Healthy living has never been more important and did you know that America is becoming a healthier society? People are getting sick and tired of being overweight and in poor health and the change has begun. Today we are living in the Health Food Era.
I’m sure you’re aware that obesity rates, especially among children, have sky rocketed in the past century. As the graphic shows, an exponential growth rate of obesity occurred with no downward fluctuations or plateaus. It is no surprise either, based on what we Americans are eating. The industrial revolution brought many advances in technology for all, and farmers were no exception. Things like transportation and processing were making mass agriculture more obtainable. The biggest upswing (or downswing looking at it now) for “Big Farming” came with the production and use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, vitamins on crops, hormones, antibiotics and vaccines for livestock. Developing farming and distribution networks all led to the food growth changes that impact us today. With all of these changes to farming automation, competing with other farmers for profit became more of a challenge and only the most innovative and invested in farms would be successful.
Food Trends over the Century
- 40% of the population lives on farms.
- Diet consists of meat & meat & meat & potatoes.
- Advances in food production, processing, & transportation(locomotive refrigeration cars) make it increasingly possible for Americans to have access to high-quality beef and other foods.
- A&P, one of the earliest supermarkets, incorporate and open 200 retail stores, forever changing the format of the neighborhood market.
- White Castle hamburgers are introduced; fast food makes its first appearance in mini burgers.
- Food is conserved from the war effort. Lighter meals are encouraged, cereal for breakfast and sandwiches are offered at lunch counters.
- McDonalds opens its first drive in and Howard Johnsons restaurant begins franchising.
- 25% of the nations sugar is produced in Greeley, Colorado. Monfort enterprises (Swift) uses the by-product of these sugar beets (scrap), corn and alf alpha to create the first cattle feedlot so stores can sell beef year-round.
- McDonalds renovate their restaurants with large cook grills and factory-like assembly lines to increase efficiency & productivity.
- Throughout WWII (1942-1946) the U.S. Government institutes food price controls and food rations.
- This is the golden age of food processing. Store brought foods are preferred and food flavoring and color additives are expanded to make processed food more palatable.
- French fries become the most profitable item on McDonald’s menu & frozen fries replace production of the traditional hand-cut French fry.
- McDonalds expands exponentially from 200 to 3000 restaurants and purchases huge quantities of beef, contracting more than 175 suppliers.
- McDonald’s introduces the Chicken McNugget and becomes the 2nd largest purchaser of chicken in the U.S.
- Beef consumption hits record high at over 90 pounds per capita. The top four meatpacking firms slaughter 20% of cattle. Cattle are routinely given growth hormones; they are bigger and grow faster (now in days vs. years).
- Soda consumption equals milk consumption at 30 gallons of each per capita. McDonald’s introduces the breakfast sandwich, the Egg McMuffin.
- Eight chicken processors control 75% of the market and four meatpacking firms slaughter 84% of beef consumed.
- There is huge growth in advertising to children, this practice would be later dubbed “pester power”.
- 150 pounds of added sugar are consumed per capita including 80 pounds of corn sweetener and 70 pounds of cane and beet sugar (nearly doubling consumption since 1910).
- Soda consumption is at an all time high, with an average of 55 gallons of soda consumed per capita, compared to less than 25 gallons of milk consumed.
- A Colorado school district signs a beverage contract with a fast food restaurant for 11 million dollars allowing buses, bulletin boards and hallways to advertise to school kids.
- Organic food distribution increases 95%. Supermarkets launch their own private label organic brands.
- “Premium”, “healthy”, and “gourmet” are the latest terms used on food labels appealing to consumers’ self-image.
- Retail super centers Wal-Mart, Target, and warehouse stores Costco, BJ’s & Sam’s Club enter the food market, offering lower prices and new “all under one roof” shopping options.
This timeline demonstrates that consumers have noticed that the food industry needs a revolution!
Most of us are trying to get better options for food choices but many of us simply don’t know how. Trend predictions however show that we are getting better! In 2012 the National Restaurant Association reported
“2012 looks to be the year of local foods, with a strong focus on sustainability, healthy kids meals and back to basics dishes with heirloom fruits and vegetables.”
Change is happening! There’s a huge movement towards urban gardening and organic means of growing crops. While we still have a very long way to go, we are headed in the right direction for feeding our nation, now we just need to herd the crowd.
Thanks to all of the shepherds that have begun to guide the way back to local farming and leading this time to be the health food era!