is wrecking lives by the millions.

Post-industrial food will someday become the mainstream approach to food. But today, it's only a growing fringe movement.

In 1960, Americans were among the biggest smokers of cigarettes. After a massive cultural shift in attitudes about tobacco, the United States has earned a global reputation as being among the most anti-cigarette.

We believe the same thing will happen with food. Right now, America leads the world in the embrace of toxic industrial junk food, and we lead the world in the lifestyle diseases that go with it. But a cultural movement has begun that will reverse this trend. America will become the nation that leads the world away from garbage food.

That's our prediction anyway. What do you think?

(Pictured is a loaf of bread from the deliciously post-industrial Tartine Bakery.)