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Old 07-07-2008, 11:46 PM   #21
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An interesting post Ladelfina.
Just to throw cold water on all the back-to-nature, eat-locally ideas: I don't think rising energy prices would ever cause the US consumer to eat these "foods" you describe. First, the energy cost in food is probably a very small portion of the purchase price, so even if energy costs doubled or tripled, the price of a can of potted meat product isn't going to climb very much. Most of the cost is marketing, labor, retail markup, etc. And, ultimately I think it will be cost and convenience that drive the purchasing decisons of folsk in the supermarkets. In fact, if the US economy turns south, I'd expect people to work more hours and the demand for convenient food (which can be purchaed once per week) to increase rather than decrease. Also, I'm not sure that these natural foods always save energy in comparison to their more wholesome, more fully processed counterparts.

Comparison:

Fresh Apple: They are picked, washed, waxed (petroleum? who knows!), put into boxes (recyleable?) then these heavy, bulky apples (mostly water) are trucked to the market, where their massive weight crushes and bruises their unfortunate bretheren trapped under the pile. Some get sold, many spoil and have to be thrown out--a total waste. Of those that are sold, many more turn into dessicated waste in the crisper drawers of suburban homes. Those that are actually eaten need to be washed (more water waste) before being consumed. The parents send them off to school with their children, who don't want to eat the darn things and generally either throw them at each other or down the stormdrain before the school bus comes.

Apple Fruit Roll Up: Apples go straight from the tree into the grinder--no wasted water in cleansing them. The paste is efficiently dried out using high-efficiency co-generated heat generated from the burning of animal carcases at the co-located dog food factory. Corn syrup is added (thus fortifying the food with a nutritious vegetable component completely missing from the "natural" apple). The paste is spread on RECYCLABLE plastic and rolled up, then placed in a RECYCLABLE plastic sleeve. These lightweight fruit roll-ups contain the concentrated goodness of hundreds of apples in a box weighing less than 20 pounds and smaller than a valise. The shipment to the store uses perhaps 5% of the fuel that would have been used to ship the raw apples. Once at the store, none of these fruit roll ups will go to waste--they can sit on the shelves for two or three presidential terms without ill effect, but that's rarely a problem, as kids love them and they fairly fly off the shelves. Once in homes, no refrigeration is needed (how much energy does THAT save?), no washing is needed.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we can be sure that the road to global warming is paved by back-to-earth meddling with the nation's food supply. It's okay in good times to eat stuff plucked from trees and dug up directly from the ground, but when we need to save energy to save the planet, and when our families need to get the best value from their food dollars, we must stare the situation squarely in the eye and gulp down another helping of instant potatoes.
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Old 07-08-2008, 12:23 AM   #22
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HA HA HA !! LOL
brilliant.
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Old 07-08-2008, 10:38 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
An interesting post Ladelfina.
Just to throw cold water on all the back-to-nature, eat-locally ideas: I don't think rising energy prices would ever cause the US consumer to eat these "foods" you describe. First, the energy cost in food is probably a very small portion of the purchase price, so even if energy costs doubled or tripled, the price of a can of potted meat product isn't going to climb very much. Most of the cost is marketing, labor, retail markup, etc. And, ultimately I think it will be cost and convenience that drive the purchasing decisons of folsk in the supermarkets. In fact, if the US economy turns south, I'd expect people to work more hours and the demand for convenient food (which can be purchaed once per week) to increase rather than decrease. Also, I'm not sure that these natural foods always save energy in comparison to their more wholesome, more fully processed counterparts.

Comparison:

Fresh Apple: They are picked, washed, waxed (petroleum? who knows!), put into boxes (recyleable?) then these heavy, bulky apples (mostly water) are trucked to the market, where their massive weight crushes and bruises their unfortunate bretheren trapped under the pile. Some get sold, many spoil and have to be thrown out--a total waste. Of those that are sold, many more turn into dessicated waste in the crisper drawers of suburban homes. Those that are actually eaten need to be washed (more water waste) before being consumed. The parents send them off to school with their children, who don't want to eat the darn things and generally either throw them at each other or down the stormdrain before the school bus comes.

Apple Fruit Roll Up: Apples go straight from the tree into the grinder--no wasted water in cleansing them. The paste is efficiently dried out using high-efficiency co-generated heat generated from the burning of animal carcases at the co-located dog food factory. Corn syrup is added (thus fortifying the food with a nutritious vegetable component completely missing from the "natural" apple). The paste is spread on RECYCLABLE plastic and rolled up, then placed in a RECYCLABLE plastic sleeve. These lightweight fruit roll-ups contain the concentrated goodness of hundreds of apples in a box weighing less than 20 pounds and smaller than a valise. The shipment to the store uses perhaps 5% of the fuel that would have been used to ship the raw apples. Once at the store, none of these fruit roll ups will go to waste--they can sit on the shelves for two or three presidential terms without ill effect, but that's rarely a problem, as kids love them and they fairly fly off the shelves. Once in homes, no refrigeration is needed (how much energy does THAT save?), no washing is needed.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we can be sure that the road to global warming is paved by back-to-earth meddling with the nation's food supply. It's okay in good times to eat stuff plucked from trees and dug up directly from the ground, but when we need to save energy to save the planet, and when our families need to get the best value from their food dollars, we must stare the situation squarely in the eye and gulp down another helping of instant potatoes.
Wow, just wow. Very well said.
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Old 07-10-2008, 12:25 PM   #24
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how funny a post, ladel, because i was just saying offline to another forum member that you wouldn't be experiencing quite the financial hit you are taking overseas if only you preferred pad thai to prosciutto.
Inflation : CPI at +8,9 % in june Thailand Crisis

