Understanding industrial food.
Our definition of industrial food is any food that has been modified to make it a better product, but not a better food.
BloombergBusinessweek recently wrote a nice piece about some of the known information about how the Simply Orange brand of orange juice is processed. (The company is owned by Coca Cola.)
Most consumers would think that the product is, well, simply orange juice. They grow oranges, squeeze them and put them in a bottle, right?
Well, that's what they want you to think, and that desire to make consumers believe that foods are fresh, natural and basic is part of the industrial food approach.
According the BloombergBusinessweek investigation, Simply Orange juice involves "satellite imagery, complicated data algorithms" and "even a juice pipeline."
One of the most interesting aspects of how Simply Orange is produced is a secret algorithm called Black Book, which blends many different juices from many different orchards, regions and harvests to achieve a consistent flavor year round.
A guy named Bob Cross, identified as the "architect of Coke’s juice model," says Black Book "requires analyzing up to 1 quintillion decision variables to consistently deliver the optimal blend, despite the whims of Mother Nature." These variables include more than 600 individually identifiable flavors possible in orange juice.
The company uses satellite imaging to tell growers when to pick the oranges in order to deliver the needed flavor compounds demanded by Black Book.
After the juice is squeezed by factory machines, and pulp, oil and peel are removed, the juice is "flash-pasteurized," then piped into giant tanks where they'll be held for up to eight months.
After eight months, the juice isn't fresh, but freshness is simulated by storing it under a cloud of nitrogen that prevents oxygen from interacting with the juice and allowing it to spoil.
The juice is kept around for so long so it can be blended with juice of different ages and harvests to achieve the consistent, pre-determined flavor.
Before bottling, an orange juice "air traffic control center" enables technicians using Black Book to blend various juices.
The juice is transported 1.2 miles from the orange processing facility to the packaging plant in an underground pipeline.
The juice is bottled in a container with a green lid, and a label that shows the picture of a fresh orange over the words "not from concentrate."
One of the three varieties of Simply Orange is called "grove made," suggesting falsely that it's squeezed at the site of an orchard, bottled fresh and shipped quickly to stores.
In nearly all these innovative processing systems, a "food" has been improved and optimized as a product for sale in the marketplace in ways that degrades it as a food.
Most of the high-tech interventions are designed to eliminate variety in flavor, texture, color and so on, which is a fundamental attribute of natural food.
Here's a summary of the attributes of industrial food production exhibited by Simply Orange juice, according to the BloombergBusinessweek investigation.
1. The manipulation of natural food variety to eliminate that variety.
2. The "embalming" of food and the intervention in the decomposition process to simulate freshness in old food.
3. The combination of massive quantities of foods so that a single bottle may contain juice from thousands or even hundreds of thousands of oranges.
4. Pasteurization and semi-sterilization, eliminating the opportunity to obtain health-boosting micro-flora from the environment.
5. Greenwashing and farmwashing, the use of colors, pictures and words to instill in the minds of consumers naturalness, farm-freshness and wholesomeness, when the actual food inside is the opposite of what the consumer is choosing the product for.
In general, however, industrial food processing involves the optimization of the product (lower price, long shelf life, consistent flavor and so on.) at the expense of food variety, freshness and quality. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-31/coke-engineers-its-orange-juice-with-an-algorithm