Many people will tell you a beautiful story about how food is raised on perfect farms by wonderful people, making you feel good about your eating choices. However, truth in food matters more to me than simply helping you feel good. It’s more important to me that you understand where food comes from and how you’ve likely fallen for B.S. (Bull Speak) food in pursuit of a perfect story.
I see my friends confused, people questioning what has happened to food, and the bullying getting increasingly out of hand after 18 years of working to connect farm and food. I also know how the chaos around food has hurt family farms and want to do something to help people who are raising our food. It’s tiring. I’ve watched that bullying cycle continue in restaurants and across the grocery store, from meat to milk to eggs to produce to grains. It’s time for food bullying to stop—and that’s why I wrote Food Bullying, which launches into the world today.
Five ways to avoid buying B.S. food
1. Ignore empty food claims. Just as you don’t want food with empty calories, avoid food with empty label claims such as “____-free,” “all-natural,” “farm-raised,” or “sustainable.” For example, all milk in the grocery store is non-GMO, gluten-free, and antibiotic-free. Those labels are not measurable or meaningful but are used to make one product seem more attractive than another. If you want to know facts—not B.S., flip the package over, and read the Nutrition Facts Label, which is scientifically true.
2. Understand the journey. The journey of your food is an amazing story—and usually not the negative, sensationalized claims you saw on YouTube or Netflix. Sometimes, many hands are involved in producing your food. In other cases, such as a bag of apples, the last hand to touch the apple was the one that picked it from the tree. In every case, rules are in place for proper food handling to ensure it is safe and nutritious when it reaches your table. Rather than buying B.S., get to know the rigorous system and science in place to protect your food safety.
3. Stand up to the bullies. Often a food claim is communicated in a way designed to create an extreme emotional response. People become scared; even well-intentioned neighbors and friends can pressure you to change your eating and buying habits. Celebrities, wellness gurus, or gym nutritionists often proclaim their way is the only right way. Who are they to say your food isn’t good enough? Your family’s nutrition is your business. Just as bullying is a real threat in our schools, food bullying is getting out of hand and takes advantage of insecurity. Make your food decisions based on science and find experts with firsthand experience to help you, such as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), food scientist, or farmer.
4. Get to know the people. Have you watched a documentary on farmers abusing animals, damaging the environment, or operating huge factory farms? In reality, 96% of today’s U.S. farms and ranches are still run by families; they are the people who can give you the real story about how food is raised, without the B.S. Seven out of 10 Americans believe it’s important to know the farmers who produce their food. And yet, in the earlier chicken meat case example, a common question is: “Why are farmers pumping antibiotics into chicken?” If you talk with a farmer, you’ll find that it’s often cruel to withhold medicine when chickens are sick and, even then, the dosage is strictly regulated by federal policies. That poultry farmer can also explain the many steps he takes, under federal requirement, to be sure all your chicken isn’t chocked full of antibiotics—even the meat in the packages without an “antibiotic-free” label.
5. Make your own decisions. Have you felt pressured by groupthink? Define your own health, ethical, environmental, and social standards when it comes to food. And measure all claims against YOUR OWN standards rather than falling prey to B.S. claims and behaviors.
Why this book?
After a lifetime on a farm and, more recently, writing two other books about food, I’ve come to realize that I am confident in my standards because of my firsthand understanding of the science, source, and system behind food. I hope to share enough of that in Food Bullying with you to help you become as equally as clear about your own standards. Those standards and knowing your own food story, are your answer to bullying.
In short, the fascination for finding the “perfect” food story that makes the “right” social statement has led to an inability to discern B.S. from meaningful information. I wrote this book to equip you to find the signposts of food bullying, make more rational decisions, and avoid buying B.S. on the chaotic food playground.
Food is a basic necessity, not an opportunity for manipulation. It is time to elevate the food conversation above B.S. so you can avoid frustration and anxiety the next time you are making eating choices. Hopefully, Food Bullying: How to Avoid Buying B.S. , will help you do just that!
This is an excerpt is from the introduction of this new book, releasing November 5, 2019, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo, Books-A-Million, and other bookstores.