Cambodia has quit reporting inflation figures..!
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Old 07-12-2008, 12:18 PM   #25
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Or you could just buy the fruit from local growers and in season which is what is being advocated anyway. Saves fuel and encourages local folks to grow. Which might possibly encourage more organic growers. Have you noticed lately how a grape or a peach tastes nothing like it did 30 years ago? Fruit tastes boring these days. No wonder people won't eat them.

I'm not buying that fruit rollups are good for you. At least not better than real fruit. Give me a break.
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Old 07-12-2008, 12:30 PM   #26
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I'm not buying that fruit rollups are good for you. At least not better than real fruit. Give me a break.
You can put Kool Whip(TM) in them and make "creamy fruit blintzes." Delicious!
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Old 07-12-2008, 12:48 PM   #27
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My sister lives for Stove Top stuffing; I can take it or leave it.

I mean, where is the benefit to a processed, pre-made PB&J sandwich? Is it really THAT HARD to make a PB&J sandwich??
Think of the space-age R&D that went into getting the exact Stove Top cube size right.. how to spray on the flavorings and salt and so forth. Is this a boon to the economy, or a frivolous waste? It's kind of an open question for me.
That's hilarious you've included the two food items i've had similar thoughts on...Uncrustables have to be the icon of lazy home food production in the US - and i'm sure they add preservatives and other stuff to them...but i do know people buy them!

and on the stove top front - my family were long suffering stove top consumers - as immigrants to the US it helped us round out our ideal thanksgiving meal. not until i grew up and realized you could make it fresh (seriously! oh crap!) did i become the designated fresh (as fresh as stale bread can be) stuffing maker for thanksgiving! it still boggles my whole family every time i make it! heheh

i think rachel ray has helped people at least realize that they can make a meal in the same time it takes to warm a frozen pizza - but still planning the menu and shopping (creatively and not the same routine) can get in the way...
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Old 07-12-2008, 12:58 PM   #28
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I think we've gotten really spoiled too (definitely myself included)

When I get home in the afternoon I'm STARVING so I reach for something many times pre-processed and that I can put in the microwave in a minute or less.

BUT - things were exactly the same when I was 7 years old and got home from school- only my mom made me wait two hours for dinner. And we never ate pre-processed foods for dinner - and I would definitely not say my mom was any kind of health freak. We were just a little less spoiled. I don't know that that's the case for everyone at all, this spoiling just could be the result of my bachelorette type lifestyle.

This may also be a good reason why 68% of the U.S. is overweight.
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eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
Old 07-12-2008, 08:09 PM   #29
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eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

I am so completely torn on this subject, that I've avoid posting but Sam's wonderful post inspired me.

My left brain is in complete agreement with Sam, on the other hand my right brain scream this over-processed stuff is turning us into the blob people from Wall-E.

For a number of years I was member of organization called Slow Foods
Not surprisingly it was started in Italy and is best described as the anti fast food organization. Here in Hawaii we had lots of events involving tours, cooking classes, and tasting of various yuppie local restaurants, cheeses, jams, organic farms, community supported agriculture etc. The food was great, and the people interesting, but as the only person more conservative than Al Gore it got little tiresome listening to the evil ; Republicans, corporations, factory farms, genetic modification, so when I split with my girlfriend we both quit.


One of the things I learned is that despite the huge premium price for organic foods, most organic people aren't getting rich. (Although 60 Minutes said Earthbound Farms is making money). A tour of Oahu biggest organic farm, showed me why. Being a business guy, and bit of a vegetable gardener, I peppered our guides with questions on the economics of the farm. I was amazed to see commercial farmers out hand weeding. The same thing I should be doing rather than posting still I noticed that these guys were not much faster. Armed with some data I went home I made some back of the envelope calculations, I figured out that it takes roughly 5 - 10 times more labor for a mom and pop organic farm to grow a bushel of vegetables than factory farms. You can looked at the percentage of agriculture jobs in the US vs Africa and you can come up with a similar figure.
So as nice as it sounds for all of us to buy organic non genetically modified food from our local farmers, if everybody did we all either starve, or repeat China's Cultural revolution where all of us intellectual types were sent out to the country to farm.

On the other hand as wonderful as Sam's creamy fruit blintz, (with Cool Whip no less) sound . There is a legitimate health issues with eating processed foods.

