Whilst there is definitely a trend in some quarters of the population towards more conscious consumption, generally speaking, the average consumer has forgotten, or never really knew what healthy food was, and is blissfully unaware that the cardboard package that their favourite snack comes in is probably no less nutritious than the food like substances it contains. As Michael Pollan the food journalist and author of such books as ‘Omnivores Dilemma’ and Food Rules: An Eater's Manual‘, “Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.”
Is it little wonder that consumers have adopted this dismissive behaviour to their food when many farmers have a similar disinterest of the real nature and purpose of what they are producing? How can we expect the average end user in the human food chain to genuinely give a rat’s arse about what they are putting in their mouth when those who are producing it give little indication of caring either? I’m not suggesting all farmers have a general disdain for the products that are derived from their farms, however I feel we are a long way from setting the appropriate example for those for whom we are producing food.
What is needed is a shift in attitude, one that must take place in the farming communities of not just Australia but the world, if we are to change the attitudes of the people who are ultimately buying our products and eating them. As farmers, we breed, manage and fatten animals, and we produce grains and fibre. And most farmers consider these products, the end result of their use of farm resources and labour, as commodities not food. Herein lies the problem. The value they place on the goods they produce is not of an essential item of food and source of sustenance, but one of a bulk commodity generally measured by quantity not quality.
Changing this attitude of why they do what they do will ultimately change how they produce beef, lamb, pork, chicken, grains, fruit, vegetables and fibre.
As I have stated before farmers are generally price takers not price makers. We don’t create our own food markets and set the price. We sell our commodities into the ‘commodities market’. We produce goods before we can confirm a demand for that product, and this is the source of most of the risk that farmers have to deal with every day: can I sell my product for a price that will pay for the cost of production and give me a little left over to make a living? If only the general farming community could change its attitude, or should I say revert back to the original attitude of farmers to produce nutritious food to feed our nation.
I believe it will require three basic changes in farmers’ attitudes to undo the current ‘commodities’ based production model………and I will table these for your consideration in a series of my future blogs.
Until then happy eating, and in the words of Michael Pollan from his book ‘In defence of food: an eaters manifesto.
“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fuelling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.”