An interesting concept was presented to me this week while at a conference put on by the Ontario Processing Vegetable Grower’s Association. Marty Seymour (@MartySeymour1), an Industry and Stakeholder Relations Director at Farm Credit Canada, presented this week on Public Trust and Social Licensing in Agriculture. Marty outlined why we have such a strong conversation in social media when it comes to food and agriculture. Very simply put, this is a first world problem driven by the number of choices we have at the grocery store.
Think about it. When you go to the grocery store, and read the items on your list, how many choices do you have? For example, let’s talk about bacon. Its Super Bowl weekend, everyone loves a little bacon in their party snacks. So when you go to your local grocer and move to scratch bacon off the list, how do you make the decision? Options range from not only different flavours of bacon, but different fat and salt ratings, and different ‘production’ types of bacon. Free from antibiotics bacon, 23% less salt bacon, ½ the fat bacon, maple bacon, thick cut bacon…the options are endless. So what’s driving your decision? I do not want to open the nutritional recommendation platform, because that’s not my background. BUT, I will say that when I approach the bacon chest at the grocery store, I start with a nutritional influence. Bacon is not exactly a ‘nutritional’ product, but if the recipe I’m following doesn’t dictate a specific bacon, I am more likely to buy the reduced salt variety.
Let’s transport ourselves to a different country for our grocery shopping. For example, a good friend of mine spent 3 years in Bangladesh. Given it is a muslim country, bacon isn’t exactly widely available. But you can find it. When you find the one and only option for bacon, do you question it? Or has it been long enough hunting for this treat that you are just happy you can fill your apartment with the aroma of it cooking?
The same phenomenon exists for almost any food item in a grocery store in Southern Ontario. Grapes, tomatoes, cheese, bread, all marketed with everything from my previously mentioned Non-GMO verified label, to certified organic, to country of origin labels. I personally try my best to find products that are produced in Canada. I picked up a package of greenhouse tomatoes at Costco this week that had a beautiful picture of the tomato plant, and some sliced tomatoes with mozzarella cheese which made me think I could eat exactly that at home! Then I noticed it was a product of a South American country. Having just toured one of Chatham-Kent’s Tomato greenhouses, Truly Green, the last week of January, I put the product down and reserved my purchase for something that was produced here ‘at home’.
So the next time you’re at the grocery store, think about the end goal of the products you are buying. I think we are all working towards the same goal; feeding our families food we feel good about buying. Think about the way the marketing on the package makes an impact on your decision making process. Don’t let something like celery with a ‘gluten free’ label fool you into buying it, and quite possibly paying more for it instead of celery grown in the Holland Marsh here in Ontario. Of course celery is gluten free! Cheeky marketing that plays on buzzwords and plays on our emotions about the food we feed our families are just that – cheeky ways to sell more off the shelf.
As always, please leave me questions about the food you see at the grocery store. Send pictures of a label that you find shocking/ interesting/ outrageous, and I’ll address them all!