My favorite article about food and health is from the NY Times magazine
Quote:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that Im tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words.
The good doctor goes on to explain, that Grandma (or Ladelfina local Italian version) really knows best, and if we stuck to eating food that our grandmothers would recognize we would be much healthier, just like Ladelfina OP suggests.

The reasons are complicated and not entirely understood, but the basic idea is this. Eating apples is good for you. So while it seems logical that if you deconstruct an Apple into its component nutrients, so many grams of sugar, fiber, carbohydrates plus magic anti oxidant ingredients A, B and Z.
That should be able to make fruit roll up that contains all the goodness of an Apple, plus corn syrup so the kids will want to eat it and viola the perfect food. But the research is showing the eating apples is good for your health, eating the nutrient equivalent of an apple isn't. Scientist don't understand why yet.

The other obvious problem is all that water the Apple contains, which makes them such a horribly inefficient thing to ship, also makes them a good thing to for our bodies to eat. If you eat a couple an apples you fill somewhat full (4 oz), eat a couple of fruit roll ups and you barely notice it (.5 Oz each). So it is very tempting to eat some potato chips (1 oz) which are also made from a good food with excess fiber and water removed, and add a microwavable burrito (5 oz).

It both case your body has got 1/2 lb of food, but instead of 100 calories from apples your snack is now 700-800 calories....

I am not sure what the answer is. I think there is a lot of benefits to community supported agriculture, both from our health and probably energy efficiency. On the other hand I want to shove pictures of starving African farmers into the faces of all the folks protesting genetically modified foods, and ask them how the propose keeping these people alive, if we stop researching improved crops.
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Old 07-12-2008, 11:25 PM   #30
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That's hilarious you've included the two food items i've had similar thoughts on...Uncrustables have to be the icon of lazy home food production in the US - and i'm sure they add preservatives and other stuff to them...but i do know people buy them!

I posted this on another thread here. One time my 10 yr old daughter and I attended a marketing focus group for "Uncrustables" a frozen peanut butter & jelly sandwich with the crust removed. The kids were put in one room and the parents in another. Then we were asked a bunch of questions about various versions of the product, whether we would buy it or not. Many parents, including Moi, said the product was stupid and worthless and they would never spend more money on something they could make in two minutes. This really annoyed the marketing person! But they paid us anyway, $50 for me, $25 for my daughter.

I never thought that the product would make it to the grocery shelf but here they are twelve years later and still selling! I don't understand it.

Ladelfina, please post more pictures of Italian food!!!
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Old 07-15-2008, 09:07 PM   #31
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I am so completely torn on this subject, that I've avoid posting but Sam's wonderful post inspired me.
Me too - and samclem's post was great satire, with that edge of truth that satire needs.

The mass produced, stuff can be better. There are some frozen foods that I prefer over the fresh I can get. Often, they are doing the flash freezing on-site, the produce is at it's peak. And I can keep it at home for a while, use it and not waste anything but an ounce of plastic for 5# of food (and some energy to keep it frozen).

Some of that same produce comes to us less than fresh, I'm sure they have thrown some out along the way, and some usually goes bad before we finish it. It's probably less nutritious as it gets less fresh. So I would not condemn all 'processed' foods.

Quote:
eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
That is also in Pollan's book 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' which I really liked. He covers some of the questionable organic practices , like tilling, then flooding and then re-tilling fields two weeks later to remove sprouted weeds to avoid 'chemical' weed spray.



He also makes a great point about the processed food craze. Even though it may not seem like it at times, people can only eat so much. So, to grow the domestic market for food, the big food companies need to make stuff with a higher profit margin. Plain rolled oats for your morning oatmeal can be had for ~ $.50/pound. Just not much profit in a commodity like that. So, make it 'instant', in a pouch, pre-measured and some 'yummy' flavor, and if people see some value in that, will pay maybe $2/pound for 20 cents of processing. Or Cheerios - grind it, form it into an 'oh', toast it market it - more profit potential. Take that oatmeal, add some nuts and raisins, etc, and you have a single serving handy foil packet granola bar. Just check the per/# cost of this stuff - and it's just basic ingredients dressed up a bit. Of course, a lot of this stuff is empty calories, and of questionable nutrition - but not all.

So you can't 'blame' the food companies, they are just trying to make a $. And if people buy it, I guess that's what they want. If they are not getting good nutrition, they need to educate themselves and make better choices. This kind of ties back to 'Cheapskate' Jeff's comments about shopping for food that is less than $1/#. It is generally less processed stuff - and often healthier.

Back to Ladelfina's OP. I'm not sure if this is a USA versus 'other countries' thing, or just the sample you are looking at. We don't have a lot of heavily processed stuff in our house - DW makes dinner from the basic ingredients, not too many processed things (occasional TJ or Costco Tortellini are handy for a quick meal or in a pasta salad, etc). So maybe the typical American uses more 'stove top' type things than the typical Italian - maybe it is more of a time shift than anything else? Where will they be in 15 years - where will we be? Things go in cycles.

I'd say that despite the stuff like pre-made P&B sandwiches, I have more access to truly wonderful, healthy food than I did 20 years ago.

You just must choose wisely...

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