Highlights of TED’s interview with Dan Barber below..
So that’s why I think it’s important to get people to realize they have a very powerful set of decisions to make when they eat. And those decisions have a huge effect on how the world works. That’s very powerful! I mean: How many issues raised at TED can one get up from their seat and say: “Today I’m going to do something about that.” With food, you can vote for the kinds of food you want three times a day.
The second thing you could do is grow your own food. It sounds crazy, but it’s not. If you’re across the street here, in New York, you could grow herbs in your windowsill. If you’re in the suburbs, you can plant in your back lawn. It’s not about providing 100% of your food; it’s about doing something that connects you to a natural system, and gets you closer to the food you’re eating.
MY THOUGHTS HERE: When people are even one degree of separation removed from something like food production (and ultimately Nature) they tend to lose their connection completely. And when that happens they also lose their realistic sense of depth, knowledge, or importance on the subject. The result is a rapidly eroding understanding of where everything comes from, how its made, and what can ultimately be considered as “good” and “bad” in the context of health. This then leads to all sorts of other problems like obesity, etc. as well.
Why does conventionally raised food taste so bland?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. The main reason is that it’s bred for yield. If you’re breeding a tomato — or a carrot, or a sheep to produce lamb — you can choose from a lot of characteristics. The characteristic of choice for the last 40 years has been yield. The second characteristic is: How long can it travel? How long can it last on a supermarket shelf or in your refrigerator? When you’re breeding for those characteristics, well, those are the characterisitics you’re going to get. It has almost nothing to do with farming, actually. It’s all about breeding.
The second issue is that conventionally raised produce takes a long time to get to you, so the flavor diminishes. And they’re picking fruits and vegetables when they’re not ripe. In a small local system, they’re generally picking it the day before they go to market.
Another factor is that conventional farming relies on chemical additions to the soil. These boost yield, but do nothing to boost flavor. You get flavor from flavinoids, and you get flavinoids from biologically diverse soil — this means there are nutrients in the soil that are feeding the plant, as it’s being grown, and you’re tasting that.
With animals, too, conventional systems aim for the greatest yield. So we’re raising animals in the cheapest possible way, and that includes feeding them really cheaply. When you’re feeding corn to a pig that normally thrives on a diverse diet, or to a sheep that’s naturally an herbivore, you’re going to get flavors that are really dumbed down.